The Tribe Of Simeon

Genesis 29:33
33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.

The tribe of hearing, this is what Simeon means, more specifically the tribe of Divine Hearing. Leah, one of my favorite people in the Bible named him. In the struggle with her sister Rachel, Simeon was her second son. His birth represented that God had heard her cry, Simeon would reflect hearing throughout his history.

Genesis 46:10
10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman.

I love learning little known facts, and aspects of people in The Word Of God, and many years ago, I learned something about Simeon. He knew firsthand about family stress, growing up he saw the rivalry between his Mother, and Aunt Rachel. I wander how he felt when he heard the arguments, and felt the pain they caused.

Commentators believe that a second wife of his own brought strife into his own family. Only one of Simeon’s sons bears this title, what the King James calls, the son of a Canaanitish woman. The phrase is repeated in Exodus 6:15 as well, yet disappears by the time Shaul is mentioned again in Numbers 26:13, and 1 Chronicles 4:24.

The word that represented Shaul’s Mother, Canaanitish, connects with the meaning of her son as well. Canaanitish not only represents a Canaanite, but implies a pedlar. Shaul means desired, or one begged for.

His Mother went from being called a term applied to beggars, to giving birth to a tribal prince’s son. It reminds me of where God brought Man, from the fall to the Cross.

I wonder how it happened Simeon’s love story happened? Was Simeon heartbroken when his Wife died? If commentators were correct, he became a widower with five sons. Did he look for a Mother for his children? Did he meet a band of merchants and fall in love with one of their daughters?

However it happened, he married a woman, that we don’t even know by name. This doesn’t reflect her worth, because she gets more of a mention than Simeon’s first Wife. We only know she existed because she produced five sons. Ironically, Leah had six sons, and with the edition of Shaul, so did Simeon.

One begged for, Shaul’s meaning. Did his Mother feel the sting of resentment from her stepsons? Did Simeon’s family, and servants, compare her to her predecessor? Maybe it was Simeon who longed for another son. Whatever happened, God heard the ache for a child and responded.

While I believed Shaul’s Mother wanted him deeply, I believe Simeon did too. Each of Simeon’s children had a special name. His firstborn Jemuel meant Day Of God. Jamin meant right hand, Ohad meant united. Joachim would also be the name of a pillar in the temple, for it meant He will establish. Zohar means brightness.

Family was important to Simeon, he had learned that lesson well. Ironically it was this love of family which would cause issues with Simeon’s own father. Simeon had five brothers, but one sister, Dinah.

Commentators debate it, whether Dinah went somewhere she shouldn’t have, or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether he forced her, or seduced her, he took her, and then tried to fix it. Simeon and Levi wouldn’t hear of it.

They cooked up a story. They tricked Shechem, his father, and the men of that city, then attacked. This act angered Jacob. Although he loved his sons, he not only did not approve or condone it, he never forgot it either.

After this, Simeon goes along with his other brothers concerning the rejection of Joseph. Most commentators will explain that Joseph’s life was a type and shadow of Jesus, which I also believe. If that is the case, while Joseph sends his other brothers away for a time, Simeon, or hearing, is held captive.

The tribes of Israel are separated from their hearing, or Simeon. This is the case until Benjamin is brought to Joseph. Benjamin means son of my right hand, but son can also mean people of a nation. Right hand also means the south, or facing the east.

To paraphrase, hearing was withheld from Israel until the nation came to Joseph, foreshadowing Jesus revealing Himself to Israel. As Bishop Livingston taught us, this happened while Joseph’s Gentile bride, representing the Church and the rapture, was shut up in another chamber.

Finally, Joseph revealed himself, Jacob arrived in Egypt, time passed, and the Exodus occurred. It came time for Jacob to die, but before he did, he had a few things to say.

He stated that he would scatter Levi and Simeon in Israel. I don’t know if Jacob understood what he prophesied, or not, but unlike it seems it was not bad. Simeon’s inheritance ended up among the tribe of Judah, the praisers. It’s always easier to hear God’s voice while worshiping!

Deuteronomy 27:12
12 “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.

Levi was the tribe of the Priesthood, Simeon lived with Judah. Moses commanded that, when Israel arrived in the promised land, certain tribes would stand on a certain mountain to bless Israel. The first three, Simeon, Levi, and Judah!

After they were freed from Egypt, traveled through the wilderness, and fought for the promised land, they settled in their cities and villages. The locations mentioned for a group of Simeon’s family, lived from the city of Beersheba, to the village of Beth-Biri.

Beth-Biri, which means House of My Creator, or House of my health. When you spend your life listening to Jesus, you spend your days in His house, and your spiritual health will be assured. The Shallumites, Shaul’s son, lived there. Shaul, who had been known by his Mother’s less than stellar heritage, now lived in The Creator’s House.

The Tribe Of Asher

Numbers 2:27
27 And those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, the chief of the people of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran,

Nothing with God is an accident. That’s not to say that every second of time is micromanaged. Most people misquote  the Scripture, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things aren’t good, or even divinely intended, but God melds the events of our days to bring us to that great day that is to come.

Solomon said life and chance happen to us all. David said Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path. The steps of a good man are ordered of The Lord. The path, the steps, and the direction are planned, but we will face obstacles in the way.

God allows, not causes the obstacles. An whether the stumbling block is a key to a future event, something that life brings, or something that our mistakes have caused, God will use it to help, and not hurt us. Joseph’s brothers were not inspired to throw him into the pit, but God knew it would happen.

What was meant to be an instrument of cruelty and revenge by man, was what God used to save the same men’s lives. What does all this have to do with Numbers 2:27? For one thing, Pagiel’s ancestor, Asher, was one of those who threw Joseph into the pit.

It’s Pagiel’s name that introduced the topic that I’m getting ready to share, and have alluded to above. Among other meanings, his name is defined as, “Accident Of God.” God is merciful, kind, compassionate, wise, but one thing He is not, is accident prone.

There are no accidents of God, and yet, this is what this young man’s name means. That one definition arrested me. I was reading Numbers 2, the chapter about the standard bearers around the Tabernacle, and I felt that I needed to go back and look up Pagiel.

When I saw the meaning, I wanted to learn everything I could about the young man. He was the Prince of his tribe. His Father’s name is Ochran, meaning muddler or trouble. An the standard he stood by was the olive tree.

Beyond that, we know very little about the man that sparked such an interesting name. So I began to look at his family, and the tribe he was the head of. It was a large tribe, apparently a successful one, but with very few, named, prominent members.

His tribe is described as the happiest of tribes, and yet, it is one of the those that God had placed on Mount Ebal to curse, or warn of what would happen if Israel backslid. We view happiness as a blessing, and it is with a life that is pleasing to God, but without a relationship with God, happiness is only a deception.

Happiness without a relationship with God, is a very dangerous thing. With sorrow, there is longing, a sense that things can be better. Sorrow screams something is missing, happiness whispers everything is fine. Destruction often doesn’t come in a shout, but in a soft, quiet, murmur.

Longing in itself isn’t a sign of righteousness though. Any emotion, any condition, outside of a right relationship with God, has it’s perils. Just as happiness, absent God, is a masking of truth, the lack of happiness can lead you on a road of danger.

Some of the most serious people away from a stage, are comedians. I don’t know if it’s that they get bored with being funny, or if they get tired of it. Perhaps they get bored with laughter. Or they resent that is the only facet of their personality people see, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that they eventually put on a happy face like an actor puts on a mask. It’s not real, if they’re good at what they do, it can seem like it, but it isn’t. Asher may have been known to be the happiest of tribes, but there was trouble lurking somewhere behind the tent door.

Among the tribes bored with the manna, tired of the blessings, was the tribe of Asher. Every thing good that God had given them, and still it was not good enough. When they got to the promised land, they failed to drive out the Phoenicians in the land they inherited.

There were no judges recorded of Asher. No great kings ruled from this tribe. The great prophets, such as Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel, were not from the tribe of Asher. I did find one important thing that happened with this tribe in the Old Testament.

King Hezekiah sent messengers throughout Israel to keep the Passover. He was asking Israel to turn from their sinful ways, and return to God. Initially there was resistance, but Asher was the first tribe mentioned who humbled themselves, and came back to Jerusalem.

The “happy” tribe realized that what they had, the wealth, the pleasant conditions, everything that they were content with, wasn’t enough. Somewhere in them, there was a desire for something that was more than what they had.

So they made the journey back to God. Maybe your life seems fine. The bills are paid, you have your health. Nothing seems to be wrong. Maybe you’re even a happy person. Let me ask you something, are you complete?

I’ve seen broken men laugh. I’ve heard laughter at the funeral home, but it didn’t change the condition that had brought us there. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then something is missing in your life.

Asher realized this, and while we don’t know what all happened, we do know someone passed on what Asher returned too. The last two generations we see in the family of Asher, are a Father and a daughter.

The man’s name is Phanuel, and he has a daughter named Anna. She is a widow, and when we meet her, most likely her father is dead, because she is eighty four years old.

I’m guessing they’re not what you expected. It’s not really a thriving group. The memory of a Dad and a husband, and she only got to be married for seven years. The Bible mentions no children, no relatives, and no legacy.

It would appear to be a sad life, but like I said about happiness, appearances can be deceiving. Her dad, Phanuel, meant The Face Of God, and that is where Anna spent her time, near God, in the Temple.

We only see her for three verses of Scripture, but oh what three verses it is, Luke chapter two. This family of a handmaid, whose namesake was born as a weapon in a feud between two sisters, now saw another child. The woman’s whose Father was named after God’s face, was blessed to see the Face Of God in flesh!

Like the founding namesake of her tribe, this child was also a weapon, but He was not born out of jealousy. The Christ was born to rescue the happy and the sad, those who laughed, and those who cried. The prominent, the forsaken, and the seemingly forgotten, all were rescued by this weapon of hope.

There are no accidents of God. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, what happens to you, may not be planned, but you were. God may not micromanage the events of time, but He created time to spend it with you and I.

It was no accident that Anna, who had been so faithful, even in the midst of her sorrow, got to see Jesus. Sorrow, like laughter, can be a gift, and they can both be gifts from God. It doesn’t matter what brought you to Jesus, only that you find him. Anna means Grace, and as long as Grace brings you to Jesus, it doesn’t matter how you get there.

One of the places in the tribal territory of Asher was the town of Beth-emek, meaning House Of The Valley. There are times when we inherit a house in the valley, or a depressed state. Sometimes it’s by chance, other times it’s through our own mistakes, or at times, it just happens.

Regardless, you find yourself in a house in a valley. You inherit it in the midst of others whose circumstances are different. Don’t make the mistake that there borders are better for you than your own. They are different, but God did not place you where they are, or them where you are.

Each tribe was placed in the location that was best for them. Asher was meant to bring laughter to the House Of The Valley. Some people are called to sorrow, not for themselves, but for those who would come after them. The House Of The Valley is not a closed house, nor did God place you in an isolated place. He placed you a secure location, in a place that desperately needs some true joy.

Beth-emek was surrounded by places like Jiphthah–el, meaning God will open, the place right before Beth-emek. After it, is Neiel, or Moved Of God, which is followed by Cabul, or sterile and limitation. When God places you in a trial, one that lasts so long, you feel it’s become your address, don’t forget that He never sits you where He’s not standing beside you.

Beth-emek was in the center of all these places. It was the gateway that bridged what is open, into where God is moving, to those areas where limitation and barrenness seem so common. Asher was meant to connect the sorrowful with a joy that’s doesn’t numb the pain, but turns it into a testimony.

The last individual from the tribe of Asher, that we know by name is Anna. This woman, a Prophetess, had experienced her own valley. Instead of sadness, she shared the source of her joy throughout Jerusalem. She shared the love for God she had, in spite of a long, lonely trial, with everyone. Anna knew, Jesus is here to rescue the isolated, the limited, and the hopeless.

This seemingly insignificant tribe, which entered the world laughing, now exits it rejoicing, heralding the birth of The Savior. We met Pagiel beside his standard, the Olive Tree, among the thousands of Israel, surrounding the Tabernacle.

The last place we see the tribe of Asher, is in Revelation chapter seven. Standing, sealed with the seal of God, among the tribes of Israel, worshipping The Lamb. Jacob said Asher’s bread would be fat or rich, and he would yield royal delicacies. Moses said he would dip his feet in oil, and that he would be acceptable to his brothers.

In other words, Asher eventually testified of God’s Grace, as well as His birth, sharing real joy with the world. No matter the trouble the family faced, no matter how many accidents seemed to befall them, no matter what struggles they inherited, Asher kept going. In the end, he stood with his brothers, and his children, rejoicing at the Throne Of God.

25 Devotions – Day Twenty Five

The Native: The Native Rex

John 19:19-20
19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.
20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm was written over the cross. We know it as Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews, and we know that it means so much more than a monarch of a single people. What fascinated me, was the use of the word Rex, an especially Roman word.

Before there were emperors in Rome, there were kings, known by the title Rex. Yes it’s Latin for king, but it’s a title specifically identified with Rome. To me, it reflects the very poignant fact that, before Rome was, before God walked in flesh, He spoke worlds into existence, and He continues long after Rome is just a memory.

The I Am, who said He would walk in flesh to die for me, also said He would get back up in three days, and He did just that. We rejoice at the cross, not that He suffered, but that even in His grief, He was in control. Only Christ could turn a place of heartache and agony, into a command center.

For if you read the words from the cross, the soldiers react when He speaks, the people are astonished at the events of the weather, because of His death. Nature itself shakes in grief, because her King, Her Rex Eternal, had paid a miraculous price for man’s salvation, and it was finished, but He wasn’t!

Just as the cross recognized who was on it in its title, written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. We know Him as the King of Kings, and The Lord of Lords, Savior to every race, nation, and culture. We rejoice today, because we also know something the Romans learned over 2,000 years ago. They saw Kingship in His eyes.

The Champion ripped asunder the transgressions of mankind, the thing that separated God from His creation, and eliminated every barrier to eternity. The last one being death itself, for even it bowed it’s knee to the King Of Eternity, The Lord Jesus!

25 Devotions – Day Twenty Four

The Native: The Star Seed

Genesis 26:4
4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

Numbers 24:17
17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh:
there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

Scientists tell us, a star’s life begins with a gravitational collapse. Since nature reflects the spiritual, what collapse could occur if Christ were to be The Star. Simple, the collapse of all that opposed His will. The goal of Heaven, was our redemption.

When Christ entered the womb of Mary, the gravity surrounding the fall of man began it’s collapse. From the time flesh merged with The Spirit Of God, sin itself, was very much afraid.

In this Scripture, God combines two prophetic objects, seed and star. We know Eve was given a promise, that one day, her seed would rescue humanity. Later, Israel would hear how a Star would rise out of Jacob.

Physically, the two items seem so far apart. One is terrestrial, and the other celestial. Yet, in the mind of God, The Creator Himself, they were uniquely linked. Comparing the two, you can see the similarities.

Much like stars fill the night sky, seeds cover the field of the farmer. The harvest is made up of the stars of the field. The astronomer is fascinated by constellations. Clusters made up, of the seeds of the sky.

2 Peter 1:19
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

Ephesians 2:6
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Why would God use these two, opposites to reflect The Messiah? Because, He would be both star and seed. Light and life in human cloth. Is it any wonder The Christ was heralded, not only by angels, but by the Christmas Star?

It was a physical manifestation of a Spiritual Truth. The Star of Jacob, born in our hearts, transforms us from dying Earth, to the sons of God. We, who were destined to return to dust, now are called to the cosmic realms of Heaven!

Hebrews 1:2-3
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

A natural star is a luminous sphere of plasma, held together by it’s own gravity. Our Savior, God wrapped in flesh, holds all things by The Word of His Power! This means He is sufficient, both to purchase our salvation, and to empower us from Earth to Glory.

A star shines releasing energy from the inside out. It has it’s own light, which begins internally, and is revealed externally. Does this sound familiar?

Christ our star, is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. The One who transfigured on the mountain, who’s Light was in and of itself, is The One who lights our path. Too many times, we worry and fret over the shadow of problems.

Yet, His Light is the seed of our victory. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. When we bathe it, in The Light Of His Love.

John 11:25
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

The mass of a star determines it’s fate. If we relied on our own self, we would not be able to hold up under the weight. He, has never known a burden too heavy, or a situation that was impossible for Him to overcome.

No wonder He told the world, I lay my life down, but I will take it up again. He, is before all things, and by Him all things consist. He who lives, and lives for ever more.

If we attempt to be self sufficient, the weight of our problems could crush us. That is why our Senior Pastor, Pastor Denny Livingston reminded us the other night. Lean not on your own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

Jesus told us, in the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Too many times, we fear the future. I’m as guilty as the next person, but it’s a needless fear in the vicinity of Jesus.

He will never fail nor disappoint us. Our hopes will never be dwarfed by circumstances. There is no black hole for the Christian, only a bright and glorious future. The Hope that is in us, is more than the problem that surrounds us.

Circumstances might distract our view, but like the wisemen, when we seek Him, we will always find Him. That is what He births in us, not only Eternal Life, but an Eternal Hope.

It goes beyond victory over sin and death alone, but over doubt and despair, in this present life. To know Christ, is to know the Highest energy in the universe. The One who will never cease, never burn out, never waiver, or weaken.

He can’t, because He is Christ. Caesar was silenced, Washington retired from life itself. Name the famous man, and you will see an end, but not Christ. Jesus is incomparable, unbeatable, and ever outpacing our expectations.

He is all that is precious, all that is powerful, and all of our peace. Is it any wonder, Eve hoped to see The Seed of Heaven born? Or the heart of the prophet skipped a beat when He saw the promise of The Star rise out of a people in the wilderness?

Let Him shine in your life today. Whatever you face, no matter how dark, or difficult, He wants to birth something in you. You are more than the pain before you, or the fear that whispers in your ear.

You are a child of God, the seed of The Star. Now, spiritually, we sit with Him in Heavenly places. One day soon, He will return to Earth, to spend eternity with us, never to be parted! It is in this knowledge, that we are planted, and that we will grow into eternity.

2 Corinthians 4:6
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

25 Devotions – Day Twenty Three

The Native: Jesus Christ To The Strangers

“…Jesus Christ, to the strangers…”

1 Peter 1:1
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

I included both references so you would see the complete verse, but today, those five words stuck out to me. The Message translates it as, “I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds…”

Both versions are beautiful, but what struck me was the dual meaning of those words. Now, we are citizens of another kingdom, one not of this world, but there was a time when we were a different type of strangers.

Because of sin, we were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel. A sinless, spotless God was foreign to us. Even to Israel, sin was a barrier. Then God did the unthinkable, He went from reaching out to strangers to entering a strange world.

The One who created Earth, became a stranger in it. He walked the streets of our world, and yet people treated Him like an unwelcome stranger, and He allowed it for our sakes. He endured more than the pain of the cross, knowing everyday how His creation viewed Him.

Introducing Himself to strangers, hoping they would take the time to accept His friendship. Jesus is still introducing His kindness, mercy, and salvation to a hurting and painful world. Are we doing the same?

When we meet someone we don’t know, is any part of our mind on introducing ourselves to them? Or are we only thinking about our coffee, groceries, and what what we need? Even when Jesus was tired, hungry, and thirsty, He put the needs of the people He met above His own.

Do we do that? Sure, it’s on our minds on Sunday, but what about Thursday? Simon Peter said He was on assignment from Jesus, to communicate with strangers. What if we started to view every chance encounter as a scheduled meeting by God.

I don’t mean to get super spiritual and let them know it. I only mean, to stop, take a breath, and be focused on them. To be kind on purpose, not wanting anything, just intent on reflecting Jesus.

Strategically listening, caring about their problems, and following up at every opportunity. This will create friendships, and that means you’re no more strangers. Then, like friends do, we can introduce our new friends to our best friend.

The only friend that can forgive, free, and forge a new life for those who are introduced to His mercy. Then, they can go from the verse we began with, to this one.

Ephesians 2:19
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

25 Devotions – Day Twenty Two

The Native: Paul’s Nativity

Hebrews 1:6
6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

The Apostle Paul covered many subjects. One he spoke very little on, was Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Except for this verse, and I had passed over it for years.

There’s only one event in The New Testament it could be referring to. Like Hebrews, it involved The Christ, angels, and shepherds. I like to think of this verse as Paul’s Nativity.

Luke 2:13-15
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

They say Francis of Assisi started the first Nativity scene in 1223. He did this, after a visit to Israel, where he saw Bethlehem. He wanted to encourage the worship of Christ.

The same as the Apostle Paul did here. He was speaking to the Jews about what he had received, just as the shepherds had in Luke 2. After receiving, they visited the Christ child, and shared the announcement with everyone.

In Paul’s conversion, Christ spoke to Him, and conversation led to transformation. The troubler of churches, became the Apostle to the Gentiles. The same message that Gabriel announced years before, brought Paul peace on earth.

According to the book of Revelation, a Pastor is called the Angel of the local Church. He is both a minister and a shepherd, sharing the vision of Heaven, and caring for the flock. To Paul, as it should be to us, it was more than a Christmas story.

Whether it’s on a plain in Bethlehem, a Roman prison house, or your local assembly, Angels still announce the good news. Bethlehem is more relevant today than it has ever been before.

God did arrive, born of a virgin, to save a lost and hurting world. Angels, we have heard on high, not in glowing robes, but suits and jeans. The message alters all it touches, from the messenger to it’s recipients.

That transformation doesn’t stop at conversion. It continues from the day you experience it, until the day the angel announces His return. He doesn’t offer a shallow reassurance, but a concrete hope.

There are real problems today, just as then. Only unlike Him, we don’t face a murder plot in the first two chapters of our lives. Some would have stood against all who attempted the attack. Instead, He chooses a redeemed murderer to share the Gospel.

Paul knew firsthand the limitless power of the message of Jesus. He voluntarily went from jailer to jail cell, because He believed. Paul believed enough to be born again. Whether you’re a believer, or a skeptic, I challenge you to revisit it today, reading with an open heart.

Hear the angel, see the shepherds, and meet The One who came to Bethlehem, knowing its road would lead to Calvary. Christ believed in us enough, to be born to die. Shouldn’t we believe enough to allow Him in our hearts?

25 Devotions – Day Twenty One

The Native: More Than You Ever Dreamed

Matthew 2:9

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

It’s amazing how people at Christmas time view The Nativity. Many never stop to read the events, and base them on memories and perception. This week was an example of that.

A program wrongly attempted to say that the wise men had questions when they left because they found a child instead of a king. I try to keep an open mind, and I listened to their argument, but two verses contradict their theory.

They knew they were seeking a child born King of the Jews, and they were confused at first. They arrived in Jerusalem, expecting Him to be born into a palace. They may have been puzzled up until they bowed at His feet, but that ended at the feet of Jesus.

Readily they opened their treasures, and gave Him gifts reflecting His Divinity, kingship, and sacrifice. That to me is proof enough, but it’s not my primary argument. If you doubt they were convinced in the presence of God Himself, then I point you to this verse.

Matthew 2:12

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

If any doubt attempted to hide in the caverns of their mind, this eclipsed it through The Light. As Paul said in Timothy, He was manifest in the flesh, and justified in The Spirit.

By accepting the child, they experienced a conversation with God on another realm. There would be much they didn’t get to talk with Him about, even if He was two years old at the time of their journey as scholars think. Yet, for their sacrifice, they still received a message from Heaven.

We are not given the details of the dream, just the message. For years I viewed it as only a warning about Herod, but it was a confirmation of all they saw. Can you imagine experiencing God, not once, but twice on their trip?

God will always give you more than you seek, or expect. The wise men hoped to see Him once, and to bow at His feet. They rejoiced at this, but did not expect to walk into the Heavenly realm where God spoke as they rested.

This Christmas, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, spend some time at His feet. No matter how many years you’ve followed Him, I guarantee from experience, you’ll receive more than you ever dreamed.

25 Devotions – Day Twenty

The Native: The Three Wisemen Of Calvary

The following is a message I was privileged to preach at Point Of Mercy in Nashville, Tennessee.  I’ve added it to The Native Bible Study because I feel it fits into the theme of the study.

John 19:38-39

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

Among the many interesting things about the Burial of Our Lord is these two men. Jesus needed no help to die, or to rise again, but of necessity someone would carry His body to the tomb. He was carried in, but He would walk out of His own accord.

I believe that every event in The Bible has a specific purpose, so I believe that these men’s involvement was no accident. The Lord and these two men went together into the tomb. They were hand selected for the job, they were wise men, and friends. I mention they were all wise men, so today lets call them The Wisemen Of Calvary.

You must start with Jesus, who was so much more than a man. His resurrection would write not just a new law, but a new covenant. This wasn’t just anyone, this was The Savior.

His entire mission was about relationship. It was more than only the forgiveness of sins, it was about a life of working together. Jesus’ goal was to wash away our sins, and to walk with us through the highways and byways as we reach others.

1 Peter 2:5-6
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

That’s why I love about this part of that day. It is the unique aspect of Calvary, Jesus knew that not just any men could do the job. They were doing more than burying a body, they were laying The Spiritual Cornerstone of the Church. The men that carried His body had to meet certain requirements, the first goes back to a conversation Jesus had with one of them in John 3.

John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

They had to be believers. They didn’t have to understand everything going on. They could be like us, they could have fears, and questions about certain things, but they had to be believers. Nicodemus first words in John 3:22 to Jesus confessed his belief, and our text reflects Joseph’s belief as well. Their faith in Him was the very reason they had volunteered for this task.

Our Savior doesn’t expect us to get everything, just to trust Him. If you have questions, ask with the right attitude. He will answer the relevant ones. When He doesn’t answer the others, trust that His Grace is sufficient. I didn’t know what I was facing this week, when I got the call about Mom’s heart attack, but I trusted that no matter what, God was in control. I was terrified, but I knew He wasn’t, and that was enough.

If you’re going to do anything for Jesus, you must believe the words of our Pastor’s (Pastor Denny Livingston) song, that “He is Greater Than The Need, and Bigger Than The Problem.” They didn’t understand why this had happened, they couldn’t predict the events of Sunday, but through it all, they had a firm grip on The Lord Jesus. In one sense, they were carrying Him, but their love for Him, was carrying them through this.

If you’re going through something, if the events of your life are shaking you, grasp The Savior a little tighter. He will carry you from the sorrow of your heartache to the shouts of an empty tomb. You see, these men had a relationship with Jesus, and that will produce life out of death, joy out of sorrow, and hope in a hopeless situation.

The second man was Joseph of Arimathea. Both he and Nicodemus were rulers of the Jews, members of the Sanhedrin, which was like a religious senate of the Jews. They were secret disciples, but the events of Calvary converted their silence into action.

It was Joseph’s tomb, he had it built for himself. Like many do, he placed a garden outside of it. They say men would do this so they could go there, and remind themselves of their own mortality. David said, teach me to know my end, so he would know how frail he was.

Here is the thing that always puzzled me, why Calvary for a graveyard? The Scriptures say that His burial place was in the same area as His Death. The way I read John 19, this was a place that had been used as a execution place before. Why there?

I understand that it fulfilled prophecy, let’s not forget, we view things on this side of Calvary, but on that side, what was Joseph’s thinking originally? Was it to remind this successful man that we all enter and exit this world in the same manner?

Did he realize there was a reason that he didn’t understand, but knew there was a higher purpose? If so, even without knowing everything he listened. Be sensitive to God’s leading in your life, and if you’re uncertain, seek council. Pray about it, talk to the Man Of God that He has placed to watch for our souls. God placed Pastors in my life and yours because they know where God wants to take us.

God had a plan for the piece of land Joseph had. Matthew said that Joseph had built the tomb for himself, and John said it was in the same place where Jesus was crucified.

Joseph built the tomb, and had the garden planted, and cultivated. God will plant, and cultivate things in you before its ever time to harvest. Joseph’s tomb and garden had a great future, but they started with rock, dirt, and seed. You’ll have some hard knocks, and some things will have to be dug out, but He has a wonderful future ahead.

Perhaps it was an inherited piece of land? Maybe an ancestor had been assigned it in the day of Joshua’s, and the family had reclaimed it after the return from Babylon. After all, who would want a place like this. Scholars say it is probable that the reason it was called the place of the skull was that it was famous for the skulls of condemned prisoners beheaded there.

Can you imagine that being your inheritance? The place of anguish and sorrow, and your family handing you the deed? It’s yours now, good luck, it was my problem first, now it’s yours. How many have hand me down horrors you inherited?

Jesus forever transformed the way we view Calvary. Now we look at it, not as a place of execution, but exoneration! No matter what you’ve inherited, He can make you new. He can transform whatever your situation and give you a much better inheritance!

The last man was Nicodemus. I wonder if the memory of that first meeting with Jesus echoed through his mind the way the outside light bounced off the sides of the cave? As he wrapped the body of Jesus with myrrh and aloes, did He remember The Master saying “You must be born again?”

As they entered the cave did he think about his own question, “How can a man enter the second time into his mother’s womb?” As he wrapped the side of Jesus with clothes covered in myrrh and aloes, did he remember the words of Jesus?

John 3:5
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

When the Roman soldier had pierced Jesus’ side, out ran blood and water. This pointed back to the night time conversation, and ahead to Baptism and the Infilling Of The Spirit. Did verses fourteen and fifteen of John 3 dance through his thoughts?

Jesus hinted at Nicodemus’ conversion conversation about the last time we would see Nicodemus in Scripture. He was essentially saying “Nic, you’ll carry me in, but I’ll bring you out!” Nicodemus and Joseph both refused to follow their colleagues when they plotted against Jesus. They knew the Jews had it in for Jesus. Perhaps they even tried to warn Jesus, not that He didn’t already know. When He went to raise Lazarus, the disciples said Master the Jews recently sought to kill you. I’m sure it wasn’t hard to figure out, but maybe Joseph and Nicodemus had told them.

Either way, Nicodemus had a 100 pound combination of myrrh and aloes ready. There was no Jerusalem mart, or judea.com with same day delivery. When it was time for it, He was equipped to complete the task. When God calls you, He will equip you with what you need, when you need it.

This whole message has brought us to these three points. First, (1) your journey should reflect your conversion. As a Christian, we must never get too far from our first trip to the altar. That was Christ’s whole message to the seven Churches of Revelation, when you meet Me here, I’ll keep you there, as long as wherever you are, you stay connected to here.

The second event we see Nicodemus at in Scripture was in John 7. The Pharisees were attacking Jesus verbally, Nicodemus defended Him. The second point of the Message is, (2) Your commitment will compel you to action. Pastor preached a masterpiece of a message about the Three Tables Of The Church, and I believe that all of us can serve the needs of others.

These Sanhedrin members essentially became grave diggers for their love of Jesus. Jesus reputation was attacked, Nicodemus’ commitment compelled him to act then, and at Calvary. On the day of the preparation for eating the Passover, when no one wanted to touch a dead body, because of being considered unclean, these men were committed to Christ.

That brings us to the third and final point, (3) From conversion to completion, it will result in caring for Christ’s body. That wasn’t just the physical earthly body of The Savior they were carrying, it was symbolic of The Church.

These men aren’t remembered for their riches, their power, or their importance. They were remembered for ministering to the need of The Savior. Jesus said when you do for others, you’re doing for Me. He will never forget what those men did for Him, or what you do for others, because He views it as what you’ve done for Him.

Jesus’ name means Jehovah Is Salvation, Joseph means He adds, and Nicodemus means Victory of the people. That day, God brought into the tomb of death, Salvation, addition, and victory. He washed our sins away. Jesus added an exit from death into an abundant life, and provided victory for all people.

He did this so we would have the opportunity to be converted. Knowing that our commitment to Him would compel us to action. An the end result would be caring for the body of Christ. When you carry a love for Jesus, it will change you, the place you’re in, and everything thing you touch. That relationship with Jesus, that love and commitment will make us all witnesses and Wisemen, thanks to Calvary.

25 Devotions – Day Nineteen

The Native God Is Greater

John 5:9
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

I believe that God is greater … I could stop there, truth be told, as Christians, we should be able to stop there. The trouble is, the enemy brings trouble, in an attempt to fill our eyes with anything but God. Yes, our problems are both real and hard, but so is Our Glorious God!

I have struggled this past few years with fear, grappling with it in ebbs and flows. I knew better, I know God, I know Him in His strength, even in my weakness. The enemy has tried to keep us so focused on our trials, that we give lip service to the wonder of Our Creator.

The trouble for our detractor is this, God is both persistent and consistent. He constantly reminded me of His goodness. When worry knocked, faith stood against it. When I was weary, tears of joy flowed. Over that time, my faith was building.

The last few weeks, I have felt a change. I began to watch God again, not for anything, just to watch Him. Too often, we look to Him for a solution, when instead we should just watch Him. The Angels view God, not for anything, save the delight of seeing Him. This is what every Christian must return to see.

Mary watched Him in His crib. Joseph stared amazed that God had small fingers and tiny toes. The Wisemen, scholars, rejoiced at His little movements. The shepherds were in awe, at Heaven’s perfect Lamb.

Are you worried this Christmas? Nervous about the trials that surround you? Let me encourage you, for the next few days, do not seek an answer, seek The Savior. Take a few minutes in prayer, and in reading His Word, and watch Him.

Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus, who He was, and became a new man in the process. Matthew looked at Jesus, and left everything behind for a new life. Lazarus heard Jesus, because He loved God, and followed His voice out of the tomb!

Watch Him today, not for anything, except for Him! Wonder at His love, His long suffering, and His compassion. Rejoice in His favor, celebrate His joy, and most of all, that you know Him. If you do not know Him, let me encourage you to meet Him this day. For to know Jesus, is to know that, God Is Greater!!!

25 Devotions – Day Eighteen

The Native: From Their Sins

Matthew 1:21
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Many times in translation, because of the difference in language, small words are necessary in English to explain the thought of the Greek or Hebrew. The concept is there, but an and, or the, is added to make the English make sense. This is not the case in this verse.

The word for their in the Greek original is autos, and the definition of it is worth its weight in gold. Much more than a preposition, it contains the concept of a baffling wind. Wind is easily explained, but baffling can mean inexplicable, impossible, and puzzling. When you put the two together, it’s a very specific description of our sins.

Just as people have watched the threat of a hurricane or a tornado on the horizon, the same thing held true with our sinful nature. The only difference was , before Christ, no matter how much warning you had, there was no escape. They were neither out-runnable, or deniable, and prior to Calvary, they most certainly weren’t dis-solvable.

He calmed the storm that was locked in our souls, washed away the stains, and removed the hold they had on us.

Yet, Christ came to save His people from their sins. So that inexplicable, impossible grip man’s transgressions had, would no longer hold any power. The God we serve, not only forgave our sins, He separated us from them. Jesus was born so that you and I could be made new.

He calmed the storm that was locked in our souls, washed away the stains, and removed the hold they had on us. The word not only translates their, but both him and her. Jesus came to redeem the world, and to be a Personal Savior.

He cares about us individually just as much as He cares about the Church as a whole. No problem is too small for His attention and nothing is so big as to baffle Him. It may confuse us on our own, but not our Christ.

Sin’s winds may intimidate us, but they hold no terror for Him. The God that rescued us from a destroying wind, spoke to Job in the whirlwind. He took Elijah home in a whirlwind, and empowered the early Church by filling the Upper Room with a Mighty Rushing Wind. Mighty in the Greek indicates violent, wind translates Breath, and Rushing is phero, to carry some burden, or to move one with force or speed.

As our Lead Pastor, Pastor Denny Livingston, once preached, He didn’t only carrry something into the Upper Room, He expelled some things. The God we serve is powerful enough to still the winds that rage against our soul, separate us from their power and their practice, and bear whatever burdens we will face in the future.

In this season, we don’t rejoice because of an age old story, we celebrate a very present Savior. The God we worship in Bethlehem, greeted us this morning. He is present above, around, and inside us. We feel Him, we see His work, and know that He is soon to return.

It may confuse us on our own, but not our Christ.

If you don’t know Him, I challenge you to bring your past sins, and your present condition to Him. Allow The Lord Jesus to show you why Bethlehem changed everything. If you know Him, don’t allow temporary problems to rob you of the joy of the season. He is in your present season with you, and He will bring you through to the next season, with something greater than you had before.

The gift of Christmas is not complete without the rest of Christ’s life, and it’s not meant to be. As Pastor Livingston preached so wonderfully yesterday, birth is just the beginning. We follow on, no matter how cold the season, or how dark the days, in the warmth of His light.

Jesus saved us to transform us, giving us a whole new life. One that isn’t isolated from the problems of this world, but insulated against them. We face a very real, and very dangerous world, but we face it with a very real, and very formidable God on our side. He matches the wind with a whirlwind. His voice is louder than the waves of the sea. Finally His hand is powerful enough to takes us from Earth to Heaven. Whatever your their is, He is enough to deal with it!