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!

25 Devotions – Day Seventeen

The Native: Eleven Til Midnight

Luke 2:7-8

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Pause after verse seven for a moment. Suppose you were in a far country, that Christianity was foreign to you. Instead of reading this in the book of Luke, you’re listening to a man share the story with you. Would you interrupt when he began verse eight? He tells you this amazing story about this couple, and suddenly shifts gears to some shepherds.

You and I know why Luke wrote the way that he did. We know that the Shepherds and the Angels will bring everything full circle to Bethlehem, but that’s because we know the story. If you were a stranger, would you see the connection?

I ask this to highlight something, the fact that two seemingly unrelated events, three separate groups of people, all tie together. When you add in the Star in the Heavens, the Wise men journeying from the far East, and Herod’s plot, it’s a whirlwind of activity.

The same is true today. Things are happening so fast, events that appear to have no connection with the other. The same day that one government makes a judicial decision altering an entire nation’s laws, in Europe the Vatican signs a treaty with the Palestinians.

While this is going on, Greece, which has not been prominently on the world stage since after the time of Alexander, is now the concern of every European leader. The head of Russia met with their Prime Minister to offer support. Some would argue that they were mere coincidences, until you consider something else. First of which is the words of Zechariah that referenced Zion and Greece.

The second, the same year that contains four blood moons, at least two of which occur during Jewish feasts, Jupiter and Venus align. Whether you believe this is the same as the Wisemen’s star or not it’s still significant. They form a pattern that has not been seen in two thousand years, since the birth of Christ.

Lastly, the seventeenth of Tammuz is a Jewish fast day. It commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, and begins a three week period of mourning. According to the Mishnah, five calamities occurred on this date through the years. Every 10 to 20 years, this coincides with July 4. This happened both on July 4, 1776, and on July 4, 2015 as well.

Seemingly unconnected groups, events that would appear to have no tie to the other. Isn’t that what a stranger would see in the pause between verses seven and eight of Luke? It’s made clear in verses eleven and twelve, which I believe points to the time on history’s clock. Spiritually, we are somewhere around eleven minutes until midnight.

It is my heartfelt belief that soon, The Native Of Bethlehem, will call for those who have anticipated His return to join Him. All signs point to the fact that our world needs more than a religious Herod, a political cleric, or an economic powerhouse of a leader. Although it will seek out one, expecting hope, only to embrace chaos.

What this world needs today, is the same thing it needed over 2,000 years ago. A savior, One who didn’t merely promise Heaven, He delivered it. On a mountain spanning a bloody cross and an empty tomb, He opened the passage to Eternity.

I encourage you today, if you don’t know Him, to pause and examine the claims of the shepherds. If they had not seen the Angels, what connection would they have with an out of town carpenter, his pregnant wife, and a newborn baby? Oh, but if they did see an angel, if they were there by invitation, what then?

You and I have been invited to salvation, an opportunity to trade this world’s pain for Heaven’s peace. I don’t know how long we have until that day arrives, but I know this. The shepherds wasted no time reaching Bethlehem.

I would encourage you to make a decision today, reach out to a God who’s arms have been wide open for two thousand years. You will find Him powerful enough to wash away your sins, wise enough to dry your tears, and strong enough to keep us in these last days. For like the shepherds, I believe we will see Him very, very soon.

25 Devotions- Day Sixteen

The Native: While You Were There

Luke 2:6
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

“While you’re here, could you?” “We were on vacation and this happened …” We’re used to these statements, although we cringe as we hear them. Those unexpected events in life that we were hoping would happen at a different time. Mary and Joseph had one of those moments when Mary first felt the labor pains.

There is little doubt that she would have preferred to feel those first signs before or after the trip, or at least after they were in a room at the inn. As often in life, even with the most blessed event of all time, it didn’t happen that way. The Lord Jesus was going to arrive, whether they were ready or not.

Whether the room had been prepared, or the water was boiling, or the doctor was at hand. It’s the same way with our situations today. At some point in your life, you’re going to find yourself receiving or giving in what appears to be the off season.

That’s why The Lord counseled us to be instant in season and out of season. I submit to you that the timing of Christ’s arrival was as in season as possible, even though they may not have known it.

“We look at the unexpected, or the untimely as a punishment. Our thinking is, if it arrived without warning, there should have been a warning attached. Obviously, in the case of The Master, that wasn’t true.

At the same time, if we’re not serving Him, the thoughts of His return today can be scary, not because of His condition, but our own. He stated that He is returning for a people that have made themselves ready.

However ready doesn’t mean a perfect people, but a Church that is watching for Him. You can be prepared for surprises, even if you don’t know when it’s exactly going to happen.

Our hearts can still be prepared, even if circumstances throw us. The surprise may shake us for a minute, but if our souls are aligned with His, then all will be well. Later, Jesus tried to teach the Disciples on the boat this principle.

If Jesus is present, the journey will be successful. That doesn’t mean your unexpected, blessed events won’t be painful. In birth, it’s the absence of pain that is abnormal. If we will be faithful in the inconvenient, the untimely, and the unanticipated, the joy of the birth will eclipse the anxiety of the moment.

The same is true of Our King’s return, If we’re watching for Him. Mary and Joseph would have preferred the birth to happen when they were settled, but they were ready when it happened.

Their circumstances weren’t settled, but they were. Mary knew that she had to give her all. Joseph knew that he had to be there for her and Jesus. As a result, although it was in a barn far from home, it was an ordained part of their story and ours.

What ever you’re experiencing right now, whatever the unexpected circumstance in your life, take heart. He saw it coming, and with His help, you can make it through it, and come out on top. You may even reach souls you didn’t know you could win. They may one day begin their story with this statement. “I came to The Lord, while they were there!”