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!”

25 Devotions – Day Fifteen

The Native: From Here To Eternity

Luke 2:3-4
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

We make an assumption about Joseph, in fact we make a lot of assumptions about Joseph. One is that his path was somehow less important than Mary’s was. We look at him as if he just was drafted into this. However God had plans for Joseph, just as He had for Mary.

Prior to the birth in a manger, somewhere a little baby was born. His birth wasn’t heralded by Angels, but it was celebrated by God. The very God who would one day wrap Himself in flesh attended the birth of Joseph.

God attends every birth, He rejoices at the potential of every soul. To Him, there isn’t such a thing as an unimportant person. Joseph was integral to the adventure that was about to happen.

Yes, Mary was of the house of David, but that wasn’t enough. To transport them from Nazareth to Bethlehem in time for the birth, Joseph had to be a son of David. “All went to be taxed, every one into his own city.” If you had ask Joseph before this, “what city are you from?”, he would have said Nazareth. After this, his answer was, “my city is Bethlehem.”

When you’re life comes in contact with Jesus, it will change more than just your location, it will reveal your destiny. Like Joseph, you always were meant to come in contact with The Savior from the day of your birth. Your entire existence pointed to the day you meet Jesus.

Nazareth means the guarded one, maybe that’s you today. When Joseph first heard Mary’s news, he was guarded, and he had doubts, but then he met the Angel in a dream. That dream of a better hope changed his life, and it can yours.

Maybe you think salvation sounds to good to be true, like a dream or something. You’ve heard the message and the angel. In Revelation, God called His Pastors the Angels of the Church. You’re guarded, but you know what you’ve felt is real.

That feeling isn’t manufactured, it’s ordained. Just as Joseph’s lineage came from David, your life is no accident. You were born for this moment. God wants to translate you from Nazareth to Bethlehem. He wants you to experience the manger, not as a bystander, but as a participant.

Joseph’s pathway took him from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to Egypt and back, but he was never the same. Yes, there will be hard times on your journey, but Jesus will be with you. There will be precious things along the way, like gold, frankincense, and myrrh. God’s glory, His anointing, and His mission will transcend any obstacle you face.

Today, you may not feel important. You may look at your past as if it’s a dead ancestry of failures, but it isn’t. It just brought you where you are, it doesn’t dictate where you’re going. Let this meeting with Jesus take place in your life, isn’t it worth the trip?

Angels, Shepherds, and Wisemen awaited Joseph, but most of all, he cradled eternity in his arms. God will guide you, He has been waiting for you since you were born. He will Shepherd you through the hard times, and make you wiser for it. Most of all, you’ll see Jesus, as he cradles you from here to eternity.

25 Devotions – Day Fourteen

The Native: Augustus Doctrine

Luke 2:1
​ 1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

The Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, the word doctrine is not a foreign word in the halls of politics. We are more familiar with it from a Biblical perspective, but it’s not always a matter of faith. Ironically, it is, in a political fashion, found in The Book Of Faith.

The word decree in Luke 2 translates dogma and doctrine. A census was very much part of Augustus’ political doctrine. The reason for this goes back some years before the events of Luke 2. When we read of Augustus, we imagine that he became emperor at a specific time. His powers were actually consolidated over time. One of these periods included a compromise with the Roman Senate called the second settlement.

It was in this settlement, that he was granted powers normally reserved for only the Roman Censor. These included the right to supervise public morals and scrutinize laws to ensure they were in the public interest, as well as the ability to hold a census and determine the membership of the Senate.A Censor also, even in the days of the republic, would occassionally take a Census outside of Rome in the provinces.

One of the reasons for this compromise had been Augustus’ illness. The Senate realized that their entire government now was pinned to the health of one man. Ironically, the most powerful man in the known world, suffered with illness throughout his life. When we first read Luke 2, we imagine mighty Caesar and an infant Christ. While that is true, Caesar was not so mighty, and while Our Lord was a baby, He was more powerful in His infancy, than Augustus was in his strength.

The doctrine of Caesar demanded every man to give account of himself and his family. The purpose was for the pleasure of Rome. Make no mistake, one day, all men both small and great will stand before a Throne far greater than Caesar’s. We will all give an account, but that wasn’t the way that Christ began.

Before He ever asked us to give an account of our birth, of our parents, or of our heritage, He shared His own. He shared His lineage of faith from Abraham to David. As well as to all those who were faithful even though not famous.

We know that Christ’s Mother was just like us, flawed but unflinching. Joseph, while not His Father, loved Him as much as any son. Most of all, because Jesus shared, we can become the sons of God!

God wrapped in flesh, born to die, buried to rise, and alive to resurrect men’s souls! That is the doctrine of Christ. Augustus’ doctrine was birthed out of human frailty, they say he suffered ailments all his life. Our Lord’s doctrine was established to take away our diseases, to overcome our weaknesses, and to share His strength with us.

Thank God that the doctrine of God brings life in every arena. Whether your background is religious, non religious, political, or anything else, The Lord will meet you there. So this Christmas, spend some time getting to know a King who crossed worlds to reach you.

Matthew 11:29-30
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

25 Devotions – Day Thirteeen

The Native: He Keeps His Promises

Luke 2:2
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Can I ask you a question, contextually why does it matter who was governor of Syria? I ask this, not out of disrespect, but out of joy. If you say to give the setting a date, I would argue that Augustus’ decree in verse one could accomplish that. No, the reason for this, is intended, inspired, and inviting.

He recognized his own sins, his own mistakes, and he had received mercy.

Some argue about the date of Cyrenius rule as Governor of Syria.  Some scholars suggest that when should be translated before.  Others indicate that Cyrenius’ first responsibility in the region was the taxing, and that he would rise to governor.

No matter which opinion you are of, doesn’t lessen the importance of this verse.  Frankly, the important meaning of it is not who was governor of Syria, or when he was the governor.  The important part of this was that it reads governor and not king.

Isaiah 7: 1-2,13-16

1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, [that] Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel,
went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.

2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart
was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.

13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; [Is it] a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

To understand what I mean by this, we must go back many years.  To another king, one attacked and surrounded by a confederacy of kings. He was scared, he was not where he should be with The Lord, and he knew that he deserved to die.  Then the Prophet came to see him.

Isaiah could have brought news of judgement to the young king.  He could have told him that God was going to allow his destruction, he didn’t.  Isaiah one chapter before, had laid on his face before God.  He recognized his own sins, his own mistakes, and he had received mercy.

Uzziah was Ahaz’ grandfather, so these chapters were not chronologically organized, they were inely placed.  One would serve as a backdrop against another, you see Uzziah wasn’t perfect either.  However, God sent Isaiah with a message of mercy.  This was the same Prophet that The Lord spoke through saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.”

So Ahaz, fearful of destruction, was given a sign.  He would not die by the hand of these kings, instead, those kings would be defeated.  This was to take place before Immanuel would be born.  Prior to the coming of The Merciful King, the merciless ones would be dust and ashes.

What is it that is bombarding your life today?  Who, or what addiction reigns over you?  Sin whispers that you’ve failed before, why try, you’ll just fail again.  I submit to you, that is a lie.  Your past mistakes do not dictate your future.  Christ has come to make all things new.  He dethroned and discarded a nation that threatened a very flawed king.

He can dethrone everything in your life that binds you, no matter your mistakes.  His promise to Ahaz holds true to you and I today.  He has come to give you life, and life more abundantly.  If you are a believer, and your sins are behind you, do not spend your life regretting past mistakes.  He has forgiven them, you must forgive yourself.

That’s why it’s called a New Testament, a new beginning.

If you desire a new life, don’t worry about all the things in your life that are wrong.  First, come to Him, and let Him dethrone them.  He knows how to overcome everything that you are facing.  It all starts with a conversation with Jesus, it doesn’t end there, but that is your beginning.

Isaiah chapter seven goes on to say that Immanuel knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  He knows how to separate you from your issues, even when you can’t yourself.  I’ve seen the drug addict freed from his addictions.  I’ve seen so many souls made new at the feet of The Master.  That’s why it’s called a New Testament, a new beginning. This is the promise of freedom, and I can promise you from personal experience, He Keeps His Promises!

25 Devotions – Day Twelve

The Native: Silencing Our Doubts

We’ve talked about him before, but I would like to revisit the scene.  Zacharias, a Priest of God, a child of Abraham, is having a conversation with an Angel. He had his doubts, as a result, the Angel told him that he would not be able to speak until the prophecy was fulfilled. On the surface, we humans, might be puzzled at this, until you examine more closely.

Yes, Zacharias was human, yes, it was an extraordinary promise, but it was not an unprecedented one. Since David, the promise of Christ from the family of Bethlehem was well known. Also famous, was the birth of Isaac, to two elderly parents named Abraham and Sarah. If anyone knew the history of God’s people, it should have been Zacharias.

What we must be careful, not to misunderstand, was the reason for the silencing.Set aside for a moment, the fact that this was a Priest Of God, and that he was talking to an Angelic messenger.  Instead, look at where they were standing, at an Altar inside a building that had been destroyed once before.

At the time of the exile, many probably doubted that God would return His people to their land.  Perhaps, some thought they would never again see a Temple on that mountain, but they did.  God had prophesied, before the first Temple’s destruction, that He would return His people to their land.

Zacharias was standing in a place of miracles, talking to the Messenger of a Miraculous God, about God’s plan for our future.This son of Abraham, had a heritage of hope, and yet, fear attempted to drown out his faith.

Please understand, I’m not judging Zacharias, just identifying with him.  It would be easy to say, he should have known better, but then again, shouldn’t we? Every Sunday, we stand in a place of miracles while the Messenger Of a miraculous God reveals to us God’s plan for our future.  How often do I, do we, give more voice to our doubts than we do our faith?

Doubt is a form of fear, and it can be very deceptive.  In our minds we think, “It’s not that I doubt God’s ability, but the circumstances are so great.”  Or, “I know He can do it, and has for others, but will He do it for me?”  Fear comes to us disguised as doubt, it’s less aggressive, it is less blatant, but it is still fear.  It will take many forms before it is defeated.

I’m sure that the enemy tried to fill Zacharias’ head with doubts even after that day.  The thoughts of, “All that could go wrong …”, even after Elizabeth was going to have the baby. I admit, I would struggle with all the ‘what if’s’ just as he probably did.  We are human, and we are going to grapple with fear.  It’s a battle however, that we cannot afford to lose.

The difference between Zacharias and us, he couldn’t give voice to his doubts. He had no choice, but we must choose not too.  In the middle of the night, when whispers filled his brain, he only had to remember one thing. His vocal chords refused to communicate them, they refused to give fear a voice.

God did this for our example.  No, He doesn’t make a habit of stilling voices, but He was trying to teach us something.  If we will silence our doubts, and give voice to our Faith, then we will always be victorious.  Yes we will have fear, but no, we do not have to communicate it.  We must choose to speak our faith instead of our fear.

That isn’t to say we won’t have fear.  I’m not saying that we pretend that we’re not scared of, insert mental image here, but I am saying that we mustn’t focus on it.  I can choose to speak what God promised.

I can grab hold of the hope that is before us like the horns of an Altar.  Incense fills a room, the smell attaches itself to clothing.  Zacharias was surrounded by a cloud of faith, and fear still was successful in hindering him.  Why?  Because, while the room was filled with faith, his vision was filled with fear.

One of the greatest things that God did for Zacharias was silencing his fear.  It had spoken so loudly that it had drowned out his faith.  It took over nine months, but he watched as faith grew, and fear dwindled.  Zacharias was given his opportunity to speak again. He said first, “His name is John, (Grace), and then he praised God.

In verse 63, he spoke his son’s name, and in verse 64 he praised God. Last time he spoke fear, this time he spoke faith. As a result, in verse 67, he was filled with The Holy Ghost, and God spoke through him. When we refuse to verbalize our fears, and we speak faith, we become the mouthpiece of God.

Luke 1:70
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

The Bible says that God prophesied through Zacharias. It’s no surprise that he uses the word spake in verse 70, and called in verse 76.  He went from doubter to Disciple long before Thomas was given the nickname.

God gave us an example in Zacharias, but today, God wants us to silence our doubts. He will cause the miracle, but we must do the practical. We must still them, not by the absence of doubt, but the purposeful rejection of it.

The Lord was essentially saying, “Not here, not now, and never again!” We must actively do the same to our doubts. When we do, like the child in Zacharias’ arms, something new will be born in our spirit. It will grow, and produce an even greater future in us, that points only to Jesus!

25 Devotions – Day Eleven

The Native: Before His Coming

(An excerpt from our new book The Native)

Matthew 1:22-23

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by
the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

We are a few months away from Christmas, a little over three months.  My mind went back to Mary, roughly a little over three months from seeing His face.  It’s been talked about before. We know that she was talked about. Mary was the subject of gossip, whispers flooded the neighborhood.

She had a few that believed her, Joseph, Elisabeth, and Zacharias.  We don’t know of many beyond that.  She knew she wasn’t crazy.  Mary knew that the gift that she carried was from God.  Jesus’ stirrings from the inside reassured her that this was very real.

I’m sure there had been hard times, unpleasant conversations, harsh rejection.  Yet, in the midst of it, Mary knew that she was fulfilling God’s purpose.  It wasn’t about the pain that she had, was feeling, or would endure.  It was about seeing His face.

Some might say that is was a lot to ask of Mary.  People might wonder why she was selected.  The greatest Bible Teachers I know will tell you the most important reason, she was willing.  God can work with willingness, He can do more with it than talent.

Willingness to take risk caused Him to create the world.  Willingness to spare man caused Him to give Noah the plans for an ark.  Willingness to suffer excruciating, temporary pain for an Eternal rescue mission, was the pathway to the Cross.

Mary’s son would spend thirty three and a half years preparing to rescue you and I.  At times, it was very hard.  He was the subject of much more than unpleasant conversations.  He was blasphemed, mocked, whispered, and shouted against. More rejected Him than accepted Him.  It was the most expensive price ever paid by anyone in history.

Still, He felt the stirrings on the inside of His soul.  The love, and the promise He had made to Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac.  As cataclysmic as the price was, He had made a decision, He was willing to pay the cost.

Christ died for you and I, not because it was easy, but because He was willing.  He loved us enough to suffer untold pain, so we could experience unimagined joy.  I’m not sure how far we are from seeing His face, I believe it could be any moment.  I will tell you this, He knows that you’re facing battles until that day.

The Lord understands that you may be the subject of unpleasant conversation.  Perhaps you are gossiped, and whispered against.  He knows you’ve witnessed, and been rejected.  God knows how that feels.  The world will tell you the cost is too high, but don’t listen.

Listen instead to the stirrings in your soul, Christ is there.  One day soon, the pain will be behind us, the battles all ended.  Any moment, like Mary, we will hear Christ’s cry, and it will be worth a trillion times more than anything we’ve suffered.  On that day, The Native Of Bethlehem, will welcome the natives of Heaven to their brand new home!

25 Devotions – Day Ten

The Native Jesus And Napoleon

The man known as the Emperor of the French, was actually not born there. Napoleon Bonaparte was, instead born on the island of Corsica. An yet, no other name is more connected to the the country of France than a child descended from Italian nobility. Corsica, only became part of France a year before his birth. What a difference a year, and a child make.

My mind goes to a more important birth, that occurred years before. When a child of Heaven was born in a very human stable. The Savior Of The World, born in the world, but not of it. Yet, every citizen of Earth, who longs to be a resident of Heaven, looks to The Native for salvation.

He became a Native of a land foreign to His nature, so that we could experience a change in our own. I’ve written about it before, but no matter how many times I do, the excitement holds. Christ, knowing the cost of Calvary, embraced the journey.

Nine months, plus thirty three and a half years. It would be filled with peril, pain, and purpose. To Him, all that paled in comparison, to filling Heaven with souls who have experienced redemption.

Christ gave His heart to man, even before He gave His body. Before He walked to Gethsemane, His heart embraced us, knowing it also meant accepting the burden of the cross. The Lord promised from the second the fall occurred, that He would rescue us, and Calvary fulfilled that vow.

It was something that made men like Napoleon stand in awe. Christ triumphed out of love, and in so doing, accomplished what he could never do. Below are words reported to be said by the Corsican General about The Lord Jesus.

“In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the Empire of Christ.

 

All who sincerely believe in Him experience that remarkable supernatural love towards Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers.

 

Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This it is which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the divinity of Jesus Christ.”

25 Devotions – Day Nine

The Native: The Villages Of Jonah, Jesus, and Zeus

2 Kings 14:25-26

25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his
servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which [was] of Gath-hepher.

26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, [that it was] very bitter: for [there was] not any shut
up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel.

The Legend Of Aetos Dios

Periphas was a legendary king of Attica who was a just king, and a dutiful priest of Apollo. Zeus however became indignant because Periphas was revered and honoured as if he were Zeus himself, so Zeus wanted to destroy Periphas and his entire household. But Apollo interceded, and instead Zeus transformed Periphas into an eagle, making him king of all birds and guard of his sacred septre.

To borrow from a famous title, this is really a tale of three cities. Gath-hepher, Nazareth, and Sepphoris.  I’m sure that most of you are familiar with one of those three, but a lesser amount will have heard of the first one I mentioned.  My guess is that most of you haven’t heard of the third one, and until recently I hadn’t either.  While each holds wonder, their connection to each other, make it even more so.

Gath-hepher wasn’t a prominent place. One writer describes it as inconsiderable, meaning small or of little significance. It’s name meant either wine press of the well, the pit, or the digging. It was near Sepphoris, a town that would one day be renamed Diocaesarea in honor of Hadrian Caesar and Zeus. At the time of Christ, the village of Gath-hepher’s most famous citizen was an ancient memory.

That citizen was Jonah.  In his day, he was sent by God to Nineveh.  According to Scholars, the founder of Nineveh was the Nimrod of Genesis chapter 10.  A city whose Assyrian name ironically connected to the fictional son of Zeus, Hercules.  A true Prophet of Jehovah was sent to a city built upon a false idol.

They were spared because of repentance. Unfortunately, years later, they would backslide into idolatry. This would bring their destruction. Any city, or person, whose foundation remains tied to idols will buckle under the weight of lifting up anything other than The Creator.

Our God supports us, and not the other way around. The problem with idols is that they’re not real. You may build them statues and temples, but in the end, you only have things that you must support. God’s Tabernacle and Temple saw a Heavenly cloud fill it, and not a stone statue.

Your familiar with what happened next, when Jonah arrived, judgement gave way to mercy.  We all know the story, you saw the whale in your mind’s eye as soon as you read the name.  The one thing that I never connected with the book of Jonah, was the importance of the place of his origin, and the history of the city he was sent to reach.

In fact, Gath-Hepher isn’t mentioned in the book of Jonah.  Had it not been for the prophecy referred to in 2 Kings, we wouldn’t have known it.  God purposely referred to the fulfillment of a prophecy that we didn’t even get to witness in Scripture.  He wanted us to know that Jonah was from Gath-hepher.

Jonah repented in the whale’s belly, but he didn’t linger there. He hit Nineveh, following God’s command, also with a message of Repentance. Was he perfect? No, but he was actively seeking God. Was Nineveh perfect?  No, but they actively sought God.  Repentance doesn’t only mean remorse, it means change.

I should mention that Jonah’s home isn’t only within miles of Sepphoris, but it’s also within two miles of another city, the city of Nazareth. Note the contrast. Gath-hepher is a village between a city that, like Ninevah, was given to idolatry, and The City Of The Christ!

Christ wasn’t born in Nazareth, He moved there.  The Perfect One wanted to be near a people that were covered in sins, drenched in disappointment, and in severe need of redemption.  It’s no wonder then that among The Old Testament Prophets that Jesus connects Himself with, He refers to Jonah.

Intentionally, not ironically, He who is perfect identified with a servant famous for failure and redemption. This was the type of man He came to reach. Jonah was not a perfect man, but a man capable of Repentance. Much like the sparrow that Christ made a place for, He redeemed Jonah.

Ironically, they say that Jonah was buried in a mountain near Sepphoris, which in the Greek, means bird.  It’s this town that they would rename for a very mortal emperor, and a very flawed idol.  A bird in the hand of Christ is cared for, loved, and redeemed.  Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter/Zeus on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the legend, Zeus transformed a man into a bird out of jealousy.

Psalms 84:3

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

Luke 12:6-8

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:

The kings and idols of this world come seeking servants, while Christ comes serving.  Each will transform, but only one will wash away our iniquities, wrap us in His love, and free our souls.  God sent His Prophet with a Message of hope, of peace, and of transformation.  He will take us the way we are, and make us better than we could ever imagine.

Sin will transform also, but it will only serve to plunge us deeper into slavery.  Much like a bird it may allow you to fly from a perch, but only for as long as the length of the string tied to it’s foot. Any success, any soaring accomplished in this life, will be limited and corrupted.

The Greek word Sepphoris finds it’s parallel in the Hebrew word Zipporah.  You may remember her as the wife of Moses.  After the Exodus, Reuel, whose name means friend of God, brings her to Moses in the wilderness.  Earlier in Scripture, she initially had a problem with circumcision, but she is reunited with her husband.

Colossians 2:11-13

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

According to Colossians 2:11-14, Circumcision in the Old Testament is tied to  Baptism in the New Testament. Like Zipporah, we were estranged from God’s Love. Thanks to sin, we were lifeless, hopeless, and in fear of the judgement.  However, God sent His Prophet, His friend, to reunite us with The Lord. Each transforms, but only the transformation of Christ frees us. Now, instead of being a stranger, we are part of the family of God.

Because of Him, we are no longer on the outside looking in, He causes us to rest in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The transformation of Christ is life giving, whereas sin brings death.  Our redemption is the sole purpose He came in flesh.  He valued us more than life itself.  More than the pain of carrying our sins on a rugged Cross as His blood covered both it and them.

In the end, we return to the three cities.  Gath-hepher, the winepress of the pit, Nazareth, the home of The Builder, and Sepphoris, the bird.  Between the pit and the insignificant sparrow stood two.  One abused us, used us up, and left us for dead.  Sin, parading as the best this world has to offer, promised much, but instead, it took all we had to give.  Then, the gentle hand of The Nazarene picked us up. He gave His life for ours, and three days later, Christ walked out of the pit.  His blood produced life in you and I.  Now, we soar, not at the whim of our captors, but in honor of our Christ.