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!!!

Christmas LEDS

Have you ever thought much about the lights on your Christmas tree? Who makes them, or the time it takes to produce them? From the old fashioned, large painted light bulbs, to bubble lights, and the new LEDs, they brighten up your home and heart at Christmas.

I’ve seen a lot of different kinds through the years. One particular year the lights at Christmas made a lot of difference. It was the day after Thanksgiving in the Shaunessy household, and everyone was waiting on Ben to bring home the tree.

Like always, when he stopped to pick up a tree, he bought new strings of lights. One of the few luxuries Ben allowed himself, was new lights every Christmas. As a kid, it had been his job to untangle the lights, and replace the bulbs that somehow go out between January and December, all while sitting in a box. When he was thirty, he couldn’t handle it anymore.

He told Camille that even if it cost them money, he wasn’t untangling lights that year. So, aggravation had borrowed from necessity, to invent a tradition. Some fun had crept into it over time, as he began buying a different set of lights each year.

The family took turns guessing what type of lights Dad, and now Granddad, would bring home each year. This year, he had a surprise. Each Christmas bulb, was an LED cased in small metal strips, shaped like old fashioned street lamps, the kind you see on Christmas cards.

Ben had found them on a website last Christmas, and he knew they would be his next light purchase. He unveiled them with a flourish, and Camille brought out the special ornaments she had bought when he let her in on the secret. It was a truly beautiful tree, shimmering in light.

The family basked in the bright glow of it, and the warm smiles on the couple’s faces. Ben built a fire in the fireplace, and the family decorated it together.

That night they watched it for hours. They turned all the other lights off, except for the tree and the natural light from the fireplace. It crackled as the embers glowed, the tree glistened, and Ben and Camille beamed happily.

The season hurried along. Cookies were baked, presents were bought, and candy was boiled. A fun, memorable holiday season, all leading up to the warmth and pageantry of Christmas. It was as perfect a year as Ben could remember, right up until December 23.

There had been a snow the first week of the month, but hadn’t lasted but a couple of days. All three weathermen predicted a White Christmas, and everyone believed them. Just up to the first rumbling of thunder, and the downpour of rain two days before Christmas.

The storm didn’t let up. It was that cold kind of rain, that would soak, and chill you, until your bones were sore. Camille wasn’t too happy at breakfast that morning. Ben tried to reassure her.

“It’s only rain honey. We can close the blinds and pretend it’s a white Christmas after all.” She had her doubts at breakfast, and was depressed bedtime that night.

Ben’s bride managed to hide her dissatisfaction the next day when the kids, and grandkids showed up. She took the soaked coats as Ben helped with the luggage. Soon, she lost her cares in her family’s laughter.

By supper, Camille was happily ignoring the storm. Afterwards everyone gathered in the living room giggling, and anticipating Christmas Day. Ben let out a sigh of relief, knowing Camille would be ok.

That of course, was when the power went out. Camille and the grandkids instantly looked to Ben to fix it all. The parents, a little embarrassed to admit they were hoping Dad had an answer, peeked at him sideways.

“It’s okay guys, it’ll probably come back on soon.” He had them believing what he hoped to be true, until Elene, the oldest grandchild, checked her smartphone. “They’re saying a transformer is down, and probably won’t be fixed til the day after Christmas.”

This unintended sabotage by the child he held at a day old didn’t help. Ben made a mental note to suggest she not volunteer ‘helpful’ information at inopportune moments in the future. In the meantime, he had a momentary stroke of genius, board games.

For the next two hours, dice were rolled, top hats and race cars moved, and deeds were bought and sold. Ships were sunk, numbered colors were reversed, and revolvers were used in the conservatory. All by the light of a fire.

Through it all he couldn’t help but notice the way the light bounced off both the tree and Camille’s beautiful face. Blankets and pillows replaced the games as everyone settled down to sleep in the warmest place in the House. Drake and Miles, their first and second born, took turns stoking the fire through the night.

Camille put on a brave face Christmas morning, as they used the fireplace to cook bacon, eggs, and biscuits with the old camping skillet and Dutch oven. By noon, her face started to fall, it was time to cook the biggest meal of her year, and it wasn’t going to happen.

She wasn’t even sure if anything in the refrigerator would make it through the power outage. Ben didn’t make the mistake of trying to downplay it, but he couldn’t let it ruin Christmas. Instead of trying to be the hero himself, he decided to make Camille the one who rescued Christmas.

“Honey, if anyone can salvage Christmas, it’s you. You’re the best cook I know, always have been. Plus, if you look at it one way, this is sort of a challenge. A lot of people can be a great cook with all the kitchen stuff nowadays. If you could pull it off with no electricity, the family would talk about it for years to come.”

Personally, Ben didn’t care if they ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches for Christmas, but he knew this was important to Camille. She rolled up her sleeves and went to work. That woman marched towards the pantry like Schwarzkopf heading towards Kuwait.

Four hours later, it was finished. An while it was not your typical Christmas fare, it was good. Ben wasn’t sure exactly how, but Camille had accomplished it,

She used bouillon cubes and onions to make a French onion soup. There was corn bread and baked potatoes. The main savory dish were individual meat pies using of all things, beef jerky and canned vegetables. For desert, apple cinnamon bread from the Dutch oven.

After dinner, gifts were opened, and for once no one had to carry out trash bags full of wrapping paper. The fireplace made a perfect holiday incinerator for the used bits of paper and ribbons. Ben led a prayer, as he did every Christmas.

“Dear Lord, we’d like to thank you for this food, our home, our family, and friends. This isn’t exactly the way we had it planned, but I imagine Joseph had similar thoughts. Either way, You had it worked out then, just like You did this Christmas.”

The funny thing is Lord, I was so excited about those LED’s, I didn’t even realize how important this old fireplace would be this year. You always surprise me, in a good way Lord. Thank You for giving us an unforgettable Christmas this year.”

They all said Amen, and hugged the one closest to them. Elene, who had been so out of sync with her previous announcement, was right on track with this one. “You know Grandpa, you might say we had the LEDs after all.”

Puzzled faces told her to continue. “I mean it’s Christmas, and we have Love, Each Other, and a Dramatically, Dreamy Christmas … Christmas LEDs!” Everyone laughed.

An, as if that had been the point of it all, that’s when the power came back on. Quickly they all turned everything off besides the fireplace and the tree. The family spent the rest of Christmas happily in love’s light. Christmas Light May hang on your tree, but the real thing, should burn brightly in our hearts, Merry Christmas.

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.

About And Attending

Luke 2:49
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? KJV

Luke 2:49
49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” ESV

Jesus said it. He was twelve at the time, but He knew something that too many people seem to have lost sight of. The KJV says “my Father’s business”, the ESV, “my Father’s House”. To be about one, we must make regular visits to the other.

The Lord asked questions of the teachers in His Father’s house. The One with all the answers listened, and regularly. How much more should we, filled with questions, seek His will in His house regularly?

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!”