God promised. So Simeon waits and watches…

Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!
The Old Man by Annu from trekearth.com   Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!

I’ve tried to live a devout life. My parents were good Jews. They brought me up in the traditions of the Temple.  My father’s name is Hillel. We lived along the Coast of the Great Sea. Three times each year, the whole family journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts.

I married and had my own family and repeated the same traditions. We also came up to Jerusalem three times each year.  We celebrated Pesach, the Passover, in the Spring… Shavuot, Pentecost, in the summer… and Yom Kippur and Sukkoth each fall. These are special times for all of Israel, but especially for us devout Jews. It’s a time to remember how Jehovah delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt, how He gave us His Law and how he cared for us during our wanderings, before we entered the Promised Land.  Since my wife died I’ve decided just to stay here in Jerusalem.  It’s easier on this old body of mine. I spend my days near the Temple. God is present in my life every moment.  I pray. I sing. I do odd jobs for the priests. I pray for people who come by. I enjoy Jehovah’s presence in my life. I can sense His Spirit. It is real. He has blessed me more than I’ll ever begin to be able to tell you.

It was about 50 years ago… during the Feast of Tabernacles when we all came up to remember the roamings of our ancestors through the desert… we set up small tents called Sukkahs to live in for the week. And we gathered for a festive time of remembering.  It was during the worship celebration at the temple; the high priest had just returned back from the Kidron Brook with a vessel of water from Siloam’s Pool to pour out on the altar. In the frenzy of the crowd shouting “Hosanna” I heard the voice of Jehovah.  He spoke to me as I am I speaking to you now.  All the noise of the crowd went silent in my head. And He said: “Simeon. You will not die before you see my Chosen One, the Messiah, in Whom I will deliver all of Israel. From Him will come streams of Living Water, not just a pitcher of water. And He will be poured out for the redemption of all of Israel.” In the midst of this great worship service, I was stunned! Living water?  Poured out? The Messiah. Yes, we know He will come some day. But in my lifetime? How wonderful that day will be!  Will it be as Joel has promised? Will the prophesies come true?  Will Elijah truly come again before Messiah?

I am an old man now and I have dreamed dreams of His coming again. I’ve spent the rest of my life watching, waiting, wondering… who could it be? Will he be like Moses or more like Joshua? He must be a young adult, at least, and God is shaping Him into our powerful King and Messiah. Every time I see Herod speak before the crowds I look around and ask myself… could Messiah be a Jewish officer in Herod’s castle waiting to be revealed? What mighty legion of soldiers does he lead?  Or maybe he is a governor, or a synagogue ruler by this point in his life?

Some have said he will come from the Galilee. Ha! There’s nothing but farmers and fishermen up there!

Whoever he is, I know I will recognize him in the blink of an eye. He will be as strong as David when He routed the Philistines! He will be as wise as David’s son Solomon.  He will rule our people with power in one hand and grace and love in the other. He will deliver us from the oppressors, be it Rome or Egypt, once and for all. Isaiah says he will come to heal the brokenhearted. And those who mourn in Zion? They will rejoice!

Ah, look. There is a couple with a young baby. They always want a blessing, these new parents. I must go into the temple.  Funny, the priest is quite capable. But he always asks me. “Simeon. Come bless this new child,” he says.  “They rather have the old man’s blessing than the priest’s.”

So, I will go.  And I will keep looking. Yahweh promised me… I’m confident He will be true to His word.

I wonder if they are of the tribe of Judah?  Maybe the father is someone special?

 

The actions and musings, perhaps, of Simeon, the one who blessed Jesus and his parents, at the temple on the appointed day. As recorded in Luke, Chapter 2.
Is there a promise you are waiting and watching for God to answer? Have faith that He will keep His promises!
(C) 2016 Rich Ronald
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While shepherds watched their flocks at night.

shepherd
The shepherds’ encounter with Jesus began just like every other day. They were nearby, working as they do — all day and all night. They were going about their ordinary life. And into one average night angels appeared with Good News of great joy! “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

It was just another night, really. Nothing too special about it. The sheep were grazing or sleeping on the rolling meadow, just north of Bethlehem. The air was cool, but not cold yet, so we let the animals continue to stay out in the fields rather than finding a cave for shelter.

My name? It’s not really important, for I am a lowly shepherd. There are none in all of the Land of Judah that think of our people as anyone special. We do not command much attention and merely go about our work in a quiet, nondescript manner. We feed the sheep and goats. We water the sheep and goats. We guard the sheep and goats. We move them about so they will find plenty of grass to eat and just the right amount to drink. And this we do day in and day out.

I’m almost 60 years old and shepherding is the only job I have ever had. I know my sheep, and they know me. As of today, I have 109 sheep in my flock: 32 rams, 41 ewes, and 36 lambs. There are another 88 goats. Everything I own is in a pack on my donkey. It’s not much. Another tunic. Some candles and pottery. A few ropes and animal skins. A small bag of nuts and raisins.  Oh, and my flute.  I so enjoy the gift God has given me to play music. It is a joy to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all while simply blowing across hole in a hollowed out piece of wood. I think the sheep like it as well.

My brother has his flock just over there. My brother-in-law is along that ridge.

So, about “that” night… The air was crisp. The moon was full. The sky bursting with bright stars. We had just thrown another log on a small fire. We kept watch for coyotes, for this is the time of the year when they prey on the members of our flock. We were talking about heading back to our village and meeting up with our families as it was the season to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. Of course, we do not ever get to go to the Temple, for we must be out here. But some in our family are blessed to be able to make the short journey to Mt. Zion.

We were making our plans when suddenly the night sky became very bright, as if it was the middle of the day. The sheep were startled and began to cry and low and move about anxiously. The three of us, did our best to keep them calm, all the while our hearts raced frantically. We had never seen this happen before. We had heard of earthquakes but had not experienced one. Was this that? Or some other natural phenomenon?  Was this some sort of army moving across the plains? The dogs were barking, the sheep bleating, the donkey braying. We were terribly frightened.

Through the bright light a man appeared… a man like we had not ever seen previously. His first words? “Do not be afraid!” And yet we were terrified!  It was truly a challenge to slow our heart rate and calm our breathing.

He said he was a messenger bringing good news, joyful news. Our Savior was born this very night and we were to go quickly down to the village of Bethlehem and see this new baby. A baby? Our Messiah? What was he saying? Who was this man? While he didn’t tell us he was an angel, we quickly figured that out when a multitude of others joined him and they started singing. Singing! Right out there in the open fields! And proclaiming the birth of our Savior.

“Glory to God!” they sang. “Peace on earth!” echoed across the valley, amplified by the night air.

We asked each other: Who were we to hear this message? We are not priests or rabbis or Pharisees or King Herod. Maybe they should go and proclaim this news to people of stature?

And just as quickly as they appeared, they returned again into the heavens.

So, of course, we did what they told us to do. We gathered our things; rounded up the flocks. And we ventured across the meadow in the middle of the night, down the rocky path to the village of Bethlehem. We looked and searched all over town. Can you see us? With our sheep? And our goats? And our donkeys? And the shepherding dogs? Oh, what noise we made as we meandered through the village in the middle of the night.

A man named Jacob came to greet us. He asked what we were doing wandering around? We told him of the angels and the singing and the bright lights in the sky.  We shared the message of good news they had shared with us. He was stunned and had this look on his face I’ll never forget. It was a look of disbelief and belief all at the same time… like something very real and very special just dawned on him.  With an eager jump in his step he led us to a small, dark, dank cave. He apologized as he motioned for us to enter.  Inside were a few animals and a woman, who he said was his wife, lying in some straw. Her face was illuminated by a single candle. And she nursed a new born baby.

“Miriam!” he whispered with enthusiasm.  “These men… they saw angels who told them to come find us… to find him… our son.”

We looked at each other with doubt in our eyes. Is this our Messiah? Our king? The savior of the world? But wouldn’t he be born in a royal palace attended to by a multitude of nurses and midwives and servants? Wouldn’t he be wrapped in silk or fine linens, not these swaddling rags?

Jacob could read our thoughts as our faces betrayed our skepticism. “He was born in this simple cave,” he said with humble honesty, “because he was born for you.”

“But we are lowly shepherds,” we explained. “And he is a king?”

“Yes,” Jacob replied. “Yes, indeed. He has been born for you and for them. You, however, you are the first to see Him. His name is ‘Immanuel. God with us.’ Go! Go tell everyone you see what a great thing God has done for all of us.”

And so, we did. Our suspicions turned to great joy. We returned to the fields and we praised the God of our Fathers … for the angels, for Jacob, for Miriam, but mostly for this baby, our Savior, born this very night!

 

Some of the actions, words and thoughts, perhaps, of the shepherds and others as found in Luke, Chapter 2.

 (c) 2016. Rich Ronald.

Christmas Devotional Book. 25 Days. 25 Gifts.

No trips on donkeys. No angels singing. Not even a baby in a manger. Yet, there are still 25 gifts God wants to give you for Christmas. And they are found in a little six chapter book half way through the New Testament.

Rich Ronald uncovers The Greatest Gifts as they are revealed in Ephesians. 25 Days. 25 encouraging Gifts. 25 devotional messages, along with a prayer and a place to write your own prayers, comments and thoughts each day.

Along the way you’ll find the gift of love, the free gift of salvation, the gift of unity and many more. Prepare your heart in a special way this Christmas season by receiving, and giving, God’s greatest gifts.

Now available in paperback or Kindle.

http://bit.ly/GreatestGifts

 

Little brother James tells the family story

JoyfulJesus
Jesus is my brother and my friend. (photo from the movie “The Gospel According to Matthew” with Bruce Marchiano as Jesus, distributed by the Visual Bible, 1993).

Throughout Advent, let’s look at the people of the story of Christ’s birth. Today: James, the brother of Jesus. Here is my take on a possible first person narrative from Matthew 1, Luke 2 and the book of James.

I’ll never forget the story my Mom and Dad used to tell about that night.  I wasn’t there. I’m the little brother. So, I have to rely on the memory of others.

My name is Jacob. You know me as James, the brother of Jesus. I called him Yeshua.

Our Dad’s name is also Jacob. But you know him as Joseph. Oh, the stories he would tell about those days. And Mom? Well, as any woman in her final weeks of pregnancy she was, according to Abba, “cranky.” Every little thing was a big thing.  “Do you have to hammer so loudly?” she would ask.  Dad’s hammering was always the same volume.

It was late in the day when Dad heard the news. Laws are laws.  Caesar commanded that everyone return to their hometown to be counted in a census.  Since our family is of the Tribe of David, that meant a four day journey to the City of David.   A four day trip?  With Mom in her condition? My Dad was such a gentleman, but how was he going to do this? Such an excursion with such a pregnant wife!  He says he found a couple of extra blankets to put on the back of the donkey.  Mom was the adventurous type, but I’m pretty sure this was just one journey she didn’t enjoy.  Dad’s plan was to keep a positive outlook saying that they could make the trip as quickly as possible, register for the census and get back to Nazareth in time for the baby to be born… in time for my brother to be born.

Mom says she was very quiet sitting up on the donkey for most of the trip.  Dad says he kept thinking about the son inside of Mom, and our family and our family’s future, and what the angel had said in two different conversations to both Mom and Dad.

Then it happened!  All of sudden everything changed.  Mom started talking and chattering in quick words and phrases.  The energy level changed and there was a rush of anticipation.  It was time!  Can you see them?  Not now!  Not on the road!  Not on a donkey!  This is not at all what my Dad had planned!

They got to the town of Bethlehem and there were people everywhere.  Not the usual empty, sleepy village.  It was night, close to midnight and Mom was holding on to her belly.  Dad told Yeshua and me years later that the sounds coming from her mouth rivaled the noise of that old donkey.  She needed a place, a bed, a clean room. The baby would be born that night.

So, with great fear Dad tied the mule up by a tree and sat our Mom down on the blankets by the side of the road and he ran off to find an appropriate place.  No one would help him out. Everyone was interested, but not a single person would offer assistance.

So he went back to where he had left Mom and the donkey.  He helped her back up onto the mule and they began wandering through the tangled streets and alleys of Bethlehem together.  Not sure how it happened, but the animal led them to a cave. It was smelly. Wet. Dark. Dank. Not even a nice place for animals. My gracious Mom assured Dad that it would be fine.  Dad felt terrible.  This is not at all what he had planned.  He would tell us years later, “I’m the carpenter, the one who makes solutions, not problems.  I earn a living fixing things!” He truly felt like he had let both Mom and my soon-to-be-born big brother down.

Dad laughs about it now, but, the next thing he realized, he was the midwife.  Dear Mom led Dad to a place where most husbands never venture.  Together they heard the first cries as the baby was born… as Yeshua was born!  Dad used his knife and cut the cord and handed the baby up to Mom.

Amazing!

Dad still says that as he watched Mom and Yeshua together, by the light of a single candle, surrounded by animals, that that moment was the most special moment of his life… the moment when his dear bride was the most beautiful.

Mom and Dad had other children after that night. I came along a few years later.

And yes, Yeshua is a special brother to me. While it took me a few years to understand the supernatural part of him — that he is God’s son —  he is still my brother.

We grew up together. We played games together. We fished in the Sea together. We helped Dad make furniture as he taught us how to build walls and homes with our hands. I always enjoyed conversation around a meal or a fire with Yeshua. He had a great sense of humor.

He was about as real a friend and brother as you can find.

As a big brother, he was always looking out for me. He was an incredible teacher. He taught me how to find peace in the midst of trials and that Godly wisdom means more than street smarts. He taught me about temptation and how to stay right and strong and pure.  He encouraged me to put my faith into action. He cautioned me often about the words I speak, for my tongue seems to get me in trouble regularly.  He told me to look for the best in others. And to be willing to admit my faults. And to pray for, and with, each other.

I saw some pretty incredible miracles walking along side Yeshua.

But mostly, I saw the greatest kind of love a brother can offer… unconditional and everlasting love.

Our mutual friend John said it best about him: Greater love has no one than this, than he who lays down his life for his brother.

(c) 2103. Rich Ronald.

A Wise Man meets the King

The Wise Men seek the King
The Wise Men seek the King. When they found Him they were changed forever. How about you?

Throughout Advent, let’s look at the people of the story of Christ’s birth. This week: a Wise Man. Here is my take on a possible first person narrative from Matthew 2.

We have just left the place where I, personally, experienced the most significant  event in my life! We saw Him, the infant, the child, the true King of Israel. And we gave Him gifts. And we worshipped Him. And we are changed forever.

Let me back up for a minute. My name is Gushnavadar. I am a Magi of the east, from Babylon in Persia. I have two companions with me, one is twenty years my senior, the other is twenty years my junior. They call us “wise men,” and I guess, we are just that, but we are not kings.

Our people go back to the prophet Daniel, who was one of our own. He prophesied about a Messiah. Although Daniel was a Hebrew, we are Gentiles. But we love the same God as the people of Israel. He has given us this unique gift of interpreting dreams. Some also call us astrologers, for we study the stars in the sky. But we do so with a specific purpose and anointing, as we believe they point to what God is doing now and in the future.

Recently, something strange occurred in the night sky… three stars lined up and pointed right to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine. And what was significant about these stars is they were of the constellation Aries, the Ram. Three stars, from a ram, pointing to the city of David?

Ever since King Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah into captivity in our home country, we have known of the stories of God’s deliverance of His people. One oft-told account recalls a ram, stuck in a thicket, that God provided as a sacrifice. It was on Mount Moriah there in what is now Jerusalem. The intended sacrifice was Abraham’s son, Isaac. But God had another plan. And we have heard that one day God will deliver all of Abraham’s children, both Jews and Gentiles, by way of a ram, or a lamb.

So, the stars pointed to Jerusalem and the three of us Magi, along with a cavalry of slaves and servants, ventured out to seek the meaning of the stars. You should know that some have called us Magi “king makers” for no king in all of the Orient became royalty without the blessing of our little fraternity. And if the stars were calling out that a new king had arrived, it was our job to sanction his monarchy. Yes, we knew Herod was the “king of the Jews” in Palestine, but that was a title merely bestowed on him by Caesar Augustus so he would have some clout in collecting taxes.

We arrived in Jerusalem several months, and over a thousand miles, after our departure from the East. When Herod heard we were in town looking for a new king he was shaken and irritated. Was his make-shift reign coming to an end? He called for a meeting with us immediately. We told him of the prophesy and the stars. He was familiar with the Ancient Word, but had no knowledge of the night sky pointing us here at this time. He suggested we search the neighboring town of Bethlehem, for his advisors recalled the Biblical text of Micah that says “You, oh Bethlehem, will be the birthplace of my King, who is alive from everlasting ages past…”  (Micah 5:2, Living Bible)  He told us to return to Jerusalem and let him know if we found this new king so that he might worship the king as well.

Along the way, again we sought the night sky for direction. Another star appeared, and its travel actually stopped and reversed and stopped again… right over a simple peasant home in Bethlehem.

We approached cautiously. A carpenter appeared in the doorway, amazed at our large caravan. Could this be the man we were seeking? He assured us, no, he was but a simple man. However,  his son… his son…

The three of us entered the home and immediately we knew. We just knew. His mother was radiant. The child, now some six months old, sat up in her lap. He was not the King we expected, but He was most certainly the King that the God of the Hebrews had anointed. We were instantly humbled in His presence. We offered Him gifts we had brought, although honestly they seemed insignificant… the gold, the frankincense and myrrh. And we bowed before Him, no we fell before Him and worshipped… worshipped… worshipped….

We stayed as long we could. Our lives and hearts changed forever.  Transformed really.

We are heading back to Persia, by a different way. God has told us in a dream that we must protect the new King and not tell Herod. Not really sure what we will do once we get home. I know we cannot merely go back and live the life we had been living. No, it will be different now. We sought out the new King, and we found Him! We found Him!

And we will tell the people of Judah living in our land that they, too, must seek out and find their new King! And if they let Him into their life, they will be completely transformed as well.

(c) 2013. Rich Ronald.

God’s Promise to Simeon

Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!
The Old Man by Annu from trekearth.com. Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!

Throughout Advent, let’s look at the people of the story of Christ’s birth. This week: Simeon. Here is my take on a possible first person narrative from Luke 2.

I have tried to live a devout life. My parents were good Jews. They brought me up in the traditions of the Temple.  We lived along the Coast of the Great Sea. Three times each year, my parents brought the whole family to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts.

I married and had my own family and repeated the same traditions. We also came up to Jerusalem three times each year.  We celebrated Pesach, the Passover, in the Spring… Shavuot, Pentecost, in the summer… and Yom Kippur and Sukkoth each fall. These are special times for all of Israel, but especially for us devout Jews. It’s a time to remember how Jehovah delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt, how He gave us His Law and how He cared for us during our wanderings, before we entered the Promised Land.

Since my wife died I’ve decided just to stay here in Jerusalem.  It’s easier on this old body of mine. I spend my days near the Temple. God is present in my life every moment.  I pray. I sing. I do odd jobs for the priests. I pray for people who come by. I enjoy Jehovah’s presence in my life. I can sense His Spirit. It is real. He has blessed me more than I’ll ever begin to be able to tell you.

But there was this one time, it was about 25 years ago… during the Feast of Tabernacles when we all come up to remember the roamings of our ancestors through the dessert… we set up small tents called Sukkah’s to live in for the week. And we gather for a festive time of remembering.  It was during the worship celebration at the Temple; the high priest had just returned back from the Kidron Brook with a vessel of water from Siloam’s Pool to pour out on the altar. In the frenzy of the crowd shouting “Hosanna!” I heard the voice of Jehovah.  He spoke to me as I am I speaking to you now.  All the noise of the crowd went silent And He said: “Simeon. You will not die before you see my Chosen One, the Messiah, in Whom I will deliver all of Israel. From Him will come streams of Living Water, not just a pitcher of water. And He will be poured out for the redemption of all of Israel.” In the midst of this great worship service, I was stunned! Living water?  Poured out? The Messiah? Yes, we know He will come some day. But in my lifetime? How wonderful that day will be!  Will it be as Joel has promised? Will the prophesies come true?  Will Elijah truly come again before Messiah?

I am an old man now and I have dreamed dreams of His coming again. I’ve spent the rest of my life watching, waiting, wondering… who could it be? I look deep into the eyes of every man who passes by. Will he be like Moses or more like Joshua? He must be a young adult, at least, and Jehovah is shaping Him into our powerful King and Messiah. Every time I see Herod speak before the crowds I look around and ask myself: could he be a Jewish officer in Herod’s castle waiting to be revealed? What mighty legion of soldiers does he lead?  Or maybe he is a governor, or a synagogue ruler by this point in his life?

Some have said he will come from the Galilee. Ha! There’s nothing but farmers and fishermen up there!

Whoever he is, I know I will recognize him in the blink of an eye. He will be as strong as David when he routed the Philistines! He will be as wise as David’s son Solomon.  He will rule our people with power in one hand and grace and love in the other. He will deliver us from the oppressors, be it Rome or Egypt, once and for all. Isaiah says he will come to heal the brokenhearted. And those who mourn in Zion? They will rejoice!

Ah, look. There is a peasant couple with a young baby. They always want a blessing, these new parents. I must go into the Temple.  Funny, the priest is quite capable. But he always asks me. “Simeon. Come bless this new child,” he says.  “They rather have the old man bless the child than the priest.”

So, I will go.  And I will keep looking.

I wonder if they are of the tribe of Judah?  Maybe the father is someone special?

(c) 2103. Rich Ronald.

From the dust of the manger… to our heart.

Available at amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Christmas Day is one week away… wow! Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just spring break? Or summer vacation?

In the midst of all that is wrong in the world today, as we think about the Christmas story, the one thing that we might perceive to have been wrong, was actually right. Yes, it was right for Mary to place Jesus in a manger.

From Chapter Five of Be Born in Me:

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough.[1]

She placed Him in a feed trough.  In the Ancient Days most feed troughs in caves were merely hollowed out logs or rocks sitting on the ground.  You can’t get much lower than that.  Jesus, God in the flesh. God who sits on the highest throne in the highest Heaven, squeezed Himself into a human form. And if that wasn’t low enough, He was then placed mere inches above the dirt and manure that was in that animal cave.  Why would God do that?  Send His son.  To the lowest possible place on earth?!  To a feed trough?

Think about the trough being in the dirt and mud on the cave floor. Like Adam from the Garden of Eden, we all began our lives in the dust of the earth and Jesus knows that we all have dirt and mud in our lives.  That’s where we need Him most!

“Jesus, be born in me!” 

The apostle Paul also notes that Jesus gave up His place with God in heaven and made Himself nothing (Philippians 2).  Why? Simply because He loves us.

He loves you. He really does. Even though you may be a little dirty. Even though you may be a lot muddy.  It doesn’t matter to Him… He has been there too.

Isn’t that incredible!?! God in the flesh has been where you are… only His love can pull you out of the pit you are in. He is uniquely qualified to be our Savior. He knows how messy our lives are… and it doesn’t stop Him from reaching out His loving arms to lift us up.

May I encourage you to make this prayer, your prayer: “Jesus. Be born in me!”


Be Born in Me is divided into five sections and includes discussion questions so you can use in a weekly small group, family devotional or class setting.

Here’s the link to the amazon web site: http://amzn.to/SNOkND.
And here’s the link to the Kindle site: http://amzn.to/RI7ODe.
(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.

[1] Luke 2:6-7 (NCV)