Welcome!

Welcome to the Path of Life Daily Devotional–continuing for 2019–The Jesus Story!

The Pathsrp-experiment of Life daily devotions are designed to be an aid to daily prayer.  This year I am posting daily narratives from the Life of Christ, beginning with the Gospel of Mark.  Matthew’s Gospel was the source of devotions from March-May.  Dr. Luke’s account gives us June-August.  Next, we are wind up the Story with the Gospel of John from September-November.  December will feature the Christmas Story. As in all my devotions, I will use a single word title followed by a few selected verses on the subject, and concluding with  a prayer and a song.

Join me for a detailed walk through the Life of our Lord in this devotional form.  If you haven’t already “followed” these devotions, please select that button and register to receive email notification of each posting, including those at StevePhifer.com.  Let’s draw closer to the Savior in 2019!

The Path of Life Daily Devotions work for morning or evening.
Start your day or end your day with an encouraging word.

Each devotion, in fact each article I write, ends with the same signature:
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

Semper Reformanda!
Semper Reformanda! is my ministry motto. It means “Always Reforming.” The church must never stop progressing toward the Coming of the Lord. We must never cease to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We must never stop seeking God’s Face. We must never restrain from testing all things to see if they are from the Lord. This ongoing process requires a growing knowledge of what God has said and a listening ear to what God is saying. If we are not constantly vigilant in these things, our lives will be tossed about by the unrelenting winds of culture. If we are constantly available to the Spirit for instruction in righteousness, we will build our lives on the Rock! To me, Semper Reformanda! is each day’s work as we walk the Path of Life.

 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

To begin reading the devotions for this year go to the end of this article.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

Interested in Christian Worship and Spirituality?–That is my subject!  For an extensive of articles on Worship  and Worship Renewal Go To StevePhifer.com.

 

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April 9 “Evidence”

Evidence

In prison, it must be difficult to maintain one’s perspective.
When Jesus left Galilee heading south to preach in the cities of Israel, the news of His ministry spread before Him like waves of hope on a troubled sea. John, wasting away it seemed in Herod’s prison, heard through his disciples who came to visit him about the wonderful things Jesus was doing and saying.

We are not told why, but something about all of this troubled John, the once prominent forerunner of Messiah. Perhaps he expected a political revolution in addition to the spiritual one taking place. Somehow a shadow of doubt came into his mind about the One he had baptized in the Jordan, the One he had proclaimed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He sent two of his disciples to investigate. They found Jesus and spoke for John,

“Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

We can sense the despair of the dungeon in this inquiry. Jesus understood John’s fears; it seems Messiah was a surprise even to His forerunner! His answer was one of evidence. Tell John,

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

These ministries were the true evidence of the true Messiah: healing, deliverance, new life, and the sound of the Good News in the ears of the downtrodden. This was the promised revolution of Isaiah. Jesus continued with a blessing for John,

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

In other words, “Do not be offended, John! Your work is done. All is going according to the plan of the Father.”

No Greater Prophet
Jesus went on to testify to the multitude about John, asking the people what they went out to the wilderness to see—a show? A freak of nature? A man in funny clothes? A prophet? Yes, a prophet—a man in your time, speaking the words of God Himself! John was the Messenger going before Messiah calling for a time of preparation. There had been no greater prophet than John for his message was the final one before the time of Messiah.

John the Baptizer marked a turning point in history—the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New. Prior to this, God’s blessings were passed through the nation of Israel, but the New Covenant would be one of opportunity for all. All who wished to violently cut personal ties to pagan religions will be able to seize the Kingdom of God. All who would claim Christ as King, even at the great cost of discipleship, must divorce themselves from the old ways and drink deeply of this New Wine. In this Kingdom, the least will be the greatest, even greater than John because the New Covenant will be one of power to the meek.

Back in the Cell
We are not told of the return of John’s two disciples and their report to their leader. I imagine the evidence they brought, relieved his mind. He had fulfilled his calling. The glory of the Lord spoken of by Isaiah was beginning to shine in the path of Jesus. The dark skies of history were beginning to glow with a new dawning of hope. Perhaps there was one little window with bars too far over John’s head to offer escape but close enough to allow a haft of hazy light to penetrate John’s confinement. As the sun moved across the sky and the shaft of light moved through the cell, when it illumined John’s face, it found there a deep smile.

Scriptures:
Matthew 11:1-42
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'”Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Isaiah 61:1-3
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Lord of those who are discouraged! You do not upbraid us or scold us when we lose hope for a while. You remember our frame, that we are only human. When these times come, help me pause to consider the evidence: You are faithful. You are good. You are merciful. You have called me. You empower me. You watch over me and protect me from evil. My hope is in Your strength, not mine. The story is not over! I have a job to do to please You and I can do it in Your name! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
We Declare the Kingdom of God Is Here
Words and Music: Graham Kendrick

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
Among you, Among you!

The blind see! The deaf hear!
The lame men are walking!
Sicknesses flee at His voice!
The dead live again And the poor hear
The good news. Jesus is King so rejoice.

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
Among you, Among you!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 8 “Reward”

Reward

God’s creation is one of cause and effect, sowing and reaping, and work and reward.
The Christ-follower does not follow Jesus without the promise of substantial reward. This is not selfishness or a less noble motivation; it is a natural desire deep within the heart God gave each of us. Jesus spoke to this eloquently. Let us hear His words today.

“…he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”

We do not follow Christ in order to be rewarded for it; we follow Him because:

  • He loves us.
  • He has called us.
  • He is worthy.

Along with these marvelous motivations, there is the promise of a rich reward, not just in the world to come, but in this life also.

Heavenly Rewards
Paul writes of life as a race. Each runner disciplines the flesh and prepares to finish the race. Unlike earthly competition where only one person gets the prize, in this race all may win a crown! He advises us to order our lives around what it takes to run the race and get the crown. New Testament writers like John the Beloved admit that the rewards of heaven are so great they cannot not be adequately described in earthly language.

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…”

We anticipate our rewards by faith in the words of the Bible:

  • I go to prepare a place for you…
  • Lay up treasures in heaven…
  • A Crown of Righteousness…
  • A Crown of Life…

We do not labor in this world for our Savior without hope of eternal reward. The promise of rewards is not our primary motivation, but these promises encourage us along the way.

Earthly Rewards
The Christ-follower does not have to wait for heaven to receive substantial rewards. Jesus mentions some ways of serving Him that are well within our reach.

  • Accepting God’s Anointed Ones. The church is built on teamwork. That means there are leaders and followers. Everyone knows that before one can be an effective leader, one has to excel at following! When we “receive” those whom God has sent to us, not only do we share their work, we share their reward. In the church all the glory goes to the Lord Jesus, the power of the work is that of the Holy Spirit, and the house itself, meaning the people of God, is the Father’s House! Work and rewards for all!
  • Cups of Cold Water. To quote from Frank Capra’s amazing film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “just a little of everyday human kindness.” That’s what Jesus meant by sharing cups of cold water to the “little ones” we meet. No trumpet fanfares, no flashing lights, no publicity, just “everyday human kindness”—that’s what Jesus was talking about. This is within ready reach of all of us. We do these things because the need is there. We have no thought of reward but in heaven’s books, these simple deeds are recorded and never forgotten.

Receiving and Giving
In God’s economy the laws of sowing and reaping are still at work. If we sow sparingly, that is how we shall reap. If we sow bountifully, a bountiful harvest will be ours. To sow good things by working together and by unseen acts of kindness, is to reap a harvest of rewards, some here and now and others in the life to come.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:40-42
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
1 John 3:1-3
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
James 1:12-13
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
2 Corinthians 9:6
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my heart races when I think of the heavenly rewards You have promised: seeing You, reunion with my loved ones, a life free of pain! Best of all is the thought of hearing You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in to the joys of the Lord.” May I not become weary in this work for I know that if I do not faint, I shall someday reap a harvest of reward. Move me, Lord, to faithfulness in these matters. Let me feel the needs of those around me and respond as I am able. Help me to never grow weary in this. For Your glory, Lord. Thank You for putting me on Your team! Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

2. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3. Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 7 “Confession”

Confession

It is a powerful thing to believe something; to confess what we believe is more powerful still.
In this way we are made in the image of God: our speech brings things into existence. Not to the extent of God’s confessions, to be sure. He confessed a universe and suddenly there was a universe. We certainly cannot create physical realities by simply saying, “Let there be…” but God can and did and does. Our confessions of belief create the internal universe of our interpretation of events and objects and people. We cannot confess “rain” and see it fall but we can sing a song like “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” and see it come true.

Confessing Christ
Jesus was instructing His listeners and followers in the Father’s confession over us—He loves us more than many sparrows! He is committed to us, offering eternal life as well as meaningful life while we remain earthbound. We must respond to these astounding confessions with confessions of our own. We must confess Christ. It is one thing to believe in our hearts—it is an essential thing—and quite another to confess with our mouths, to go public with what we believe. It takes courage. Once spoken, a new life begins. A bridge is crossed over a wide chasm; it would be foolhardy to turn back, to turn away from life and return to death. Confession of Christ is the crossing of that bridge.

Confession and Denial
Confession brings the contents of the heart to the surface for all to see. If a person is quietly considering the Jesus Story, pondering its status as truth or legend, history or myth, it is a private matter. No one sees. No one hears. Life is not altered in any way. When that careful consideration becomes a confession before men, everything changes. Life is fundamentally altered. A contract with the Almighty has been enacted, the New Covenant. God’s promises to His People go into effect. These blessings are the ones Jesus told us about in the Sermon on the Mount:

  • A new way of living,
  • A personal candle burning in each of us,
  • A house built on the Rock, impervious to storms, and
  • A privilege of prayer in the Secret Place with the Father every day.

When we confess Christ before men, the contract, the Covenant, goes into force.

Some will consider Christ in their hearts and decide that it is all a myth, a hopeful spasm of dull minds, a dead end dream that simply cannot be true. They will call Jesus a good man, a great teacher—though they do not believe what He taught—another fine person cut down by hate before he could reach his potential. Nonsense. These confessions of Jesus are worthless and deceiving, no matter how popular they are. They are an attempt to file The Jesus Story away in some safe place, lock it in a drawer, and erase it from the mind. Who needs it?

What is the response to such denial? With sadness deeper than we can ever imagine, Jesus denies the unbeliever before the Father.

Count the Cost
Confessing Christ is not for cowards. Some lose their families to gain Christ. Some lose their earthly lives to gain eternal ones. The irony of confessing Christ is expressed in the words of Jesus:

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

The life you possess came from God. Sin stole it from you. To believe in your heart and confess with your mouth is to lose it in Jesus and find it again.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:32-39
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Romans 10:8-13
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I confess that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! I join my voice to Peter and to countless saints through the ages who have made this confession. I confess that You are my Savior, my Lord and Master, and my soon-coming King! You have a plan for my life and You show it to me one step at a time by the power of Your Holy Spirit. I confess that today will be a day of faithfulness to that plan and a day of peace in the process. I confess that my life is hidden in Yours and that my life is solidly built on the Rock! Amen and Amen.

Songs:
Life Giver / You Are the Christ
Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owes (from The Witness)

Who is this who has life to give?
Who is this who tells the dead to live?
Not an ordinary man with some words of truth to say
Who has His moment in the sun and one day fades away.

Who is this who has life to give?
Who is this who tells the dead to live?
Not an ordinary man but one who dares to say
He is the resurrection and the life,
And then offers it to you and me.

Come to the Life Giver, come to the Life Giver,
And let Him pour His life on You,
Let Him pour His life on You.
Let Him pour His life on You.

Who am I? What are they saying?
Do they know the truth or are they blind?
Who am I? What do you call me?
Tell me, what is my name?

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
I say You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
You are the Christ—You are the Lord!

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
I say You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
You are the Christ—You are my Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 6 “Fearless”

Fearless

Friends talk to each other; Companions communicate.
Still, the world thinks it odd when Christ-followers say that Jesus speaks to them. Christianity is not a philosophy of life; it is a life lived in relationship with a real, living person who happens to be Jesus, the Son of God. Seen in this light, it would be odd if we did not hear His voice.

When Jesus Speaks
As He addressed the dangerous times ahead for those who would follow Him, Jesus made it clear that His followers would never be separated from Him. They would always hear His voice. When the times were dark, He would speak from the darkness. When the light returned, they would repeat His words in the day so that all could see and hear. When alone, cut off from the fellowship of other believers, the Lord would whisper in their ear, an intimate word of comfort and promise. When circumstances turned, they would shout what He whispered from the rooftops.

Whom shall I fear?
The poet asked crucial questions:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Jesus echoes this psalm:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

It is good to be cautious and better to be fearless. Courage does not spring from ignorance of the danger, but from a careful calculation that the reward is worth the risk. When a courageous person sees a job that must be done for the greater good, he/she decides to do what must be done regardless of personal outcome. Why? Because, whatever the issue, there is another issue higher—eternity. This life will end anyway. If it can be spent in a worthy, eternal cause—the greater good—so much the better. This courage leads someone like the Apostle Paul to make a most remarkable statement.

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

This precise calculation of risk and reward, of cause and cost, made Paul fearless.

Sparrows
These worthless little brown birds teach us a lesson in worth and in fearlessness. They are in the Father’s care! He counts them every day and marks the ones who fall, loving them all. Each one of us is more precious to Him than many of His sparrows. He knows the minute details of our existence. He knows the medical facts before the reports from the tests come back. He knows the dreams that trouble us and what they mean. He knows the dangers around the bend before we get there and dispatches angels to make our passage safe. He knows the answers to our most repeated prayers and sees them on the way. His Spirit warns us of those we must not trust and attracts us to faithful ones He puts in our pathway. As the poet said, “He has hemmed us in behind and before and laid His hand on us.”

The Fearless Life
If all around you is darkness, listen for the voice of the Lord. If all have deserted you, tune your ear to heaven’s frequency; the Lord is whispering to you now. Find the light and speak what He has told you. Climb to the nearest rooftop and shout what He whispered to you. You are more valuable to Him than a flock of His favorite birds. Why be afraid? It is time to be fearless!

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:27-31
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Psalm 27:1-3; 14
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident.
Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Philippians 1:19-26
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
Psalm 139:5
You hem me in — behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have hemmed me in behind and before and laid Your hand on me. There is no way for me to know the number of times You have rescued me from danger or even death. You have whispered to me when no one else could I hear. Your voice has come to me in the darkest of times. Help me speak in the light and shout from the rooftops the things You have said. I want to be a fearless disciple, an apostle sent on a mission from You. This takes courage so make me fearless, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
His Eye Is on the Sparrow
Words: Civilla D. Martin: Music: Charles H, Hudson

1. Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is he:
his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me;
his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy, (I’m happy)
I sing because I’m free, (I’m free)
for his eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

2. “Let not your heart be troubled,”his tender word I hear,
And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path he leadeth but one step I may see:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

Refrain

3. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When song gives place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to him; from care he sets me free:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 5 “Persecutions”

Persecutions

There is a high cost to following Christ. All of us pay it to one degree or another.
Some believers are blessed to live in lands where religious freedom is the norm but many, perhaps the majority, do not. The people who listened to Jesus and decided to follow Him certainly would do so at the risk of their lives. It was part of the compassion of Christ to tell them this. Yes, there was forgiveness of sins and power over evil spirits and health beyond the reach of disease but there was also opposition from powerful and wicked human forces. Traditions were not going to throw open their long-secure doors to the followers of Jesus. Governments and their armed officials were never going to welcome those who followed someone who claimed to be the King of kings. What people found in Jesus was going to have to be enough to sustain them through violent and unrelenting persecutions. It was more than enough.

Sheep, Wolves, Serpents, and Doves
Jesus used representatives of the animal kingdom to illustrate the future of those who followed Him.

  • Their opponents are wolves, stalking in silence or howling in the darkness. Their cunning minds, sharp teeth, and powerful jaws were ever present dangers.
  • Believers are among them like sheep, feeding in pastures protected by the Good Shepherd and finding safety in numbers, innocent and precious from generation to generation.
  • Believers are also doves, peaceful birds threatening no one, dealing in truth and beauty.
  • Their sworn enemies are snakes, evil ones lying in wait, seeking opportunity to strike the innocent, hissing lies and rattling fear with cold poison in their every nest.

This fallen creation is not a friendly place to those who would answer the call of Jesus, “Follow me.”

Two Big Differences
Two huge factors in this hostile environment give the Christ-follower hope for a blessed life.

  1. We are not alone in these persecutions; Jesus is with us. Jesus made an all-purpose promise to be with us, to never leave us or forsake us, in good times or in terrible times.
  2. When the enemy has done his worst, the best for us is just beginning. In moments of public torture and testing, the Holy Spirit will fill our mouths with the truth of God. When the moment of death comes for the Christ-follower, we will go immediately into the heavenly presence of Jesus, all pain relieved, all danger past.

The Ancient Church
Those who chose to follow Christ when He walked this earth were privileged to see and hear Him, something we can only dream about. They would witness or learn of His atoning death and would experience the Good News of His resurrection. They would become the New Testament Church, full of the Holy Spirit. These believers and those who came to know the Lord through their witness, would face three centuries of persecution. The spiritual engine that powered the early church was the constant threat of martyrdom. Yet the Lord was with them and the hope of heaven sustained them as the church grew in every part of the Roman Empire until becoming legal in 312 with the conversion of Constantine.

Jesus was with them.
The Holy Spirit empowered them. No power in or out of hell could withstand those who endured these persecutions. It is still true today for our brothers and sisters in repressive lands. Their governments, cultures, and families persecute them and still they believe and serve and witness. We must pray for them and make our outstanding freedoms count in the Kingdom.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:16-26

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I know that whatever tomorrow brings, You will be with me. You will be with me as a live and when death comes to me, You will be with me even then. Then, for all eternity we will be together. Help me be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. May I stay in the flock where You are the Good Shepherd. Lord, I pray for my brothers and in others lands who serve You at the risk of their lives. Strengthen them and let Your presence be known to them. Make each one a flame of fire for the honor of Your name. Help Your church do everything possible to bring Your Kingdom to every land. Amen and Amen.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichole

1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3. We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4. We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 4 “Sent!”

Sent!

Many people amble through life with little sense of purpose. Others are sent into the world with a job to do.
Jesus selected twelve men to do His work. Sometimes they are called disciples and sometimes apostles. The difference between the two is significant.

  • A disciple is one who shares the discipline of the leader, as in the field of study.
  • An apostle is a disciple who has been sent by the leader to do a certain thing in his name.

The Twelve
They were both disciples and apostles.

  • They were called to Him, not to a cause or a movement, but to the Man, Christ Jesus.
  • He gave them spiritual authority over sickness and unclean spirits.
  • He gave them instructions about who exactly should be the objects of their efforts.
  • They had to depend on the people who received their ministry for support.
  • They must be courteous to everyone but never waste time on people who did not receive them.

Disciples and Apostles Today
Everyone who becomes a Christ-follower today should be a disciple of Christ. He is our Teacher and we try to learn His ways and live for Him in ways that reflect His values. He is also our Savior, the one who cast our sins far away. Jesus is also our Champion. He defeated and disarmed our enemies from hell and ordered angels from heaven to guard our footsteps. It is good to be a disciple of Jesus.

Believers Are Apostles, Too
Each disciple of Jesus should respond to Him with specific things that he/she feels called to do for Him. We are all disciples and apostles—we follow Christ and we have work to do in His name. There are really two distinct lists of things we are sent into this world to do:

  1. Things that all disciples should do and
  2. Specific things He has called each of us to do.

The General Will of God.
These are the things that each of us must do:

  • Worship Him in spirit and truth both privately and with the church.
  • Live holy lives shunning sin and doing works of righteousness.
  • Tell His story, including our testimony, to all who will listen. This is done in demonstration as we live according to His teaching and show compassion to others, and in words as we speak to others about what He has done for us.

This call to discipleship is upon every one of us.

The Specific Will of God.
Discovering this is a matter of prayer and consultation with leadership. Here are some time-proven guidelines:

  • God usually calls us to do something we are gifted in and for which we have talent. For instance God calls musical people to music ministry. Our talents need to be developed into skills God can use.
  • God’s power flows in the area of our calling. When we do the things God is calling us to do, the results are obviously blessed by the Holy Spirit.
  • Doing what God is calling us to do brings a sense of joy to our hearts.
  • Godly leaders recognize God’s blessing on our work and affirm His calling.
  • Knowing what God has called you to do sets up a plan of action to prepare for it.
  • Knowing God’s will helps you say no to things others want you to do.

Each of us should live with this sense of having been sent by Jesus into the world, sent in His name and in His power.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:1-15
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead,* cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You made me for a purpose. I am not in this world by accident. I know Your calling on my life and I am doing all I can to fulfill it. Help me to never betray that calling with foolish choices and sinful actions. Let the anointing of Your Spirit rest on me each day as I seek to do Your will. Help me to go where You send me and stay where You keep me and be who You called me to be. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Living for Jesus
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: C. Harold Lowden

1. Living for Jesus a life that is true,
striving to please him in all that I do,
yielding allegiance glad hearted and free
this is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement
did give yourself for me.
I own no other master
my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live,

O Christ, for you alone.
2. Living for Jesus, who died in my place,
bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace:
such love constrains me to answer his call,
follow his leading, and give him my all.

Refrain

3. Living for Jesus wherever I am,
doing each duty in his holy name,
seeking the lost ones he died to redeem,
bringing the weary to find rest in him.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 3 “Compassion”

Compassion

With only word-of-mouth and no advance man or professional handlers, how did Jesus attract and hold crowds?
The compelling factor in the earthly ministry of Jesus was not His oratory, His miracles, or His sterling team of helpers. It was His compassion. His ministry was not a show; it was a rescue. His teaching was not a debate; it was a deliverance. His presence was not a special effect; it was a visitation from heaven. He really cared! He healed people because their sickness broke His heart. He delivered people from demons because they were not made for them, but for God. He taught the truth because lies are terrible, destructive things. He spoke peace because tension and strife were everywhere.

Compassion with Power
It is one thing to feel compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves but Jesus had the power to do something about it! When He left for His next place of ministry, somehow two blind men followed Him. Their cry to Him indicated they believed He indeed was Messiah.

“Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus asked them if they had faith to believe in Him and His powerful compassion and they answered simply, “Yes.” As they stretched forth their necks, offering their sightless eyes to Him, He touched them saying,

“According to your faith let it be to you.”

Faith mixed with compassion can change things in this world. Immediately their eyes were opened. Darkness gave way to blessed light for each of these men. Many in the crowd began to feel the compassion of this man called Jesus and wondered if there was help for them, too.

Despite Jesus’ instructions to keep it quiet, the two men told everyone they saw. Emboldened by this miracle, a group of people brought a friend who was mute and demon-possessed. Jesus made short work of both afflictions to the further amazement of the crowd. Each of them said some version of:

“It was never seen like this in Israel!”

This tacit indictment of the leaders of the country was too much for the Pharisees standing by.

Compassion without Power
No doubt there were good men among the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and scribes who really cared for the people. Their compassion was limited by human weakness. They had no power to heal diseases or correct handicaps or expel demons. Their compassion was vocal but not substantial, an ecclesiastical pat on the back. Obviously they had to mount some sort of defense.

“He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”

This hasty defense collapsed of its own weight. It made no sense for Satan to divide his kingdom and cast out his own demons.

A Flood of Compassion
There followed a deluge of healing grace leading to a flood of compassion charged with the power to make a difference. Doors to synagogues were opened to Jesus. Fields turned into amphitheaters and projecting rocks into pulpits as Jesus met the crowds preaching the gospel of the Kingdom.

As miracle after miracle occurred, the burden of the overwhelming need began to weigh heavy on Jesus. He saw the never-ending multitude as sheep with no shepherd. He turned to His disciples with an agonizing request.

“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

What did He mean? He was saying, “Share my compassion; I will give you power.”

Scriptures:
Matthew 9:27-38
When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.” Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Psalm 145:8-9
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You walked this earth in the compassion of Jehovah God, promised long before and lasting to this moment. You would be justified in turning to us in judgment but You have chosen mercy. Help me feel Your broken heart for those who have never heard of Your compassion. So many don’t believe that You exist or that You are good. Lord, send workers into this desperate harvest field, communicators who can tell the Good News, artists who can depict Your mercy, story-tellers who can tell Your story, and caregivers who can touch hurting souls with Your compassion. Until You come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Reach out and Touch the Lord
Words and Music: Bill Harmon

Reach out and touch the Lord As He walks by.
You’ll find He’s not too busy To answer your cry.
He is passing by this moment Your needs to supply.
Reach out and touch the Lord As He walks by.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 2 “Reports”

Reports

The only news service in those days was the one we still call the best: word of mouth.
Still in the vicinity of His hometown, Nazareth, two people came to Jesus with great needs because they had heard about Him. They occupied the opposite ends of society. He was a ruler and she was a poor woman, probably a widow with no family to care for her. Word of mouth had reached both the high and well-connected and the low and powerless. They had two things in common: problems they could not solve alone and the news about Jesus—He was the problem-solver, the Healer.

The Ruler
We know from other sources his name was Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue. Leaders in the synagogues had a problem with Jesus. His miracles were wonderful but He had a way of taking it too far, claiming to be Messiah. This threatened the leadership structure. Great personal need led Jairus to be more concerned with Jesus the Healer than Jesus the potential Messiah. Jairus’ daughter was ill to the point of death. Perhaps news of the healing of the Centurion’s servant prompted Jairus to reach out to Jesus. Unlike the Roman, he felt worthy to have Jesus come to his fine house. Jesus and His men started that way.

The Woman
Their progress was interrupted by the woman who had suffered with a blood disease for 12 years. The illness had broken her financially as well as physically. Hearing about Jesus turned her desperation into hope. She felt if she could just get close enough to touch His clothes, she would be healed. She gathered all her remaining strength to pursue Jesus through the streets. As the crowd jostled him, it tossed her about, sometimes forward but most often backwards. She never gave up, continuing to press through until with a final stretch of her ancient arm she lightly touched the hem of His robe.

Jesus stopped and looked around. He had felt her touch, the touch of faith. It was as powerful to Him as the Centurion’s confession of faith. More than just her touch, Jesus felt power flow from His body to hers bringing a flood of healing. When He stopped and inquired as to who had touched Him in faith, the crowd murmured and gradually gave way revealing the old woman standing taller than she had stood in decades, strong, whole, healed, and smiling. Jesus returned her smile:

“Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

And she was! The word-of-mouth-machine went into high gear.

At the Ruler’s House
When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house He was met by the sound of mourning; the man’s little girl had died. Professional mourners were already on the job. Seeing all this, Jesus went to work.

“Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.”

The mourners were not about to lose a job! They ridiculed His analysis so Jesus had them removed from the home. He went to her room, took her by the hand, and helped her to her feet. The mourners knew death but Jesus knew life!

“And the report of this went out into all that land.”

The only news service in those days was the one we still call the best: word of mouth.

Scriptures:
Matthew 9:18-26
While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am so glad that I have felt Your touch! When I was sick, You touched me and made me well. When I was afraid, Your touch comforted me and calmed my fears. When I was alone, I felt Your gentle touch deep in my aching heart. Your love keeps me going, Lord. I know I can count on You and Your wonderful love. I am so glad the news about You reached me! Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
Let Me Touch Him
Words and Music: Vep Ellis

1. Let me touch Him let me touch Jesus.
Let me touch Him as He passes by.
Then when I shall reach out to others
They shall know Him they shall live and not die.

Refrain:
Oh to be His hand extended
Reaching out to the oppress’d.
Let me touch Him let me touch Jesus
So that others may know and be bless’d.

2. I was straying so far from Jesus.
I was lonely had no peace within.
Then the hand of my Saviour touched me.
Now I’m reaching to others in sin.

Refrain

3. There’s a river a river flowing
From within and to cleanse my soul.
And the flow sets my life to glowing,
Holy Spirit more than silver and gold.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

For an article based on this story go to: https://stevephifer.com/pressing-through/

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 1 “Wineskins”

Wineskins

Jesus is called the Messenger of a New Covenant that would emerge from the Old.
Still at the dinner with “tax collectors and sinners,” probably at the home of Matthew, newly chosen as a disciple, Jesus taught about the New Covenant using the analogies of new and old wine and wineskins. We are told that wine, fermented juice of the grape, was a safer thing to drink than water in the first century. To keep the wine at peek potency, animal skins were used as containers. New wine was still in the fermenting process and would burst old wineskins that could no longer expand. New wine required new wineskins that were still soft and stretchable.

Power but not Flexibility
The Covenants before the Jesus Covenant, those of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and King David, could not rightly be called flexible. Worship happened in specified times and places with prescribed sacrifices given in great detail. Like old wine, it was powerful stuff but there was little room or need for innovation. Old wineskins were required.

Jesus changed all that when He said “a time was coming and now is” when true worshipers would worship God not in time and place but in Spirit and Truth. The Old Covenant structures of the Tabernacles and Temples would be replaced by a spiritual house—the Church—the Calvary-cleansed People of God, the Habitation of God by His Spirit. Churches have sprung up in the strangest places all over the world because of this flexible New Covenant which adapts itself to the cultures and languages of the believers. This New Covenant wine—the moving of the Holy Spirit—is such powerful stuff that new songs and methods and signs and wonders are needed to transport it from place to place.

The Disciples of John
Those who had repented in response to the call of John to prepare for the Kingdom of God asked Jesus a sincere question about fasting. These were not critics or cynics; they were sincere seekers of the Kingdom. They had patterned their lives after the serious message of John: a life of repentance and the disciplining of fleshly desires for the sake of the Kingdom. They were confused by the joy they saw in the followers of Jesus. It was like a new and potent wine leading to laughter and celebration. Why this difference in lifestyle?

The Bridegroom
Jesus was with them every day! His joy was complete and infectious. Blind people were seeing again and deaf people were hearing as people who once could not speak were singing. Those once lame were dancing as those formerly possessed by demons sat smiling in the presence of Jesus. This was a time for celebration, for feasting not fasting. Those times would come and the disciples of Jesus would do their duty, but not yet.

The New Covenant supplied garments of praise made from the new cloth of redeemed lives. The Spirit flowed from vats in the hearts of those whose sins were forgiven and the old ways could not contain the new.

The dinner at Matthew’s house was a foretaste of the Kingdom to Come, the one Jesus told them to pray for every day. For a moment it was on earth as it was in heaven.

Scriptures:
Matthew 9:14—17

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Malachi 3:1
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.
John 4:23-24
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Messenger of the New Covenant! You made this covenant in Your own blood, making it possible for us to worship in spirit and truth. You cleanse our hearts from sin, making them fitting hosts for the residence of the Holy Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is peace and freedom and joy! This is the new wine of the New Covenant! Help me to never substitute earthly wine but to drink deeply of the New Wine kept in these wonderful, creative new wineskins! You are the Joy of My Desire! I Love You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
Joy of My Desire
Words and Music: Jennifer Randolph

Joy of my desire, all consuming fire.
Lord of Glory Rose of Sharon Rare and sweet
You are now my peace, Comforter and friend,
wonderful, so beautiful, You are to me.

I worship You in spirit and in truth.
Lord, I worship You in spirit and in truth.
There will never be a friend as dear to me as You

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 31 “Forgiven”

Forgiven

Unbelievably, when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, we are actually forgiven!
It seems too simple, too good to be true, but it is the truth—the Gospel truth. Jesus was always a step ahead of His critics; they were no match for Him in the brains department.

Back to Nazareth
He and the disciples crossed back across Galilee and journeyed south to Nazareth. As so often happened, friends of a paralyzed man brought the poor guy to Jesus. The crowd got ready to see another healing miracle, including the scribes who were trying figure out what to do next. If He were simply a healer through some mystical connection with God, that was no threat to them. If they could enlist Him as an ally, He might even be useful to them.

When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s companions, His commendation was a surprise:

“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

The watchful scribes all took the same deep breath and had the same silent thought,

“This Man blasphemes!”

Though not a word was spoken, Jesus knew their hearts so He conversed with their thoughts.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?
For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?

This logic left no room for a reply. Sicknesses were individualized problems so healings were nice and could easily be attributed to God. Sin was a different thing altogether. Not everyone was sick but everyone had sinned! Healings were wonderful but the forgiveness of sins was for God alone. To their silence, Jesus replied that a healing here would prove His point:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Like all the other times, it happened. The man’s frozen legs began to limber. Bones started popping so loud the people heard them. With a few stretches of his newly loosened limbs the man stood up to the amazement of the crowd. He flexed new muscles and picked up the bed they carried him on and went home. There was nothing to do but marvel at the power of Jesus and believe that God was the source of it. As they man journeyed home in his newfound strength, there was also a new feeling in his heart—the joy of being forgiven.

Matthew’s Call
Passing from the scene, Jesus saw a tax collector named Matthew. He called him to join His men with the same words used before:

“Follow Me.”

Matthew obeyed and as he committed to Jesus and believed in Him, his sins were forgiven. He invited Jesus and the others to a dinner to meet his friends. Jesus was happy to attend. When critics arose to challenge this behavior, Jesus set them straight. Those who are well have no need of a physician as do those who are sick. He challenged them to go and learn what they should already have known: that deeds of mercy were the coinage of the Kingdom of God,

“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

He had the power to heal and to forgive sins.

Scriptures:
Matthew 9:1–13
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your power is great both to heal and forgive sins. Where would I be if You hadn’t both healed and delivered me from sin? Like Matthew, You have also called me to serve You and I am happy to do so. Keep me free from sin by the power of Your Spirit. Keep me well by the stripes they put on Your back. Keep me in the traces where You put me by the power of Your blood and the might of Your name. Amen and amen.

Song:
My Sins Are Gone
Words and Music: N. B. Vandall

1. You ask why I am happy
So I’ll just tell you why,
Because my sins are gone.
And when I meet the scoffers
Who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.

Refrain:
They’re underneath the Blood
On the Cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn.
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness,
That’s good enough for me.
Praise God my sins are gone

2. ‘Twas at the old time altar
Where God came in my heart
And now my sins are gone.
The Lord took full possession
The devil did depart.
I’m glad my sins are gone.

Refrain

3. When Satan comes to tempt me
And tries to make me doubt.
I say my sins are gone.
You got me into trouble.
But Jesus got me out.
I’m glad my sins are gone

Refrain

4. I’m living now for Jesus
I’m happy night and day
Because my sins are gone
My soul is filled with music
With all my heart I say
I know my sins are gone

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.