January 13 “Jairus”

Jairus

Not all of the religious leaders were hostile to Jesus.
Jesus took the boat and crossed back over to the side opposite the country of the Gadarenes who had rejected Him. When he landed a crowd was waiting for Him. In the crowd was a leader of the local synagogue named Jairus. He had watched with great interest the ministry of Jesus in his town. The healings were undeniable. The displacement of demons was remarkable. The teachings of Jesus rang true in Jairus’ deep understanding of the scriptures concerning Messiah.

His interest in Jesus went deeper than events and theology. His 12 year old daughter was ill and at the point of death. Jesus was her last hope. Despite his lofty position in the community, Jairus was desperate for what Jesus could do. Before that huge crowd, he fell at His feet crying,

“My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her,
that she may be healed, and she will live.”

The people knew Jairus. He was no extremist; he was a careful man. His desperation and his faith in Jesus became the focus of the multitude as Jesus went with toward his home.

An Interruption
On the way, a woman who was wasting away from a 12 year blood disease somehow pressed through the crowd and touched the hem of the robe Jesus wore. At that moment, healing virtue flowed from Jesus into her frail form and she was healed. She had summoned the strength to brave the crowd, saying,

“If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

She did and she was! Jesus stopped, asking who had touched Him. The disciples rebuked such foolish question—the whole crowd was jostling Him! When the woman stepped up, she too fell at His feet and worshiped Him, confessing that she was the guilty one. Gently, lifting her to her feet Jesus replied,

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

While he was speaking, word came that Jairus’ little girl had died. The man’s broken heart broke again and he collapsed at Jesus’ feet. Lifting Jairus to his feet Jesus said,

“Do not be afraid; only believe.”

When they arrived a Jairus’ house, the mourners were there making the noise of grief.

“Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

The mourners ridiculed Jesus so He put them out of the house. Taking Peter, James, and John with Him, Jesus entered the house. He bent over the little girl and breathed a command to her,

“Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

She did exactly that.

12 Years in the Making
12 years before this moment a little girl was born and a woman contracted a blood disease. Their stories were not at all connected until Jesus, rejected by one community, came to their town. Now forever their stories share a page in the Jesus Story.

Who can say what miracles are in the making for us? No one knows what tomorrow may bring. Some of us may suffer from long-term, debilitating circumstance. What we must see is this: Jesus is here among us! Let us call out to Him again and press through the circumstances around us. He has the touch we need.

Scriptures:
Mark 5:21-43
Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I call out to You today and I know You will respond. You are with me in my home in Your healing power. In the marketplace, I will press through this moment, the crowds, the spiritual opposition, anything that comes between us! I will touch the hem of Your garment and Your healing virtue will flow to me this day. Lord, I believe! Amen.

Song:
Only Believe
Traditional

Only believe! Only believe!
All things are possible, only believe!
Only believe! Only believe!
All things are possible, only believe!

Jesus is here! Jesus is here!
All things are possible. Jesus is here!
Jesus is here! Jesus is here!
All things are possible. Jesus is here!

Lord, I believe! Lord, I believe!
All things are possible. Lord, I believe!
Lord, I believe! Lord, I believe!
All things are possible. Lord, I believe!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 12 “Chains”

Chains

Sometimes chains aren’t strong enough.
Nothing could control the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gadarenes. He lived among the tombs for no place else could afford him rest. His torment spread from the host of demons inside to the whole village. Community efforts were made to silence him; nothing worked. He was bound with chains and they couldn’t hold him; he snapped them like threads. Iron shackles were useless; he broke them in pieces. His tormented cries echoed from the hills in daylight and haunted the long sleepless nights. He could not even take his own life although he tried cutting himself with stones.

Then Jesus Came. 
Without announcement or promotion, Jesus crossed to the Gadarene side of Galilee to continue His work there. Through a demonic haze the poor man saw Jesus coming across the sea. Somehow He knew that Jesus was not just any man. When the Lord stepped out of the boat, the demonized man met Him.  He fell at Jesus’ feet, not with tormented cries of pain but with worship.

How could this be? The Bible says that demons believe and tremble, but the demons inside the man did not worship; this afflicted man worshiped. As far down as he had fallen, he still had something left of his spirit, that God-conscious part of him. Jesus spoke to the darkness inside the man:

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

With a loud voice one of them cried out:

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

Jesus was quick with a reply:

“What is your name?”

“My name is Legion; for we are many.”

The demons begged Jesus not to send them to hell. 2000 pigs were minding their own business, feeding in the nearby hills. At the request of the demons, Jesus sent the legion into the hapless hogs. Although they were ignorant beasts, they knew better than to host demon spirits. They went mad, rushed off a cliff and drowned themselves in the sea.

What do we do about this?
The herdsmen of the swine told the people of the town what had happened. There was nothing in their leadership manuals about what to do about something like this. They saw the man who was their biggest problem now clothed, quiet, and in his right mind. A quick meeting of the brightest of these pillars of the community was convened. Their solution was to ask Jesus to go away and not come back.

To conform to their wishes, Jesus got back into the boat. The delivered man started to climb in the boat with Him. Who could blame him? Jesus asked him to stay as His representative to the town that had just sent their Healer away.

“Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you,
and how He has had compassion on you.”

With those words Jesus returned to the other side of the lake. In the country of the Gadarenes sick folks were not healed. People in bondage were not delivered from their spiritual chains. Their days and nights were quieter now without the noise of the man who lived among the tombs but they had missed their time of God’s visitation. The chains of their unbelief were strong and binding.

Sometimes chains are strong enough.

Scriptures:
Mark 5: 1-20
Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea. So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I marvel at the power of Your name, the glory of Your Presence. Help me seize the opportunities You afford me each day. There are chains in this life than seek to bind me; break them by Your power! You have defeated all my enemies! You have given me Your Holy Name as a weapon. I know demons tremble at the sound of it! Help me never to turn from You but always toward You. I will call out to You in my pain and You will always hear and deliver. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Jesus Breaks Every Fetter
Traditional

Jesus breaks every fetter.
Jesus breaks every fetter.
Jesus breaks every fetter.
And He sets me free.

I am now on the altar.
I am now on the altar.
I am now on the altar.
And He sets me free.

I will shout Hallelujah!
I will shout Hallelujah!
I will shout Hallelujah!
For He sets me free!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 11 “Parables”

Parables

There was so much to preach, so much truth to proclaim, Jesus used little picture stories—parables.
Jesus sat in the boat he had arranged for this purpose teaching His heart out. Even though these were the People of God who had been trained in the Scriptures since childhood there was still so much darkness in their minds. He saw Himself as the “Sower who went forth to sow.” He was graphic in His teaching, using little stories packed with meaning and tiny pictures drawn from real life to illustrate deeper things.

  • A lamp is obtained to shine in the darkness, not to be hidden in a basket. The secret things will be revealed in its light.
  • Secret words will be sounded for all to hear so be careful what you say. It is coming back to you in the same measure.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven is like the mystery of planting and harvesting. People do the work but forces beyond them really make things happen.
  • The Kingdom of God is like the tiny mustard seed, small at first, but expanding to fill the earth.

“…without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone,
He explained all things to His disciples.”

Time to Rest?
After a full day of this, Jesus was spent. He needed a break. He suggested that they take the boat to the other side of the water. Theirs wasn’t the only boat. Others followed Jesus and the twelve across the lake. A violent storm rose up to threaten them all. Their well-earned rest was in peril as were the occupants of all the boats. The boat Jesus was in began to fill with water. What was He doing in this storm? Resting. He was asleep on a pillow in the boat in spite of the storm. Everyone else panicked. They woke Jesus up.

“Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

They questioned the compassion of the Healer. They suspected the truth of the Teacher. They feared that the Deliverer would not deliver this time. Jesus woke up, stretched his back, yawned a big yawn and rebuked the storm.

“Peace, be still!”

It obeyed and the waters became still and the winds friendly once again. After all they had seen and heard, they still had trouble believing in Him.

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

With these words, fear came on them, greater than their fear of the storm.

“Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Jesus sighed and returned to His pillow and to His rest. There was so much to preach, so much truth to proclaim.

Scripture
Mark 4:21-34
Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your truth is not some elevated thing beyond our understanding or use. Your truth is real, current, available, and applicable to our lives today. Help me be a light, not hidden, but shining for all to see. Help me be careful what I say and hear. Help me sow the good seed of Your Good News every day. And if a storm should arise today, help me rest in You in the midst of it, knowing that the storm must obey Your Word. Amen.

Song:
This Little Light of Mine
Traditional

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 10 “Seed”

Seed

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.
Jesus knew what He was doing as went about preaching and healing in Galilee. He was scattering seed, the good seed of the Word of God. There was about to be a seismic shift in the relationship between God and man—the Old Covenant with the people of Israel replaced by a New Covenant with the whole human race. Such a thing required preparation. This new revelation was like powerful seed sown into the lives of those who would listen and obey.

A Parable for the Ages
Jesus illustrated what was happening with a parable, a story meant to teach a lesson. They had planned ahead so the boat was now a floating pulpit in the tossing sea. The voice of Jesus bounced on the water and leapt to hills covered with people.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”

The process was a familiar one to His listeners: The sower scattered the precious seed…

  • Some seeds fell to the side for the birds to eat;
  • Some seeds fell on hard ground and lived only short, unproductive lives;
  • Some fell among thorns to live longer but still fruitless lives, choked by weeds; and
  • Some seeds fell on good ground and realized their full, fruit-bearing potential.

Jesus knew that some people would not hear Him at all while others would listen and quickly forget. Still others would hear Him and start out to follow Him only to be distracted by life itself, its details choking their lives in miserable, fruitless frustration.

He also knew that some would hear Him and realize the truth He spoke into their lives. They would see the significance of His truth and organize their lives around Him. In these people, the seed would germinate and mature into a strong, productive life, making up for the losses of the seed sown in poor ground. There would be a joyful harvest in their lives despite the failures of others.

Just to make sure…
When the disciples, who were new to this whole parable business, asked Jesus what the story meant, He took them aside and explained the symbolism. We are blessed that He did! In this parable the life of the believer is forecast. We find both a challenge and a comfort in it.

  • The challenge is to get the precious seed—the right stuff! We must learn the Word of God if we are to sow it into this world. We dare not sow worthless seed. This world has enough untruth and cynicism without us sowing more.
  • The comfort is the promise of the harvest. We will watch as the birds eat the seed we intended for those we love. Our hearts will break over the hardness of the hearts of those to whom we have spoken truth. We will hurt with those who are so caught up in temporary things that the eternal things elude them. We will also rejoice in the harvest as time and again the precious seed does it work. We live in the promise from the Psalms:

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.

Scriptures:
Mark 4:1-20
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.'” And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the precious seed you have sown in my life. I can look back over eventful years of planting and watering the seed and fruitful years of harvest. I look forward to the joys of continuing to sow the precious seed—sometimes with weeping, always faithfully—in the years to come. The Harvest is sure! Help me live a strong, productive, unhindered life. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Songs of the Reaper
Words and Music: William Spencer

1. The seed I have scattered in springtime with weeping,
And watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvester’s reaping,
Shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.

Refrain:
Over and over, yes, deeper and deeper
My heart is pierced through with life’s sorrowing cry.
But the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.
By and by, by and by,
By and by, by and by,
Yes, the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.

2. Another may reap what in springtime I’ve planted,
Another rejoice in the fruit of my pain,
Not knowing my tears when in summer I fainted
While toiling sad-hearted in the sunshine and rain.

Refrain

3. The thorns will have choked and the summer suns blasted
The most of the seed which in springtime I’ve sown;
But the Lord who has watched while my weary toil lasted
Will give me a harvest for what I have done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 9 “Together”

Together

The Jesus Story is about being together, no longer isolated, but connected to God and to each other.
The crowds seeking Jesus’ touch grew so large it was no longer possible to get time and space for meals. “His own people,” evidently a delegation of relatives from Nazareth, came to get Him to stop this nonsense. This was no way for a carpenter’s son to behave. “He is out of his mind,” some concluded, while others suggested a more sinister theory: “He is empowered by Satan, Himself.” They must have thought they could restrain Him by force.

A Hometown, Family Meeting
Jesus called “His own people” to His side for a conference. He reasoned with them:

“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand…

Perhaps this quieted them for a while; it did make sense. He was in the process of plundering “Satan‘s house,” his systematic program of confusing people, leading them away from God and then binding them in sin. Some went so far in this deception as to become hosts for demons themselves. Jesus was dismantling this demonic oppression in front of their eyes. How could He do this if He was in league with Beelzebub?

He warned of a great danger—Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
At the heart of all of Satan’s plans was an assault on the character of God. It was nothing new; it began in the Garden of Eden. Satan lied to Eve calling God a liar. His words were not to be believed, let alone trusted.  To counter this lie, the constant theme of Old Covenant worship confessed this truth:

“The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”

To confess that God is evil is the opposite of worship; it is blasphemy—a profanity. Sin is never more destructive to one’s soul than this blasphemy.

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”

The Good News!
We need to understand the unique role of the Holy Spirit. He draws the sinner to Christ. Without this conviction of the Spirit, the sinner never seeks forgiveness and is thus “subject to eternal condemnation.” The good news for each of us is this: If we feel a tug toward the Lord, the Spirit is still wooing us to Christ.

Mary and the Family
The retrieval committee played their highest card—His mother and family—surely at their appeal Jesus would drop this Messiah business and get back to His shop in Nazareth. At this moment Jesus added a new dimension to the word, “Together.” Who would be His family? Not just Mary and her children, but everyone who hears the words of Jesus and obeys them would be His holy family.

Scriptures:
Mark 3: 20-35
Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” — because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me into Your Holy Family—the church! You and I are together! I am not alone in this world. I have fellowship with You and with those who are Yours! Help me always to honor the Holy Spirit Who draws me to You. You are good and Your mercy does endure even to this generation. You have not placed me in Your family for my comfort only, but to serve You joyfully. This I will do with all my might! Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
Day by Day
Words: Carolina Sandell; Music: Oscar Ahnfelt

1. Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best–
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

2. Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

3. Help me then in eve’ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 8 “Power”

Power

Without purity, power consumes the one who holds it.
Nothing like this had ever happened before. There had always been sick folk but never a healer. Demons had plagued people since the beginning but never had there been a man with a greater power who defeated them. There had been teachers before, but such words of truth and authority had never echoed from these Galilean hills. The multitudes grew to unmanageable numbers.

New Strategies
The constant flow of divine power through the human frame of Jesus was exhausting. Some creative thinking was in order. There was always the beautiful Sea of Galilee; an escape route to provide Jesus some distance from the crowds. He told His men to find a boat and have it ready. The boat gave him space but it did nothing to stem the flow of the sick ones who called out for His touch. Using the voices of their hosts, demons screamed even at the approach of Jesus crying out—“You are the Son of God!”—even as the poor invaded ones lay helpless on the ground. Jesus delivered them of their possession and sent the devils away commanding them to keep their mouths shut. But the toll taken on the humanity of Jesus was great. New strategies were needed if the pressing needs of the pressing crowds were to be met.

  • This amazing power must be shared. Thus, New Wine required some New Wineskins.
  • Jesus called His closest followers to the top of a hill and chose 12 of them to share the work and the power.

Mark’s description is crucial to our understanding of the Call of Christ today:

Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons

The names of the 12 men Jesus chose would be remembered forever. He shared His power with them, His truth with them, and His compassion with them. Strangely enough, one of them was named Judas.

Called to be with Him
The call to ministry for Christ must be preceded by the call into fellowship with Christ. “To be with Him” is not a calling reserved for preachers; it is the call of Christ to each of us! If we are to step into this stricken world in His name, we must first answer the call to be with Him.

How do we do this?

  • Through consistent prayer and consumption of the Word of God,
  • Through the knowledge of the general and specific things He has called us to do,
  • Through consistent obedience to His call, and
  • Through vital connections to His church in worship, discipleship, fellowship and service.

In these ways Jesus shares His power with those who obey His call to be with Him.

Scriptures:
Mark 3: 7-19
But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, it is beyond amazing that You have called me to be with You! I must order my life around this call. The power to touch others in Your name flows from Your nearness, even Your residence in me. The wisdom to walk this earth in peace is in the sound of Your voice in my heart. Help me preach Your word with the work of my hands and the holiness of my life and the gentleness of my manor. As I preach Your word, signs will follow! Hallelujah! Amen!

Song:
Close to Thee
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music:S. J. Vail

1. Thou my everlasting portion, more than friend or life to me,
all along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with thee.

Refrain:
Close to thee, close to thee, close to thee, close to thee,
all along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with thee.

2. Not for ease or worldly pleasure, nor for fame my prayer shall be;
gladly will I toil and suffer, only let me walk with thee.

Refrain

3. Lead me through the vale of shadows, bear me o’er life’s fitful sea;
then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with thee.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 7 “Sabbath”

Sabbath

Though intended for rest and worship, men misuse the Sabbath for their own evil purposes.
On another Sabbath Jesus entered another synagogue to preach the Kingdom of God and to relieve the suffering of people who were sick or bound by demons. The Rules People had a unit there “to watch Him closely” to see if they could catch Him healing on the Sabbath (as if they could miss such a thing!) Jesus was up to their game and would prove more than a match for these small-minded Rules People.

Withered
In the crowd there was a man with one hand that was shrunken and useless. Jesus called him out and the man stepped forward. The Pharisees could not miss this! He challenged the opposition.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

They had no answer. Some of them knew they were in trouble but there was no stopping this contest now. Jesus was angry, the first record of this emotion for Him in Mark’s Gospel. These people had withered souls. They knew the rules but missed the point! The Sabbath was meant for the benefit of people, not for oppression! Jesus’ anger was based in grief. The hardness of their hearts broke His. Kindness overruled His anger and grief as He turned to the man, saying simply,

“Stretch out your hand.”

When the man obeyed, his withered hand began to inflate. Finger bones crackled and stretched to the proper length. He swiveled the hand back and forth; the stiff wrist was limber. He opened and closed the hand, fully able to grip anything he desired. The first thing he touched was his face, feeling for the first time with the hand that had never known feeling. It was warm, not cold as before. He clasped his two hands together. He had never done that before either! With the deepest smile he had ever known he extended both hands over his head. In the process he saw Jesus smiling, framed by his two matching hands. He lifted them higher in praise and thanksgiving!

Everyone laughed, everyone except the Rules People. The smartest of these were looking for an exit but most of them actually thought they had won the match! They had caught Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They had Him now! Indignation at this “travesty” propelled them out the door. They allied themselves the Herodians, Jewish leaders who sought to reform their religion through Greek and Roman thought—the more rules, the merrier.

The Sabbath Today
Each person has some part of life that is useless. It is numb and lifeless like the hand of the man in the synagogue. To worship God is to lift our withered souls up to Him. When something about us makes us feel unworthy to worship, we must hear His words, “Stretch it out to me.”

Scriptures:
Mark: 3:1-6
NKJV
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Reference Passages:
Mark 12:29-31
Psalm 29:1-2
Hebrews 10:19-25

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I hear Your call to worship. At the same time I know that my personal record does not qualify me to worship. Because of Calvary, Your record has been applied to my name. You have made me worthy to enter Your holy presence. Lord, sometimes I feel dry and useless. Help me remember that at these times I must stretch out my wounded heart to You in worship. I know Your healing will come! Thank You, Lord!

Song:
Come into the Holy of Holies
Words and Music: John Sellers

Come into the Holy of Holies,
Enter by the blood of the Lamb.
Come into His presence with singing.
Worship at the Throne of God.

(Repeat)

Lifting holy hands, to the King of kings!
Worship Jesus! Worship Jesus!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions also appear at KingdomWinds.com.

January 6 “Rules”

Rules

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.
Just as so many suffering folk were ready for His healing touch, many humble minds were open to the teachings of Jesus. Other minds were locked tight, threatened by anything from outside of their limited experience be it message or messenger. These were the “people of the rules.” To keep the rules required no thought and certainly no creativity. Since rules were at the surface of things, there was never any need to dive into matters. To alter the scriptures for them, “Deep did not call to shallow.” (Ps 42:7)

Rule Number One: Call the Right People
Beyond shallow rules, Jesus brought the truths of Kingdom of God to the regions of Galilee. He encountered the Rules People time and again. Passing through the multitude of hungry, humble souls, He spied one Levi, also called Matthew, a tax collector, and called to him just as he had the four fisherman, “Follow me.” Like those fishermen who left their businesses to follow Jesus, Levi abandoned his tax rolls to take up with the least political public figure he had ever seen.

The results of Levi’s obedience to the call were immediate. He invited his associates, an unseemly if prosperous lot of crooks, to dine with Jesus and His disciples in his own home, surely a sizable one acquired in the usual manner of those in his profession.

When the news of this dinner became known to the Rules People, the scribes and Pharisees, they had the evidence they needed to discredit Jesus. They approached His disciples with the 1st century equivalence of a smoking gun.

“How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard about it, His answer went beyond surface rules to deep principles:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Rules by Comparison
Certain Rules People who followed both John and the Pharisees noticed that the four fisherman were not joining them in fasting. They wanted to know why their rules were not everyone’s rules. The answer lay in the identity of Jesus Himself. He was Messiah, not forerunner. This was a day for feasting not fasting. Those times would come when He was gone from them. Here was the principle: Something new required new preparations:

…new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Grainfields and the Sabbath
Jesus and the five disciples walked through a field of grain. Hungry, the men ate some of the ripened grain. No problem; except that it was the Sabbath. The score-keepers marked their cards and complained. The rules were more important than the hunger of the men. Jesus answered them with a story from the Scriptures. David and his men ate bread dedicated to the priests when they were pursued by King Saul. In their hunger this was an approved action, not a sin. In this case, the Rules People called it reaping and condemned Jesus and His men.

To answer their charges, Jesus introduced one of the most important facts about the Kingdom of God: Jesus is Lord of all—including the Sabbath! He is the ruling principle!

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.

Scriptures:
Mark: 2:13-28
Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me a hunger for You today. Bless me with a thirst for Your Living Water, truth direct from the Throne of God, a River of Life. As my spirit feasts on Your Word and as my soul deeply drinks of Your Spirit, impress upon me the principles behind the rules. You, Lord Jesus, are Rule Number One! Your life-giving principles demand much of me, but they supply so much more! Give me that hunger and thirst for righteousness that results in a full heart. Amen and Amen.

Song:
As the Deer
Words and Music: Martin Nystrom

1. As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

Refrain:
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

2. You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a king
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

Refrain

3. I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 5 “Rooftops”

Rooftops

Ceilings define the height of the interior of a house while rooftops protect its contents.
Both are metaphors for limitations; ceilings confine us and rooftops restrict our access. The ministry of Jesus would not be so contained.

He was ministering in a house in Capernaum. So many people came to Him there was no access through any door or window. This limited most of the crowd to second hand descriptions from friends on the inside. One set of men would not accept these limitations. Their friend was paralyzed. It was their expression of friendship to carry him where he needed to go. These friends were strong and resourceful. They found the tools needed to dismantle the roof. They had ropes tied to a pallet to let their disabled friend down through the hole in the roof.

A Sermon Interrupted

Imagine the surprise when, as Jesus was preaching, there were footsteps overhead and dust falling from the ceiling. Suddenly the roof and ceiling were lifted away. The pallet carrying the paralyzed man started easing its way down through the hole in the ceiling. The owner of the house immediately began to estimate the cost of the repairs that would be needed. Someone would pay for this! A few men tried to stop the intrusion but there was no stopping this resourceful wrecking crew. The ceiling and the rooftop meant nothing to them.

Jesus smiled at the whole enterprise. As the man’s friends returned His smile, Jesus spoke to the man himself.

“Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

The smiles turned to puzzled looks. That was really, really nice, but what they wanted was a healing. After a collective breath, others in the crowd questioned among themselves along the same lines, some going so far as to call it blasphemy—only God could forgive sins!

Jesus knew this before they spoke it. He sought to break through the ceiling of their logic with a higher truth.

“Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?

Before they could answer He made it plain to them:

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

It happened! The disabled man was suddenly quite able. He unhooked the portable bed. His friends sprang to help him but he waved them off with a smile. Unaided by his clever friends, the man unhooked the pallet, rolled it up, and walked out of the house. In his wake, the amazed crowd no longer contained any skeptics. They praised God saying:

“We never saw anything like this!”

When it comes to what Jesus can do, there are no ceilings and all rooftops must yield to those who come to Him in determined faith.

Scriptures:
Mark 2: 1-12
And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me the faith and resourcefulness of these friends! Let me capture their determination to be in Your presence today and to take my needs to You regardless of any hindrances. As I do, let me never forget the greatest miracle of all—my sins are forgiven in Your Name! Let today be a day without ceilings—unrestricted grace from above—and without rooftops—unhindered faith and obedience rising to Your throne. For You Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Nothing Is Impossible
Words and Music: Eugene L. Clark

Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God;
Nothing is impossible when you’re trusting in His Word.
Hearken to the voice of God to thee:
“Is there anything too hard for Me?”
Then put your trust in God alone and rest upon His Word–
For everything, O everything,
Yes, everything is possible with God!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory Devotions are also available at KingdomWinds.com.

January 4 “If…”

If…

Having the power to heal the sick is one thing. It’s availability to others is another.
While recognizing His power, the leper doubted the character of Jesus. Why shouldn’t he? As a leper he was an outcast never welcomed in any circumstance and never invited into any circles of friendship except those of other lepers. Thus his call to Jesus, “If you are willing…”

The Morning After
The day before had begun in the synagogue with teaching, continued in a house for healing, and concluded past sundown in a city-wide healing and deliverance meeting. Early the next morning Jesus arose before all the others and went out to a solitary place to pray. When the others finally woke up, so many of them pain free for the first time in recent memory, no one could find Jesus. The people turned to the four men who seemed to be His followers to locate Him. The search was on until Peter found Him hidden away in the wilderness. Peter was not one to hesitate before speaking. He rebuked the Lord for being so unavailable.

“Everyone is looking for You.”

Jesus paid no attention to the rebuke. He had been praying about what to do next. Would He set up shop in Capernaum and operate from there, inviting needy people in? Or should they move on? Now He was sure of what do.

“Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also,
because for this purpose I have come forth.”

That settled it. They would move on to as many of the towns and villages in the region as possible. Every village had a synagogue where Jesus preached. Every town had sick folks who received a healing touch. Those infested with demons were everywhere to be found. Jesus exhibited mastery over them, commanding them not even to speak to Him.

At some point in these journeys the leper braved the rejection of the crowd and called out to Jesus:

“If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Jesus stopped to locate the unfortunate man. The crowd cleared the way making it possible for Jesus to see the pitiful sight: rags for clothes, bandages old and putrid, and a face covered to hide the wounds. Jesus could see into the leper’s soul. There He saw the deeper wounds of the outcast. Words had pierced his heart. Rejection had bruised his mind. Abuse had crippled his dreams.

Compassion and power rose up in Jesus, a compassion deeper than the wounds within the man and a power greater than the wounds on the surface.

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

From a safe distance the crowd watched without breathing as the leper began to shake his head as if shaking off a chill. His eyes opened as wide as possible as bandaged hands began to claw at the rags around his face. A great gasp came from the people as his face emerged without a scar. The man stripped the rags from his hands and they, too were clean and whole. The man began to dance as rags flew off in vile circles into the amazed and disgusted crowd. Someone brought him a robe and he danced in it for a while. His breath gone, he stood before Jesus. Jesus instructed him to not tell anyone before going to the priests for the requirements of the law.

Of course the man didn’t do that. He told everyone and the crowd became a multitude.

Such a miracle! And it began with the word, “If.”

Scriptures:
Mark 1: 32-45 NKJV
At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes we can recognize on one level that You are powerful and good and still doubt at another level that Your grace is available to us. We introduce the word “if” into our prayers. While we must never presume upon Your grace, let us always have faith in Your Word. The Bible says Your promises are sure. They are based in Your character, Your goodness. Let us confess with the Old Covenant saints that “the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” Help us to hear, deep in our wounded spirits, Your sure word, “I am willing…” In Your Name, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Reach Out and Touch the Lord
Traditional

Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.
You’ll find He’s not too busy to answer your cry.
He’s passing by the moment, you needs to supply.
Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.