October 14 “Shepherd”

Shepherd

Sometimes the crowds of people around Him reminded Jesus of sheep.
Their leaders seemed to drive them from place to place never giving them time to think for themselves. He remembered the words of the psalms:

“We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
And
“The Lord is my shepherd…”

If they were sheep, they were an unruly flock, seemingly unable to detect the voice of their True Shepherd.

In the City Streets
Jesus watched the young man and His family retreat into their home. He also observed the exit of the spies of the Pharisees as they tried to steal away unnoticed to give their report to their superiors. As Jesus and His men resumed their walk back toward the Temple, the public discourse following the healing of the blind young man continued in the streets of Jerusalem. As they walked along, Jesus began to develop the shepherd-and-sheep metaphor.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door,
but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”

He was speaking about the godly order of leadership established in the Covenant with Jehovah. The current conditions were these: corrupt shepherds often deceived the sheep, leading them astray from the plan of God. Instead of shepherds, they were thieves and robbers.

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice;
and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The same God who made the sheep, made the door—the Word of God—and it was through this door the shepherd and sheep could safely pass. This relationship was facilitated by the recognition of the voice of the Shepherd. Other voices frightened and scattered the sheep. With this commanding, loving voice, the Shepherd led the sheep toward safety and provision and away from danger.

They didn’t get it.
Pleased with this excellent illustration, Jesus searched the faces of the Twelve for signs of agreement. He found confusion instead. They were unable to make the leap from illustration to application. He took a more explicit route.

“I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers… I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,
and will go in and out and find pasture.”

They knew He was a man and not a door so another door in their minds slowly began to open. He was the shepherd; He was the door. The others were not to be trusted.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”

Each of the men had a different memory of the wickedness of those who wanted to discredit Jesus or even kill Him. The contrast between Jesus and the others was stark. Their little procession halted in the streets as Jesus collected the attention of each disciple to make His crucial point.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

This was truth that each man knew in his heart as he clearly heard the voice of his Shepherd.

Scriptures:
John 10:1-10

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Psalm 100:3 NKJV
Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Psalm 23 NKJV
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my earliest realization of You is that of My Shepherd. May I never outgrow this vision, this truth. I sang this song as a child and I believe it to this day. Psalm 23 is my expectation and my experience. I have feasted at that table in the presence of my enemies with a cup of grace full and running over. I have rested by the still waters, never fearing the shadow. I have known the peace in the valley and felt the comfort of Your rod and staff through the mountain passages. My needs are met by Your hand in verdant pastures of plenty. And I know that I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.

Song:
The Lord Is My Shepherd

Traditional

Round:
[1] The Lord is my shepherd;
I’ll live for him always.
He leads me by still waters;
I’ll live for him always.

[2] Always, always,
I’ll live for him always.
Always, always,
I’ll live for him always.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I’ll live for him always.
He leads me by still waters;
I’ll live for him always.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 13 “Vision”

Vision

Word traveled fast in the streets of Jerusalem.
The “trial” had taken place outside the Temple grounds in full public view but Jesus and the Twelve did not see it happen. These events were the news of the day. Someone found Jesus and told Him of the decision of the elders to cast the young man, and most likely his parents as well, out of the Temple. In that day this was like an excommunication, like sending them to hell. Jesus would not allow this to stand without His further intervention.

Do you believe?
When the home of the family was pointed out to Jesus, the sounds of rejoicing met Him on the front step. They had called relatives and friends to celebrate the healing of their son. The windows of the house were open and joy spilled into the streets in music and laughter. Jesus and the Twelve could not help joining in the merriment.

People who had witnessed the healing recognized Jesus and started to tell the family He was there but He restrained them. He was ushered into the front room and the celebrants took a deep breath. At the sudden silence the young man looked up to see the man whose shadow he had felt in the street and whose hands had touched his sightless eyes. As he studied the face of Jesus all the world suddenly made sense. The years of darkness seemed a small price to pay to be in the presence of such a One. Before the young man could speak, Jesus asked,

“Do you believe in the Son of God?”

He knew the voice immediately and he wanted to shout, “Yes!” but the moment seemed to require a more thoughtful response.

“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

Jesus smiled and it was like the sun coming from behind a cloud. The young man stole a glance at his parents. His father was fighting back tears while his mother had given in to them. That beautiful voice continued,

“You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

This was the moment for shouting. How could he not believe? Darkness had given way to beautiful light, shadows to substance, anonymous sounds to visions of order and grace.

“Lord, I believe!”

He fell forward at the feet of Jesus. He wrapped his arms around Jesus’ ankles weeping with adoration. Jesus did not stop him. Against the sound of this worship, Jesus spoke,

“For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see,
and that those who see may be made blind.”

Spies among Them
Agents of the Pharisees had followed Jesus to this house and witnessed these events. The irony of these events penetrated their darkness.

“Are we blind also?”

Jesus looked at them with compassion. Perhaps there was hope for some of them.

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’
Therefore your sin remains.

The spies lowered their heads, wondering about their mission and the opposition of their superiors. They saw slivers of light but were not quite ready to be healed of their blindness. They tried to slip away unnoticed.

Scriptures:
John 9:35-40

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God? “He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.
Psalm 119:105 NKJV
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your light is a penetrating light, a healing light. You illumine the darkness to which we have become accustomed and show us new and shining worlds. Your grace is a thing of light, of peace, of joy, and of unbreakable promises. Help me to see Your face today. Help me to walk in confidence that Your Word is a lamp unto my feet a light unto my path. I walk with You on the Path of Life. This is all so amazing—and true! Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
Amazing Grace

Words: John Newton; Music: Traditional

1. Amazing grace (how sweet the sound) that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!

3. Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.

5. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

6. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below, will be forever mine.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 12 “Verdict”

Verdict

The makeshift trial in the streets of Jerusalem rattled on to a conclusion.
The smartest and most experienced of the lawyers among the leaders of the people had nothing in their training or experience to help them with this case.

Now the young man’s parents were standing by observing this cross examination of their son. Why didn‘t these blind leaders of the blind leave their son alone? Their lives had just been transformed by a miracle from God—not just their son’s life, but their lives, also. No longer would the daily care of a blind son dominate their schedule. Like most men of Israel the father most likely had a trade he could now pass on to his son. A whole new life stretched joyfully before the family and these knuckleheads were concerned because the deed was done on the Lord’s Holy Day. It seemed to them entirely appropriate that God answered prayers on the Sabbath. Their time on the witness stand was over and their son was on his own.

More than a Match
This did not worry them. They had raised their son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They knew how bright he was and the amazing insight he had developed into the behavior of those he could not see. They knew he was more than a match for the brightest of his questioners. The lawyer decided to take a “spiritual” tact.

“Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”

More absurdity! The young man locked eyes with the older man and stared at him before answering. He did not fall for the fake spirituality on display.

“Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know.”

The Pharisee thought he was making progress—yes, go on little blind boy!

“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

The crowd erupted in laughter again. These were incontrovertible facts. The inquisitors wanted to know how it was done.

“I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Such impudence! A young man should not speak to his elders that way. His parents’ shoulders shook with laughter they could not suppress. This was simply too much! The elders pled their tired case that they were disciples of Moses, a man they knew God had spoken to but this man?

“…we do not know where He is from.”

The young man, with new eyes now seeing as clearly as his heart had always seen, grew eloquent. He ridiculed them for their ignorance of such a prophet. He could not be a sinner for God would not use Him so. This healing had no precedent.

“If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

Case Closed
Realizing they had been bested by a blind boy, they insulted the young man and expelled him from the Temple.

He stood to his feet, straightened to his full height and motioned to his parents with a broad smile. They came to his side. The family locked arms and headed for home passing in full view of the leaders, struggling as best they could to hold on to their pride and what was left of their dignity.

Scriptures:
John 9:24-34

So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You change lives! You changed mine. I shudder to think what my life might have been if You had not come into my heart. You saved me and set me on the Path of Life! You called me to serve You in specific ways and then You bless me in those very pursuits. I live in hope because of promises made to me in Your Word that will not fail. You surround me with brothers and sisters and mighty warrior angels so that my every step is secure. Whatever awaits me around the next corner is no surprise to You and I know You are the master of it. Thank You Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Jesus Lifted Me

Traditional

1. I’m so glad Jesus lifted me.
I’m so glad Jesus lifted me.
I’m so glad Jesus lifted me,
singing glory, hallelujah! Jesus lifted me.

2. Satan had me bound; Jesus lifted me.
Satan had me bound; Jesus lifted me.
Satan had me bound; Jesus lifted me,
singing glory, hallelujah! Jesus lifted me.

3. When I was in trouble, Jesus lifted me.
When I was in trouble, Jesus lifted me.
When I was in trouble, Jesus lifted me,
singing glory, hallelujah! Jesus lifted me

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 11 “Interrogation”

“Interrogation”

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
In England this proverb is traced back to a man named John Heywood in 1546. The Prophet Jeremiah said the same thing centuries before. There is a natural blindness that is the result of failure of the eyes. There is another blindness that is the result of the will.

Called to Testify
The leaders cared nothing for the young man Jesus healed . It was a miracle for the fellow but it was a problem for them. The mistake (in their view) was to do such a thing on the Sabbath. The details of the Law were the stock and trade of these leaders, a toolkit for maintaining control. This was more important than having one less blind beggar in the streets. It was also something they needed to discredit if they could. Like an old courtroom drama, they put the young man on the witness stand.

His eyes were still tender so he blinked often and rubbed them frequently with the backs of his hands. Everything was new to him. Sounds so familiar now had sources: voices had faces, sunlight had a blue sky, shadows came and went as people walked by. Above all, he wanted to see his parents. Their love for him was constant from his earliest memory and their voices were always clear and kind. Their guiding hands were friendly on his shoulders, his arms, and in his own trembling hands. He wanted to see all of this, the structure of what was now a former life and the institution of a new life of light and color. With all of these images flooding His mind, he also wondered about the man who had spoken to him, dabbed his eyes with mud, and sent him to wash in the pool. He wanted to see that face, also.

The interrogation began.
The brightest of the lawyers began with an establishing question about how the young man received his sight. Blinking and shielding his eyes from the sun over the shoulder of the inquisitor, he gave the facts.

“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

The broad smile on his face was more effective than the words of his testimony. Applause broke out from the crowd. The questioner panicked.

“This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

It took about two seconds for the absurdity of this remark to turn the applause into uproarious laughter. This was not going well. A voice from the crowd sounded above the din.

“How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”

The logic was inescapable. The case was as clear as could be for those who could see it. Quickly the Pharisee demanded an assessment from the man. Still blinking and shielding his eyes with his right hand, he looked into the eyes of the Pharisee. He saw a blindness deeper than the one he had known. There was only one answer.

“He is a prophet.”

Family Reunion
Getting nowhere with this line of questioning, they sent for the young man’s parents. On their arrival, the proceedings halted while a most touching reunion took place with hands on faces and tears freely flowing. The parents confirmed the identity of the young man and reported the obvious miracle. When asked their opinion of the man who had done this, they deferred to their son.

“He is of age; ask him.”

They were not blind—they could see the trap set for them.

Scriptures:
John 9:13-23

They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” ” Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
Jeremiah 5:20-21 NKJV
“Declare this in the house of Jacob And proclaim it in Judah, saying, ‘Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not:
Isaiah 60:1-2 NKJV
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your light is true light. Your light drives all the darkness of the world to the margins of our lives. Isaiah predicted that deep darkness would cover the people but You would shine on believers and I have found this to be the case. Just as each day’s sunrise pushes back the night, Your entrance into a life pushes back the darkness of sin, the gloom of hopelessness, and the murky pessimism of despair. You are the Light of the World! Amen and amen.

Song:
Open My Eyes that I May See

Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth you have for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

2. Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth you send so clear;
and while the message sounds in my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart, and let me prepare
love with your children thus to share.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 10 “Blindness”

Blindness

It might be vaguely comforting if we lived in a strict cause-and-effect universe.
It would be so predictable and stable. Do “this” and “that” will always be the result. We could plan on the results of everything we did. No disappointments. No surprises. No questions. This isn’t the case, of course. Some causes have little relation to the effect they produce. While sowing and reaping is a principle of life, we all must sometimes deal with unintended consequences of a cause that faied to produce the expected result. The Twelve men whom Jesus called seemed to believe in cause-and-effect as an absolute rule. This would prompt an important question.

One Born Blind
As Jesus walked untouched through the armed and hostile crowd, He was not unwatched. Even in their strange, paralyzed state, the well-dressed Pharisees, brightly bedecked priests, and plain-clothes Levites watched His every move. To a man they all hoped He would just keep walking out of the Temple, out of the city, and out of their lives. It was not to be.

A young man, blind from birth, begged by the side of the road leading from the Temple. The Disciples wanted to know the cause of such a wasted life.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus needed to lift their thinking above this earthbound reasoning. God has causes we cannot discern so there will always be effects we cannot understand. Things were not so simple.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,
but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

Jesus was on a mission to demonstrate both the power of God the willingness of God to involve Himself in the lives of those who loved Him.

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus stooped to the ground and scooped up a handful of loose soil. He spat in His hand and molded a poultice of mud. As the poor man sat at his place by the road, he sensed the coolness of the shadow of Jesus standing directly in front of him. Before he could beg for alms, Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with the mud. Startled, the man drew back from His touch. Jesus’ voice calmed Him.

“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”

The man was not so blind that he could not see an opportunity. He reached excitedly for a helping hand and someone guided him to the pool. The crowd waited to see what would happen. Before long, the man returned, unaided and seeing perfectly well.

A Community Amazed
Friends were delighted and confused. They subjected the young man to extended stares to be sure they were seeing correctly. Without doubt it was the same young man whom they knew had never seen before. When people asked him how this happened, he gave all the details he knew. They wanted to know who and where this healer was.

All the young man could say was the truth,

“I don’t know.”

The desperate crowd had witnessed a new effect. They needed to see the cause.

Scriptures:
John 9:1-12

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” Then they said to him, “Where is He?”He said, “I do not know.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Job 9:10 NKJV
He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without number.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your touch is a healing touch. Blind eyes have opened, deaf ears have started hearing, withered limbs have straightened and strengthened, tattered minds have been repaired, and horrible diseases have fled at Your touch. A word from You can send demons running or still the raging storm. I have felt Your touch so many times, a comfort in times of sorrow and loss, an encouragement when the way is hard, and a deep settled peace in every circumstance. Thank You, for the touch of Your mighty hand. Amen.

Song:
One Touch

Words and Music: Bonnie Plunkett

Verse:
There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His hand will lift you
Body mind and soul
Believe Him that His pow’r will Free you
Praise Him for His mercies t’ward you
Thank Him for His love
He longs to make you fully whole

Refrain:
Just one touch of the Master’s hand
Just one word He has full command
Have faith in what He wants to do
Is all He asks of you
There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His Master’s hand will
Make you fully whole

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 9 “Abraham”

Abraham

Calling people “sons of the devil” was no way to make friends.
The leaders of the people would not allow some strange man from Galilee to talk to them like that so they called Him names, too.

“…You are a Samaritan and have a demon…”

They were not dealing with the “meek and mild” Jesus on that day. With fire in His eyes, He shot back,

“I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father,
And” (smiling, pointing at them with each syllable) “you dishonor Me.”

At this point even the passive Roman soldiers started taking notice. They were amused by the rancor and mildly concerned that such a public discourse might get out of hand. They drew their swords and took positions near the Temple guards who were of the opinion they didn’t need the help of the Romans. After a moment the boisterous crowd settled down.

Showdown in the Temple Courts
Still smiling, Jesus went on,

“And I do not seek My own glory; there is One” (pointing to heaven) who “seeks and judges.”

The Pharisees laughed at this—obviously this man sought all the attention He could get! The leaders quickly lost their smiles, but strangely enough, Jesus kept His! He was giving as good as He was getting and His words had tremendous power, but He did it all with a smile. This infuriated the Pharisees. Then, still smiling, He said this:

“I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

A moment of amazed silence was followed by a roar of protest. Who would ever say such a thing? Then the Pharisees knew they were winning the game. Even those who followed Him—including His own 12 men of questionable character—hung their heads at this statement. Why would Jesus ever say such a thing? The obvious response came quickly from the leaders.

“Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets… Are You greater than our father Abraham? Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

Abraham Rejoiced
This was exactly what Jesus was trying to tell them. He pointed out that He always sought to honor His Father. Time was a fluid thing to Jesus, something these men could never understand. Speaking of their hero, Abraham.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

He had come from a world where past, present, and future could sometimes trade places. One of the leaders was quick to do the math…

“You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

Jesus knew the truth would be too much for them, still it had to be said.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

It was too much. He claimed the covenantal name of Jehovah! Angry men scrambled to find rocks big enough to hurt. (They had dropped an adequate supply in the matter of that woman.) The Roman soldiers and the Temple guards positioned themselves to restore order if it broke down. The Roman officer on horseback moved to take the lead, if necessary. When the men were armed and ready, they found the same paralysis that had afflicted the guards the day before now shackled them all. With a confident smile, Jesus simply walked through the angry mob and went on His way.

John 8:48-59
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Prayer:
Lord, You have made a New Covenant in Your own blood for our church. Just as God made covenants with Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, He has made the final Covenant with mankind through You, Lord Jesus. It is an everlasting promise. In this sense, we are children of Abraham as well as the Children of God. We are family, bound together with blessed ties that bind in the strength of love. Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful promise begun in antiquity and still in force today! Amen and amen.

Song:
The God of Abraham Praise

Words: (Attributed to) Daniel ben Judah; Music: Meyer Lyon

1. The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of Everlasting Days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and heaven confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name forever blest.

2. The great I AM has sworn; I on this oath depend.
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to heaven ascend.
I shall behold God’s face; I shall God’s power adore,
and sing the wonders of God’s grace forevermore.

3. The heavenly land I see, with peace and plenty blest;
a land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.

4. The God who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
and “Holy, holy, holy!” cry “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah, Lord, the great I AM, we worship thee!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 8 “Hear”

Hear

“Hearing” is a much deeper process than simply detecting sound. It means understanding. Jesus told His detractors that they failed to “hear” Him. By this He was not referring to their ears but to their hearts. The condition of the heart determines what any of us can “hear.” Educators refer to a condition of readiness, defined as a state of being when one can learn something new. For the student, until readiness happens no amount of lessons will get through. For the enemies of Jesus and those with no interest in spiritual things, there was little readiness about them.

Who is your Father?
His message was another factor that hindered the ability of so many in Jesus’ audience. It was truth from another world, the good news of higher Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. It was time for the leaders of God’s people to expand their theology and understand deeper things, higher things, sweeter things, more powerful things—to really hear the message of Jesus. He spoke to them of His heavenly Father as the source of these things. They protested,

“Abraham is our father.”

According to the detailed genealogies so important to them, this was indeed the case. Jesus wanted them to call on a greater Father.

“If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.”

Abraham was their Father in the faith—a hero of the faith—a believer in the Word of God. As children of Abraham, they should also be people of faith, hearing and obeying the Word of God. Abraham set the example of faith by following God’s direction by travelling to a new world. This was exactly what God wanted them to do—follow Jesus into a new land of a New Covenant.

To their chagrin, Jesus accused them of doing the evil works of some other father. They were outraged, protesting that not only Abraham but God Himself was their father. Their lack of relationship with the Father created their lack of readiness.

“If God were your Father, you would love Me!”

If they really loved God, they would love Him. If they believed God they would believe Him. They could not hear Jesus because they did not hear the Word of God. Then Jesus told them the truth they never wanted to hear.

“You are of your father the devil… there is no truth in him…for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Who is of God?
The proof of who is of God and who is of the devil, is found in the beliefs and behavior of an individual. In another place Jesus said that we would know people by their works. Some of the people in the Temple courts that day were truly the people of God while others were wholly owned subsidiaries of Satan. Those who were of God, heard the words of Jesus and took them to heart letting them work mightily in them, changing them from the inside out. Pause and remember those who believed,

  • 12 ordinary men, called to follow Jesus,
  • a young member of the Sanhedrin,
  • a woman with a checkered past in Samaria,
  • a nobleman’s son healed with a word from Jesus,
  • a lame man by the pool, and
  • a hungry multitude in the wilderness.

Others witnessed events like these and went away unchanged.

“Hearing” is a much deeper process than simply detecting sound.

Scriptures:
John 8:37-47

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father — God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
Matthew 7:15-20
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You promised that Your followers would hear Your voice, the way sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. It is true. I know Your voice and rest in Your tender words. I also know Your rebuke when I need correction, gentle but firm. Thank You, Lord! I hear Your voice in the Word. I hear Your voice in conversations with brothers and sisters. I hear Your voice when the preacher opens the Book behind the sacred desk. I hear Your voice in the liturgies of worship–the holy songs we sing. Thank You, Lord, for speaking life to me. Amen.

Song:
Wonderful Words of Life

Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:

Refrain:
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the laving call, wonderful words of life;
all so freely given, wooing us to heaven

Refrain

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever,

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 7 “Free”

Free

Roman soldiers armed to the teeth with officers on horseback and soldiers packing short swords and long spears patrolled the cities, highways and villages of Israel.
This was called Pax Romana, “the Roman peace.” Limited religious freedom was granted to the nations occupied by Rome. They were free to worship whatever gods they had invented. Among pagan nations this worked well—tolerance of all manner of gods and all modes of worship made sense. With the Jews, there was a problem: they worshiped only one God and rejected all others. This practice sealed them off from the rest of civilization, and made them the exception to the Roman rule.

We have no king but Caesar.
In a few chapters of John’s gospel we will hear the leaders and the people confess this fateful chant. At that moment it was the subtext of everything said and done. As long as the worshipers of the One True God kept their religion out of politics, a fragile peace made daily life possible. To one degree or another, the people of Israel harbored a whispered hope—Messiah! Through His prophets, the One True God they worshiped had promised a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a King who would take the government on His shoulders and of His Kingdom there would be no end. This was the threat to Rome, especially as would-be “messiahs” often appeared making the claim to be the One. To survive this captivity, the leaders tried to keep worship going without the emphasis on Messiah. The appearance of Jesus disturbed this unspoken strategy.

More than Miracles
The miracles of Jesus were acts of mercy, relieving the suffering of so many and awakening hope in so many others. There was more to His ministry than deeds of mercy; there was a message of truth. The truth He taught was not a refutation of the Law; it was the fulfillment of it.

  • After centuries of sacrifices and multitudes of lambs, Jesus was the final Lamb. John the Baptist said so!
  • After wilderness tabernacles and palatial temples, Jesus was now the habitation of God by His Spirit.
  • After generations of reading and chanting the written Word, Jesus came as the Living Word.
  • Jesus was the final prophet, the promised King, the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings.

His message was as powerful and transformative as His miracles.

Free Indeed
His message was the herald of true freedom, a greater freedom than Rome could provide or crush. It was a freedom born in faith in Him. Listen to His words:

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.”

Of course, the leaders could not let this invitation pass. They pled the case for their “freedom” under Rome.

“We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.
How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

The truth was and is, all sons of Abraham—all human beings, for that matter—are slaves to sin. It doesn’t matter which politicians rule, people are slaves to sin until Jesus sets them free. When He rules in the heart, true freedom is the result.

History has proven this freedom to be greater than

  • the dungeons and legions of Rome,
  • the prisons of fascism or communism,
  • the chains of American slavery,
  • the shackles of poverty and
  • any other prison or chain or oppression man can devise.

In all these historical tragedies, believers have been free in their spirits on earth and destined for eternal freedom in the great beyond.

Scriptures:
John 8:31-36

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when I called out to You, You heard me. When I repented of my sinful life, You forgave me. When I confessed You as Lord, You became my Savior. The chains of sin that bound me fell from my life at Your command. You sent Your Blessed Holy Spirit to abide in my heart so that I can walk in the Spirit, walk about in freedom by Your power. Most of all, I am free to tell Your story to my world and to worship You with Your church on earth and heaven. Thank God I Am Free! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Thank God I Am Free

Words and Music: James McFall

1. For a long time I traveled down a long, lonely road,
My heart was so heavy, in sin I sank low;
Then I heard about Jesus, what a wonderful hour!
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out through His saving pow’r.

Refrain:
Thank God I am free, free, free from this world of sin,
Washed in the blood of Jesus, I’ve been born again;
Hallelujah, I’m saved, saved, saved by His wonderful grace.
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out and show me the way.

2. Like a bird out of prison that’s taken his flight,
Like a blind man that God gave back his sight;
Like the poor wretched beggar that’s found fortune and fame,
I’m so glad that I found out
He would bring me out through His Holy Name.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 6 “Father”

Father

It is fair to say that Jesus stood out from the crowd.
Life with Jesus was an adventure. Twelve men followed Him everywhere, dispersing themselves among the people watching and listening at all times. Crowds pressed Him without mercy, some with sickening needs, others with dangerous motivations. After the latest challenge by the Pharisees, Jesus began to speak publicly about when this all would end.

“I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.
Where I go you cannot come.”

Surprised by this, His enemies whispered among themselves what He might mean by “going away.” Did He mean departure—no doubt they hoped for this—or did He mean suicide? There was no way of predicting what He might do or understanding what His words meant. They could not hide their breathless questions from Jesus.

“I am from above.”
Jesus wanted them to understand. His visit to this earth would be brief by design. He had come from “above” to do a work here “below.” Just as they could not restrain Him before His “time,” neither could they stop Him from completing His mission. Once again He explained that His origin was a different one from theirs. He made it as clear as He could:

“You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

He also made it personal and dangerous not to believe in Him.

‘Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins;
for if you do not believe that I am He…’

Who are You?
The Pharisees and priests had had enough of this pointless discussion. One of them blurted out the question that troubled each of them.

“Who are You?”

They knew the rumors.

  • He was a carpenter’s son from Nazareth,
  • He was a gifted speaker who held massive crowds spellbound while teaching incomprehensible things,
  • He was either a healer or a magician who worked wonders or performed magic tricks depending on what one wanted to believe, and for sure,
  • He was a trouble maker who threatened the fragile peace of the day and the power structures of the nation.

Those in the crowd who believed in Him shouted their answer to the crucial question—He was the Christ, the Promised One, the Messiah! This was the greatest fear of the leaders. They shouted protests and all order was lost. When a quieter moment presented itself, Jesus tried once again to explain.

“I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true;
and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”

He was talking about His heavenly Father who prompted His every move and message. His connection with Jehovah was the key to believing in Him.

“And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone,
for I always do those things that please Him.”

Lifted Up
He spoke of a coming day when He would be “lifted up.’ At that moment those of faith would see and understand.

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things…”

That day of “lifting up” was still in the future but, even on this day of debate and discourse, many believed on Him.

Scriptures:
John 8:21-30
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the bond between You and our Heavenly Father is a mystery, but this I know—it is strong, unbreakable, and eternally secure. Just as You walked this earth in dynamic contact with the Father, so may I today walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I please the Father when I stand in Your righteousness and not my own. When I have seen You, I have seen the Father! Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Son of God, Eternal Savior

Words: Somerset Corry Lowry; Music: Traditional Dutch Melody

1. Son of God, eternal Saviour, source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate hallows all our human race,
thou, our Head, who, throned in glory, for thine own dost ever plead,
fill us with thy love and pity; heal our wrongs, and help our need.

2. As thou, Lord, hast lived for others, so may we for others live;
freely have thy gifts been granted, freely may thy servants give:
thine the gold and thine the silver, thine the wealth of land and sea,
we but stewards of thy bounty, held in solemn trust for thee.

3. Come, O Christ, and reign among us, King of love, and Prince of peace;
hush the storm of strife and passion, bid its cruel discords cease;
by thy patient years of toiling, by thy silent hours of pain,
quench our fevered thirst of pleasure, shame our selfish greed of gain.

4. Son of God, eternal Saviour, source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate hallows all our human race,
thou who prayedst, thou who willest, that thy people should be one,
grant, O grant our hope’s fruition: here on earth thy will be done.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

October 5 “Judgment”

Judgment

Day after day, Jesus stood in the Temple teaching.
He claimed no authority except His own. He was not a product of the leadership structure of the nation. He had climbed no “corporate ladder” to achieve His right to be heard. He was His own credentials. This of course, was nonsense to those who kept the “ladder.” Jesus suddenly appeared, teaching strange things and exhibiting His right to do so with miracles. The leaders had the credentials but Jesus had the power! How could the power structure deal with a man who not only was not endorsed by them, but who did not need them in any way?

The Pharisees Object to Jesus
The keepers of the “ladder” accused Jesus of the obvious fact—He was His own witness!

“You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”

It was not a wise tactic. Jesus knew the Law and the Law said that two witnesses in agreement sealed an issue. His personal witness was accompanied by that of His Father.

“I am One who bears witness of Myself,
and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”

His witness carried with it the proof of His life and ministry among them. He claimed to come from “above” and proved it with deeds that had to have been sourced in Heaven. No one else could make wine out of plain water, command weather, multiply food with a touch, walk on water, heal diseases, drive out demons, and cleanse ordinary people of leprosy, the most dreaded of diseases. He was His own living proof.

His companion witness was His Father in heaven. He had explained at one point that He did what He saw His Father doing. The power of the Holy Spirit rested upon Him as a gift from His Father. His judgment was true.

The Pharisees Took the Bait.
They could not explain or refute the miracles, but the “Father” issue was up for debate.

“Where is Your Father?”

Of course, their context for this question was earthly not heavenly. They had no way of knowing that Jesus was not referring to a man somewhere. He tried to explain:

“You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me,
you would have known My Father also.”

This was well beyond their ability to understand. Still, they found they could not lay hands on Him. A strange paralysis seemed to afflict their minds and hamstring their Temple Guards. What they did not understand was that it simply wasn’t time yet for His arrest at their hands.

The Father of Jesus
People today who deny the dual nature of Jesus—Son of God and Son of Man—have the same problem the Pharisees had that day. If Jesus was not the virgin-born Son of God, who was His father? What earthly man possessed the genepool that could produce such a man? How could the fallen nature of mankind produce even one perfect human specimen? We are all flawed from our entrance into this world until our exit, no matter what transpires in between these events. For us, by faith we believe in Jesus and in His Father, our Father, the One Who is in heaven! His judgment is true.

Scriptures:
John 8:13-20

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father? Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe Your claims to be both the Son of God and the Son of Man. I receive Your witness. Since my childhood, I have sensed Your Holy Presence—Your witness to me of Your truth. I sense also the inner witness of the Heavenly Father. I see His hand as Your will as it unfolds for me each day. I have even seen miracles by Your hand and transformations by Your presence. Yes, I believe Your witness! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Fairest Lord Jesus

Traditional

1. Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

2. Fair are the meadows,  fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

3. Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

4. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved