September 16 “Worship”

Worship

The Samaritan woman was strangely at ease, there at the Jacob’s well talking with the interesting man who asked her for a drink of water. Her comfort would be short-lived.  Relaxing a bit in this unusual situation, she followed Jesus’s revelation of some new source of water that actually relieved thirst with a request.

“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Why was she drawing water from the village well in the heat of the day, a time everyone else avoided? Chances are it was because the village gossips made her more uncomfortable than the noon-day sun. There was much to gossip about in her life and the other women didn’t even bother to whisper. So, it was noon-day for her at the well in Syhcar. Just when she thought she was safe from the gossips…

“Go, call your husband, and come here.”

“I have no husband.”
The woman was shocked by the sudden change of subject and by the subject itself; she did not answer right away. She looked around the streets leading to the well to see if some of the busybodies were watching. Maybe they had been talking to this man. Finally, she answered with the truth—not the whole truth—but the truth. She expected Jesus to be offended but He was smiling at her!

“You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands,
and the one whom you now have is not your husband…”

There was not an ounce of condemnation in His accounting, simply the facts. The woman was totally confused now. What did this man want from her? More than a drink of water, she thought. Maybe He was not one to be trusted. She decided to change the subject.

“Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

With this, Jesus broke out in laughter. She hadn’t meant to make a joke but she was so relieved to have changed the subject that she joined Him with nervous laughter. She pursued the new topic.

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus caught his breath and looked into her eyes. It was as if He carried a torch deep into her soul. He saw her search for love, for meaning, for a relationship that would last. He knew that she vaguely suspected that she might find what she was looking in worship of Jehovah.

But with His reply Jesus ruled out all the forms of worship she knew, both that of the Samaritans on the their mountain or that of the Jews in the temple. A new day of worship was coming—indeed it was here—when

“…the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”

In her soul, a deeper thirst  began to stir.
Perhaps there was a way to quench her parched mind, to water her thirsting spirit. “The Father”—who exactly did He mean? God Himself?

Just then the tenacious little breeze returned to the well, pushing dry leaves before it. Loose hair fell from her headpiece and she quickly put it back into place. She knew she should pick up her water jar and go about her business but the promise of water that would slake a deep thirst like hers made her stay. Who was this man and what else did He have to say?

Scriptures:
John 4:15-23

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we may not be able to identify with Samaritan woman’s life but each of us possesses a thirst deeper than water can reach, a thirst for life, for true companionship, for safety when life threatens like an approaching storm. You do offer living water, spiritual refreshment that goes deep into our souls, reaching the driest parts of us. You are the spring of Living Water! I will drink deeply in prayer. I will draw the refreshment of Your presence in worship and the Word and my thirsting soul will be satisfied. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Drinking at the Springs of Living Waters

Words and Music: John W. Peterson

1. I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
And nothing satisfying there I found;
But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
Where springs of living water did abound.

Refrain:
Drinking at the springs of living water,
Happy now am I,
My soul they satisfy;
Drinking at the springs of living water,
O wonderful and bountiful supply!

2. How sweet the living water from the hills of God,
It makes me glad and happy all the way;
Now glory, grace and blessing mark the path I’ve trod,
I’m shouting “Hallelujah” ev’ry day.

Refrain

3. O sinner, won’t you come today to Calvary?
A fountain there is flowing deep and wide;
The Savior now invites you to the water free,
Where thirsting spirits can be satisfied.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 15 “Thirst”

Thirst

There was an easier way to get from Judea to Galilee—the Jordan River road!
To travel directly north from Judea presented two problems:

  1. It was a rugged, mountainous journey.
  2. It required traversing the land of the hated Samaritans.

Going this way, Jesus and His men faced steep mountain trails as well as hindering mountains of racial prejudice.

The Samaritans

Samaritans were descendants of invaders from the days of the Babylonian captivity. In subsequent generations they mixed with the Jews who were not taken away to form their own brand of religion, similar to but distinct from the true religion of the Jews. They even built their own temples and “holy” sites or worship and used their own version of the Torah. They flourished under Roman rule, posing a threat to the residents of Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. By the time of Jesus, the hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans was severe. Strangely enough, Jesus often used Samaritans as major characters in His parables. In this famous incident, a Samaritan woman is the focus of the Lord’s ministry.

Jacob’s Well
After a full morning of climbing the torturous roads, Jesus and the Twelve were ready for a break. They stopped at the village of Sychar where an ancient well, going all the way back to the time of Jacob, served the citizens. Most people would come to the well in the cool of the day when the temperature was more accommodating. When Jesus and His men arrived at the well, a lone woman was there drawing water.

A Thirsty Savior
Jesus sent all the disciples into the village to get something to eat. The woman saw the 13 men approach and she saw Jesus send 12 of them away. She hurried to draw the water she needed. Jesus, smiling, approached her.

“Give Me a drink.”

The woman was shocked—Jewish men did not speak to Samaritan women, in public at least. She hesitated, studying His face. It was a kind face and He had a friendly smile. Although confused by His request, she determined that He was the rare man that one might trust. Still, one could not be too careful.

“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

She reached inside her loose fitting garments and produced a wooden cup, filled it with water from her jar, and gave it to Him. He smiled and drank all of it. Handing the cup back to her He said,

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

This made no sense to her but she could not look away from the face of Jesus. Who was this man? She had to say something.

“Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob…”

Her voice trailed off. Something about this man exited a deeper thirst in her. She needed more than water…

“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.”

What was He saying, “never thirst again…?”

The sun bore down on the two of them and a deep silence was broken only by a tremulous breeze trying to make its way through the village street.

Scriptures:
John 4:1-14

Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, life is a thirsty business. Our need for water is only one expression of our thirst. We thirst for meaningful relationships, for truth, for safety, for hope, for all kinds of deep needs resident in the human heart. I see in this story that You have thirst as well. You thirst for a relationship with each of us—with me. Lord, I want to fill Your cup with my love! In prayer we each satisfy our mutual thirst. Amen.

Song:
Fill My Cup Lord

Words and Music: Richard Blanchard

1. Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy.
And then I heard my Savior speaking—
“Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

Refrain:
Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

2. There are millions in this world who are seeking
For pleasures earthly goods afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.

Refrain

3. So my brother if the things that this world gives you
Leave hungers that won’t pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray—

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 14 “Testimony”

Testimony

John’s last sermon was like his first one, all about Jesus.
In a wilderness location where there was “much water” both Jesus and John were preaching and baptizing converts. John’s disciples were disturbed by the number of people following Jesus instead of John. When they mentioned this to their Rabbi, John was not at all disturbed. In fact, he welcomed the growing prominence of Jesus. To the amazement of his disciples, John took joy in his decreasing stature. He had told them all along that he was not the Messiah but only the Forerunner of the Messiah. Now that Jesus was on the scene, the transfer of influence was inevitable. John took great joy in this. Hear this amazing statement:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John knew that the declension of his ministry was not to be grieved; it was a sign of his success. Perhaps, when Messiah, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” began His public ministry, John could look forward to a more conventional life—a wife, a home, children—perhaps. Oh, he had made enemies to be sure who would be more than happy to see him disappear. Maybe they would leave him alone.

One Last Sermon
John continued to explain to his followers how the Kingdom of God worked in ways so different from the kingdoms of men. Jesus was different from John; His origin was from a higher place.

“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly
and speaks of the earth.”

John was Jesus’ cousin. He knew about the visit of Jesus’ mother Mary to his mother Elizabeth. He knew that, while his birth was miraculous—his father and mother were far beyond the childbearing years—Jesus’ birth was a greater miracle. He had no earthly father! In John’s words, Jesus was “from above” and was “above all.”

The Supremacy of Christ
John had heard the voice of God calling him to the wilderness to preach, but he had not seen God. If Jesus was from “above,” who could imagine what He had seen? John’s taste of the supernatural filled him with an anticipation of the preaching of Jesus. Sadness tempered this anticipation for John also knew the prophetic prediction that most people would not listen to the message of Jesus.

“And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.”

John had stopped baptizing people and was looking across an expanse of the wilderness to where Jesus was at work with His followers and a growing crowd. As people left John’s congregation to go to Jesus, John’s heart quickened with joy.

“He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”

As people realized that it was a joyful thing to John to see them flock to Jesus, the flow increased.

“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.”

His voice was no more than a whisper now. He waved the people on toward Jesus.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

His time on the witness stand was over, his testimony complete. Picking up his belongings and quietly exited the scene, John thought with a smile, He must increase and I must decrease.

Scriptures:
John 3:30-36 NKJV

He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Prayer:
Lord, You have chosen to work in this world through people, not through angels. John had his work to do and when he was done, he stepped out of the spotlight. His earthly life was nearly done but his eternal reward would never cease. Help me learn from his example, Lord! I know what You have called me to do—I will be busy doing it until I take my final breath. John won Your commendation and that’s what I want to do! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
I Will Serve Thee

Words and Music: Bill Gaither

I will serve Thee, because I love Thee.
You have given life to me.
I was nothing until You found me.
You have given life to me.

Heartaches, broken pieces, ruined lives are why
You died on Calvary.
Your touch was what I longed for.
You have given life to me.

I will serve Thee, because I love Thee.
You have given life to me.
I was nothing until You found me.
You have given life to me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 13 “Bridegroom”

Bridegroom

Ideally, there are many kinds of joy at a wedding.
There is the joy of the bride and groom, so much in love, yet having preserved the expression of that love for this moment. There is the tearful joy of the parents of the couple, counting the days and years backward to remember the little girl and the little boy. Childhood images are gone forever except in memory and will soon be reflected again in the faces of the children to come from this union.

“Friend of the Bridegroom”
There is also the joy of the friends of the happy couple. John the Baptist referred to himself as the “friend of the Bridegroom.” His was not the spotlight. His role was to stand in the shadow of the husband-to-be. As John joyfully fulfilled this introductory role his followers did not understand. As the focus of the nation shifted from John to Jesus, John’s disciples were afraid for him. If their leader lost face, it somehow felt like a loss for them as well.

A Place of Much Water
When two prophets are abroad in the wilderness preaching and baptizing converts, an unplanned meeting was inevitable. In a place ideal for their ministries both Jesus and John were doing their work; Jesus preaching and His disciples baptizing. Prior to this, the leaders from Jerusalem disputed with the disciples of John about some theological aspect of purification. We are not told what the issue was, but it is easy to imagine the priests would not be pleased that John offered forgiveness for sin without going through the established agents of forgiveness. In the process of reporting this, some of John’s men mentioned that Jesus was preaching nearby.

“Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified — behold,
He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

John’s men were good men. They needed an understanding from John about how to deal with Jesus and His disciples. The natural assumption would be that He was a rival. Most likely, they were ready to fight for the honor due unto their leader.

Stepping Aside
John rushed to assure his men that He was not jealous of Jesus or His growing popularity. John had never claimed to be Messiah. He had made it clear that he was only the Forerunner. He tried to take the occasion to explain how the call of God worked in someone’s life.

“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”

The Kingdom God is not a place for competition among leaders. Each of us must determine the calling God has given to us and get busy fulfilling that call. We work together in this Kingdom; we do not compete with each other. John reminded them of what he had always said,

“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but,
‘I have been sent before Him.’”

His men were quiet, each man trying to tamp down his natural competitive instincts. Wasn’t life all about competition? Every man needs an edge… John interrupted their thoughts.

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.”

Quiet ensued with only the sounds of the wilderness to accompany the diminishing lines of those waiting to be baptized by John.

“Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”

John smiled the smile of a man whose best friend was getting married.

Scriptures:
John 3:22-29

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified — behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have placed a call on my life; You have given me work to do. Help me to never be confused by what You have called others to do. I must take joy in their faithfulness even if they seem to outshine me. Your approval is my heart’s desire, not the applause of others. Help me to be so caught up in what You have called me to do that I can only rejoice in the success of others. I want to be a good team member, Lord, doing my part well and enjoying the fellowship of the team. Amen.

Song:
We Will Stand

Words and Music: Russ and Tori Taff

1. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand
Why we pull away from each other so easily
Even though we’re all walking the same road
Yet we build dividing walls between our brothers and ourselves

2. But I, I don’t care what label you may wear
If you believe in Jesus you belong with me
The bond we share is all I care to see
And we can change this world forever
If you will join with me, join and sing

Refrain:
Oh you’re my brother, you’re my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes
There’s no foe that can defeat us
When we’re walking side by side
As long as there is love we will stand

3.The day will come when we will be as one
And with a mighty voice together
We will proclaim that Jesus, Jesus is King
And it will echo through the earth
It will shake the nations and the world will see, see that

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 12 “Believing”

Believing

Jesus led Nicodemus far beyond the land of logic to the land of faith—of believing.
In this realm, all things were possible. The rules of nature, the proclivities of creation, were just starting points for whatever God wanted to do. The power of God was at work when people simply believed in the Words of God. Nicodemus knew this, of course. He knew the stories of miracles he had heard since his childhood—the Red Sea splitting like a sliced apple, the thundering heights of Mt Sinai and the stone tablets of the Law, the water from the rock and the bitter waters healed by a felled tree, the Manna in the Wilderness and the quails flying just chest-high, the River Jordan rolling up to one side, the walls of Jericho, and the conquest of Canaan—all stories now becoming believable to him for the first time.

The New Birth
He could see the logic of it. He would not blame Jehovah for giving up on the reformation of Israel. Their sad history was one of revival and apostasy in shameful repetition despite godly prophets and kings. The faithless ones always seemed to prevail in less than a generation. Surely the problem was within the hearts of the people. If those hearts could be changed, restored to righteousness, then all of the nation could be saved. No power on earth could stand against Israel. Was this man Jesus, the One predicted? His news of a Spirit from God, perhaps God Himself, who could repair the sinful heart, cleanse the sin-stained mind, and heal the broken spirit must be the answer.

Jesus continued to teach this good man.

“…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Believing—How Does One Believe?
Was it too much to hope for? He and a few of the other leaders had the best of intentions. There was nowhere else to turn. The pagans all around them certainly had no answers. The Romans were wise to let the nations they have their religions; nothing changed in the hearts of people. Perhaps what was needed was a new creation—a new birth. Could merely believing be that powerful?

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Believing meant believing in Him—in Jesus! He was saying there were no other options. Jesus was not to be listened to and filed away with the other prophets. He was more than prophet—He was the Son of God—and He was to be believed.

The Light Has Come into the World.
It was simple, really. The Light had come into the world and to turn away from Him was to embrace the darkness. The unavoidable result of this was condemnation. When men love darkness rather than Light, the tragedy of human existence continues. Evil is the result and evildoers hate the light.

Those who believe—expressed by words and deeds—are those of the Light. They are those of this new birth.

Scriptures:
John 3:16-21

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus these thoughts, so new to Nicodemus, amaze me as well. You are the Light. Some people embrace You, happy to escape the darkness. Others are counting on the darkness to hide their evil deeds and true natures. The entrance of Your Word gives Light. May I always have Your Word on my lips. May my footsteps every day bring light to the world. In Your Name, Lord Jesus!

Song:
The Light of the World Is Jesus

Words and Music: Philip Bliss;

1. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Refrain:
Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!

2. No darkness have we who in Jesus abide;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
We walk in the light when we follow our Guide!
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Refrain

3. Ye dwellers in darkness with sin-blinded eyes,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Go, wash at His bidding, and light will arise;
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Refrain

4. No need of the sunlight in Heaven we’re told;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
The Lamb is the Light in the city of gold,
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 11 “Whosoever”

Whosoever

A refreshing breeze graced the courtyard where Jesus and Nicodemus conversed by night.
The careful, logical, reasonable Nicodemus was facing a totally illogical proposition—a new birth! It was impossible of course, in the natural scheme of things. Jesus, respecting the thoughtfulness of Nicodemus, explained the reality of spiritual rebirth.

Born Again
Adam and Eve were created without sin but with a choice. They enjoyed a freedom laden with personal responsibility. We do not know how long our two original parents “walked with God in the cool of the day” untroubled by temptation or sin or thoughts of death—it could have been centuries! When tempted they failed and sin entered the human condition. Eden and the close fellowship with God was lost. Without this daily fellowship with God, the descendants of Adam and Eve quickly fell into iniquity and perpetuated it to all subsequent generations all the way down to us.

Jesus is called the Second Adam because when tempted He did not sin. Then, in another garden, He drank the complete cup of iniquity for us all and took our sins upon Himself. Our sins were buried with His lifeless body. On the Third Day, He left that tomb and our sins remained there.

This salvation plan was designed to give each of us a new start with a new nature. Through Jesus we can rise above our record. We can walk again through each day and night in fellowship with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. We can be born again!

However, being “born again” made no sense to Nicodemus:

“How can a man be born when he is old?
Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Born of the Spirit
Legitimate questions! Smiling with a smile that seemed a torch in the darkened courtyard, Jesus told Nicodemus of the ministry of the Spirit. Another birth was needed, a spiritual rebirth.

“…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

There was logic in this—a strange, new line of reasoning like a door slowly opening in the well-trained mind of Nicodemus. Seeing the breakthrough, Jesus went on.

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The door was not opened wide enough to receive this.

“How can these things be?”

Earthly Things, Heavenly Things
The gentle smile departed from the face of Jesus as He expressed frustration that a leader in Israel would not have some inkling of the plan of God.

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe,
how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

Nicodemus lowered his head. He knew the accusation was true. Was there any real hope for a nation fallen so far from its heritage? Yes. And the hope stood before him—this man, Jesus! Through Him, the love of God was abroad in the land! Jesus went on.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

What was that word—“whosoever?” The most inclusive term possible! There was hope and He was standing there talking to him.

Scriptures:
John 3:5-15

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for opening my mind to so much of Your truth! Truly Your Spirit is at work opening my heart and mind as I pray and meditate on Your Word. Thank for this new birth. It is more than a lofty ideal—it is a reality! I am a new creature. Old things have passed away and all things are becoming new. Thank You for coming to this earth—thank You for coming to me! Amen.

Song:
Whosoever Meaneth Me

Words
1. I am happy today and the sun shines bright,
The clouds have been rolled away;
For the Savior said, whosoever will
May come with Him to stay.

Refrain: “Whosoever,” surely meaneth me,
Surely meaneth me, O surely meaneth me;
“Whosoever,” surely meaneth me,
“Whosoever,” meaneth me.

2. All my hopes have been raised, O His name be praised,
His glory has filled my soul;
I’ve been lifted up, and from sin set free,
His blood has made me whole.

Refrain:

3. O what wonderful love, O what grace divine,
That Jesus should die for me;
I was lost in sin, for the world I pined,
But now I am set free.

Refrain:

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 10, “Nicodemus”

Nicodemus

A few of the leaders of Israel were open to the ministry of Jesus.
Among them was Nicodemus, a man of reason and integrity who saw past the surface of things to the structures beneath. He was troubled by the gap, the incredible distance between the lives he and his contemporaries lived and the life the Covenant with Jehovah promised. He did what he could to make things better, to make everyday life a better reflection of how things should be. This passion opened the pathways of leadership to him as his peers and those younger turned to him for guidance.

More Problems than Just the Romans
He knew that the shortcomings of life in Israel were rooted as much in the vacant spirituality of the Temple as they were in the occupying Roman forces. It was just too easy to blame everything on Rome. The historical record was clear; when God’s People were true in their worship and in their covenantal responsibilities, Jehovah had proved to be their protector and rescuer. Nicodemus had a deep conviction that the experience of the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians could be the fate of Rome if the heart of the nation turned back to God.

Something was missing.
Nicodemus believed in God. He was faithful in daily prayers from the psalms. When David and the other poets spoke of the nearness of God or their delight in the Lord, these things rang true to Nicodemus. He studied the histories and was determined to learn from them and not to repeat the failures of his forebears. He wept as he read the prophets with their calls to repentance. He did not understand how the priests and other leaders could read and chant the Word of God and not be changed by the power of these sayings. How could they settle for a form of godliness that was totally devoid of power? He did his part in public with solemnity, hiding his breaking heart but inwardly, and in the quiet of his chamber, he wept.

Then Came Jesus
Before he even saw his first miracle, the words and manner of Jesus captured the hopes of Nicodemus. The miracles themselves demanded action on his part. He was puzzled by the reactions of the other leaders; they saw Jesus as a threat. Nicodemus saw hope, a hope upon which he had to act. He came to Jesus under the cover of darkness.

On this night, the Father had work for Him to do so Jesus knew in His spirit that He must stay in the city. He sent the disciples out to their resting place as He waited in the shadows. Nicodemus had been following Him, looking for an opportunity. When He saw Jesus alone, he approached respectfully, reasonably.

“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Logic was the friend of Nicodemus. He questioned the values of the other leaders with reasoning, not blind loyalty. This made him dangerous and unpredictable. Jesus, however, wanted to take him deeper than logic.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This made no sense so Nicodemus protested.

“How can a man be born when he is old?
Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

This was to be a night like no other.

Scriptures:
John 3:1-4

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for this journey of faith! You are leading me to places I never dreamed of. There have been mountaintops of revelation and deep valleys of fear but You have been with me every step of the way. As You did Nicodemus, You are leading me higher in You and deeper in faith. I will use my logic for my mind came from You. And, I will trust with my heart, for it is Your dwelling place. Wherever You lead, I know You are in command. Amen.

Song:
Ye Must Be Born Again

Words: William T. Spencer; Music: George C. Stebbins

1. A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again.

Refrain: Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

2. Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.

Refrain

3. O ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.

Refrain

4. A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see,
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain,
“Ye must be born again.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 9, “Knowledge”

Knowledge

Divested of divine omniscience—Jesus laid aside all divine qualities to become a man—Jesus depended upon the Holy Spirit.
In this, He serves as an example for us. The voice of the Spirit of God was constantly sounding in Jesus’ hearing. Sight and insight from the Spirit flashed on the screen of His human mind. That is how He saw Nathanael under the fig tree. This is how He read the minds of the priests and Pharisees. All minds were open to the Spirit and thus available to Jesus.

Jesus and Passover
John tells of Jesus’ first Passover visit to Jerusalem during His ministry. He had been here before as a child, a young man, and as simply a man of Israel. This time He did not come to listen and ask questions as He did at age 12. This time He came to give answers to the questions of others, to point the way to the Kingdom of God, and to work the wonders predicted by the prophets.

There had been others who claimed to be Messiah—slick politicians and marginally mad rebels—but none of these candidates did what Jesus did. Constantly informed by the Spirit of God, Jesus revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven and invited people into it. He brought the healing power of creation to rebuild lives and bodies ruined and ravaged by diseases. No other “Messiah” had done these things.

Some of the People Followed Him
The result was division. People were divided in their response to Him—some responding in faith and others in skepticism. The leaders were not so divided. Very few of them welcomed Jesus. By the Spirit, Jesus knew the difference. John says that He needed no screening committees to investigate who might be for or against Him.

“He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man,
for He knew what was in man.”

So Jesus did not commit Himself to any of these groups. The time would come when all would have to decide who they believed Him to be, but not just yet. Now was the time to plant the seeds of the Kingdom, to spread the Word, and to flow as a healing stream through the wounded nation.

Divine Knowledge Shared
The truly amazing thing about the Incarnation of Christ is this exchange of the Divine for the Human. He laid aside His divinity to become a human being like us. In this Jesus set the example how New Covenant spirituality would work. We, of course, do not walk in complete knowledge, but we have “the mind of Christ” as we live the Christian Life. God knows all, and through His Divine Spirit, He informs us of the things we need to know to rise to meet the challenges of the Christian life.

Principles and Power
One of the promises of the New Covenant is that the Lord would write the Word of God into our hearts. (Hebrews 8:10, 16) This enables us to “know” what is really going on around us. We have principles to live by that are proven true. At moments of crisis and opposition, we also have spiritual power to give answers, reveal hidden agendas, and rebuke unrighteousness as the Spirit delivers “the mind of Christ.”

In short—Jesus knows! And, as we need it, He shares what He knows with us.

Scriptures:
John 2:23-25

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Philippians 2:5-11 NLT
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16 NKJV
For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, how lovely is the voice of Your Spirit sounding in my heart! You do not leave me to my own thoughts, but inform my thinking according to Your Word. Your words are the words of life. They are candles in the darkness of this world. The Psalmist said that You are with us at all times and all the time You are speaking. Thank You for the sweetness of Your tender voice and the profound truth You keep before me. Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
Speak, My Lord

Words and Music: George Bennard;

1. Hear the Lord of harvest sweetly calling,
Who will go and work for Me today?
Who will bring to Me the lost and dying?
Who will point them to the narrow way?

Refrain
Speak, my Lord, speak, my Lord,
Speak, and I’ll be quick to answer Thee;
Speak, my Lord, speak, my Lord,
Speak, and I will answer, Lord, send me.

2. When the coal of fire touched the prophet,
Making him as pure, as pure can be,
When the voice of God said, Who’ll go for us?
Then he answered, Here I am, send me.

Refrain

3. Millions now in sin and shame are dying,
Listen to their sad and bitter cry;
Hasten, brother, hasten to the rescue;
Quickly answer, Master, here am I.

Refrain

4. Soon the time for reaping will be over;
Soon we’ll gather for the harvest home;
May the Lord of harvest smile upon us,
May we hear His blessèd, Child, well done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 8 “Temple”

Temple

Marketplaces murder worship.
When worship leaders trade the prophetic for the profitable, they make a truly terrible bargain. They destroy the worship before it can traverse from the earthly to the heavenly. The songs, the confessions, the well-rehearsed gestures, and the beautiful vestments all become commodities stained with human pride and disqualified for the courts of heaven.

The Angry Jesus
The gospels relate only a very few incidents where Jesus showed public anger. Each of them involved the desecration of the true worship of Jehovah or the abuse of power. Why did the apostasy of the Temple anger Jesus so? Perhaps it was because Jesus remembered the Throne Room of God in Heaven. The tabernacles and temples the Jewish people built for worship were patterned after the Throne Room of God in heaven[–His Throne Room! (Hebrews 8:3-6) False worship desecrated this holy pattern.

Also, false worship did not deliver the promises of God to the people who came to worship with sincere hearts. They would come in obedience but go away unchanged, still laboring in their guilt and pain. Jesus had such great love both for the Temple and the people, this daily failure broke His heart. He would walk these same streets in power. He would heal and deliver in this same Temple Court. The wilderness would be His school and His healing station. But on this day, near the time of Passover, the power of God was missing from the House of God.

Jesus struck at the most visible representation of the apostasy—the Temple merchants. They were profiting from the sale of animals for use as sacrifices in the Temple, a severe desecration of the Holy Place.

With Whip in Hand

The sounds of worship—cymbals, chants, silver trumpets and ram’s horns—mixed with the sounds of commerce—animals and auctioneers, coins and clamorous hucksters, pickpockets and pious priests—greeted Jesus in the Temple courts.

“He made a whip of cords, (and) He drove them all out of the temple.”

Never was a there such a day in the Temple Courts. He shouted as He drove them out.

“Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

His disciples were used to the commercial chaos in the Temple but today they ran for cover like everyone else. Some of them, though, could see His point though they had never before considered it. They remembered a verse from childhood.

“Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”

The Counter-Punch
After a time, things settled down and after a moment, beggar, thief, merchant, and priest alike, all scrambled to recover the scattered coins and corral the liberated livestock. The leaders made a quick huddle, elected a spokesman and challenged Jesus.

“What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

Seemed reasonable—a man has to have some sort of authority to create such a ruckus. Jesus answered with a whole new thought.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

The leaders looked at each other and broke out laughing. They reported the facts—This Temple was 40 years in the construction and still unfinished—raise it up in three days? Laughter erupted all around.

Jesus did not explain that He was talking about a different Temple—His own body. He threw down the whip and departed the Temple; His men followed silently. The strength in His stride quenched the laughter like water thrown on a fire.

Scriptures:
John 2:13-12

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
Hebrews 8:3-6 NKJV
For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your House is still to be a House of Prayer and nothing else—the prayers of praise, worship, adoration, intercession, faith and desperation. May we always keep Your House pure and free from lesser concerns. You have promised to meet with us when we pray, when we call out to You. You pledged to inhabit our praise and be enthroned upon our worship. I know You are faithful to these promises. Help me be faithful in prayer. Amen.

Song:
The Lord Is in His Holy Temple

Words: Habakuk 2:20; Music:George F. Root

The Lord is in his holy temple,
The Lord is in his holy temple;
Let all the earth keep silence,
Let all the earth keep silence before him –
Keep silence, keep silence before him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

September 7 “Wedding”

Wedding

Everybody loves a wedding.
Weddings–they happen every day. They happen in every family. Marriage, of course, is the fundamental building block for a godly society. Matthew records Jesus describing the wonderful bond of marriage as God’s plan from the beginning. So, in Cana of Galilee, there was a wedding with Jesus and His mother and the first of His disciples in attendance. Weddings happen somewhere every day, but, not like this!

Inclusion was by invitation only so it is reasonable to assume these were close relatives or at least friends. We are not told why, but when the hosts of the wedding feast ran out of wine, they took their problem to Mary, Jesus’s Mother. Neither are we told why Mary took the problem to Jesus but that is what she did.

Mary, Mother of the Savior
Unlike the other Evangelists, John introduces Mary in this scene rather than in the dramatic events of the birth of Jesus. By this time, there were 30 years of history between Jesus and Mary. Every mother pays close attention to her children and we can be sure that the half-brothers and sisters of Jesus received the proper care and attention from her. It is also certain that Mary and Jesus enjoyed a special bond, different from the others. As she watched Jesus grow through the normal stages of childhood all the way to young adulthood, Mary continued the process, begun so long ago, of “hiding things in her heart.” Of all people she would have known when it was time for Jesus to leave the carpenter’s shop to strike out on His particular Messianic mission. Perhaps at this wedding in Cana, she gave her Son a little nudge.

Water to Wine
He protested to her a little bit and I can imagine a look from her convinced Him that this was the right thing to do. She told the servants,

“Whatever He says to you, do it.”

(A good rule to live by, still today!) Jesus told the servants to fill 6 water pots full of water and serve it to the guests as if it were wine. They obeyed thinking all the while that it wasn’t going to be their fault when people complained. When they served the master of the feast, there were no complaints. On the contrary, the newly created wine was called the best. The master couldn’t remember buying such excellent stock but the servants knew the truth.

The First of Many
There is no indication that anyone but Mary, the servants, and Jesus knew what had really happened that day. This was the first of all the wondrous things Jesus would do. After the feast, in the warmth of the wine, Jesus and His family journeyed to Capernaum for a short visit.

Divine Approval
In the centuries since that day, preachers have taken this miracle as a blessing from Jesus on the institution of marriage. Marriage, indeed. is the plan of God and the fundamental organizational institution of mankind. The church itself is mirrored in the family. Metaphorically, Jesus is seen as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Holy Bride.

Time has proven the wisdom of this, in spite of the failures of marriages, there is no better organizational structure for the home and the health of the next generation. Mary’s advice still holds today where God’s Word is concerned.

“Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Man has never invented a better way to preserve the things of God to the next generation.

John 2:1-12
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
Matthew 19:8-9 NKJV
He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am thankful that You began Your miraculous ministry in such a homey way—at a wedding! It tells me that You are concerned about our normal lives. Little things matter to You. So many times, what matters to us matters to You. Help me be like those servants who filled the pots and poured the new wine. I want to be delighted every day to follow Your instructions and see the results of Your plan. Help me take Mary’s advice and do whatever You tell me to!

Song:
Bless Be the Tie that Binds

Words: John Fawcett; Music: Lowell Mason

1. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

2. Before our Father’s throne  we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,  our comforts and our cares.

3. We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows  the sympathizing tear.

4. When we are called to part,  it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,  and hope to meet again.

5. This glorious hope revives our courage by the way;
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.

6. From sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign  through all eternity.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.