October 24 “Attraction”

Attraction

The home of Simon the former leper in Bethany was the center of attention.
It was a three-fold attraction:

  1. A man who used to be a leper,
  2. A man who used to be dead, and
  3. The man who made these things happen.

This was an attraction powerful enough to brave gathering near the home of a leper! Surely, Simon had gone through all the cleansing rituals demanded by the Law. At any rate, John describes a gathering of some size and significance. As usual, the crowd contained true believers, curious seekers, and outright enemies.

Deeper Needs
There was more going on there than mere attractions. People were drawn to Jesus because of deep needs within themselves. That life is a struggle was a known fact then as now. We come into this world we are totally dependent upon our mother for the sustenance of life. Growing up only widens the circle of our dependence. When we can walk we no longer need to be carried but we still need somewhere to walk and someone to show us how. We mature into adults and learn how to provide for ourselves through discipline and hard work but these things only provide the basics. Each of us still has a sense of deeper needs than mere survival.

What are these needs? We long for beauty, for meaning, for purposeful work, for companionship, for rest from our purposeful work, and even for joy and pleasure. The blessings and challenges of life are not distributed evenly in this world. Appeals for care of the sick, disabled, and the poor move those who are well, able, and affluent among us to give to these organizations. Deep needs are resident in the hearts of those living on the streets and those occupying the penthouses high above the streets. It is for these things that we, like the people in the Jesus Story, come to Jesus.

Jesus and the Father
When Jesus made the claim that He and the Father were one, this was at once the most promising and illuminating thing He could have said. The people knew who Jehovah God was. He had revealed Himself through a series of covenantal names. Each of these names reveals God to be the answer to the deepest longings of people.

  • We need things so He is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Who Provides things Genesis 22:14
  • We need to belong to Him so He is Jehovah-Mekaddish, The Lord Who Sanctifies setting us apart for Him. Exodus 31:13
  • We are embattled against evil so He is Jehovah-Nissi, The Lord Who Is My Banner, My Victory. Exodus 17:15
  • We are subject to sickness so He is Jehovah-Rapha, The Lord Who Heals. Exodus 15:26
  • We are like sheep so He is Jehovah-Roi, The Lord Who Is My Shepherd. Psalm 23:1
  • We are often troubled so He is Jehovah-Shalom, The Lord Who Is Our Peace. Judges 6:24
  • We need for Him to be close by so He is Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord Who is Present. Ezekiel 48:35
  • We have a sinful nature that separates us from God so He is Jehovah-Tsidekenu, the Lord Who Is Our Righteousness. Jeremiah 23:6
  • We need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves so He is Jehovah-Saboath, the Lord of Hosts. 1 Samuel 1:3

When Jesus claimed to be One with the Father, He was claiming to be all of these things. People were attracted to Him because, knowingly or not, they needed Him. This is also true for us.

Scriptures:
John 12: 9-11

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I need You! Without You I am alone in this world and in deep trouble. I need everything You revealed in Your covenant names! Thank You for being there for me. You are my Shepherd, my Healer, my Savior, my Provider, my Victor, my Righteousness, my Peace. You sanctify me, setting me apart for Your use. You have grafted me into the Vine making me a full member of Your Holy Nation, of Your Chosen People. Oh, how I need You, Lord! Thank You. Amen.

Song:
I Need Thee Every Hour

Words: Annie S. Hawks and Robert Lowry; Music: Robert Lowry

1. I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.

2. I need thee every hour, stay thou near by;
temptations lose their power when thou art nigh.

Refrain

3. I need thee every hour, in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide, or life is vain.

Refrain

4. I need thee every hour; teach me thy will,
and thy rich promises in me fulfill.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 23 “Bethany”

Bethany

We can hear the anger of John in his description of Judas.
Writing many years later, John still seethed at the treachery of Judas. Jesus knew this all along. Why did He let it continue? He should have expelled such a man from the team. If Jesus had done that… There was no use speculating. Judas had a role to play in the drama we call “The Passion.”

A Dinner in Bethany
The large, comfortable home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus had been the scene of many a gathering of Jesus and His men, but this party was held in the home of another man rescued by Jesus—a former leper named Simon. Martha was in charge (She loved being in charge!) of the whole event. Hospitality was her gift and she was never happier than when her apron was dusted with flour and her hair was pulled back. She would grumble under her breath and complain about the lack of help, especially from her lazy sister, but everyone saw through her ruse. Even in the unfamiliar kitchen, Martha was having a ball. There was a crowd outside the house. Everybody wanted to see Lazarus, the man who went into a tomb and came back out again, and Jesus, the man whose command brought Lazarus out.

Mary, the Worshiper
She was the dreamer, the silent witness who kept her observations to herself. The level of worship Mary brought to Jesus resulted in a level of understanding that others did not receive. The loss and restoration of her brother had done something in her heart that no one else understood. Unlike so many others, Mary really listened to what Jesus said. Repeatedly, Jesus had warned them that He had come to give life to those who believed but also to give His life for everyone. Mary took these words to heart. When she saw neighbors unwrapping Lazarus from the graveclothes, her joy was tinged with sorrow. In her mind, she saw Jesus similarly contained in the binding garments of death. Who would call Him out?

The Alabaster Jar
Somewhere safe Mary kept a treasure—a full pound of anointing oil—contained in an alabaster jar. This valuable perfume, imported from India, was of extreme value, the equivalent of a year’s wages for a common laborer. While others were enjoying the meal, Mary obsessed over this alabaster jar and the nearness of Jesus. Without speaking, she produced the alabaster jar. Kneeling at the feet of Jesus, she broke the neck of the jar and poured its contents on His feet.

As she stroked His feet with her long hair, the fragrance of the perfume filled Simon’s house. All conversation stopped and every eye was upon her. Some saw her act of worship while others saw an act of waste. While some wept with her in adoration, Judas rebuked her for her reckless action. Caught with his heart revealed, Judas quickly pled the cause of the poor but his protests rang hollow. Jesus rebuked him

“Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.”

Silence now, except for the soft weeping of the sister of Lazarus. She realized events were building to a conclusion. Jesus lifted her swollen face in His hands and looked deep into her spirit. She did not turn away as His eyes searched her soul.

“For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Lazarus thought of the darkness of the tomb and tried to imagine Jesus a prisoner there.

Scriptures:
John 12:1-8

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
Matthew 26:6-13
And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I see Mary’s gift of her alabaster jar as the supreme example of True Worship. You were her total focus. She did not perform this act of worship before men and their disdain of it and of her did not prevent her from following through. She pleased You and earned Your highest commendation. You said, “Leave her alone. She has done what she could. She has done a beautiful thing to me.” You connected her worship with the preaching of the gospel. All of these things I wish for my worship of You. She was in Your will in the moment preparing You for Your tomb. May my love for You be always as pure and powerful. Amen.

Song:
My Jesus, I Love Thee

Words: William R. Featherstone; Music: A. J. Gordon

1. My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
for thee all the follies of sin I resign;
my gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

2. I love thee because thou hast first loved me
and purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

3. I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath,
and say when the deathdew lies cold on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

4. In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 22 “Caiaphas”

Caiaphas

When one is the leader, people expect a plan of action.
That year the office of High Priest fell to Caiaphas. The news from Bethany made it impossible to simply watch Jesus; something demanded doing. The first step? –call a meeting, of course!

The Council Meeting
There was only one item on the agenda: Jesus. He had to be stopped! The miracles and the teaching produced an uproar. Too many people were convinced that He was indeed Messiah. That was the last thing the leadership needed. The carefully constructed status quo the leaders had built with Rome allowed them to stay in power (under the authority of Rome) and maintain their religion, culture, and customs. They chafed under the iron boot of Rome, but it could’ve been so much worse. Those armed Roman soldiers showed no hesitation to use their weapons should the need arise. Their horse-mounted officers were highly trained at the detection of behavior that might lead to trouble.

It had all been fairly simple: stay in the Temple; use the streets for processions and stay out of politics. The would-be messiahs and their bands were easily captured, tried, and executed. The leaders had to make sure Jesus and the Twelve suffered the same fate.

However, none of the pretenders had ever shown the ability to heal the sick, drive out demons, or command the weather, much less raise the dead! This Jesus could even freeze a squad of Roman soldiers or Temple guards with just a look. The Council must have a plan to get this man to the Romans!

So they had a meeting.

Stating the Problem
All good meetings start this way. Like reading the minutes from the last meeting, the case was set forth.

“What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

John does not tell us how much debate ensued. The combination of panic and ambition tends to make for long meetings. Caiaphas was in the chair so he let every leader who wished to speak talk until it all was talked out. This well-educated, richly bedecked mob could not reach a consensus. Caiaphas had known all along what he would do and when the time came, he presented his plan. It was a mixture of religion and politics—even then, a dangerous concoction.

The Plan
Caiaphas began with an insult.

“You know nothing at all…”

A half-hearted protest tried to get started but everyone was out of fuel.

“…nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people,
and not that the whole nation should perish.”

He let this rationale sink in. He had the religious authority to declare it an act worship to destroy Jesus! He had the political acumen to make it a necessity for the survival of the nation. Caiaphas merged religious fervor with patriotic pragmatism. John elevates this plan to the level of prophecy. Unknown to Caiaphas, he was expressing the plan of God.

The Turning Point
From that moment, Jesus would no longer freely walk in Jerusalem. He and the disciples retreated to a wilderness village called Ephraim. As the time of the Passover drew near, people in Jerusalem wondered aloud if Jesus would appear at the feast. The guards and the agents of the Pharisees were ready should He appear.

Scriptures:
John 11:45-57

Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples. And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think — that He will not come to the feast?” Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Master of time itself. For us, events unfold in sequence that results in three-fold experience of time: past and present with expectations of the future. We are mastered by these things but You are the Master of them. When You laid aside Your omnipresence, You joined us in our time-bound state. In that capacity You reached a turning point in Your life on earth. You know what it feels like to cross a time barrier from which there is no return. You walk with me through my time with peace. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
One Day

Words: J. Wilbur Chapman; Music: Charles H. Marsh
1. One day when Heaven Was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was As black as could be,
Jesus came forth To be born of a virgin,
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

Refrain:
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried My sins far away;
Rising He justified freely forever:
One day He’s coming– O glorious day!

2. One day they led Him Up Calvary’s mountain,
One day they nailed Him To die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected:
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!

Refrain

3. One day they left Him Alone in the garden,
One day He rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!

Refrain

4. One day the grave Could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!

Refrain

5. One day the trumpet Will sound for His coming,
One day the skies With His glory will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved One bringing;
Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 21 “Graveclothes”

Graveclothes

We must not try to walk in newness of life wearing the clothes of death.
Jesus, at the grave of Lazarus, would demonstrate the power of the life He brought to the world. Born of a virgin, He had life in Him to share with us. A foretaste of our destiny is seen in the cemetery at Bethany. This corruptible shall put on incorruption!

The Cemetery in Bethany
At the tomb of Lazarus, amid the grief of the crowd, Jesus groaned in His spirit. Unlike the loud utterance before, this sound emitted from deep in His chest. His great heart was stirred and this was the sound of it.

Approaching the tomb, He saw the great stone rolled to cover the entrance. The groan became a command,

“Take away the stone.”

After a brief moment of hesitation, strong men sprang to obey. Martha warned against the removal of the stone; the air from inside would surely be foul.

“…he has been dead four days.”

Jesus turned sharply in her direction,

“Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

Martha, regretting her objection, shrunk her shoulders to their smallest dimension at Jesus’ rebuke. Then, remembering who He was and the promise He made, she straighten up to her full height to see what the power of the resurrection could do.

A Stone No Longer Needed
With tools and levers and the muscles of strong men, the stone that sealed the tomb of Lazarus was rolled away. Onlookers covered their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a 4-day-old internment. Amazing—there was no odor. There was a fragrance like flowers in heaven, if there could be flowers in heaven.

Recognizing the essence of glory, Jesus looked to heaven, knowing the work inside the tomb was finished. Smiling, He spoke to the Father,

“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

The mouth of the tomb yawned in darkness, revealing no miracle, yet promising everything. The fragrance of new life, filled the cemetery, taking the breath of those who looked on.

The Command of Life
Jesus gathered His prodigious strength and shouted specifically to Lazarus, lest every occupant of every grave would obey Him,

“Lazarus, come forth!”

Silence and then a slight rustle. A figure, wrapped from head to foot, struggled into the light of the open tomb. Frozen in place by the wonder of it all, no one sought to assist Lazarus. They could see him breathing through the tightly wound linen covering his face and struggling to free his hands and feet. The aroma of heaven spilled into the atmosphere all around him.

Laughing, Jesus suggested a plan of action to those closest to Lazarus.

“Loose him, and let him go.”

Never before was there such joy in a cemetery.

Like Lazarus
Like Lazarus, we have been called from death to life. We have been rescued by the command of Jesus. We who once were dead are alive again. No one but Jesus can do this. However, many times we still are wrapped in the clothes of the grave—the attitudes, philosophies, and values of this world. The Holy Spirit wants to “loose us and let us go” and He uses people, godly people, to do the work. That’s why we need the church.

Scriptures:
John 11:38-44

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NKJV
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Victor over death, hell, and the grave. That heavy stone could not contain the new life You gave to Your friend, Lazarus. It was his story and it is our promise. You rescue from death those who believe in You and confess You as Lord! Sometimes, Lord, we try to live this new life with the rotting graveclothes still on our backs. Lord, free us from worldly thinking! Liberate us from the culture of death that surrounds us. Help us walk in newness of life! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Rise Up O Church of God

Words: William Pierson Merrill; Music: William H. Walter

1. Rise up O church of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength To serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up O church of God! His kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood And end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up O sons of God! The church for you doth wait.
Her strength unequal to her task Rise up and make her great.

4. Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where His feet have trod.
As foll’wers of the Son of Man, Rise up O church of God!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 20 “Tears”

Tears

Often, the flood of emotion in the lives of the people who followed Him, inundated Jesus.
He walked this earth as a man, a strong man capable of hard work and an able man who stood up for what was right. He was so strong, he felt the tears of those who mourned, the sorrows of those who suffered loss, and pain of those visited by injustice. Thus, Jesus felt the emotions of those who grieved at the tomb of Lazarus.

Mary—a Woman of Passion
Mary, the other sister of Lazarus, was devastated by his death. When she heard that Jesus had arrived, she was unable or unwilling to receive Him. Unlike her sister, Martha, who could always find something to do, Mary seemed paralyzed by grief for her brother and disappointment with her hero. She remained shut away in a dark room with the windows closed to any hope at all. No one dared disturb her—no one except her sister.

Martha returned to their home and stormed into the room, threw open the windows and dragged Mary to her feet. Mary did not resist. Like a child’s doll, she yielded to the strength of her sister. Trying to free Mary from this paralysis, Martha shook her.

“The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”

At the sound Martha’s words, “The Teacher,” the lethargy of Mary was broken. She straightened up, smoothed her hair, dried her eyes, and pinched her cheeks all while hurrying out of the room. As she went, she grew in strength with every step. The people who had gathered at their house followed her thinking that she was going to the tomb.

She saw Jesus…
Arriving at the tomb, Mary saw Jesus standing there. Her love for Him overcame her disappointment in Him. Falling at His feet, too wounded to shed any more tears, her worship was tinged with pain. She echoed Martha’s rebuke.

“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

With those words, words of incontrovertible fact, the dam holding back the tears broke. A wail of treble voices lifted from the cemetery in Bethany to the skies above. A lone bass voice, joined the chorus of grief. Jesus groaned so deeply in His spirit that such a sound had never been heard. Captivated by this sound, the mourners fixed their eyes on Him. Through the din of collective grief, Jesus asked,

“Where have you laid him?”

When they pointed to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus lowered His head as tears flooded down His face. The most eloquent verse in the Bible is this:

“Jesus wept.”

The significance of His sorrow was not lost on onlookers. They recognized the love Jesus had for this family and wondered why He let it happen.

Mysteries Remain
As followers of Jesus, we are blessed with so many clearly stated promises. Our God is a God who keeps covenant. In the Bible, we have so many splendid answers to the great questions of life:

  • Who made the world and why?
  • Who made us and why?
  • Who holds the ultimate destiny for each of us?

Along the way, disappointments come our way. It seems that unnecessary loss and pain come our way. Bad things happen to good people, seemingly without reason. We are not the first, nor will we be the last, to suffer at no fault of our own in this world. These things are mysteries in this world and will be clearly understood in the world to come. Until then, confess faith in Jesus!

Scriptures:
John 11:28-37

And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
Philippians 3:7-11 NKJV
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when You arrive on the scene, the scene is about to change for the better! Unlike us, You do not stand by, a helpless onlooker, and clueless observer. You come with “healing in Your wings” as Malachi prophesied. You have answers for our questions, even when the only part of the answer we can understand is Your nearness. At Your arrival, sickness must give way, powers of darkness must surrender and flee the scene. When You are near, hope—a hope based in eternity!—rises in our hearts. Here we will stand in any storm for You are with us! Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
The Solid Rock

Words: Edward Mote; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the ‘whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 19 “Resurrection”

Resurrection

This was no metaphorical death.
The body of Lazarus was decomposing in the cave-like tomb. Four days of this rancid deconstruction had already passed by the time Jesus arrived at Bethany. In those days grieving the dead was a public as well as a private process. Even four days after internment, friends and family of Martha and Mary remained with them to grieve with them and meet whatever needs they had.

Two Sisters; Two Different Women
The biblical accounts of the relationship between Jesus and each the sisters provide many life lessons for those of us who follow the Lord. When their brother, Lazarus, is added to the story, the lessons increase again. Many have said that Martha was the worker and Mary the worshiper and Lazarus was, like us, torn between the two. This is an oversimplification of course but it is a helpful observation.

Martha—A Woman of Action
The key to her personality is given by Dr. Luke—“She made Jesus welcome.” How we need to learn from this woman! She shows us a key to effective living. When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went out to meet Him. She was on such friendly terms with Him that she began with a rebuke.

“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Perhaps she thought her excellent record of serving Him should earn her special favor in His eyes. Or, perhaps it was a simple statement of fact and faith. Her confidence in Jesus remained at a high level.

“But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

She faced the reality of her brother’s passing but she avoided underestimating Jesus. His answer to her was well within the accepted understanding of life and death and life again.

“Your brother will rise again.”

The Written Word; the Living Word
As we must do in times of crisis or sorrow, Martha confessed faith in the Word of God.

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus took Martha’s hands and guided her to a place where they could sit and talk. He had something new and powerful to tell her. When, through her tears, she was able to focus on His face, He continued.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

Moving her lips but making no sound, Martha repeated the words He said to her, as if she were memorizing a new recipe. She nodded her head when she finished. Jesus asked her,

“Do you believe this?”

This was no rhetorical question. She knew she had to answer from the depth of her whole life. She had a broken, grieving sister sitting in the house and a brother wasting away in a grave. There was so much at stake. As she weighed her answer, a high, white cloud crept across the face of the bright sun, like despair stealing hope from the world. In its shadow, she answered.

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, the cloud gave way to the full light of day.

Scriptures:
John 11:17-27

So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes clouds of circumstance seem to obscure the brightness of Your covenantal promises. But, like the sun on a cloudy day, Your promises remain in force. Just as Martha found hope in Your presence, may I find confidence in You today regardless of circumstances. You are faithful even in the darkest moments of life. In such times, help me remember the outstanding record of Your faithfulness to me and help me to pass through this gate of remembrance—it is called the Gate of Thanksgiving! Let my remembrance build my faith for today’s challenges. Amen.

Song:
Give Thanks

Words and Music: Kenneth Paul Barker/Andy Cloninger/Claire D. Cloninger/Henry Smith

Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

Give thanks

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 18 “Lazarus”

Lazarus

Evidently the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany was a substantial one.
Dr. Luke tells us that Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. It seems the whole entourage of Jesus and His 12 disciples stayed there often. How blessed was this relationship!

Death pays a visit to Bethany.
Death plays no favorites. Even this family, so focused on ministering to Jesus in every way, tasted the pain and loss of an untimely death. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that His friend, Lazarus was seriously ill. The news of these events spread quickly but travel itself was slow.

When Jesus heard this, the immediate future was as clear to Him as the immediate past. He knew that Lazarus would die for the purposes of God—to demonstrate the Resurrection power of Jesus. To heal a sick body or mind was a wonderful thing—to raise a dead body to life again was even more wonderful. It was time to demonstrate this power.

Jesus and Death
He spoke often of death. He tried to prepare His followers that part of His mission was to die. These words seemed to fly by the minds of those who heard Him. Jesus knew the prophecies of Messiah.

  • Yes, He would be a great leader, a rescuer of the nation from tyranny.
  • Yes, He would be a teacher, revealing the details of a New Covenant with God. That New Covenant would be written in His blood.
  • Yes, the glory of the Lord would be revealed and all mankind would see it. (Isaiah 40) Isaiah also predicted the death of the “suffering servant.” (Isaiah 53)

Both of these things would be true of Jesus.

It is interesting to consider how physical death might have weighed on the mind of One who had lived forever. When Jesus laid aside the characteristics of God to become a man, He appropriated a body destined to die. How did He read Isaiah? Perhaps we get a glimpse of the impact of the impending pain and death when we see Him at prayer in the Garden. That account is still to come.

“He stayed two more days…”
When Jesus received the news, He did not rush to His friends. He waited two days before starting for Bethany. When He told His men that it was time to go to Judea, they protested that it was too dangerous. They knew the elders were ready to stone Him. He explained that His mission demanded it and that nothing would happen out of God’s timing.

Jesus spoke to them in spiritual terms.

“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

They didn’t get it. Perhaps some sleep would do the young man some good. He put it to them clearly.

“Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there,
that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

Thomas, the logical, practical one of the 12, voiced what most of them were thinking.

“Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

The Purposes of God
The untimely death of Lazarus served a purpose, one unseen by the natural eye, but one more real than physical sight. Just so, our lives and our deaths as followers of Jesus are freighted with purpose, sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden until revealed in eternity. While the purposes of God may not always be visible, the promises by which we live are clearly set forth and unchanging.

John 11:1-16
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Luke 10:38-39 NKJV
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your purposes in my life are sometimes clearly seen, spurring me on to each day’s obedience. At other times I cannot see what You are doing in me and in the lives of those around me. Holy Spirit, empower me to rise to each day’s challenges in either case. While circumstances sometimes puzzle me, there are always things of which I am sure: Your love, Your faithfulness, Your goodness, and Your amazing ability to make all things work together for my good. I will hold to You regardless of circumstances! Amen and amen.

Song:
I Know Whom I Have Believed

Words: D.W. Whittle; Music: James McGranahan

1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

2. I know not how this saving faith To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word Wrought peace within my heart.

Refrain

3. I know not how the Spirit moves, Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word, Creating faith in Him.

Refrain

4. I know not what of good or ill May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days, Before His face I see.

Refrain

5. I know not when my Lord may come, At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him, Or meet Him in the air.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 17 “Works”

Works

The words of Jesus that He and the Father were ONE, had the Pharisees reaching for rocks again.
As His critics and accusers rushed to find stones to heave at Him, Jesus stood to His feet and by that simple motion, silenced and stilled them. With rocks hanging useless at their sides and breaths coming in short, shallow bursts, the would-be murderers could only stand and listen to what He said next.

“Many good works I have shown you from My Father.
For which of those works do you stone Me?”

Confusion reigned among the potential assassins until one terror-stricken leader spoke up.

“FFFFor a gggood wwork we do not stone you, bbbbut…”

Another, less-frightened Pharisee continued for him…

“…but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

The crowd erupted in approval. Even those who leaned toward believing in Jesus could not follow Him that far.

A Whole New Thought
When their shouts subsided Jesus continued as calm as a summer evening.

“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”‘?

Oh, He was clever, this one, quoting a rare use of the word “lord” as a reference to righteous judges proclaiming the Word of God! Historians help us understand:

“[Ye are gods] This was said of magistrates on account of the dignity and honor of their office, and it shows that the Hebrew word translated “god,” ‎lohiym‎, in that place might be applied to man. Such a use of the word is, however, rare.” (Barnes’ Notes)

Jesus continued:

“…do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

A question they had never considered stunned the inquisitors. Jesus took advantage of the silence.

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;
but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works,
that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

There was no answer available to them beyond the stones they had gathered.

Another Escape
John does not tell us how, but Jesus “escaped out of their hand.” Perhaps it was easier since the Twelve were not with Him. How we would love to know if He merely froze them with a look and “passed through their midst” as He had done before or if some diversion claimed the eyes of His attackers just enough time for Him to slip away. Somehow, they missed Him.

Surely, stupid-looking, well-dressed dignitaries with rocks in their hands stood around in His sudden absence trying to avoid each other’s eyes. Again, the muffled sound of unneeded stones falling to the dusty streets of Jerusalem punctuated another escape of this One called Jesus.

Crossing Jordan
At some point His men joined Him and together they crossed Jordan and journeyed to the place where John the Baptist had baptized so many. Tired from the constant battles in the streets of Jerusalem and in the courts of the Temple, Jesus stayed beyond the Jordan for several days. Those who had experienced the ministry of John had heard about Jesus. The tales of signs and wonders convinced them that this was the Man of whom John spoke. For them, the works Jesus did were proof of His claims.

“And many believed in Him there.”

Whether in the streets of the city or in the gullies and ridges of the wild Judean wilderness, the words and deeds of Jesus pointed to Him as the Son of God.

Scriptures:
John 10:31-42

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”‘? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand. And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed. Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” And many believed in Him there.
Psalm 82 NKJV
God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked. They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable. I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Remind me that You are still at work in this world. You are saving, healing, rescuing, delivering, binding and loosing, teaching and responding to prayers. You are not separated from us, sitting remote and removed way off yonder in heaven. You are as close as the mention of Your name! You promised to never leave us and You haven’t! Your name has always been “Emmanuel—God with Us!” I will call upon You and You will answer. I will cry out to You and You will act in my behalf! You are still at work in this world! Amen! Hallelujah!

Song:
He’s as Close as the Mention of His Name

Words and Music: Gordon Jensen

1. In the very thought of Jesus His presence can be found.
He’s as close as The mention of His Name.
There is never any distance between my Lord and me.
He’s as close as The mention of His Name

Refrain:
He’s as close as the mention of His Name Jesus, Jesus.
He’s as close as the mention of His Name Jesus, Jesus.

2. In my hour of struggle so many times I’ve found,
He’s as close as the mention of His Name
Just to breathe the Name of Jesus can turn ev’rything around.
He’s as close as the mention of His Name.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 16 “One”

One

It was winter as Jesus walked and taught, alone, in the Temple Courts.
The Feast of Dedication was a wintertime celebration of the restoration of the Temple by the Maccabees in the Second Century B.C.. Historians explain its origin.

“This feast, also known as Hanukkah and the Feast of Lights…developed in the era of the Maccabees and celebrated the cleansing of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes. (It was) observed on the 25th day of the ninth month.” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

This restoration of Covenantal worship shook off the Greek influence of Alexander the Great and his descendants.

Celebrating a Victory and a Revival
The three major feasts instituted by the Law of Moses were celebrations of the seasons of the year and the promised blessings of God. The Feast of Dedication celebrated a victory over surrounding enemies, Greeks on one side and Syrians on the other. The Temple was destroyed by the pagans but rebuilt by the successful Jewish rebels. Covenantal worship was restored. Jesus found this wintertime feast an occasion to walk through the Temple courts and teach at Solomon’s Porch on the Eastern side of the restored Temple.

Another Attempt
Unlike the warm days and friendly nights of the other feasts, the people gathering to the temple were bundled against the approaching winter. Evidently the disciples preferred to stay inside where it was warm. The skies were clear with a deep azure blue. The only clouds to be seen were puffs of steam emitted by the breathing of the people. When Jesus started teaching, He attracted the usual crowd of hungry souls and opportunistic critics.

The Pharisees thought it was time to pin Him down.

“How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus paused in the point He had been making and smiled at the questioners. How the Pharisees hated that smile! It always signaled some pronouncement with which they would have to deal. Jesus answered promptly.

“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name,
they bear witness of Me.”

It was true, and it was all the people needed: miracles, signs, and wonders. The Pharisees needed more—they needed words they could use to convict. Jesus went on.

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

His sheep? Was He claiming to be God Himself? The psalms made it clear that the flock belongs to God! But Jesus wasn’t through.

“…they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

What was this? Only God can give life! How can He promise such things?

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;
and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

His “Father” again! Is he claiming to be the Son of God? What more do we need to hear from him? At that point Jesus made the supreme claim.

“I and My Father are one.”

At that moment, a biting wind streaked through the Temple courts, taking the breath away from believers and critics alike. How could He say such a thing? Each one in the crowd whispered into his/her own spirit, the Shema Yisral, their daily confession and the centerpiece of their spirituality.

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

The smile on Jesus’ face remained there for all to see.

Scriptures:
John 10:22-30

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
John 17:20-23 NKJV
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I marvel at the revelation of the Trinity—that God is both ONE and THREE. I cannot do the math but this is not a mathematical truth. I can believe this and I do! I know that somehow the love flowing between Father and Son flows also between Father and Spirit and round and round inside this mysterious Godhead. These cycles of love are the source of Your love for me and mine for You! Just as You and the Father are One by the Spirit, You prayed that we as Your people must be ONE in the same way, by the same Spirit. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Be Near Us Holy Trinity

Words: Traditional: Music: Frederick Arthur Gore-Ouseley

1. Be near us, Holy Trinity, One Light, one only Deity!
All things are Thine, on Thee depend, Who art Beginning without end.

2. The myriad armies of the sky Praise, bless, adore Thy majesty:
Earth’s triple frame—land, air, and sea— Upraise their canticle to Thee.

3. We, too, Thy suppliant servants all, Before Thy feet adoring fall:
To Thee our vows and prayers we bring With hymns that saints and angels sing.

4. One we believe Thee, Light divine, And worship in a glorious Trine:
O First and Last, we humbly cry, And all things having breath reply.

5. Praise to the Father, made of none, Praise to the sole-begotten Son,
Praise to the Holy Spirit be—Mysterious Godhead, One in Three!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 15 “Sheep”

Sheep

The difference was ownership.
Keepers of sheep did not always own or love the sheep. If there was no relationship between the attendant and the sheep, something essential was lost. At that point, the keeper became only a hireling—a person doing a job for money.

Valuable Assets
Sheep may not have been the brightest of God’s creatures but they had immense value to their owners. There were four levels of worth attributed to the sheep owned by a family in Israel:

  1. They presented a renewal resource—their wool—available regularly without costing the life of the sheep.
  2. They were in the habit of creating more sheep, thus adding to the wealth of the family.
  3. The flock provided perfect lambs for worship.
  4. They were also edible.

All of this added to the value of the flock and the status and influence of the family.

Good help is hard to find.
This old adage was as true in Jesus’ day as it has been through the ages. The keeping of the flocks was a profession, perhaps not at the top of the economic heap, but an important one with no shame attached. Because sheep were important, good shepherds were important. It was inevitable that unworthy men would take their turns at this profession, caring nothing for the sheep or the owner or his family. It was to these scoundrels that Jesus compared the wicked leaders in Jerusalem. It was a metaphor with much still to teach.

The Good Shepherd
Jesus claimed the skilled, compassionate shepherd as the illustration of Messiah, of Himself.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

The commitment of the Good Shepherd was without peer. It was not a matter of giving His life for the sheep if necessary. It was necessary and it would happen. Giving His life for the sheep was not a possibility; it was a plan.

The world in which the sheep grazed was a dangerous place. A terrible, hungry wolf ruled the darkness. The hired hand was more afraid of the wolf than the sheep were. He had no courage or skill to defend the flock.

“But a hireling…sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he … does not care about the sheep.”

Victorious Defender
The Good Shepherd will not only give His life for the sheep, He will shackle and disarm the wolf in the process. The power of His love is greater than the darkness or the terror or the dangers in the world. It is the power of a new life, one given by the Spirit and shared with the sheep. He speaks with a voice instantly recognized by even the least of the sheep.

As Jesus spoke of these things in this beautiful imagery, division arose as some understood others did not. Some called Him demonic and others deemed Him mad. Believers saw the impossibility of the Good Shepherd being evil.

A Pastor is a Shepherd
Later in John’s Story, Jesus will rededicate a repentant Peter by a repeated call to “Feed My Sheep.” Today we think of pastors as executives or managers or dynamic personalities and these things they may be. Underneath the contemporary duties, a true pastor is a shepherd, an under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd, Jesus. Pastors are important because people are important.

Scriptures:
John 10:11-21

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
John 21:15-18 NKJV
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am honored to be a member of the flock in Your care. I know Your voice and I trust Your wisdom and care. I have encountered the wolf for he has planned to have me, to ruin my life. You reveal to me all his devices and protect me with holy armor: A helmet of Salvation, shoes carefully prepared with the Gospel, a breastplate of goodness, and a belt of truth. You arm me with the Sword of the Spirit and shield of faith. In You I have nothing to fear from the wolf, the roaring lion or the lying devil. You are my Shepherd and I am in Your flock! Thank You, Lord.

Song:
Only Believe

Words and Music: Paul Rader

1. Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.

Refrain:
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe;
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

Refrain

2. Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

Refrain

3. Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, “the doors being shut,”
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved