January 8 “Power”

Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 4 “If…”

If…

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

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

“Everyone is looking for You.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

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

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

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

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

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

Song:
Reach Out and Touch the Lord
Traditional

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

January 3 “Kingdom”

Kingdom

Jesus emerged from the wilderness with great power and purpose.
He had a Kingdom to declare. “The time is fulfilled.” The way to keep up was to repent—“The Kingdom of God is at hand!” It was no longer a theme of history; it was the present reality. It was no longer the stuff of metaphor and imagination; the kingdom was now in flesh, to be seen and heard, touched and handled. This Kingdom had a King.

The bad news was that John had been arrested by Herod.
Now Jesus was alone in declaring the Kingdom and the need for repentance. He was in Galilee preaching the gospel when he saw two brothers attending to their family business—fishing. With a simple invitation they dropped their nets to follow Him. The invitation contained a promise. From now on Andrew and Peter would be fishers of men. Two more brothers, James and John, partners in their father Zebedee’s fishing business, were only steps away mending their nets. Another call and another set of abandoned nets and their father with his hired servants would have to carry on without them.

To Capernaum
His team now five in number, Jesus was no longer alone. He marveled at the ease of this calling process. It was as if the men He needed were planted in this path. Things like that happen in a Kingdom such as this. On the Sabbath at Capernaum they went to synagogue together. The two sets of brothers heard Jesus teach and were amazed. His authority stood in stark contrast to the normal mumblings of a village Rabbi or the theatrical monologues of the Jerusalem scribes. The ancient words came alive in His mouth. People were moved, impressed, intrigued.

Among them was a demon-possessed man. The demons residing in the man were more than intrigued; they panicked and screamed in protest. They knew who Jesus was and whatever His mission might be they knew it would be bad for them. Jesus shackled them and sent them away. In the ensuing silence people began to whisper to themselves and to each other what kind of man this might be. His authority went beyond the oratory of men to the hidden world of demons. These synagogue worshipers would be the ones to initiate the fame of Jesus throughout Galilee.

A Healing at Home
Seeing this display of authority prompted Peter to invite Jesus into the home of his wife’s mother. She was terribly ill with a fever. When He entered the home, Jesus could see that no one had taken up the woman’s work. He was sure the cluttered, dusty house was the result of her disabling illness. Embarrassed, people rushed to explain about her. Jesus and his four helpers went to her. Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her to her feet. Immediately the fever left her and strength returned. She looked for a long time into Jesus’ eyes. So this was the man her son-in-law would follow. She had been against the whole idea but now she could see that it must be done and would be a great honor. She shooed the people out of her house and starting cleaning the place.

Scriptures:
Mark 1: 14-31 NKJV
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him. Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, like those four fishermen I have heard Your call. I have ordered my life around it and still today seek to hear Your call and obey. Make me a fisher of men. In Your name, I am healed. By Your authority demons cannot take up residence in my redeemed heart. I can sense Your authoritative voice when I read Your Word. Indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven is here! The time is fulfilled. I will rejoice in Your joyous Kingdom, here and now, and there in heaven to come. Rejoice the Lord is King! Amen.

Song:
Rejoice the Lord Is King!
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: John Darwall

1. Rejoice, the Lord is King: Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing, And triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart, Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

2. Jesus, the Savior, reigns, The God of truth and love;
When He has purged our stains, He took his seat above;
Lift up your heart, Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

3. His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and heav’n;
The keys of death and hell Are to our Jesus giv’n:
Lift up your heart, Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

4. Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord and judge shall come
And take His servants up To their eternal home:
Lift up your heart, Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory Devotions are also available at KingdomWinds.com.

December 31 “Jordan”

Jordan

He left Nazareth early one morning.
He said his goodbyes to Mary and the rest of the family. He would not return there to live. He would no longer work in the carpenter shop; James would be in charge. It was time for His Father’s business to become His fulltime work. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. John was baptizing near there in the Jordan River.

He understood what John was doing—calling the nation to repentance. This was a moment of crisis. The sins of the people were many and the cup of iniquity was dangerously close to overflowing. Things had to change and that meant hearts had to change. The only way hearts can change is through repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit. John called the action of the Spirit a baptism of fire. He was specific about the actions of true repentance—drastic changes in behavior not just words spoken in the heat of emotion.

Down to the River
Crowds came every day, leaving the comfort of the cities and towns to swelter in the wilderness and hear John’s fiery preaching. They lined up to publically repent and submit to the well-known ritual of immersion in the muddy waters of Jordan. There was nothing glamorous about it, nothing graceful. It was the dirty business of cleaning one’s soul.

Jesus heard John’s voice before he saw him dressed in camel’s hair and lean from a diet of honey and locusts, a perfect vestment for such a drastic, desperate mission. As Jesus quietly took His place in line, a dialogue developed between John and the crowd.

“What must we do then?” Someone shouted. John answered in terms of those with much sharing with those who had less. After baptism, tax collectors and soldiers cried out to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” His reply was simply to do what was right and fair.

Jesus was guilty of none of these national sins and he had no personal sins of which to repent. The Spirit within Him led Him to keep His place in line. Eventually John saw Him and involuntarily cried out.

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

Jesus was next to be baptized. John protested the whole thing.

“I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

Jesus smiled at Him and John lowered his head in recognition.

“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

John obeyed, plunging Jesus beneath the surface of the river. When the Lord emerged, dripping with Jordan’s waters, a voice thundered:

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The crowd fell into a fearful silence. Jesus recognized the voice of His Heavenly Father, heard so often in the scriptures and in His heart. Out of the shining sun, a beautiful white dove appeared and circled the two men standing in the water until all witnessed its flight. It then came to rest on the shoulder of Jesus.

With the booming voice and the circling, settling dove, the silence of the crowd grew deeper still. Suddenly there was a rush of repenting sinners splashing into the river. Jesus smiled at John and nodded for him to continue his work. He quietly exited the river and found a solitary place to pray.

Scriptures:
Matthew 3:1-17
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'” Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:1-25
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison. When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
John 1:29 NKJV
…John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Prayer:
Lord, baptize me with the fire of Your Spirit today! Prepare my heart for Your residence! Prepare Your church for Your visitation. Fill in our deep valleys of ignorance. Bring down our mountains of pride. Straighten out our crooked, self-centered ways. Smooth out our carelessness in holy things. Build Your holy highway through us! Let Your glory be revealed in this place, in my heart! Nothing less than the world is at stake. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Comfort Ye/Every Valley
From Handel’s Messiah

Comfort ye, Comfort ye, My people
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem and cry unto her
That her warfare is accomplished,
That her iniquity is pardoned.
Comfort ye.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!”

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, Shall be exalted
and every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked straight and the rough places plain
Ev’ry valley, Ev’ry valley shall be exalted
and every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked straight and the rough places plain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also at KingdomWinds.com.

December 30 “Savior”

Savior

In my imagination, I see a hill near Nazareth high enough to endanger the life of one who fell from its heights.
It commanded a peaceful view of the countryside below where fields of sheep and goats grazed in contentment. Well-traveled roads, footpaths really, could be seen approaching and crossing and diverging in different directions. People and their animals loaded with the burdens of the day occupied the roads. It was wonderful place to sit and think and pray.

Joseph and Mary met here often while they were waiting for Jesus to be born. The boy Jesus soon discovered this hill and, like all boys do, delighted in ascending its heights to sit and think and pray. As a carpenter’s apprentice, when the work was done in the late afternoon or in the early morning before the work day began, Jesus would climb this hill to meet with God.

A Heavenly Father
As a boy He could sense the presence of God in this place, a presence that was very much like the nearness of Joseph whom He loved dearly. In the presence of God there was something more somehow, as if He were the Heavenly Father. By His teen years, Jesus regularly considered God to be His Father in Heaven. He once spoke of this to Joseph who was not at all offended. He felt that way, too. Joseph and Jesus enjoyed long talks late at night about prophesies concerning Messiah. Jesus considered Joseph an expert in these matters.

Unavoidable Questions
When Joseph was gone, Jesus began to ask questions of Mary, questions about His birth. Mary prayed deeply about this before deciding that the time had come for Jesus to know the truth. On a Sabbath, they climbed the hill even though this was a questionable thing to do on the Sabbath. She told Him the whole story, the story we have told in this document. As she proceeded she watched His face to see how He was reacting. To her relief, He didn’t seem surprised at all. It answered so many questions that had lingered in His mind for as long as He could remember. For Mary, it was a burden lifted from her shoulders.

The Prophecies
After this, Jesus would often steal away to the hill to pray and consider the prophesies of the Redeemer. They were not comforting. Both angels in their declarations to Mary and Joseph had insisted that He be named Jesus, meaning Savior. “For He shall save the people from their sins.” He did not have to search for prophesies describing how this would be done. He knew that He must suffer for the sins of the whole world. He must have no sins of His own—he must go to the slaughter innocent, a helpless and pure lamb, the Lamb of God.

He could not foresee the circumstances of how it would come about, but from the beginning, He knew how it must end. He knew of other prophesies of great healing and restoration.

  • There would be forerunner who would prepare the remnant—God always had a remnant—to receive Him.
  • There would be a great joy set before Him enabling Him to endure the shame.

His entire humanity cried out against such suffering. He possessed the same will to survive that we possess. He knew that He would have to serve against this nature to do what must be done. The will of the Father must be done.

Scripture:
Luke 22:41-44 NKJV
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
1 Timothy 2:5-7 NKJV
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of the world—of my soul! I can never know the suffering You endured to accomplish this redemption but I can know some of Your joy in its accomplishment. The smile my worship can bring to Your face is part of that joy. The deep satisfaction of working for You to see good things happen here and now is also a part of it. Help me surrender my will to Yours every day—on this day, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
He’s the Savior of My Soul
Traditional Chorus

He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.
He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.

Your sins He’ll wash away.
Your night He’ll turn to day.
Your life, He’ll make it over anew.

He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.
He’s the Savior of my soul.
He’s the Savior of my soul.
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions can also be found at KingdomWinds.com.

December 27 “Also”

Also

When a king speaks, he does not necessarily mean what he says.
So it was with King Herod. He told the wise men in a secret meeting that he wanted to worship the Messiah also.

It was a lie.

On the night Jesus was born, the kings told Joseph and Mary of their meeting with King Herod. They did not believe his announced intention to worship the child and they planned to return to their home by a different route. Joseph was alarmed by their caution.

After the dedication of the child, Joseph and Mary were excited about returning home. Beneath that excitement, Joseph harbored misgivings about the journey. In a dream an angel visited him to warn him not to return home but to flee the wrath of King Herod and go to Egypt. Awaking from the dream and telling Mary of the angel’s warning, the decision was made—Egypt it would be.

Called out of Egypt
How strange that the nation that welcomed and then enslaved their ancestors would now unknowingly harbor the Messiah of Israel! Yet, there was a strange verse of prophecy to this effect—“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”

Stranger still was the fact they could afford to make the journey. The gifts of the kings provided more than enough. They did not waste the gold on rich clothes and the finery of wealth; no one would suspect them to have riches tucked away.

The Rage of Herod
In a matter of days, Herod realized he had been deceived by the visiting kings. He had a rival!—some wiggling little boy threatened his golden, rotten kingdom. Rage and fear stole his sanity. He ordered the massacre of all the little boys born in that region over the last two years. This fulfilled another prophecy, one that told of uncontrolled weeping in the land. History calls this the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Months later, news arrived that King Herod was dead and his reign of terror was ended, the angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream commanding them to return home. Eventually they returned to Nazareth. For the next twelve years the Holy Family disappears into the haze of history.

Jesus the Child
We can be sure that these years were spent as an ordinary childhood for Jesus. By today’s standards than ordinary childhood was anything but ordinary. From a child, Jesus would be steeped in the words of God. As soon as He could talk He would learn to pray Shema every morning:

“Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

As soon as He could read, He began memorizing the Psalms as daily prayers. In these psalms He learned how to pray, to reach out to God with heart, soul, mind and strength. He would attend the school in Nazareth to learn from the Rabbi of the history of His people and the character of His God. His young life would be informed by truth and enriched with spirit and with these two things, He would learn to worship God. Twelve years of such a life prepared Him for the next scene in the biblical record.

Scriptures:
Matthew 2:1-23 NKJV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, while many chose to ignore Your coming into this world and did not worship You, King Herod announced a desire to join the kings in worship. This was a lie. Instead of worshiping You, he sought to destroy You. This violence against You still exists in our world today. There are people who hate You. You threaten their little kingdoms so they lie about You and strike out against Your people. Restrain them, O Lord. Empower Your people to worship in Spirit and Truth and to tell Your story in worship, in work, and in personal witness! We will tell Your story! Amen.

Song:
Go Tell It on the Mountain
American Spiritual

Refrain:
Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain  \that Jesus Christ is born.
1. While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens  there shone a holy light.

Refrain

2. The shepherds feared and trembled  when lo! above the earth
rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior‘s birth.

Refrain

3. Down in a lowly stable the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory Devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

December 24 “Reign”

Reign

The Birth of Christ was both an ending and a beginning.
It was the ending of the Old Covenant for Jesus would be the final Lamb. It was the beginning of the New Covenant for Jesus would be the Mediator of it—Redeemer, Life-giver, Lord of Life, Master of death, hell, and the grave, Healer, Baptizer, and King of kings forever. The prophet was specific in his measurement of the scope of Messiah’s Kingdom—

  • The government will be upon His shoulder.
  • Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
  • He will reign upon the throne of David and over His kingdom–forever!

What Mary Pondered
Dr. Luke tells us that the testimony of the shepherds when they returned from their mission through Bethlehem to tell everyone about Jesus caused her to think deeply about events unfolding before her. This tells us much about her. She was no shallow person caught up in events beyond her control. She was invested in the plan of God. Surely this was the effect of two things which she was the first to experience:

  • Jesus was living in her and,
  • she had been “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit.

In these ways, Mary was the first of those to be called Christians, those who live life with the giver of life inside and who are informed and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit within. Simeon would recognize this in the days to come when he prophesied over Jesus: Mary’s heart would cause her to feel things more deeply than others.

It is little wonder that this lady has fired the imaginations of believers throughout history. While there is no occasion to elevate her to the level of divinity, there is much we can ponder in our hearts as we think of her.

Soon all the worshipers were gone.
All was quiet and the Child was asleep. Mary and Joseph took turns sleeping and keeping watch through the night. They had so much to think about. As the morning broke, Mary slept and Joseph studied the sleeping faces he loved so much. How could one man’s heart hold so much love? When she awoke to feed Jesus, Joseph considerately turned his back. Slowly, they began to talk about all that had happened. They laughed at the clumsy shepherds so full of joy and glowing with angel-shine. They were in awe of the wise men and their amazing gifts, giving thanks to God for his provision. Having rehearsed all these marvels, they began to think about what might lie ahead for Jesus, sleeping now between them.

Just how will he be a king?
The only mental pictures they had of rulers were the King in Jerusalem and the Emperor in Rome. How would Jesus fit into those frames? Surely He would not rule the way they do.  Would they someday trade this stable or the house in Nazareth for a palace? Ponder though they might, they could not imagine themselves in the trappings of earthly power.

They knew the truth of the Scriptures, the prophecies of old had become their life circumstances. Somehow, little Jesus, their son, would be King of kings. He would reign. How could such a wonder be true? It must be both an ending and a beginning.

Scriptures:
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Psalm 96:10-13
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.” Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.
1 Timothy 6:13-16 NKJV
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Revelation 19:6-7 NKJV
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
Luke 2:19-20 NKJV
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, King of kings, Lord of lords, there is none beside You. Your throne is the throne of all creation and You rest easy on it. Multitudes of angels in joyful assembly attend to Your throne with constant worship. “Thousands at Your bidding speed while they also serve who stand and wait.” Wonder of wonders, I am included in the human throng of redeemed worshipers who stand before Your throne! How can it be? And yet it is true. Rule in my heart. Reign in my life! May I always walk in Your grace as I dwell within the realm of the splendor of Your holiness. Hallelujah! The Lord Reigns! Amen.

Songs:
Joy to the World
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: G.F. Handel

1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

2. Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3. No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.

4. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love,
and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.

Jesus Shall Reign
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Anonymous

1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. To him shall endless prayer be made, and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise with every morning sacrifice.

3. People and realms of every tongue dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim their early blessings on his name.

4. Blessings abound where’er he reigns: the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest, and all who suffer want are blest.

5. Let every creature rise and bring the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again, and earth repeat the loud amen.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

December 19 “Angels”

Angels

Angels were not born; they came to be when God spoke them into existence.
The birth of Jesus in the Bethlehem barn was not the first for the angels standing guard to witness. They all had been assigned to attend the birth of the children of God’s chosen people. Gabriel was there when Eve gave birth to Cain and to Able. He had guarded the infant Moses from birth to the tiny ark on the Nile to the palaces of Pharaoh. It’s what angels do. God’s love for people would not allow Him to leave a woman uncared for at such a painful and crucial time.

On the occasion of this birth, more than one angel attended.

The attention of the hosts of the Heaven was focused on the humble shack out back of the inn in Bethlehem. If those evil angels who prowled the earth had wanted to see these events, they could never have broken through the angelic cordon surrounding Mary and Joseph. No devilish spies had been able to penetrate the perimeter established around the mother of the Lord of Hosts. If angels breathe air the way we do, they were holding their breath with each moan and wince that escaped Mary’s lips. Their angelic muscles contracted with hers. This was perhaps the most human moment any of them would ever know. Why? For this was heaven invading earth, divinity embracing humanity, the Word of God entering the world as flesh, eternity merging with time, and both Spirit and Truth struggling to appear in one person.

The Mission
Mary’s labor was not long but she was not spared the pain all women know just because her Child was from the Holy Spirit. Such indulgences would never be hers. She would know the fullness of a mother’s pain from this moment until she visited a tomb some 30 years later. Her mission, like that of her Son, was to take the pain and turn it into blessing.

Joseph’s assistance was loving but there is so little a man can do for a woman in labor.
He can hold her hand and return the fierce grip of her contractions with his own counter force. In a masculine effort to encourage her, he can smile when she cannot. The effectiveness of this is probably just an illusion that comforts only him. He can pray. Joseph prayed. He somehow felt the presence of the angel who had visited each of them months before. Yes, there was a divine comfort in this awful place, unseen, but keenly felt. It was what the angels could do for Mary.

Finally, it happened.
A long sigh, a final push, and Jesus was born. A moment of deep silence, as the boy filled his lungs with the atmosphere of earth, was followed by his first cry. His tiny tears brought broad smiles to Mary and Joseph but their joy was overmatched by the hosts of heaven. Angels danced suspended in the air. They sang “Alleluia!” with all their strength and their strength is substantial. It was as if the floor of heaven had dropped spilling angels to the earth in raucous praise. It was like a friendly thunderstorm of worship lighting the earth in flashes of glory unseen by any on earth except a few humble shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

Scriptures:
Luke 1:26-38 NKJV
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Luke 2:8-20 NKJV
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the protection of angels. At both the crucial and routine moments of life they guard us from harm. Working in league with the Holy Spirit who abides within the believer, Your strength and Your truth come to me just when I need them. I stand amazed at Your amazing salvation plan! You came from heaven to earth to rescue and redeem us! No wonder angels sang! Help me join their joy today, walking in the newness of life You won for me. No longer bound by sin, I am free to live rejoicing. Hallelujah! Amen.

Song:
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Words: James Montgomery; Music: Henry T. Smart

1 Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth;
ye who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Refrain:
Come and worship, come and worship,
worship Christ, the newborn king.

2 Shepherds, in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing; yonder shines the infant light:

Refrain

3 Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar;
seek the great Desire of nations; ye have seen his natal star:

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions can also be found at KingdomWinds.com.

December 13 “Temple”

The Christmas Story is a story about worship.
Throughout history, God has met people at altars of prayer.

  • The Patriarchs of old made altars of stone to meet with Jehovah.
  • At the Exodus, God gave Israel plans for a portable sanctuary. They built it with these plans using the riches of Egypt and the skills of their own hands. God dwelt among them.
  • King David wanted to build a temple as the meeting place but that would be the job of his son, King Solomon. When the temple was finished, the presence of God filled the place.
  • Generations later because of false hearts and false worship, that temple was destroyed.
  • In less than a century, faithful rebuilders returned from captivity and made another temple as the house of Jehovah.
  • At the time of the Christmas story, King Herod was building a larger, more beautiful temple, not as a place of prayer so much as a political ploy to keep the Jews under Roman control. This would be the temple of Jesus’ day.

Generations of Priests and Levites
With their lineage dating all the way back to the smoking, shaking mountain called Sanai, the men of the tribe of Levi were chosen to be the leaders of worship in the House of God. This heritage affected different men in different ways.

  • Some saw it as a vocation—to care for the House of God and minister to the people.
  • Others saw it as a career—to advance through the system, to climb a ladder to power, prestige, and influence.

The temple in the time of Jesus was occupied by both kinds of men. Some were looking for Messiah but most were looking out for themselves.

The Time Was Coming…
Quietly, in a forgotten corner of Israel, the Messenger of a New Covenant was forming deep in a sanctuary called “Mary.” Jesus would liberate worship from the confines of “time and place” worship and usher in a New Covenant of “Spirit and Truth” worship. The meeting place of God and man would be mobile again, like that blessed tent in the wilderness. Jesus Himself would be the New Temple, His body would be the veil torn to open up a new and living way to the heart of God. Jesus, the Temple, would indeed be taken down but He would rise again in three days.

He would build something called, “the Church,” that would be His resurrected Body in the world, the Habitation of God by His Spirit. It would be impervious to the devices of hell. The tent called the church would displace the palaces of Rome and someday be pitched on every continent of the globe. Jesus, anointed to be all we could ever need, would walk the aisles of each little church with healing in every step. God meets with people at the Body of Christ. All this was about to begin as the Word became a human embryo.

The Christmas Story is a story about worship.

Scriptures:
Exodus 40:34-38 NKJV
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
2 Chronicles 5:11-14 NKJV
And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without keeping to their divisions), and the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets —indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord , saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Ezra 6:15-18 NKJV
Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.
Malachi 3:1-3 NKJV
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.
Hebrews 10:19-25 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Prayer:
Psalm 43:3-5 ESV
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Amen.

Song:
Oh, the Glory of Your Presence
Words and Music: Steve Fry

Jesus, all glorious, create in us a temple,
Called as living stones where You’re enthroned.
As You rose from death in power, So rise within our worship.
Rise upon our praise and let the hand that saw You raised
Clothe us in Your glory, Draw us by Your grace.

Oh the Glory Of your presence!
We, your temple, give you reverence.
So arise from your rest
And be blessed by our praise
As we glory in your embrace,
As your presence now fills this place.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 2 “Caesar”

Caesar

Jesus was born into an Israel smothered in the might and mire of Rome.
She was no longer a free nation as in the days of David and Solomon; she was a vassal state of an evil empire. Roman soldiers patrolled the streets to keep the pax romana, the “Roman Peace.”

“Keep your local religion,” said the emperor, “but have no real king but Caesar. Keep your religion indoors and there will be no trouble. Take it to the streets with treasonous little messiah-bands and there will be trouble like you have never seen. The Canaanite tribes, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, all those who conquered you before, will pale to distant memory under the iron boot of Rome.”

The second Temple, only a shadow of the first, had been replaced by Herod’s Temple. This political gift to the people, shining golden in the sun, guarded a secret, secluded, empty, Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant had been lost centuries before. Now the Roman palace, Fortress Antonia, was attached to the Temple. King Herod was a puppet king of Rome’s choosing. His real job was to keep the cantankerous priests, “prophets,” and zealots from upsetting the delicate balance of tyranny and temple worship.

A Delicate Balance Indeed
Beneath both the tyranny and the temple worship was the threat and the hope of Messiah, a king of the Jews to challenge Caesar in faraway Rome.

  • Messiah was a minor threat to Rome not to be tolerated.
  • The promise of Messiah was a major hope for the remnant in Israel, those who sincerely prayed the psalms, gathered for the feasts and festivals, and called every day on Jehovah, the God Who keeps covenant. “How long, O Lord? How long?”

Among these faithful were an aging priest with a promise from God, Simeon, who duties in the Temple were performed to perfection, the precision of a well-rehearsed faith, and an elderly woman named Anna whose tender heart leapt like that of a bride at the thought of Messiah. Their daily faithfulness in prayer was a towering threat to Rome of which Caesar knew nothing.

Soldiers in the streets, a Roman Governor in charge, a puppet, wicked King on a pretender’s throne, a hollow religion in a golden Temple, this was the world into which Jesus would come. He would sound no trumpets at His approach—angels would sing to shepherds. He would convene no council—wise-men from the East would follow a star. He would ignore the rich and powerful and choose a carpenter and his espoused wife as His caretakers.

If Caesar had known it, he would have been sleepless in his royal chamber and uneasy on his throne for the King of kings was on His way!

Scriptures:
Luke 2:1-3 NKJV
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Luke 20:20-26 NKJV
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Matthew 12:3-8 NKJV
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 22:15-22 NKJV
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your story is so amazing! You came into a world as politically confusing as our world is today—yet You came and brought truth to those who heard You. You came into a world as violent as this one, yet You gave peace to those who welcomed You. You came to our darkness bringing light and to our pain bringing joy. Help me today to continue Your mission: truth, peace, light, and joy to this deceived, troubled, dark and despairing world. Come into my heart as You came into the Roman world. Let there be peace on earth and goodwill to all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
How Should a King Come?
Words: Carol Owens; Music: Jimmy Owens

1. How should a King come?
Even a child knows the answer of course,
In a coach of gold with a pure white horse.
In the beautiful city in the prime of the day,
And the trumpets should cry and the crowds make way.
And the flags fly high in the morning sun,
And the people all cheer for the sovereign one.
And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done.
That’s the way that a King should come.

2. How should a King come?
Even a commoner understands,
He should come for His treasures,
And His houses and lands.
He should dine upon summer strawberries and milk,
And sleep upon bedclothes of satin and silk.
And high on a hill His castle should glow,
With the lights of the city like jewels below.
And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done,
That’s the way that a King should come.

3. How should a King come?
On a star filled night into Bethlehem,
Rode a weary woman and a worried man.
And the only sound in the cobblestone street,
Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey’s feet.
And a King lay hid in a virgin’s womb,
And there were no crowds to see Him come.
At last in a barn in a manger of hay,
He came and God incarnate lay.

Chorus:
And the angels cried: “Glory! Glory to God!”
Earth was silent so heaven rang: “Glory! Glory to God!”
Men were dumb so the angels sang: “Glory! Glory to God!
Peace on earth good will to men, Glory! Glory to God!
Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
“Glory to God! Glory in the Highest!
Glory to God! Glory in the Highest!
Glory to God!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved