March 31 “Forgiven”


Unbelievably, when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, we are actually forgiven!
It seems too simple, too good to be true, but it is the truth—the Gospel truth. Jesus was always a step ahead of His critics; they were no match for Him in the brains department.

Back to Nazareth
He and the disciples crossed back across Galilee and journeyed south to Nazareth. As so often happened, friends of a paralyzed man brought the poor guy to Jesus. The crowd got ready to see another healing miracle, including the scribes who were trying figure out what to do next. If He were simply a healer through some mystical connection with God, that was no threat to them. If they could enlist Him as an ally, He might even be useful to them.

When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s companions, His commendation was a surprise:

“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

The watchful scribes all took the same deep breath and had the same silent thought,

“This Man blasphemes!”

Though not a word was spoken, Jesus knew their hearts so He conversed with their thoughts.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?
For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?

This logic left no room for a reply. Sicknesses were individualized problems so healings were nice and could easily be attributed to God. Sin was a different thing altogether. Not everyone was sick but everyone had sinned! Healings were wonderful but the forgiveness of sins was for God alone. To their silence, Jesus replied that a healing here would prove His point:

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

Like all the other times, it happened. The man’s frozen legs began to limber. Bones started popping so loud the people heard them. With a few stretches of his newly loosened limbs the man stood up to the amazement of the crowd. He flexed new muscles and picked up the bed they carried him on and went home. There was nothing to do but marvel at the power of Jesus and believe that God was the source of it. As the man journeyed home in his newfound strength, there was also a new feeling in his heart—the joy of being forgiven.

Matthew’s Call
Passing from the scene, Jesus saw a tax collector named Matthew. He called him to join His men with the same words used before:

“Follow Me.”

Matthew obeyed and as he committed to Jesus and believed in Him, his sins were forgiven. He invited Jesus and the others to a dinner to meet his friends. Jesus was happy to attend. When critics arose to challenge this behavior, Jesus set them straight. Those who are well have no need of a physician as do those who are sick. He challenged them to go and learn what they should already have known: that deeds of mercy were the coinage of the Kingdom of God,

“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

He had the power to heal and to forgive sins.

Matthew 9:1–13
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Lord Jesus, Your power is great both to heal and forgive sins. Where would I be if You hadn’t both healed and delivered me from sin? Like Matthew, You have also called me to serve You and I am happy to do so. Keep me free from sin by the power of Your Spirit. Keep me well by the stripes they put on Your back. Keep me in the traces where You put me by the power of Your blood and the might of Your name. Amen and amen.

My Sins Are Gone
Words and Music: N. B. Vandall

1. You ask why I am happy
So I’ll just tell you why,
Because my sins are gone.
And when I meet the scoffers
Who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.

They’re underneath the Blood
On the Cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn.
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness,
That’s good enough for me.
Praise God my sins are gone

2. ‘Twas at the old time altar
Where God came in my heart
And now my sins are gone.
The Lord took full possession
The devil did depart.
I’m glad my sins are gone.


3. When Satan comes to tempt me
And tries to make me doubt.
I say my sins are gone.
You got me into trouble.
But Jesus got me out.
I’m glad my sins are gone


4. I’m living now for Jesus
I’m happy night and day
Because my sins are gone
My soul is filled with music
With all my heart I say
I know my sins are gone


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 12, 2017 “Tribute”


We honor our friends when they achieve notable milestones.
We give tribute to the great ones we have known when they pass from this world to the regions beyond.  Praise is really our tribute to the Lord, our detailed exposition of His glory and our gratitude for His impact on our lives.

Early in the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry an outstanding tribute was given to Him by Mary of Bethany.  She possessed a container of a valuable ointment called Nard.  The container itself reflected the value its contents; it was a superb jar of alabaster, a white semi-translucent mineral used for fine vases and decorative items.    It was her most prized possession.

Jesus often stayed in their home in Bethany to rest from the rigors of public ministry and private mentorship.  The Bible says that Mary and her sister, Martha, made Jesus welcomed in their home.  Her brother was the famous one who had been raised from death at Jesus’ command.  Mary’s accustomed place was at the feet of Jesus, listening to His every word.

On this night, her sensitive heart was deeply troubled.
She seems to have been the only one who heard Jesus’ frequent predictions of His coming sacrifice.  Overcome with love and grief she broke her alabaster jar and lavished its contents on Jesus.  With this act of worship she earned the rebuke of the disciples and the commendation of the Lord.

A Lesson in Worship
The details of just where and exactly when she paid tribute to her Savior are not clear in the Bible.  The important things are crystal clear and from these details we learn much about worshiping the Lord Jesus.

  • True worship is costly. Tribute literally means a payment of money as a sign of submission or allegiance.
  • True worship is willingly given.  No one forced Mary to make this tribute; her love compelled her.
  • True worship demands our best gifts.  God is worthy of nothing less.
  • True worship blesses the Lord.  Of all His followers, Mary touched the Lord’s heart in a special, meaningful way.  Our worship matters to the Lord Jesus.

Hear the words of commendation Jesus gave her when the disciples rebuked her:

  • “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
  • “She did what she could.”
  • “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
  • “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Our worship is our tribute to the Lord Jesus. 
We can do something beautiful to Him as we give Him the best of our talents, skills, words, time, and energies.  We can praise Him at the limits of our abilities.  We can be in tune with the moment-by-moment leadership of the Spirit, sensing as Mary did, the significance of every day.

When we gather with the church to minister to Jesus, each of us breaks our own alabaster jar and lavishes it on Jesus in tribute to Him.  As we do this, the Gospel is empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach our part of the world.  Souls will be born into His Kingdom and that is the greatest tribute of all.

Luke 10:38-42 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. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
John 12:1-6
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Matthew 26:8-13
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Lord Jesus, I don’t have to wait for Sunday services to break my alabaster jar! I do it now! I focus my heart on You. I open it and pour its contents on You in the most profound love I can express. If there are hard places in my heart, I invite You, Holy Spirit to break them. I want nothing between us, Lord except love. I break my heart open, even the dark, hidden places that only You and I know about. I want that darkness to flow out of me—a catharsis of worship, of pain, of bitterness, of confusion—whatever abides there that is not Your plan for me. I will wait in Your presence for the ministry of the Spirit to do this breaking, emptying, and filling work in me. Lord, this is the greatest tribute I can bring today. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Change My Heart, O God
Words and Music: Eddie Espinova

Change my heart, O God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God.
May I be like You.

You are the Potter.
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me.
This is what I pray.

Change my heart, O God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God.
May I be like You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 8, 2017 “Unworthy”



A Day to Remember the Cross
Ancient Christian spirituality holds Friday as a day to remember the crucifixion of Christ. This day even has its own prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.

For Fridays
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first He suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord. Amen.

“The way of the cross” is guaranteed to bring us to the question: How could God love us so much? Surely we are unworthy of such love. We are worthy instead of punishment for our many sins. In these Friday thoughts a critical distinction must be made.

Unworthy is not the same as worthless.
In fact, the difference between them is not at all slight.

  • We are unworthy of constant attention of God the Father.
  • We are unworthy of the love Christ demonstrated at Calvary.
  • We are unworthy of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, this is just one side of the story.

  • We are created in the image of God.
  • We are “the apple of His eye,” meaning we are precious to God the Father.
  • We were created with a capacity to fellowship with God and a deep desire to do so.
  • Jesus endured the cross because a certain joy was set before—the joy of a relationship with each of us.
  • Each of us is worth every stripe on His back, every nail in His hands and feet, the spear in His side, and the crown of thorns on His head.
  • Though we are the stuff of earth, each of us has the potential to do the work of heaven.

Don’t listen to the Devil!
The enemy of our souls would tell us that we are worthless, ruined beyond repair, and unfit for a relationship with the Almighty.

Such an idea actually impugns the character of God Almighty. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus based our whole life with God on the sterling character of God the Father.

  • Pagans pray to hostile deities who must be kept at a safe distance through endless repetitions of mindless mantras and senseless sacrifices.
  • Jesus said that we should pray to the Father God who loves us and already knows our every need. When He began His model prayer with “Our Father in heaven…,” our eternal worth and God’s eternal goodness were established beyond dispute.

The issue here is humility.

  • True humility requires total honesty. We are aware of both our guilt and of our imputed innocence. God loves us because we are worth so much to Him.
  • We are worth so much to the world because God loves us.

And all the time, we are unworthy. God opposes the proud and gives abundant grace to the humble.

“The way of the cross” is a lifestyle based in profound humility and lived in the boldness of an undisputed, undiluted, undying, unfading glory, the glory of cross.

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Psalm 17:6-9
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer… Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.
Matthew 6:6-9 7
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven…
Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Hebrews 12:2 NKJV
… 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.
Galatians 6:14-15
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
James 4:6
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Lord Jesus, I remember Your cross. I will never let it fade from my mind. Every day I will take up my cross to follow You just as You commanded me. How different are our two crosses! Mine is the delight of family and purposeful living, in the world but not of it, and connected to other members of Your Body in living fellowship with joy as our collective strength. Your cross was heavy with the sins of us all, rough on your shoulders, unforgiving to obtain our forgiveness and unyielding to open the new and living way to God. Amazingly, through it all, there was a joy that was set before You, the joy that Your cross of pain would make my cross a thing of joy. Lord Jesus, today, however unworthy I may be, I remember Your cross. Amen and amen.

Words and Music: Ira Stamphill

1. Unworthy am I of the grace that He gave,
Unworthy to hold to His hand.
Amazed that a King would reach down to a slave.
This love I cannot understand.

Unworthy. Unworthy!
A beggar in bondage and alone.
But He made me worthy and now by His grace,
His mercy has made me His own.

2. Unworthy am I of the glory to come,
Unworthy with angels to sing.
I thrill just to know that He loves me so much,
A pauper I walk with the King.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 26, 2017 “Forthright”


There are so many expressions for someone who is not being forthright:

  • Beating around the bush,
  • Dancing around an issue,
  • Pulling the wool over someone’s eyes,
  • Blowing smoke,
  • Shooting me a line,
  • Giving me the business, and
  • Others too graphic to mention.

Each of us has a natural aversion to this practice. We want the straight news, the true facts, the real deal. Our shrubs do not need to beaten around. We don’t want to be bored by verbal dancing. Smoke is not healthy to breathe and we don’t need any lines or phony business. We want people to get to the point already!

To be forthright in our dealings means to be to the point, truthful, timely, and trustworthy.
The Poet has good news for us. When we are forthright with God and man, God will be forthright with us.

“With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God;
with the forthright you show yourself forthright.”

To be faithful and forthright is part of God’s nature. Even though we are created in His image, these things are not natural for most of us—we have to learn how to be like our Creator. We also need the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit to sanctify our minds and enable our wills to do what is right and in a timely—forthright—fashion.

We begin by imitating our parents, learning how to behave, including how to speak, from them.
Children generally understand more than they can explain and they soon learn when their parents are dancing around an issue they do not want to discuss. When the child is caught doing something naughty, he/she quickly learns to talk in circles, cleverly avoiding the subject of guilt or innocence. They learned these life skills from their first teachers—Mom and Dad.

When a child of God begins to learn to pray—to talk with God—he or she usually tries to pull the wool over the all-seeing eye of God. We actually beat around the prayer bush, as if we could blow smoke so dense that God could not see through it.

One of the first lessons of prayer we must learn is to be forthright in our conversations with the Lord. One cannot pray a lie! This is one of the great things about prayer—it is a process of peeling the onion of our souls—removing layer after layer of self-deceit, of lies we tell ourselves, when we realize we cannot like to God. None of us has enough wool to pull over God’s eyes.

When we get down to the honest truth, we really start praying—and the Lord’s starts listening.
He can then speak to us and when God speaks, He gets right to the point!

“With the forthright, He shows Himself forthright.”

Psalm 18:1-28
I love you, O Lord my strength, O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge; you are worthy of praise. I will call upon the Lord, and so shall I be saved from my enemies. The breakers of death rolled over me, and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid. … He reached down from on high and grasped me; he drew me out of great waters. He delivered me from my strong enemies and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster; but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into an open place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me because of my righteous dealing; because my hands were clean he rewarded me; For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not offended against my God; For all his judgments are before my eyes, and his decrees I have not put away from me; For I have been blameless with him and have kept myself from iniquity; Therefore the Lord rewarded me according to my righteous dealing, because of the cleanness of my hands in his sight. With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God; with the forthright you show yourself forthright. With the pure you show yourself pure, but with the crooked you are wily. You will save a lowly people, but you will humble the haughty eyes.
Matthew 5:33-37; 6:5-8 NIV
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Lord Jesus, It is such a foolish notion that I should ever try to deceive You in any way—especially in prayer. You know my every thought, the hidden-most, inner workings of my soul. As I seek Your face in prayer, Your Spirit peels away each self-deceiving thing I say and shows me the real truth. In this way, You reveal the hidden things in my heart that hinder me. More than merely reveal them—You heal them! Your wonderful, cleansing blood will go as deep as I dare to pray and remove the offense, whether it is an action, an attitude, or an aspiration. To be honest with You is a great grace! Thank You, Lord!

I Must Tell Jesus
Words and Music: Elisha A. Hoffman

1. I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

2. I must tell Jesus all of my troubles,
He is a kind, compassionate Friend;
If I but ask Him He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.


3. Tempted and tried I need a great Savior,
One who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus:
He all my cares and sorrows will share.


4. What must I do when worldliness calls me?
What must I do when tempted to sin?
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the vict’ry to win.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 18, 2017 “Forgiven”


She was used to the company of men.
She could read their smiles. It is likely that some of the men gathered for dinner in the home of a Pharisee named Simon saw her come in. If they noticed her at all, they quickly turned their faces away; they did not smile at her. The man she wanted to see was a stranger among the smelly men reclining around the table laden with lavish food. The oil lamps sent wavering shadows here and there across the room, but from the man she came to see, a constant inner light seemed to glow from deep inside Him.

She had seen that light even in the bright sunlight on the Jerusalem streets. She had followed Him, welcoming the anonymity of the crowd. She held back, always in the second or third rank and always with her head and face covered, while her keen eyes watched Him closely.

In one glorious moment, His shining eyes met hers.
He looked deep into her heart, the way no man had ever looked at her. His unbroken gaze was like a torch shining into the dark cavern of her wounded soul. She tried to look away but she could not. Though she did not understand why, she knew this was a life-changing moment for her, that she could never be the same. She knew that her livelihood was now a thing of the past. She would find a way to live that would meet His approval; she didn’t know how but she knew she could and would.

The Smile of Jesus
As they continued to look at each other, a broad smile came across the face of Jesus. This thrilled her to the depth of her being. It was as if He knew what had happened inside of her, as if He knew of the shame that had suddenly overcome her, as if He knew of the choice she had made. It seemed He was saying that all was forgiven. For the rest of her life, she would make all her choices in the light of that smile—life was about pleasing Him, not others and not herself.

He went on this way; there were others to talk to, to touch, and some who needed the power of His gaze and the forgiveness of His smile. She seemed frozen to that spot, transfixed by the new life inside her. She forgot about her scarf and head piece, letting them drop, her face and hair shining in the sun. She breathed deeply looked intently at a future she had never imagined before.

A few hours later she heard that He was dining in the home of Simon the Pharisee, a home she knew well. Entering by the servant’s entrance she invaded the dinner gathering, her heart bursting with gratitude. Without hesitation she found her way to Jesus. At first, she stood behind Him weeping. Then she fell at His feet and began to wash His feet with her tears and lovingly dry them with her hair. She took perfume and anointed those feet, kissing them.

Recovering from the shock of this intrusion, Simon, knowing full well who she was, seized the moment to prove that Jesus was obviously not a prophet or He would know who she was as well.

With a parable Jesus gently instructed Simon and all the other proud sinners about the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven —
for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

So it is today. If our record of sins is large or small, if we have met Jesus eye-to-eye in faith and repentance, the record has been cleared, and we, too, must minister to Him. As we do, we too, can feel His smile.

Psalm 104
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities; He redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness; He satisfies you with good things, and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed. He made his ways known to Moses and his works to the children of Israel. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. He will not always accuse us, nor will he keep his anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. As a father cares for his children, so does the Lord care for those who fear him. For he himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust. Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; When the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever on those who fear him, and his righteousness on children’s children; on those who keep his covenant and remember his commandments and do them. The Lord has set his throne in heaven, and his kingship has dominion over all. Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word. Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will. Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul.
Luke 7:36-50 NIV
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 11:4; 17:3-4 NIV
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”… “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Lord Jesus, my Savior, Healer, Baptizer, and soon coming King, I worship You today! I marshal all my strength to this purpose. As I think of “the glory due Your name,” I must add my voice to that of nature and all creation in song of praise from creation to Creator. When I consider Your mighty throne, I join the songs of angels attending there, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” I hear the Song of the Redeemed, roaring from the heavenly gallery, as angels must fall silent. They cannot sing this song of thanksgiving for they have not known Your mercy as has the church. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for Saving My Soul.
Traditional Chorus

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.
Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.
Thank You, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and so free.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
For more on Pride: “The Invisible Mountain”

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 5, 2017


There is a deep healing in forgiveness.
In His home region of Capernaum, a crowd filled a house to hear Him speak of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps there were as many motives for being there as there were people: curiosity, despair, pain, desperation, boredom. Any crowd is a gathering of such emotions as well as one of names, faces, and stories.

Friends of a paralyzed man brought him to the door but not through it; it was blocked by people in the crowd, each one focused on his own situational paralysis with no thought for the invalid and his friends.

So they came through the roof.

This gained them the full attention of the Lord Jesus. He saw men of compassion, ingenuity, and organized strength. He saw their faith. He looked at their paralyzed friend and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

That was nice but it wasn’t what they came for. They needed for Jesus to break the brokenness of their friend, to relieve him of his misery and them of their burden. The paralysis was real—it was present and unrelenting. Sins? Everybody had sins. Forgiven sins would not make their friend any lighter in their tiring arms.

He crossed a line.
Others in the crowd were surprised by the line this “son of Joseph and Mary” had crossed. Miracles were wonderful to see. They brought hope for more miracles and a faint confidence in the Jehovah they had heard about all their lives. But forgiving sins? That was a whole different issue. Miracles could be seen, like mental before-and-after-photos today. But sins, forgiven or otherwise, were spiritual things, blurry to the mind and invisible to the eye. Anyway, miracles were useful to people but sin forgiving was only God’s business and it was best left to Him.

“Which is easier,” Jesus asked, “To heal the body or to forgive sins?”

He had a way with questions that tended to silence the questioners.

“So that you may believe in me,” Jesus turned to the man on the mat and his friends still breathing hard from the work, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

He did exactly that, to the amazement of the crowd.

In this season of Lent, each of us tries to get to the real Jesus.  We need to touch Him, to see Him, and to be changed by Him.  We see His sufferings and beyond those we see His triumph–not just the crucifixion, but the empty cross and the forsaken tomb.

To look at the empty cross is like

  • Looking into the manger to see God in the flesh, or
  • reading the Gospels to see the Son of God at work, or
  • hearing the matchless music of His voice, or
  • beholding His glory in prayer and worship.

To do these things is to be changed. Not only are we forgiven—no longer guilty—but we are welcomed into His presence.

And we didn’t even have to come through the roof.

There is a deep healing in forgiveness.

Mark 2:1-12 NIV
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
1 John 1:9-10 NIV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Lord Jesus, all I have to do is believe in You, to somehow touch the hem of Your garment with my faith and repentance and I will be forgiven of my sins. Paralyzed by disobedience no longer, I can rise, take up my life and walk. As I walk in this amazing forgiveness today, help me also be a forgiver of those who have struck at me. My freewill offering today is one of humility, repentance, and thanksgiving. I will know your deliverance in my heart and see it in my friends. Amen.

The Healing Waters
Words: H.H. Helmar; Music: L.L. Pickett

1. Oh, the joy of sins forgiv’n, Oh, the bliss the blood-washed know,
Oh, the peace akin to Heav’n, Where the healing waters flow.

Where the healing waters flow, Where the joys celestial glow,
Oh, there’s peace and rest and love, Where the healing waters flow!

2. Now with Jesus crucified, At His feet I’m resting low;
Let me evermore abide Where the healing waters flow.


3. O, this precious, perfect love! How it keeps the heart aglow,
Streaming from the fount above, Where the healing waters flow.


4. Oh, to lean on Jesus’ breast, While the tempests come and go!
Here is blessèd peace and rest, Where the healing waters flow.


5. Cleansed from every sin and stain, Whiter than the driven snow,
Now I sing my sweet refrain, Where the healing waters flow.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved