September 24 “Storm”


Dissatisfied with full bellies, the multitude in the wilderness wanted more.
How quickly an adoring crowd can morph into a demanding mob. Still picking fish and bread from their teeth, the crowd turned selfish. They wanted Jesus, but they wanted Him for their own plans. Failing to hear His teaching about the approaching Kingdom of God, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him their King. Motives in the hearts of these people were as mixed as a roadside stew.

  • Some wanted Him to overthrow the Romans.
  • Others wanted Him to roust out the entrenched politicians in the priesthood.
  • Many were still sick or maimed and wanted His healing touch.
  • Still others were bored and wanted to see a show.
  • They all wanted another meal.

Jesus wanted to meet their needs but had no interest in feeding their selfish, hasty, expectations of Him. He was still a man on a three-fold mission.

To the Top of the Mountain and Across the Sea
While they argued and divided into warring camps, Jesus simply walked away from the crowd, leaving His men to deal with them. He ascended higher up the mountain to be alone, alone with the Heavenly Father in the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Soon the disciples also sought escape by boarding a fishing boat and striking out across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum on the other side. With a storm threatening, the crowd dispersed seeking shelter where they could find it. The day was finally over, lightning announced the storm and randomly split the night with blinding flashes of light.

A Surprise in the Storm
Remembering they had left Jesus on the other side of the Sea on the mountaintop, the Twelve realized that they needed to return to Him. The experienced fishermen in the group had no fear of storms on Galilee so the men started across the lake in the face of the storm. It seems they underestimated the strength of the tempest.

In just a few miles, the winds became unmanageable and no matter how hard they rowed, they made little progress against the storm. With waves breaking over the bow into the craft, some of the men rowed while others bailed. Even the experienced fishermen were afraid, but they tried not to show it.

The Scene from the Mountain
The approaching storm disturbed the peace of Jesus’ prayer time with the Father. Looking down the mountain, Jesus saw the panicking crowd scattering like vermin in the dying light, stabbed with lightning and rumbling with thunder as winds scattered their belongings. Jesus knew His men had taken to the boat and now were in peril on the sea. He knew exactly what to do.

As the Twelve struggled to make progress and keep the boat from sinking, the lone lookout in the bow, saw a ghostly figure approaching them. Each time the lightning flashed the figure was closer. The lookout shouted to the others and they stopped rowing and bailing to investigate the strange apparition. What? Who?

It was Jesus!
He was walking on the surface of the sea, never once sinking beneath the waves The raging water stilled itself under His every step. Over the sound of wind and waves, thunder and stressing timbers, they heard a familiar voice.

“It is I; do not be afraid.”

When they took Jesus into the boat, the storm was suddenly over and immediately they landed safe on the other side.

John 6:15-21

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

Lord Jesus, I will not fear the storm! Not any storm. Not storms of the atmosphere, nor storms of human conduct, nor tempests of clashing ideas, not one these storms is a match for You, Lord Jesus. You walk on them all. Your voice commands all storms and until You speak peace to the storm, I will keep rowing or bailing or looking out, whatever my job on the boat may be. When a storm is brewing or when it is raging, I will hear Your words, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Amen and Amen.

Till the Storm Passes Over

Words and Music: Mosie Lister

1. In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

2. Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 23 “Baskets”


The Twelve disciples carried a collective worry as they saw the tremendous crowd following Jesus into the Galilean wilderness.
Attracting such a gathering implied certain responsibilities. Who would care for them? Who would dismiss them? How far would they follow Jesus away from their villages, homes, and lives? Jesus seemed totally unconcerned about these things. The Twelve did not know what He was planning as He selected an impressive mountainside as their stopping place. Turning to look behind Him, Jesus saw the vast multitude following Him. The feast of Passover was near so the multitude should have gathered at the Temple but there they were at the foot of a mountain in Galilee. What would Jesus do? Surely they were His responsibility.

A Test in the Wilderness
Knowing the thoughts of His men, Jesus decided to test them. He asked the one named Philip,

“Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?”

Philip did the math in his head and gave a reasonable answer.

“Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them,
that every one of them may have a little.”

Philip glanced at Judas who carried the meager funds Jesus and the men relied upon. Judas clutched the money bag to his heart and shook his head. The prognosis of Andrew hung in the air like a foul odor. Foreseeing the crisis, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother had surveyed the closest members of the multitude. He reported his findings.

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish,
but what are they among so many?”

It was a reasonable question. In normal circumstances, Andrew had a point, but following Jesus led to anything but normal circumstances.

A Miraculous Meal in the Wilderness
Jesus began His miracle, employing His men in the process.

“Make the people sit down.”

The grassy knoll was well chosen. The disciples organized the people instructing the men to sit down. Their wives and families followed; they counted 5000 men plus the women and children.

Jesus took the bread and fish, looked to heaven and gave thanks. Next, He distributed the blessed food to the Twelve. Uncertain looks passed between the men as each received his portion from the hands of Jesus. To their utter amazement, the food multiplied in Jesus’ hands until each man had his own equal supply. The bread and fish were strangely warm, as if the power of the Lord had heated it in the multiplication process.

Twelve Baskets Full
The strange, warm multiplication continued as each disciple supplied row after row of hungry people. In a little while, everyone had eaten his/her fill and there was still food left over, an almost invisible steam rising from each portion. Jesus told His men to gather the leftovers in baskets. Each of the disciples had a basket brimming with warm bread and fish.

The laughter of full bellies rippled through the crowd like a stone tossed into pool. Soon though, the laughter was overcome by a whispered confession, gathering force as it moved through the multitude:

“This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

The Twelve looked at their teeming, steaming baskets, the satisfied faces of the people, and the smile of Jesus. This was a meal they would never forget.

John 6:1-14

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Lord Jesus, You are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Who Provides. To this day there is a multiplying warmth to Your touch. Time and time again, You have taken what we have to give and multiplied it to meet the need. I will trust You today to take my meager supply and heat it up, making it sufficient for the challenges facing me. May I never doubt the power and thoroughness of You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Jehovah Jireh

Words and Music: Merla Watson

Jehovah Jireh My provider His grace is sufficient
For me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh My provider His grace is sufficient For me

My God shall supply all my needs
According to His riches in glory
He will give His angels Charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 22 “Witnesses”


It was almost like a courtroom drama: Jesus vs. the Religious Leaders.
Jesus called His witnesses, each one adding another layer of validity to His claim to be Messiah. In some circles, those who do not read the record carefully will make the statement that Jesus never claimed to be Messiah or the Son of God. These were titles forced on Him by those who followed Him. Nonsense. Here we have the inspired record of Jesus pleading His own case with four witnesses to back His claim.

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

The Prophet Isaiah had predicted that Messiah would be preceded by a Forerunner. John came in the power of the Spirit to the Judean wilderness quoting the very words of Isaiah, calling people to prepare the way of the Lord. He even proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus called him a “burning and shining lamp.” He was a witness known by all.

Witness Number Two: Miraculous Works and Messianic Deeds
The stories were many and each one based in truth:

  • Jesus turned water into wine at Cana.
  • In Capernaum, He cured a nobleman’s fevered son with just a word.
  • In Jerusalem at the pool of Bethesda, a man lame for 38 years was made to walk again at Jesus’ command.
  • Doubtless there were other stories of other miracles John did not record.
  • Jesus boldly drove wicked merchants from the Temple, reforming the worship of Jehovah.
  • And, truly amazing, Jesus violated the racial norms of the day to teach the Samaritans the truths of God for two whole days.

These deeds bore powerful, undeniable witness to the claims of Jesus.

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself
The Word of God was never restricted to dusty scrolls, filed away in the Temple or in local synagogues. The Father’s Word took root in the hearts of those who heard it just as if God Himself were speaking. Actually this awareness of the witness of the Father in the believer’s heart was the dividing line between those who heard both John and Jesus and those who didn’t. Jesus made this clear:

“You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

This was a faithful witness the other side refused to hear.

Witness Number Four: The Written Word
Finally, Jesus called upon the witness of the written Word of God, He referred to it simply as, “Moses.”

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

The whole record was about Him. There were prophesies to be memorized and believed, especially when the Messiah walked among them.

Witnesses for the Ages
Four witnesses called and four testimonies given. Jesus made His case and today it still stands. Those who close the Old Testament cut themselves off from the whole truth of God. The whole book is about Jesus! The plan of God was not some emergency scheme devised when unforeseen events presented themselves. This was the plan for the ages, the metanarrative that sets us free to live this life and the one to come.

John 5:31-47

“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. “I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you — Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Isaiah 40:3-5
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Lord Jesus, I believe Your story. I receive Your witnesses. I love the ministry of John the Baptist. I believe the amazing accounts of Your miracles. I hear the voice of the Father in my heart. I read and believe the witness of the Word. Your story is the one which defines my life and fuels my hope. Lord Jesus, I believe Your story. Amen.

I Love to Tell the Story

Words: Kate Hankey; Music: William G. Fischer;

1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

2. I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word.


3. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest.
And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 21 “Life”


Life is more than merely breathing. There has to be more than animal existence.
Each of us has a deep sense of purpose though we may not have a clue as to what that purpose may be. Hunting dogs do not question their instincts. They put their noses to the ground and chase their prey. Birds do not search their hearts for the meaning of the worlds gliding by beneath them. They form a V and fly away. Dolphins frolic in the sea untroubled by questions of purpose or destiny.

But we don’t. We question life. We seek sources of understanding: books, legends, traditions, science, technology, family histories, or even a god of some sort. We need a story that explains life to us with answers to the great questions:

  • How did the world come to be?
  • How was I formed in the original version of me?
  • What is the meaning of my life? Does it even have a meaning?
  • What happens when I die?

This story is called the metanarrative. Here is a definition:

“A metanarrative (also called grand narrative) is an overarching story or storyline that gives context, meaning, and purpose to all of life. A metanarrative is the “big picture” or all-encompassing theme that unites all smaller themes and individual stories.”(

Evidence of God
The fact that of all life on earth, humans are the only creatures to demand an explanation of life is an evidence for the existence of God.  God put this desire there.  The one thing everybody agrees on about life is the reality of death. Jesus taught about life and even—eternal life!

“Hear my Word!”
The elders who opposed Jesus were not villains. Most of them were good men trying to do good things. Oh, there were power hungry men among them who had no moral restraints on their efforts to hold on to power. Jesus would deal with them. With the miracles to validate His amazing claims, Jesus attempted to lead people to faith in Him.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

Not just life—eternal life! This was His message, the gift He was offering them. To follow Him was to live beyond death. Eternal life was His gift. The grave, yawning before every man, woman, and child would not have the final word for those who followed Him. He brought life beyond death, life forever.

Tell Me the Story of Jesus
No other messenger bears this message. No other prophet has come into life, passed through death, and emerged victorious on other side. This is the story we believe, the one we revisit in prayer every day and dream of through the darkest night. Here are our answers:

  • The world around me is His handiwork.
  • I was made by His hand.
  • My life has meaning and significance by His declaration.
  • When I die, it will be but a passage to life eternal.

Life is more than merely breathing. There is so much more than animal existence.

John 5:24-30

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Lord Jesus, You are the Master of Life and the conqueror of death! Your victory is not legend or myth; it is fact! Your story tells me what I need to know about life, death, and the life to come. I organize my life around Your call on my life. I prioritize my time according to Your priorities. You are my purpose, my power, and my reward. Your story is my story—I have my own chapter in it! Thank You, Lord.

Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: John R. Sweney

1. Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;
tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels, in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;
tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.

2. Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past;
how for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor, tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.


3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain;
tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see:
stay, let me weep while you whisper, love paid the ransom for me.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 20 “Equal”


No one can say that Jesus was overly concerned with what the religious leaders thought about Him.
He was a man on a mission, a three-fold mission:

  1. As the Living Word of God, to reveal God the Father to the People of God,
  2. As Immanuel, God with Us, to show us how life should be lived, and,
  3. As the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World, to live a sinless life and thus qualify to pay the price for our sins and conquer evil at the cross.

With such a Messianic mission, He did not have much time for critics.

The Lord of the Sabbath
Both Luke and Matthew record Jesus’ statement that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. In John’s gospel much of what Jesus said and did exemplified His lordship over the Lord’s Day. This was the behavior that confounded His enemies.

  • He walked in power the leaders did not possess.
  • He spoke with an authority the scribes could not match.
  • He brought a new understanding of worship the priests could not begin to comprehend.
  • He had real answers for the questioning hearts of the people and a healing touch for their frailties and diseases.
  • He walked in a joy that exuded strength, just as Nehemiah had promised.
  • His laughter could brighten the darkest hour and His very word could calm a storm.

How could the leaders ever hope to match Him? They didn’t try; they criticized Him for doing such wonderful things on the Sabbath.

News of The Father
Jesus presented Jehovah in a new way—He was their Heavenly Father. To do this, Jesus made it clear that He was the Son of God. It was an outrageous claim. They were all children of Abraham, children of the Covenant, but to claim to be the Son of God was novel and ridiculous. Yet, this was the justification Jesus gave for His radical attitude toward the Sabbath and for His miracles and revolutionary teaching.

Thinking of Jehovah as the Heavenly Father, placed Him in an understandable frame of reference. The “heavenly” Father must be far superior to any earthly father. He would be trustworthy and unfailing, holy and compassionate, wise and understanding. This was the Good News of the Gospel. As the Son of such a Heavenly Father, Jesus represented Him perfectly—the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, to use John’s words. Later on Jesus would sum up this part His mission by telling His disciples that when they had seen Him, they had seen the Father. They were equals.

The religious leaders seized this confession as the most damaging evidence against Jesus:

“Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”

To answer their charge, Jesus explained His relationship with God the Father:

  • He did nothing on His own, only what He saw the Father doing;
  • He walked in the Love of the Father, in constant communication with Him;
  • He had life from the Father and could share it with whomever He pleased;
  • The Father would judge the world through the Son; and
  • He was worthy of the same honor as the Father.

The battle lines were drawn. There was no ambiguity, no misunderstanding. Jesus claimed to be Messiah. What could the leaders do about that?

John 5:16-23

For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Mark 2:27-28
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Lord Jesus, I remember the words of Paul, that in all things You “must have supremacy.” It is only right. You are Lord of all! You are Lord of the Sabbath and every other day of the week! You are the Victor over death, hell, and the grave and the Lord of Life. I will honor Your Holy Day for it is a precious gift. It is an outflow of Your mercy and wisdom. I will worship and I will rest. Throughout the week I will remember that You, the Lord of the Sabbath, are with me always! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Jesus Is Lord of All

Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither

1. All my tomorrows, all my past, Jesus is Lord of all.
I’ve quit my struggles, contentment at last, Jesus is Lord of all.

King of kings, Lord of lords, Jesus is Lord of all.
All my possessions and all my life, Jesus is Lord of all.

2. All of my conflicts, all my thoughts, Jesus is Lord of all.
His love wins the battles I could not have fought, Jesus is Lord of all.


3. All of my longings, all my dreams, Jesus is Lord of all.
All of my failures His power redeems, Jesus is Lord of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 19 “Stirring”


Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait.
The man was an invalid living at a pool called Bethesda, meaning, “House of Mercy,” where it was believed that an angel would periodically trouble the waters. It was said that the first person into the waters would be healed. There were five porches at varying heights where people waited for the angelic visit.

A Community of the Impaired
After an extended season of ministry in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Jerusalem for a religious feast. On the Sabbath, He visited the pool at Bethesda and found a community but not a thriving one. This was a community of the sick, afflicted, blind and those otherwise impaired. John does not explain the stirring of the waters, leaving us with a provocative image that lends itself to spiritual applications such as the stirring of hope, or of the Spirit of God, or a wind from heaven. These people were helpless. A constant low moan added an almost musical drone to the sound of wind, water, and voices. We do not know how this “house of mercy” came to be but it was a poor way of distributing the grace of God. One man in particular illustrates the mixed results.

He had been lame for 38 years. When the waters were stirred, he had no one to help him. We do not know how many years the poor man had lived with this faint, tantalizing hope. How many people had he seen enter the water with a debilitating illness and come splashing out rejoicing and healed, while his withered legs remained under him numb and useless? Such repeated disappointments dulled his hopes. He made peace with his lot and merely watched the spectacle of a hurting multitude and the occasional angelic breeze. Jesus came upon him in the state of pessimistic resolve and asked a remarkable question.

“Do you want to be made well?”

It seemed a foolish, if not cruel, question. The man made his well-rehearsed excuses, explaining his predicament. As Jesus looked deep into his eyes, a stirring began in the man’s heart—a stirring of hope. Jesus commanded him,

“Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

People heard the bones snap in the man’s legs and saw them straighten. The man carefully rose on unsteady feet, trying not to fall over. The muscles in his legs filled out as new strength flooded into them. In the shortest time, he was standing tall, no longer unsteady on his feet. He stared at his mat on the ground, his prison for 38 years. He clapped his hands together, bent over and picked it up, dust raining down to the floor of the porch. He rolled it up and threw it over his shoulder. He enjoyed this so much, he threw it down and picked it up again, just for fun.

It was the Sabbath.
Other sick folks in the crowd found a new hope beyond that of an arbitrary angel—they found Jesus! We are not told how many were healed—curiously, John does not tell us if any more healings took place—but we are told of religious leaders who ignored the healing and accused the man of working on the Sabbath for carrying his mat! When they asked him who had healed him, he confessed he did not know. Later, he met Jesus in the Temple, and credited Him with the healing to the religious leaders.

Better than the stirring of the waters was the stirring of the soul when Jesus was near.

John 5:1-15

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.'” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Lord Jesus, You are the Great Physician! You are the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in Your wings! The Bible says that the stripes on Your back were for our healing and I believe it. The New Testament says that the prayer of faith shall save the sick and raise them up! You are our source of healing, a constant, never lacking supply. Save me from accepting less than all that You have for me. Help me to want Your touch, Your healing touch. Stir my heart today! Amen and Amen.

The Waters Are Troubled

Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither
1. There is a fountain for healing the soul
And those who will plunge in that stream are made whole
The waters are troubled and so is your soul
The Spirit is moving be completely made whole

He knows you are broken and long to be free
He sees all the heartache that others can’t see
The waters are troubled and so is your soul
The Spirit is moving be completely made whole

2. I sat by the water of life’s healing stream
There was no one to help me no way to be free
But Jesus loved me and said tenderly
I am the Water so just come to me

He knew what I needed before I could ask
He saw deep inside me behind all my masks
The waters were troubled and so was my soul
The Spirit was moving and He made me whole

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 18 “Fever”


When the skin of your child burns with fever, you know that some unseen sickness dwells within. A nobleman from Capernaum in Galilee had a son who was gravely ill with such a fever. He wanted to bring the case to Jesus. The news about Jesus reached Galilee before He and His men. Why? Jesus spent two days in the Samaritan village of Sychar where He had met the famous Woman at the Well.

Worship Renewal in Samaria
It is easy to imagine the discomfort of the Twelve as they spent two days among their hated rivals, the Samaritans. We are not told of any miracles by Jesus’ hand in Samaria. John will soon tell us about Jesus’ next miracle, so let us assume that these two days were spent only teaching the Samaritans. It is reasonable to assume He continued teaching the villagers about the new era of worship that was fast approaching. Worship was the main conflict point between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the innovators, mixing the religion of the Jews with the idolatry their forebears brought with them from Babylon. The Jews were the traditionalists, trying to perpetuate the religion and traditions of their elders. This was at the heart of her question to Jesus about worship: in their mountain or in the Temple in Jerusalem?  To this day, there continues to be conflict between innovators and traditionalists in worship.  Jesus’ answer then is still His answer today.

Worship in Spirit and Truth
Jesus brought good news about True Worship:

  1. The Father in Heaven was searching for worshipers, and,
  2. True Worship would be a dynamic combination of ancient truth with current realities—Spirit and Truth!

To the amazement of the disciples, this worship would be available to all—to “whosoever will” as He told Nicodemus—and that meant even the hated Samaritans. Finally, to the great relief His disciples, Jesus wrapped up His teaching in Samaria and led them back to Galilee.

Back to Cana
Realizing that He was unlikely to be well received in Nazareth, His home, Jesus returned to Cana where He had performed His first miracle. Many of the Galileans had seen the ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem and were excited to see Him again. Among them was the aforementioned nobleman whose son was ill with a life-threatening fever. He made the journey from Capernaum to meet Jesus and seek help for his son. He found Jesus and implored Him to come and heal his son who was at the point of death. Jesus tested the man’s faith.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

The man was not to be put off.

“Sir, come down before my child dies!”

Seeing the man’s faith and his pain, Jesus was quick to respond.

“Go your way; your son lives.”

The look in Jesus’ eyes seemed to carry the health of heaven in it. It was enough! The father hastily retraced his steps back to Capernaum, travelling through the night. As dawn approached, while he was still on the way, servants met him with the news of his son’s miraculous recovery. When he asked when it had happened, the report was the exact hour of Jesus’ proclamation.

Like the crowd who followed the Samaritan woman, the whole household of the nobleman believed on the Lord Jesus.

“This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.”

The fever of a child and the social fever of racial prejudice both fell before the healing power of Jesus.

John 4:43-54

Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast. So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.
Psalm 107:17-22 NKJV
Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.

Lord Jesus, You walked this earth in power, like no man before You or since. Time has not diminished Your power. The distance between Your Throne in heaven and our needs on earth has not removed or restrained Your power. Just as You spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed despite the over-night distance between Cana and Capernaum, there is no distance in prayer. Your Word is powerful and unhindered by time or distance. Thank for You tender compassion and care. Amen.

I Am the God that Healeth Thee

Words and Music: Don Moen

I am the God that Healeth thee
I am the Lord Your healer
I sent My word and I healed your disease
I am the Lord Your healer

You are the God that Healeth me
You are the Lord My healer
You sent Your word and You healed my disease
You are the Lord My healer

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 17 “Harvest”


There was a very real world of which the Samaritan woman knew nothing—the world of the spirit.
She was interested, intrigued really, by the words of Jesus—water that one could drink and never thirst again? She knew this was not a truth in the real world she knew, the world of mountains and valleys, cities and villages, people and livestock. These things were all dependent upon the water she knew—river water, well water, cooking water, water for drinking. This water did its work and was a blessing but it soon needed to be replaced with more. She sensed that Jesus was talking about a different world and certainly a different kind of water. Jesus made it clear.

God is Spirit.
Jesus began to open the truths of the spirit world within for this woman.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This was interesting but was still beyond her ability to understand. She shook her head as if to clear away the accumulated cobwebs of errant tradition. All she could do was imagine a hero, the Messiah, who would explain all these things. To her amazement, He said.

“I who speak to you am He.”

Silence again, the deepest spell of silence yet. What did he say? At that moment 12 men joined them, noisily approaching the well from the village. The woman retreated a safe distance with her water jar. The disciples were amazed to interrupt a totally improper conversation, but they had learned enough not to ask questions or to comment. The woman forgot about her water pot and hurried away toward the village.

Come see a man!
She ran into the village leaving behind all her fear of gossips and social standing. She told everyone who would listen about this amazing man and the amazing things He said.

“Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Soon, a crowd soon was following her out of the village toward Jacob’s well.

Food to Eat
While they were coming, the disciples offered Jesus some of the food they had found. He surprised them when they saw that He was somehow refreshed. The man whom they had left winded by the well, was now restored to strength. He explained,

“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”

Immediately they concluded that someone else had fed Him. He explained further,

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

He went on to explain that renewal was a result of doing God’s will—the spirit is refreshed when we obey the Lord. As He told them about the hunger and thirst in the world, the woman and her following returned, proving His point. He gave His men details of the calling on their lives. God was calling them to meet the needs of the world. They must see people as God saw them—spiritual beings thirsting for a relationship with God.

The Samaritan Revival
Jesus began to teach both the disciples and the crowd. He paid no attention to the social customs of the day treating Samaritans and Jews alike. They were all part of what He called “The Harvest”—a world filled with thirsty people. What they all needed was the living water found at the well of worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24-42

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Lord Jesus, help me see people they way You see them—spiritual beings designed for fellowship with You. Help me also see Your thirst. Just as You asked the woman at the well for a drink of water, You are refreshed by my worship. Help me also see the thirst of the Father. You said He was seeking for worshipers who would worship Him in spirit and truth. The father is also refreshed by my worship. Amazing! May You be blessed by my life in every way. Amen.

Ho Everyone Who Is Thirsting

Words and Music: Lucy Rider Meyer

1. Come every one who is thirsty in spirit;
Come, every one who is weary and sad.
Come to the fountain, there’s fullness in Jesus –
All that you’re longing for; Come and be glad!

“I will pour water on him that is thirsty;
I will pour floods upon the dry ground.
Open your heart for the gifts I am bringing;
While ye are seeking Me I will be found.”

2. Child of the world, are you tired of your bondage?
Weary of earth-joys, so false, so untrue?
Thirsting for God and His fullness of blessing?
List to the promise, a message for you.


3. Child of the Kingdom, be filled with the Spirit!
Nothing but fullness thy longing can meet.
’Tis the enduement for life and for service.
Thine is the promise, so certain, so sweet!


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 16 “Worship”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 4:15-23

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

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

Drinking at the Springs of Living Waters

Words and Music: John W. Peterson

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

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

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


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

September 15 “Thirst”


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

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

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

The Samaritans

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

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

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

“Give Me a drink.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 4:1-14

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

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

Fill My Cup Lord

Words and Music: Richard Blanchard

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

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

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


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at