June 18, “Sabbath”

Sabbath

The most fundamental law of the Covenantal worship of Jehovah concerned honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy.
The critics of Jesus, scorekeepers every one, watched for the slightest violation of Sabbath principles. It never occurred to them that Jesus might be Lord of the Sabbath but they were about to discover this.

First Offence
His men were hungry. Regular meals were not a feature of following Jesus. They passed through some fields of grain just when the wheat was right for the picking. It was the Sabbath and harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath. Score one for the Pharisees.

“Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

Their frowns were deeper than rows plowed deep. The disciples stopped harvesting and rubbing out the wheat in their hands, but several of them had already filled their mouths. Trying not to chew, they waited to see how Jesus would respond. The smile on His face told them all they needed to know. When He started speaking they went back to munching. Jesus gave the guardians of the Law a Bible lesson.

“Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry…how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him…?”

The Pharisees had no answer. Was that really in the Bible? They exchanged glances until the most informed among confirmed the story Jesus told. It was just a warmup for the thing Jesus really wanted them to know.

“The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

The scorekeepers were stunned by this heresy. No one was Lord of the Sabbath, no one but God Himself! They could never have anticipated this statement and they had no answer for it except the noise of their ignorance.

Second Offence
Probably a week later, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. The Pharisees couldn’t stop Him but they could watch Him and take notes. A man with a withered hand was in attendance. It was his habit to hide his short arm within the sleeve of his robe. The last thing he wanted to do was attract attention. The scorekeepers saw their opportunity. They somehow drew the attention of the people to the unfortunate man. He tried to find a place to hide and tucked his mangled arm out of sight.

Jesus called the man out.

“Arise and stand here.”

He smiled at the man to assure him that He was not being cruel. He turned to the Pharisees with a question:

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”

To the man He said,

“Stretch out your hand.”

Suddenly, accompanied by the snap of bones and the surprised cry of the man, the withered hand filled out to its proper length. The man flexed the fingers and stared at the one hand now made whole and began to clap both hands together. Worshipers joined in and the clapping became a beat and then the beat became a song.

The Pharisees didn’t feel like singing. What were they supposed to do with a man with this kind of power who claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath?

Scriptures:
Luke: 6:1-11

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I love Your holy day! This is the central organizational point of the week. It is Yours, not ours. It is a gift from You. I repent of the times when I felt like it was my day, to spend or waste or use as I pleased. Not true. It is Your day for all its 24 hours. I will join Your church to minister unto You giving You the glory due to Your name! I will worship and I will rest, for this, too, is the Sabbath. You are indeed the Lord of the Sabbath! Thank, You, Lord!

Song:
This Is the Day

Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Thomas Augustine Arne

1. This is the day the Lord has made;
He calls the hours His own;
let heav’n rejoice, let earth be glad,
and praise surround the throne.

2. Today he rose and left the dead,
and Satan’s empire fell;
today the saints His triumphs spread,
and all His wonders tell.

3. Hosanna to th’anointed King,
to David’s holy Son.
help us, O LORD, descend and bring
salvation from Your throne.

4. Blest be the Lord, who comes to us
with messages of grace;
who comes, in God His Father’s name,
to save our sinful race.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 17 “Wineskins”

Wineskins

Wine and wineskins, new and old: there are life lessons to be learned in these common things.
The critics, scribes, and Pharisees, were determined to find some fault in Jesus and His men that would discredit them in the eyes of the people. It was a difficult job. Discrediting the One who gave a blind person back his/her sight was not easy. Former demon-possessed people, now in their right minds, had little time for theories about their deliverer being in league with the devil. Jesus had done so much profound good for so many people, that only His critics would entertain such nonsense.

What about John and his disciples?
Someone got the bright idea of comparing Jesus and His disciples with John the Baptist and his followers. There was a marked difference. John’s ministry was one of preparation for Messiah. This involved harsh warnings, profound condemnation of evil leaders, strict spiritual disciplines, and soul-stirring repentance. Jesus and His men seemed immersed in joy. They laughed often and rejoiced at all the miracles and deliverances at Jesus’ hand. They even enjoyed parties and celebrations, eating their fill and tasting the fine new wine of life. Critics pointed this out.

“Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

Jesus tried to explain the difference to them, but explaining such fine points to those whose minds were closed to any explanation was pointless.

The Difference
The difference between Jesus and His men and John and his followers was one of mission.

  • John’s followers fasted to see a nation fall to its knees in repentance. They disciplined themselves toward a specific end—a revival of true spirituality in preparation for the coming of Messiah.
  • Jesus brought the revival for which John and his disciples fasted and prayed. Jesus knew what no one else knew—the time of rejoicing would be short, lasting as long as He was with them.

Hard times would come and then His men would fast and pray. They would also have the help of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, something John’s disciples did not have.

New Wine and Old
Some of the most famous sayings of Jesus followed:

  • Sewing new cloth onto an old one will tear the garment, and
  • Putting new wine put into old wineskins will burst them.

What did He mean? A New Covenant was coming.

  • There will be new garments of praise—prayer and worship in the Spirit—making the old methods themselves fresh and new again.
  • There will be New Wine of a fresh move of God like nothing ever seen. Both the Old and the New Wine will freely flow from heaven to refresh the saints of God.

This New Covenant move of the Spirit of God will require new thinking and new methods while at the same time making the old wine even more precious.

“But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'”

Wine and wineskins, new and old: there are life lessons to be learned in these common things.

Scriptures:
Luke: 5:33-39

Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?” And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, save me from the fear of the new. You are constantly doing new things. The work of Creation continues today. Your new creations require new garments. The fresh move of Your Spirit requires new wineskins. We do not discard the old but maintain it. You said that both the new and the old wine must be preserved. The New Wine and wineskins compliment and carry forward the work of the old. Give me a taste for it all, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
New Wine

Words and Music: Brook Legertwood

In the crushing, In the pressing, You are making new wine
In the soil, I now surrender You are breaking new ground
So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand.

Make me Your vessel. Make me an offering
Make me whatever You want me to be.
I came here with nothing But all You have given me.
Jesus bring new wine out of me

In the crushing, In the pressing, You are making new wine
In the soil, I now surrender You are breaking new ground
So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand.

Where there is new wine, There is new power.
There is new freedom. The Kingdom is here.
I lay down my old flames To carry Your new fire today.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 16 “Matthew”

Matthew

It may be that in those days a tax collector would be a man of few words.
Jesus only used two words to call Levi, also called Matthew, to be a disciple.

“Follow Me.”

Matthew’s quick mind for sums added up the offer and the tax collector saw a way out of the wretched life he had been living. He could leave the crooked dealings, the hatred of the people he robbed, and the company of crooks to live a life that made a difference.

“So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.”

Before the news of his conversion was publicly known, Levi threw a party for all his old, crooked government collaborators and his new friend with His band of 12.

Why did the tax collector choose to follow Jesus?
Money used to mean everything to him; he had sold his soul to the procurement of wealth by any means. He had a great house but no true friends. He had riches concealed throughout the house but his heart was an empty grave waiting for him to occupy it. No doubt Matthew discovered what Jesus would later teach: “Life consists not of the abundance of things a man possesses.” He had “things” everywhere but there was no life in them, no life at all. Perhaps he grew up poor and set his heart on riches at an early age. Somewhere in his quest for wealth, the joy went out of it. All the money and the things it bought were useless to him. He wondered if there were an alternative, some other pursuit that would not rot in his hands like old figs.

While he plied his hated trade, Jesus came by. Their eyes met and Matthew felt the searchlight of the Holy Spirit penetrate his very soul. There was nothing there! His house was full of treasures but his heart was vacant. In that lingering examination, eye to eye and heart to heart with Jesus, Matthew saw new and exciting possibilities for life. Jesus wordlessly communicated promises to him of a different kind of abundance, one with no shame and with a full night’s sleep every night. It was enough and the tax collector became a disciple.

Back to the Feast
At some point in the feast, Matthew told the other collectors of his decision. Immediately they started calculating the benefits for them as they divided up his responsibilities among themselves. They could not understand their friend’s sudden affection for poverty but they were happy to profit from it. I imagine Jesus watched this festival of true repentance with a satisfied smile on His face. Here was a disciple indeed.

Scribes and Pharisees
Servants came and summoned several of the disciples out of the despised house of Matthew. They had a message for Jesus. As if He were an unsophisticated bumpkin, they explained that Jesus should not be seen with such evil men. Tax collectors were the sickest of the sick. They reported to Jesus and He sent back a reply.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

The dinner continued. Matthew rejoiced in his newfound freedom, and the other tax collectors exulted in their potential profits, as the Lord and His disciples enjoyed a good meal.

Scriptures:
Luke: 5:27-32

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Luke 12:15
And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as You said, life does not consist in the abundance of things a person might possess. Life is found in You, the Giver of Life. Your will is the plan for life. Your power is the force of life. Your love is the context of life. Your presence is the reward of life. Protect me from the deceitfulness of the riches of this world. They may be pretty but they can also be poison. They may promise lasting joy and then deliver only loss. I will lay up treasures in heaven where they are safe for all eternity. Thank You, Lord!

Song:
I’d Rather Have Jesus

Words: Rhea F. Miller; Music: George Beverly Shea

1. I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Refrain:
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

2. I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I’d rather be true to His holy name

Refrain

3. He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs.
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 15 “Forgiven”

Forgiven

In a simple house in Galilee, the powers to heal diseases and to forgive sins were finally seen as one power.
The official teachers of the Law and leaders of the people had to investigate this unofficial rabbi traveling in Galilee. They and the hosts of needy and curious people filled the Galilean house beyond capacity.

Something in the Air
As Jesus taught His unique vision of the Law and the prophets and the details of the Covenant with God, the keepers of the flame were busy trying to keep up. They had a vague sense that Jesus spelled trouble for them. They listened carefully to His every word, hoping to find some blasphemy with which to charge Him.

There was also the problem of the miracles. The people were convinced that whoever Jesus might be, He was at the very least a prophet. The power of the Lord flowed through Him, of this they were sure. The signs and wonders could not be questioned; this was no magic show. As Jesus continued to teach, the air took on an almost electric charge. Dr. Luke describes it thusly:

“…the power of the Lord was present to heal…”

Everyone felt this, even the critics and powerbrokers whose lives and livelihoods were threatened by this carpenter from Nazareth.

From the Outside to the Inside
Evidently, the charge radiated outside of the house. A group of men carried their paralyzed friend to the door and were turned away. There was no way to enter. They tried all the doors and windows with the same result. Exhausted, they put down the liter and sat around their friend, discouraged. One of them noticed the thatched roof on the house. It kept out the rain well enough, but it could also be easily dismantled. Somehow they gained the rooftop with their friend intact and began to un-thatch the thatch. Soon there was an opening large enough to lower their friend into the crowded room below. All of this commotion interrupted the Lord and He and the crowd watched as the faithful friends completed their compassionate demolition. The faith of these men boosted the charged in the air. When Jesus saw their faith, shining like a beacon against the darkness of the Pharisees’ doubt, He spoke:

“Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

Wait, thought the Pharisees. He did not speak to the paralysis but to the man’s sins. This was out of bounds. Miracles were wonderful and we can always praise God for them, but to forgive sins is only for God and not for any man. They had the blasphemy for which they were looking. Jesus knew their thoughts.

“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?”

This was the question. The Pharisees felt that Jesus had taken the bait. Scheming smiles passed among these leaders of the People of God who could not see past their theological noses.

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”

He said to the man who was paralyzed,

“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

The man did exactly that, rejoicing all the way home! Gleefully, his faithful friends were joined by other men in the house to repair the damage to the roof.

The ecclesiastical rooftop of the powerhouse occupied by the Pharisees, would itself never be repaired.

Scriptures:
Luke: 5:17-26

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your power is Your power! It flows from You in power to heal and to forgive. All is within Your authority. The doubt of those who do not believe in You hinders You not! The unbelief of others never holds me back from believing in You, Your Word, Your Presence, and Your unbreakable promises. Oh, sometimes, I encounter hindrances like the men who brought their friend to You but, like them, I will demolish those hindrances with my faithfulness to Your commands. You are the one with the Power! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Rise and Be Healed

Words and Music: Milton Bourgeois

1. Have fear and doubt come against your mind
Has your faith been sorely tried
Lift up your eyes here cometh your help
It is Jesus for you He has died

Refrain:
Rise and be healed
In the name of Jesus
Let faith arise in your soul
Rise and be healed
In the name of Jesus
He will cleanse and make you whole

2. If by faith you reach out to Him
He will meet your ev’ry need
He will respond to the cry of your heart
He will touch you and set you free

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 14 “Willing”

Willing

To be willing to do good is one thing. To be able to do good is quite another.
Jesus, of course, was both. He did not withhold His blessings until some price was paid—He was the price to be paid. He did not make those seeking His touch jump through hoops to earn His attention—He walked among them freely, available to all who would reach out to Him in faith. Believing was the catalyst. Those who approached Him in cynicism went away unchanged. Others, threatened by His authority, who came to Him to discredit Him, went away with all their clever constructs crumbling before His simple message and powerful presence.

A Leper in the Crowd
While the willingness of Jesus to heal and deliver was obvious to most, His availability to social outcasts had yet to be seen. The poor man is described as “full of leprosy.” This was no minor case. According to the customs and cautions of the time, lepers had to announce their approach in the streets by yelling, “Unclean! Unclean,” providing ample warning and opportunity for people to find safety until the damaged and dangerous one passed.

The crowd pressing Jesus gave way at the sound of this leper’s cry. He came and fell on his ruined face at the feet of Jesus. His question was the same question on everyone’s mind. Did the mercy and authority of Jesus extend all the way to people like him?

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

This was not a challenge to Jesus. It was not the cry of a cynic or an enemy. It was the sincere statement of one who had nowhere else to turn.

The Healing Touch
As he often did, Jesus let the man’s words hang in the air. The crowd pulsed with silent anticipation. What would Jesus do? What would He say? Jesus raised His hand to the sky and left it there, heightening the wondering expectation of the people. Would He strike such an unworthy one?

No. He touched the man! Unprecedented. Unheard of. Unwise by all contemporary thinking.

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Immediately the disease departed. The stunned crowd watched as fresh new flesh grew where unsightly horrors had been just seconds before. The man, still wearing the rotting rags of an outcast, obeyed the Lord and headed for the Temple to fulfill the law’s requirements for one healed of leprosy. Silently the crowd watched him until he was out of sight, swallowed by the streets and alleyways of the town.

The Lord Jesus is willing!
There are no “ifs” to be considered. If we come to Jesus in faith believing, He will meet us. If we call on Him in faith, He hears us! His Word gives us the details of His willingness, its qualities and conditions, in covenantal form. When we ask according to His benevolent will, He hears us and is willing and able to supply our needs.

To be willing to do good is one thing. To be able to do good is quite another.

Scriptures:
Luke: 5:12-16

And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank for Your touch! Thank You for Your willingness to touch me, time and time again when I called on You in faith. I am sure there are other times when You touched me and I didn’t call on You! Your mercy extended, just as promised in the Word, to me and to my generation! I need another touch today. I know You are willing and I know You are able. The Word makes it clear: “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
He Touched Me

Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither

1. Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.

Refrain:
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.

2. Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 1 “Fishermen”

Fishermen

When the sun comes up each day we are relatively sure it will go down again in the world that saw it rise.
That would be the normal expectation of a normal day. If that sunrise was the start of a day when Jesus walked by, the world could change before sundown. So it was for two sets of brothers in the fishing business in the region of Galilee. Andrew and Peter were one set; James and John were their partners.

Business was good.
The water was clean and the fish were plentiful. Sometimes they were not easy to find, but they were there for the eventual finding and taking. The four fishermen were impressed with Jesus. Perhaps they had witnessed the deliverance of the demon-possessed man in the synagogue. Simon Peter’s wife’s mother had been healed of a high fever at this command. They had witnessed the healing service late in the day. On this day Jesus would ask for their help teaching His authoritative message. Who knew what miracles the rising sun might witness on such a day?

The four partners had fished through the night, never locating the fish they sought and were cleaning their nets before finally getting some rest. Their two boats were safely ashore as a growing crowd followed Jesus to the water’s edge.

Simon Peter’s Boat
Jesus knew that He could use one of the boats as a sort of speaking platform. The water around the boat would reflect and amplify His voice. He asked Simon Peter if he could cast out a little way from the shore. The fisherman was glad to help and felt honored that his boat was to be of use to this man who had healed his wife’s mother.

Just offshore, Jesus continued His teaching sitting in the boat. At first, the other three fishermen tried to continue working on their nets while Jesus spoke but this proved impossible. The authority of Jesus’ teaching, the depth of His insight, and the practicality of His instruction commanded their complete attention. The nets were forgotten.

“Launch out into the deep.”
When Jesus finished teaching, He asked Simon Peter and his partners to go out into the deep waters and use those nets, repaired or not. Simon protested that they had worked at it all night and there were no fish to be found in that area. As he spoke, Peter must have realized that with Jesus around things could change for the better in a hurry for he quickly agreed to give it a try.

Like they had done so many times before, the partners prepared their equipment and set out for deep waters. When Peter put down his net, a multitude of fish rushed to be captured! The hastily prepared net began to break and the boat was filled to overflowing with fish! Simon and Andrew called for their partners in the other boat. Soon both boats were filled and safely delivered back to port.

Simon fell to his knees confessing his sinfulness. We can be sure the other three did as well. Jesus seized the moment.

“Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

It was more than a miraculous catch; it was a calling. That day on the Sea of Galilee, the sun did not set on the same world upon which it rose that morning. Two sets of brothers forsook all to answer the call of Jesus.

Scriptures:
Luke: 5:1-11

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, long ago I sensed Your call and I decided to follow You. Though I have sometimes failed to follow You, You have never failed to bring me back. Give me the proper spiritual vision to see what is really important. It isn’t the “business” life put me in—it is the ministry You have called me to. You will use my stuff, just as You used Peter’s boat and nets, but You are the One who does the work,  the One who has the reward. “The world behind me, the Cross before me!” Thank You, Jesus!

Song:
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

Traditional

1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2. Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3. The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 12 “Galilee”

Galilee

Before Jesus came preaching and healing in Galilee, everybody was simply dying.
Life was miserable, stressful, and short. When one got sick, death was the most likely outcome. There was no sanitation and not even any knowledge beyond the commands of the Law of Moses that being clean had anything to do with being sick. All that could be done with blind, deaf, lame or impaired folk was to be kind to them, give them alms, and help them get around without hurting themselves.

Then Came Jesus
Jesus came into that painful, depressing world with words of hope and a healing touch. Irreversible situations were reversed at His command. Blind eyes started seeing. Those with no powers of speech started singing psalms as those who had no hearing listened. Lame children started dancing to the music. No only had pain departed but joy had come to town. The only tears watering the dusty pathways through Galilee were tears of gratitude and joy.

Peter’s House
After the amazing deliverance of the demoniac in the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus went to the home of one of the Galilean fisherman who was following Him, Simon Peter. His wife’s mother was down with a dangerously high fever, one of those fevers that only cools when the body dies. This woman did not want to be sick for that meant she was out of action. She took great joy in serving others so she was sick in her spirit as well as in her body.

Perhaps Jesus saw that Simon Peter was not taking part in the celebration that spilled over from the synagogue to the streets. The family asked Jesus to do something. When He learned that the mother-in-law of one of His men was desperately ill, He went into the house, stood over her and rebuked the fever. The disease obeyed and her body instantly cooled. Her head was clear and her limbs were strong and well-practiced. Immediately she went to work serving those who were in her home.

A Sundown Healing Service
The news of the deliverance of the man in the synagogue and the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother spread throughout Galilee. As the sun was setting, a multitude of people came seeking a different result from the usual countdown to a painful death. They were not disappointed. The combination of the love of Jesus with the power of Jesus and the faith of the people made for a high, holy, and hilarious time as evening shadows fell. That grace group was tuned up and on fire:

  • Dumb people singing while
  • Lame people danced while
  • Deaf people listening to music for the first time ever, while
  • Lepers shopped for new clothes while,
  • Sore people didn’t hurt anymore and stiff people moved without pain and
  • People who had hosted demons rested in the peace of God.

All because Jesus came by where they lived. They didn’t argue with Him they just believed what He said. They didn’t strike out at Him, they reached out to Him and He touched them.

Before Jesus came preaching and healing in Galilee, everybody was simply dying. When, over their protests, He left them to take His ministry elsewhere, they were no longer dying; they were living!

Scriptures:
Luke: 4:38-44

Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her. So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them. When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ. Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no one like You. I am so glad You came my way! Your presence is my delight and my destiny. My walk with You here is a foretaste of the eternity we will walk together. There will be no sorrow there, no pain, no stress, and no strain. These things happen here, but Your power is there with me, giving me relief. Thank You for Your healing, sustaining touch. May I always express my joy in You which is my strength. Amen.

Song:
Reach Out and Touch the Lord
Traditional

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 11 “Authority”

Authority

In stark contrast to the riot at the synagogue in Nazareth, worshipers in the synagogue in Capernaum welcomed Jesus and His message. 
Dr. Luke emphasizes the teaching of Jesus.  The faithful in Capernaum recognized an authority in the teaching of Jesus they had never before witnessed.  This authority was about to be demonstrated in a powerful way.

A Demonic among the Faithful
We don’t know how long this had gone on, or what family connections made it possible, but a regular attendee in that synagogue was infested with demon spirits. Judging from other demonic encounters in the Jesus Story, this man was most likely a disrupter of worship. He did not come to services to worship, but to keep others from worshiping. Demon spirits hate the worship of God! Perhaps they were envious because they wanted worship for themselves; this was their downfall ages ago. There must have been some reason why the people tolerated this unpredictable, random embarrassment. Perhaps an influential leader interceded for the poor man. The same authority in the words of Jesus that impressed the worshipers, aggravated the demons. They cried out against Him.

“Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?”

No! thought the leaders of the synagogue. Not now! Not for this nice boy from Nazareth? If there were prominent family members influential enough to override the will of the leaders, they must have lowered their eyes in shame. They knew better than to try and restrain him; the demons gave him supernatural strength. Jesus paused in His teaching. The demons in the man jumped into the silence.

“Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!”

All semblance of worship was gone; this was now outright spiritual warfare. Jesus fixed his eyes on the unfortunate man and spoke past the man’s face to the corrupted spirit within him where the demons had taken up residence.

“Be quiet, and come out of him!”

As a parting gesture, the demons threw the man to the floor of the synagogue, shaken but uninjured, and left him there as they fled.

It may be that the one who defended the demonized man lifted him from the floor and looked deep into his eyes. For the first time in memory, his eyes, and therefore his mind, were clear, clean from the shadows of evil. The delivered man knew what to do next—he worshiped God. Someone pointed out Jesus as the man who commanded the demons to leave. The man’s worship quickly focused on Jesus. It is likely that he, like so many others, fell at Jesus’ feet, weeping with thanksgiving.

Authority and Power
The congregation buzzed with excitement. The smartest among them began to calculate the implications of this authority and power for the People of God. Surely the Romans had met their match in Jesus. News of this spread throughout Galilee, even back to Nazareth where people did not want to hear about it.

Somewhere in the nether regions where demons go to sulk, these soldiers of Satan’s legions were ashamed to report their defeat at the hands of Jesus of Nazareth. Satan was not surprised. His corrupted angel soul still smarted from the beating he had taken in the wilderness.

Scriptures:
Luke: 4:31-37

Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, it simply is no contest! The devil is a defeated foe and You are the one who defeated him. He is a liar and the father of it. He hates You and he hates worship. He fears prayer in the Spirit so that’s what I am going to do. Help me to never fear the emissaries of the enemy. I will run into Your name as my strong tower and I will be safe there because You are the Victor! Amen and amen.

Song:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Words and Music: Martin Luther

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 10 “Rejection”

Rejection

The words were well known by all. Centuries had come and gone since the Prophet Isaiah had written them.
As was His custom, Jesus attended worship at the synagogue in Nazareth. He had been on an amazing ministry tour in Galilee since the Holy Spirit led Him out of the desert. The moment had come for Him to tell His friends and family who He was. They needed to know. It would explain so much! The news of the healings and other miracles had preceded Jesus to the meeting. The elders handed Him the scroll of Isaiah to read. He turned to the place where the Prophet predicts the power of Messiah’s ministry.

The Spirit of the Lord
“Christ” means, “the Anointed One.” The secret of the future impact Messiah was to be the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Christ will be the “Anointed One”—chosen by God and moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. He will walk among people as a source of blessing. Whatever they need they will find in Him.

  • The poor will hear the Gospel—the Good News of God’s Kingdom come to Earth.
  • The brokenhearted ones will find healing in His embrace.
  • Captives will be set free.
  • The blind will see again.
  • Those who had found living to be a binding, bruising experience will be set free at His command.
  • He will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He closed the scroll as every eye in the synagogue was fixed on Him. What would be His commentary on the passage they all knew so well?

Fulfilled
His commentary changed everything. He was not Joseph’s son. He was more than a skillful carpenter. The ministry in Galilee proved it—Jesus was the one spoken of by the Prophet.

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The stunned silence quickly gave way to skepticism and hurtful questions. The questions gave way to violence. The congregation became a mob. They manhandled Jesus out of the meeting house to the brow of a hill intending to throw Him off. He stopped them with the force of His very presence. Like the Red Sea before the Children of Israel, the crowd parted before Him and He walked out through the middle of them.

“…no prophet is accepted in his own country…”

The Nazareth Misjudgment
Those people thought they knew Jesus so well. The older ones had watched Him grow up. The younger ones had grown up with Him. He was a good man, a master craftsman, but Messiah? No! He was the son of Mary and Joseph arriving among them a little too early. Who could believe those tales about the miracles in Galilee? Do one now, Jesus, for us.

So smart. So clever. So wrong. The blind among them still stumbled in darkness and the deaf ones still heard nothing. Those in chronic pain went to bed again with their usual discomfort. It could have all be so different. They could have seen Him walk among them with healing in every step.

The words were well known by all but the truth escaped them.

Scriptures:
Luke: 4:14-30

Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know You. I will open my mind to You. I will open my eyes to You. I will open my heart to You. I will listen for Your voice. You are my Healer and Deliverer. I will not be distracted by those who doubt You. Your presence will be my passion, Your will for me will be my plan. You will always find honor in my heart and praise on my lips. Your Word will be my constant song.  Amen.

Song:
Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

Traditional

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 9 “Temptations”

Temptations

Before beginning his account of the ministry of Jesus, Dr. Luke provides us with a genealogy of Jesus through Joseph all the way back to Adam.
The names take on a familiar ring at about the time of King David: Nathan, David, Jesse, Boaz and ending with the Patriarchs, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, and finally to Adam. Such documentation is to be expected from a physician who did his homework. This places the Jesus Story in a universal context.

Led by the Spirit
After Jesus was baptized, the Spirit the Lord led Jesus (Some say He was driven by the Spirit!) into the wilderness. He fasted for 40 days with only the desert creatures for company, except for one unwelcomed companion—Satan himself. The fast and the temptation both lasted 40 days. There was a purpose in all of this:

  • Jesus had to endure temptation at its greatest power in order to completely defeat evil.
  • Jesus had to prove Himself to be the master of Satan. That fallen angel would try his best but would never best the sinless Son of God.
  • We believers in Jesus can appropriate Jesus’ victory over temptation and sin, because Jesus, the Victor, lives within us!

The Temptations
Decades later John, one of the Disciples of Jesus, wrote that temptation came in three varieties:

  1. The lust of the flesh,
  2. The lust of the eyes, and
  3. The pride of life.

These correspond perfectly to the final assault of this 40-day battle when Satan flamed out in defeat.

  • Lust of the flesh. Jesus was very hungry so Satan tempted Him with food. Jesus countered with the Word, true nourishment!
  • Lust of the eyes. Satan took Jesus to a high mountain from which He could see the kingdoms of this world. He offered them to Jesus in exchange for worship. Jesus saw more than the shimmering horizon in this vision—He saw the deception inherent in the lust of the eyes—envy, greed, power, riches ruthlessly gained, and vanity. We must keep our eyes on God and worship Him only.
  • The Pride of Life. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, the center of the center of the faith. He sought for one hint of pride in Jesus. If you are the Son of God—prove it! He quoted scriptures promising safety when danger came near Messiah. There was not a glimmer of pride in Jesus as He rebuked the old devil for the final time.

Jesus was and is the Victor!

Our Victory
Jesus was in the right place at the right time—fasting and seeking God in the wilderness, preparing for His public ministry. This is a vital key to victory over temptation—stay in the center of God’s will. The sheep that wanders away from the Shepherd is the victim of the roaring lion. Know the Word—know the Word! Know it so well you can quote it in the devil’s ugly face. He has no answer for the Word confessed in faith. In times of temptation, when we quote the Word of God, we can actually feel Satan slinking away.

Scriptures:
Luke: 3:23-38; 4:1-13

Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah, the son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er, the son of Jose, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Luke 4
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'” Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
1 John 2:16-17
For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank for that ordeal in the desert. You did not yield to temptation. You defeated every trick of the enemy and You did it for me! Through You, I can have victory over the lust of the flesh. By Your grace I can have a clear spiritual vision, unclouded by the lust of the eyes. Because Your Spirit lives in me, I can go about in genuine humility, taking the servant’s place in victory because You defeated the Pride of Life. “Victory, yes, victory. Hallelujah! I am free,Jesus gives me victory!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
Victory

Words: Barney E. Warren

1. Hallelujah, what a thought!
Jesus full salvation brought,
Victory, victory;
Let the pow’rs of sin assail,
Heaven’s grace can never fail,
Victory, victory.

Refrain:
Victory, yes, victory.
Hallelujah! I am free,
Jesus gives me victory;
Glory, glory! Hallelujah!
He is all in all to me.

Refrain

2. I am trusting in the Lord,
I am standing on His Word,
Victory, victory;
I have peace and joy within,
Since my life is free from sin,
Victory, victory.

Refrain

3. Shout your freedom everywhere,
His eternal peace declare,
Victory, victory,
Let us sing it here below,
In the face of every foe,
Victory, victory.

Refrain

4. We will sing it on that shore,
When this fleeting life is o’er,
Victory, victory;
Sing it here, ye ransomed throng,
Start the everlasting song:
Victory, victory.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved