July 24 “Trust”


Where had this tax collector been?
What had he heard or seen than shook him from his lucrative vocation? Maybe he had been in the multitudes watching Jesus work wonders. Perhaps he had really listened when Jesus spoke about true riches in the Kingdom of God. Something somewhere, or somebody, got through his defenses and sent him to the Temple and drove him to his knees. I know he is a character in a story but let’s imagine that he was a real person.

Spiritual Pride
Like bad breath, the one who has spiritual pride is always the last to know. It is a deadly disease but it is hardly invisible. Spiritual pride parades itself in public and promotes itself in private. There is only one subject of conversation and only one hero to the story. All other topics are neglected and all other characters are supporting players, sidekicks in this serial adventure.

A Matter of Trust
Why is spiritual pride so deadly? It reveals the unworthy object of our trust. Jesus told a story about two men in prayer. One trusted in his own goodness and the other knew better than to try that.

The Pharisee went to the Temple to pray. No doubt his servants went with him. One blew a trumpet in the outer court when the Pharisee threw his noisy copper coins into the metal horn—a show of public charity, an offering to the poor. Entering the Temple and straightening his expensive robes, he knelt at a prominent place and began to broadcast his prayers. He was so thankful for his own goodness—he was a blessing from God to the community!

The Tax Collector went to the Temple to pray. He, too, was wealthy but no servants accompanied him. Somehow all his life’s props had been knocked down. He had no confidence in his money for he knew it was wickedly gained. He had no trust in his charity for he had hoarded his wealth. He had no hope in his popularity for he and his profession were despised as collaborators with Rome. The hollowness of his gains had become the horror of his losses. It was all worthless. Perhaps he had heard a man preaching in the wilderness, feeding multitudes and healing all manner of illnesses and impairments. Surely this was a Man from God. Was peace to be found in God Himself, in humble prayer, with no other sources of trust? The tax collector repented of his sins.

The Question
Which man went away justified? Those who trust in their own righteousness will be sadly, hopelessly turned away. Why? Because proud hearts cannot kneel at the cross. Instead, proud hands wield the hammers and hold the nails! Pride trusts in self as its own savior, leaving no room to trust in Jesus. Later, both Peter and the Lord’s brother, James, would declare the principle:

“God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”
(James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

The distance between God’s resistance and his grace is immense! Pride repulses the Holy Spirit while humility attracts Him. There is no de-militarized zone between the two.

Personal Action
Jesus finished the story by calling for action. If we persist in self-exaltation, there can be only one result—humiliation. It may be private or public but our prideful house of cards will topple in the winds of circumstance. On the other hand, there is opportunity—blessing from God. If we bow at the cross in repentance, if we remain at the altar in faith and humility, the Lord will lift us up to heights of true greatness we could never have imagined.

The grace is His; the choice is ours.

Luke: 18:9-14

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
James 4:6 NKJV
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5-7 NKJV
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Lord Jesus, may I never come to you in foolish pride! You are Faithful and True so I will always boast of You and never of myself. All that I possess has come from You and exists for Your glory alone. I am Your servant, joyful and weeping, in the privilege of Your service. Today, You will lead me from task to task for You have laid this day out for me. I will sow in tears knowing that I will also reap in joy. I will humble myself under Your mighty hand. Lord, use me today to advance Your work, to extend Your Kingdom. This is my joy and my cause and it is all for Your glory and not for mine. Help me to disappear into Your wonderful grace so that others may see You in my life. Amen and amen


Words and Music: Ira Stanphill

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

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

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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 23 “Persistence”


When Jesus returns to this earth, what will He find?
This question leads us to consider current conditions in the light of eternity. What will Jesus find on earth when He returns to it? Indeed, what does He find in this present moment? Will He find faith then? Does He find faith now?

The Holy Counter-culture
Just as there was a faithful remnant in Jesus’ day, He will find and rescue His faithful ones on the His return. In the same manner, there are faithful ones serving Him today—the church Jesus is building. The Greek word for the church is ekklesia, meaning, “the called out ones.” (Strong’s NT: 1577) This term echoes the description given by Peter: the church has been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Why? that we “may proclaim the praises of Him.” Thus called out of the contemporary culture, Christ-followers live in loving opposition to the norm, the present mores, and the popular spiritualities of vanity (see Ecclesiastes).

  • Where there is obscenity, we speak holiness.
  • Where there is lust, we offer love.
  • Where there is destructive falsehood, we preach the Good News.
  • Where there is selfishness, we live as servants.

We, the church, are a holy counter-culture. Our opposition to the world is a loving one. We wage spiritual warfare against powers and principalities in Jesus’ name while waging peace among people who oppose us. This is the church for which Jesus will return, not the one immersed in the things of the world, but the people who live by the laws and privileges of another Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow
To illustrate this, Jesus told another strange story. Again, the “judge” in this story is not a man of God. He represents the current, fallen culture of self.

A widow had been done an injustice of some kind. (Remember the accusation of Jesus to the Pharisees, “You devour widow’s houses.”) She takes her case to the local judge who doesn’t care about her and has no time for or interest in her case. But she doesn’t give up. She keeps bringing her cause to the judge until she wears him down and receives justice from his office.

If a wicked judge can be worn down by persistence, how much more will our righteous God respond to our persistence in prayer? Faithfulness in prayer means never giving up. It calls for persistent asking, seeking, and knocking. It means exercising unflagging hope in the character of God: “God is good and His mercy endures forever!” Prayers are seldom answered immediately. Time and persistence in prayer are generally required by those who follow Christ. This is the kind of faith Jesus is looking for today and the kind He will rescue when He returns.

The God Who “bears long” with Us
We would prefer a God of instant gratification but such is not the case. For spiritual reasons beyond the detection of our five senses, answers to prayer most often take time and require repetition. That is why a particular type of prayer is called intercession. In faith, we intercede into the situations before us waging spiritual warfare with unseen forces and proclaiming peace for their victims and hapless allies. In the course of time, God’s own good time, He will act “speedily” in our behalf. Answers to persistent prayers are long in coming but when they come, they strike with speed of, not light, but faith!

Luke: 18:1-8

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
1 Peter 2:9-11 NKJV
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Lord Jesus, today I will bring before Your throne petitions I have carried many times before. In these issues, I live between the prayers and the answers to the prayers. Help me dwell in this land peacefully with full confidence in You. You are faithful in all things! I will exercise my mustard-seed faith toward these issues knowing that You will one day bring about the answers. Holy Spirit, convict my lost loved ones so that they may turn to You before it is too late. You are coming soon! Help us all to be ready. I pray You will find us persistently asking, seeking, and knocking! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Only Believe


Only believe. Only believe.
All things are possible, only believe.
Only believe. Only believe.
All things are possible, only believe.

God answers prayer. God answers prayer.
All things are possible, God answers prayer.
God answers prayer. God answers prayer.
All things are possible, God answers prayer.

Jesus is here. Jesus is here.
All things are possible. Jesus is here.
Jesus is here. Jesus is here.
All things are possible. Jesus is here.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 22 “Noah”


Many people, when they consider the stories of Noah and Lot, get distracted by details we cannot know and questions we can never answer.
If we take Jesus’ the words as He spoke them, we can avoid those dead-end discussions. Jesus is talking about the future, not the past. Moral and social conditions prevalent in those days will return in the last days. When we see these things, we can know that Jesus is coming soon.

The Days of Noah
Jesus said this:

“…as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man…”

What was the moral and social climate in those days and how will it be replicated in the Last Days? The desires of the flesh were the driving issues in life: eating, drinking, and sex. The spiritual realities of life were deemphasized to the point of exclusion.

We live at the end of what is called Modernity, the modern age. The term many use is Post-modern. This is the age of the physical and the mental with the issues of spirituality shunted to the periphery. Officially, that is according to science, secular education, and contemporary philosophies, man is not a spiritual being at all. He is an animal. This idea has so many expressions:

  • There is no such thing as an eternal spirit.
  • We and everything around us are the results of blind chance.
  • There is no God, no judgment, no afterlife.
  • The only reality is what we see and measure.
  • Truth and morality are what we want them to be.
  • Life has no meaning beyond the meaning we give it.
  • We are creatures of instinct. Our physical urges cannot be controlled.
  • Ends always justify any means necessary for self-fulfillment.

The results of such beliefs are everywhere. The Days of Noah have returned. It is more important for us to understand these things than to puzzle ourselves over how many animals there were in the ark, etc. Jesus is coming soon!

The Days of Lot
Instead of pouring out judgment on the whole sinful world, the Lord judged these two cities for their wickedness. Jesus said that these sins would also return in the Last Days, and they have. This is the age of pleasure.

  • Whatever the body craves is the order of the day.
  • Right and wrong do not enter into the consideration of celebrants today.
  • Lust is the driving force, lust in all its forms and expressions.
  • The creativity of man, which is a gift from God, has fallen so far that artists in all media compete to create the most vile entertainments. Corruption sells. Profanity pours from ruined hearts.
  • Laughter is no longer a medicine for the soul; it is a device for the derision of all that is holy.

In the words of Isaiah, “…he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”

He came. He’ll come again.
We must consider these unpleasant things. They, too are His story for the story does not end with the four Gospels, or the Book of Acts. It continues into the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in the Bible. His return will be a time of separation. Those who believe will be taken and those who do not will be left behind. Today we can see the extreme relevance of the ancient words of Jesus about the days of Noah and Lot. They have, indeed, returned. Let us be ready for we know that soon Jesus also will return as promised.

Luke: 17:26-37

And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Isaiah 59:12-15 NKJV
For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And as for our iniquities, we know them: In transgressing and lying against the Lord, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Lord Jesus, I want to be ready when You return. I want to be found faithful in the work You have given me to do. I see this world and its wickedness. Holy Spirit, help me to never be comfortable with the iniquity of this age. May profanity always wound my heart. May obscenities offend my spirit. May I weep over the moral state of the world around me, the injustice, the hate, and the pain and suffering they cause. May Your story always be on my lips. Your are the only hope, Lord Jesus! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Even So, Lord Jesus, Come

Words and Music: Terry MacAlmon

Even so, come Lord Jesus, come.
Even so, take Your Bride away;
How my soul longs to be with You my Lord.
Even so, even so, come Lord Jesus, come.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 21 “Rejected!”


In baseball, there is a play called the “sacrifice.”
With a bunt or a ground ball or a high fly ball to the outfield, a batter gives himself up as an out to advance a baserunner or to score a man from third base. One player suffers a loss to advance the winning cause of the whole team. Just so, in life there are sacrifices, temporary losses that eventually secure a larger win.

The Sacrifices of Jesus
In the earthly ministry of Jesus, there were many, many victories. He began in His home region of Galilee teaching and working miracles and multitudes followed Him. Of course, there were local rejections:

  • There was that awful day in Nazareth where the people in His own synagogue rioted and threatened to throw Him off a cliff, and there were
  • those foolish town elders in Capernaum who sent Him away after He delivered the town demoniac, but who’s counting, right?

For the most part, like the 5000+ plus multitude who filled their bellies in the wilderness, people went away healed and happy. The victories outnumbered the sacrifices.

We should not forget the constant rejection of Jesus by the leaders of the people; it was nearly unanimous, with only the occasional priest or Pharisee or lawyer who expressed interest in the Good News of the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said, He had come to divide those who believed from those who refused to believe.

The Road to Jerusalem
In Dr. Luke’s narrative, Jesus turned away from the adoring crowds and turned toward the Cross. This was His sacrifice play, a personal loss of great and terrible cost for the good of all people who would believe in Him. He tried to prepare His men for the horrors ahead. It was not an easy thing to do. For one thing, the “Day of the Lord” has many seemingly contradictory aspects. In this place, Jesus refers to His return with the image of a flash of lightning that illumines the whole world from horizon to horizon. In other places, He depicts His return as a “Thief in the night.” (Luke 12:39-40) Our job is not to choose one or the other but to believe both.

A line had been crossed.
With this turn in the journey toward Jerusalem, Jesus crossed a line; things were going to be different from there on to the conclusion. Rejection would increase and acceptance would retreat. For a while, Jesus would remain with them every day, teaching, healing, touching, loving them at close range. A time was coming when His presence with them would be spiritual, not physical. There were so many details about the New Covenant in His blood but they would have to wait until the extreme rejection did its work. He tried to warn them:

“The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man,
and you will not see it.”

In those days, it was crucial that Christ-followers know the facts and know them well. It was a day of revelation and deception: the Truth revealed by the Spirit and horrible lies marketed by the merchants of hell. It was up to believers to fill their hearts and brains with the truth about Jesus and to walk close in His steps.

Those days are these days. We celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus in the light of His ultimate victory.

Luke: 17:22-25

Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Lord Jesus, You are with me today! Not in the way that You were with the Twelve as You walked the dusty pathways of human existence, but in spiritual ways that are just as thrilling. You promised never to leave me or forsake me and it is so. Following You, I have a story to tell, Good News to share, and a healing touch to administer to the people in my path. Many will reject You and Your story but some will believe and come alongside me to share this journey to glory. I, too, will be a willing sacrifice to see the ultimate victory—the Thief in the Night and the heaven-to-earth stroke of lightning. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus


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

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 20 “Within”


Long before maps and GPS, the Kingdom of God could be located with ease.
It is not a continent or country. It is not an island or mountain range. Its borders do not change as armies march over them. The Kingdom of God has a native tongue—Truth! There is a national culture—Spirit!

When will the Kingdom come?
Everybody wanted to know—the disciples, the critics, the people, everybody. This, of course, was the direct result of all the “Messiah” talk. When Messiah comes, he will overthrow the Romans! It will be a restored Kingdom of Israel like David, like Solomon, the world bringing tribute to Jerusalem. The Temple would be restored to the center of the world as it should be. The Chosen People of God will rule the earth in benevolence and peace with Messiah on His rightful throne. The nation of Israel will be a kingdom of priests unto the whole world, bringing all the Gentiles to the knowledge of God, as promised at Mt. Sanai. (Exodus 19:6)

How do we find the Kingdom?
This Kingdom of God was in everyone’s best interest but there was a problem.

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation…”

Normal processes of inquiry do not reveal the time of the Kingdom. Friends and forbears may share anecdotes, inspiring us with their experiences but testimonies do not locate the Kingdom for us. The Bible is all about the Kingdom of God, providing us with its borders of truth so that we know when we have transgressed into error and exited the Kingdom. Awaiting the revelation, we must see into the spirit realm for this Kingdom is not of this world. It stands pristine, unblemished by sin, pure and centered on the Throne of God where angels declare in unceasing song, “Holy, holy, holy!”

The New and Living Way
When the Pharisees asked this of Jesus, the plan for its revelation was in progress. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, the courts of men, the cross, and to an empty tomb. He would open a “new and living way” to God, replacing the old and dying ways of types and shadows with present realities.

  • The Living Word would apply the truth of the written Word.
  • The one Final Spotless Lamb would take the place of the countless animal sacrifices.
  • The heavy veil in the Temple separating God from the People of God would be forever rent.

So where is this Kingdom?
It dwells within us, beyond the mountain ranges of faith, across the tossing seas of circumstances, over the River of the Spirit and into the realm of the Splendor of His Holiness! Without fail, we locate the Kingdom of God within our hearts. This is the unchanging truth.

  • The Kingdom of God is in the Church because Jesus reigns in the hearts of believers.
  • Until we draw our last breath on earth Jesus reigns in our hearts.
  • Until Jesus reigns for 1000 years of peace, He reigns in our hearts.

So, the Kingdom of God within us is “already, but not yet,” as theologians like to say. It is and will forever be a Kingdom of Peace. Here and now in our hearts and soon in the whole world.

Luke: 17:20-21

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Hebrews 10:19-25
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
John 14:23
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the Kingdom and the power and the glory are Yours, now and forever. Amen!

King of Kings and Lord of Lords


King of kings and Lord of lords,
Glory! Hallelujah!
King of kings and Lord of lords,
Glory! Hallelujah!
Jesus, Prince of Peace!
Glory! Hallelujah!
Jesus, Prince of Peace!
King of kings and Lord of lords,
Glory! Hallelujah!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 19 “Mercy”


They found each other, these ten lepers.
They had no one else. Their families had turned them out; they had to. It was only right. Their villages had sent them away; they had to. And now they had found each other; they had to, as well.

They drifted from garbage heap to garbage heap finding only rags to wear and scraps to eat. When the wind was right, their collective odor announced their approach and people scattered before them. When the wind blew the other way, they would often catch people unaware. People fled before them, like a beaten army before a conquering foe and always with the cry, “Unclean! Unclean!”

The sight of healthy people running from this rag-tag mob was ironic. The lepers had no strength; they were practically starving. There weren’t even enough fingers and toes, and hands and feet to go around. There was no cure except to keep it away and pity the poor ones who had it. It was only right.

So, they had each other and that was it. This was the life they lived: human refuse, a moving trash heap.

“He saw them…”
But, somewhere along the way they heard about a man who did not run from lepers. He was coming their way. As He approached, they stood at the appropriate distance.

“Jesus, have mercy on us.”

Jesus looked at the ten, seeing them, not their disease. He saw

  • wives without husbands, homes without fathers, and important work that was not being done. He saw
  • men whose dreams had crumbled within them as their bodies crumbled on the outside and He saw
  • helplessness and despair.

“…he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests.
And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.”

This man told them what to do—go to the priests. There was a ritual, a Word from God for them. God had not forgotten them. He had a plan. Something in His words, in His eyes, in Him, told them to obey. They ran as well as rags and bandages and makeshift crutches would allow.

As they went, something began to happen.

  • Crippled feet began to tingle and burn with new growth as toes sprouted where stumps had been.
  • Fingers and hands and whole arms began to swing in the wind as strength returned.
  • Their rhythm-less running became smooth and effortless like Greek gods in a race.
  • They began to strip away rags they no longer needed or deserved.

Nine of them ran on to the village but one stopped and looked back to Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t met them on the road their lives would never have changed. Slowly, this man who was one in ten, a Samaritan, realized that before he ran to meet his future, there was something else he had to do. He fell at Jesus’ feet giving thanks. He had asked for mercy and found it.

It was only right.

Jesus was touched with the thanksgiving of this one. But He wondered about the others.

“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

The man did not know where they had gone; home most likely. Ironically, their disease had made them a community and healing had separated them. Jesus smiled at the thankful one, seeing in him those who would someday return to give thanks when the other great disease of mankind was cured.

It is only right.

Luke: 17:11-19

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Lord Jesus, You are my healer, my deliverer! You found me in the fellowship of the diseased and despised and took away the leprosy of my sin. You restored the withered limbs, rescued my wounded mind, and revived my fainting heart. I give You thanks today. May I never miss an opportunity to honor You whether others do or not! I will walk today in the health and strength You provide. When others inquire as to my strength, I will tell them of You! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Give Thanks
Words and Music: Don Moen

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

And now, let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
because of what the Lord has done for us!
And now, let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
because of what the Lord has done for us!
Give thanks. Give thanks.

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 18 “Duty”


There were times when the Disciples asked Jesus for one thing and received something else entirely—or did they?
It is easy to understand why the Twelve would ask Jesus to increase their faith. His faith never wavered while theirs seem to come and go. On one assignment, as when they led the 70 disciples, demons were subject to them and sicknesses fled at their touch. At other times, demons were intransigent and immovable at their command. Why? It was a mystery that made life a public risk. It is one thing to have a demon depart at one’s command and another thing entirely to have one snarl back and stay put. So, they came to Jesus:

“Increase our faith.”

More Mustard Seeds
Of course, when they asked Jesus a question, the answer was sure to be an adventure they did not expect. He reviewed the lesson of faith the size of a mustard seed, so tiny yet so powerful. This time, instead aiming this faith at a mountain, it was a nearby mulberry tree. With mustard seed faith they could command it to be uprooted and transplanted in the sea,

Yes! That was it. That was the kind of faith they wanted more of, the spectacular, the crisis kind of faith that overcomes obstacles in memorable moments! But, Jesus spoke of a different kind of faith, an ordinary faith, a daily, moment-to-moment kind of faith.

The Faithful Servant
Jesus asked them a rhetorical question about servants, slaves really, and their masters.

  • When a servant comes in from a day in the fields, hot, tired, spent in the service of his duties, does he kick off his sandals and join the master at the dinner table for a relaxing meal prepared by other servants? That was a foolish notion.
  • When the servant comes in from a day in the fields, he is commanded to prepare a meal for the master and then eat later if there is anything left.

Does the master commend the servant for this second shift? Of course not. He was only doing his duty and had earned no such commendation.

The Duty of Faith
Mountains and mulberry trees get cast into the sea when mustard seed faith meets a crisis, but an every day kind of faith is the duty of the servant of the Lord. There are no crowds looking on, no accolades to be won, and no celebrity to be gained. There is just work, the work of the Kingdom of God. The work of both the field and the kitchen requires faith of mustard seed proportions, too.

Duty-faith is routine not remarkable, expected not extraordinary, and it is on-the-job and not optional. Each of us has a set of duties to perform each day. These things–Worship, Word, and Prayer–must be our daily tasks. They are not spectacular but they are powerful, essential, and they enable success, public and private, throughout the day.

The Witness of the Spirit
These spiritual duties connect our human spirit with God’s Holy Spirit resulting in blessings that are remarkable, extraordinary, and on-the-job. We have within us, not just the words of Jesus, “Well done!” or “She has done what she could!” “You’ve done a beautiful thing to me.” but the witness of the Spirit that we are not just His servants, but His family! And so we cry, “Abba Father!” And as King David advised Solomon, we simply “do the work.”

Luke: 17:5-10

And the apostles said to the Lord, So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'”
Galatians 4:1-7
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.”

Lord Jesus, there is work to be done for You today! I want to be faithful and do this work. I don’t seek adoring crowds or approving experts, I simply want to serve You in the ordinary things of everyday life. I sense Your Holy Spirit speaking in my spirit that I am Your child, a trusted member of Your family, a player on Your holy team. Help me find the courage and strength to do the work today! For Your Glory, Lord. All for You! Amen.

Every Day with Jesus


Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.
Every day with Jesus I love Him more and more.
Jesus saves and keeps me. He’s the one I’m working for!
Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 17 “Offenses”


Just as Jesus was not immune to the pain of the whip, the thorns, and the nails, personal offenses hurt him, too.
He was not a whiner, easily upset by every little thing that happened, but the rejection of the religious leaders hurt Him. The ingratitude of those who received His miracles but refused to follow His teaching offended Him. In the days ahead of Him as He turned toward the cross, the betrayal of Judas will hurt Him. The denials of Simon Peter will offend Him. The taunts of the crowd around the cross will be an emotional storm of offense as hurtful as the Roman soldiers working at their horrid craft of crucifixion.

Offenses will come.
The road to Calvary was not an easy one. The Kingdom of God Jesus brought was a radical departure from the established Old Covenant religion. As such, it sparked violent opposition from the religious establishment. Leaders understood immediately that the “Good News” Jesus preached was not good news for them. He threatened their power structures and jeopardized all their control mechanisms.

The freedom Jesus brought was dangerous on many counts:

  1. They could not match the flow of God’s power through Jesus to heal and deliver.
  2. They could not refute the truth He taught—He knew the Law and the Prophets better than they did.
  3. His message of the love of God for the individual threatened to bypass the leaders altogether.
  4. His friendliness toward sinners, tax collectors, the sick, and the poor upset the carefully balanced stratified society threatening chaos at every level.
  5. His radical teachings and the accompanying signs and wonders could not be ignored by Rome. When the people called Him, “Messiah,” this was an insurrection in the making, something the leaders did not need.

In fairness to the leaders, they were trying in their own way to be true to the Covenant with Jehovah and keep the peace with the Romans at the same time—no easy set of tasks. Their lives were tough enough without Jesus; with Jesus in the picture, they seemed impossible.

So they fought back. The schemed against Jesus, spied on Him and His men, attacked Him in public, and finally conspired against Him. Jesus saw their tactics and these things broke His heart. The Bible is sparse in its descriptions of Jesus’ pain, reporting only His times of solitude and His tears over the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. We know Jesus loved His enemies, these same Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and scribes. He came to save them, not antagonize them, to relieve their suffering, not add to it. Thus His sad commentary:

“It is impossible that no offenses should come…”

The Cost of Offending
Offense causes more than just the pain of the one who is offended. Jesus completed the sentence:

“…but woe to him through whom they do come!”

Everyone has the power to offend and to strike back when offended. This is how cycles of violence get started and continue from generation to generation: attacks followed by reprisals, ad infinitum.

In Jesus, every believer has the power to forgive—the Sermon on the Mount in action!  Violence and counter violence can only be stopped by a new and living way—the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!–Repentance and forgiveness, grace received and extended. If your brother offends you, forgive him, no matter how many times it happens!

Life Lesson: Do not offend your brother and when offended, forgive.

Luke: 17:1-4
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Lord Jesus, there is so much violence in this world! May I never contribute to any of it! Give me the courage to break the pattern of strike and reprisal with forgiveness. Help me turn the other cheek when necessary. Lord, may I never offend my brother or sister and help me be quick to forgive others. Most of all, may I never offend the Holy Spirit! May I never break Your heart! Keep me true, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Freely, Freely

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.

God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name.
I’ve been born again in Jesus’s name.
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to. He said,

“Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 16 “Crumbs”


The story of the rich man and poor Lazarus is not presented as a parable.
“There was a certain rich man…” These are the words of Jesus. It may be that the Pharisees at whom this story was directed knew the man and the beggar as well. The only connection between the wealthy diner and the wretched beggar was the harvest of crumbs that fell from his table. On these, perhaps gathered by compassionate servants and delivered to Lazarus at the gate, the beggar subsisted.

It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between lifestyles than a rich man who “fared sumptuously” and Lazarus, emaciated and bleeding in the street by the city gates. Dogs were his medical team.

A Further Separation
Just as life separated these two men, death drove them farther apart. When Lazarus died, angels bore him into the bosom of his father in the faith, Abraham. When the rich man died, he plunged into the depths of hell. If this story is indeed a true history and not a parable, we have a vivid glance into the afterlife: bliss in the presence of the Lord and His saints in heaven, and torment in a hell designed for rebellious demons.

Action in the Afterlife
Almost like a science fiction tale, the tormented rich man could see into the bliss of the faithful. He called out to Father Abraham for mercy. Seeing the former beggar, Lazarus, at peace and in perfect health, the familiar face gave him an idea—Send Lazarus with a drop of water to ease the burning pain enveloping the formerly rich man. Abraham answered:

“’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

Not good news. There was no passage from heaven to hell and back again. Why? There was a great span of nothingness between heaven and hell that no mortal could cross. Each man was now reaping what he had sown in life.

“…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “

Not accustomed to having his requests denied, the “rich” man thought, finally, of others.

‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

With no need for further thought, Abraham explained that his brothers were adequately warned by the Word so present among them. He speculated that even if someone did return from the dead, he would not be believed by them.

Back from the Dead
The story/history ends at this point. In the light of the Jesus Story we can take it deeper. One has returned from the dead! The Apostles Creed proclaims that Jesus, “descended to the dead” and scripture claims that He “led captivity captive” and rescued the souls waiting for Calvary in Abraham’s bosom. The Good News is, the “great gulf” was spanned by a Cross. Hell still exists and awaits those who refuse the Gospel, but this is an unnecessary outcome. Jesus has opened a “new and living way” to heaven for those who believe wherever they lie on the social scale.

Sumptuous fare at the Table of the Lord, not stale crumbs from those who have sold their souls to riches, awaits those who believe.

Luke: 16:14-31

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”

Lord Jesus, I believe! You have spanned the great gulf that could not be crossed! You did it with Your holy, sinless life. Now there is a new and living way from the hell we create for ourselves in this life to the joy and satisfaction of serving You. By the time the “rich man” came to his senses, it was too late for him. I pray for my friends and family who still do not know You-Send someone to them (could it be me?) to give them the Good News. There is a path to eternal life and You are the Way! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Jesus Opened Up the Way

Words and Music: E. M. Bartlett

1. Jesus Christ the Lord opened up the way to glory
When He died to save us from our ruined state,
And He asks that we shall go tell the world the story,
How His blood will save them from their awful fate.

Jesus opened up the way to Heaven’s gate
When He died on the cross,
To redeem all the lost;
He prepared the road that leads To His abode,
’Tis a road marked by blood
But it leads us home to God.

2. And the way is marked by the footprints of the Savior,
With His blood he made it, made it plain and straight;
If you walk that way, it will lead you into Heaven,
Lead you safely into glory’s golden gate.


3. Sinner, will you come and join in this heav’nly journey,
Walk the bloody pathway that the Savior trod;
Then when life is over and all the sheaves are garnered,
You will meet the Savior and be not afraid.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

July 15 “Justice”


The subject is wealth—wasted by the prodigal son and now, pursued by any means by the Unjust Steward.
Jesus dealt with the world the way it was—wracked with the wickedness of some and blessed by the benevolence of others. In the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the wicked ways of the world are explored. We must be sure to see that Jesus does not commend the wicked shrewdness of the steward. The “lord” in this parable is a worldly businessman, not a man of God.

The Unjust Steward
The man was a crook. He was caught red-handed cooking the books of his master’s business. He had grown rich in this under-the-table double dealing but it all came crashing down. He was fired but first he had to settle the accounts. It is said he was shrewd so he came up with a scheme to provide good wishes in the future so he could continue to enjoy his ill-gotten gains.

He still had his master’s books so he started calling on those who owed his master money and valuable goods. It is thought by some commenters that he used his own money in this scheme. He altered the books to lessen the debt owed by the creditor, perhaps making up the difference out of his own pocket. He was hoping to benefit the creditors now so they could benefit him later on. It was a clever scheme.

Except the master found out about it.

Now this “lord’ was a crooked as his steward. We can only imagine that much of his wealth was gained by nefarious means also. So the steward was caught a second time but this time the master had to admire the shrewdness of the scheme so he actually commended him.

The Sons of Light
At this point in the parable Jesus injected a comment.

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”

Far from commending dishonesty in business dealings, Jesus condemned these methods as worldly and based in darkness, not light. As children of the Light, we must never be dishonest in the first place. We can then use our cleverness to do great things rather than to get out of trouble. As “Children of the Light,” we, too should be clever and inventive but we must do so in the cause of righteousness, not evil.

The Divided Heart
In this strange story, Jesus calls us, at last, to righteous servanthood. He makes it plain that we cannot have life both ways. We cannot serve God and riches, too!

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The divided heart will always bleed trouble, one scheme upon another, until we are exposed for what we really are—an unjust steward.

Justice will be served.
We are all stewards of this life. Whether we follow Jesus or not, we will find ourselves carrying responsibilities for others. In these things we can deal honestly or dishonestly but we must recognize that either path will yield a harvest—trouble and more trouble or blessing and more blessing. How wise to have a heart undivided, with its methods and means in perfect unison. How wise to be a child of Light!

Luke: 16:1-13

He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Lord Jesus, You took the punishment for my sins! Now I stand before the Father as if I had never sinned—how amazing is Your grace! Lord, give me an undivided heart. May I never be tempted by the love of money for that is a cruel master. I want to serve You with gladness and singleness of heart. Save me from the wicked ways of this world and help me be clever in righteousness! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

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

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


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.