October 10 “Blindness”

Blindness

It might be vaguely comforting if we lived in a strict cause-and-effect universe.
It would be so predictable and stable. Do “this” and “that” will always be the result. We could plan on the results of everything we did. No disappointments. No surprises. No questions. This isn’t the case, of course. Some causes have little relation to the effect they produce. While sowing and reaping is a principle of life, we all must sometimes deal with unintended consequences of a cause that faied to produce the expected result. The Twelve men whom Jesus called seemed to believe in cause-and-effect as an absolute rule. This would prompt an important question.

One Born Blind
As Jesus walked untouched through the armed and hostile crowd, He was not unwatched. Even in their strange, paralyzed state, the well-dressed Pharisees, brightly bedecked priests, and plain-clothes Levites watched His every move. To a man they all hoped He would just keep walking out of the Temple, out of the city, and out of their lives. It was not to be.

A young man, blind from birth, begged by the side of the road leading from the Temple. The Disciples wanted to know the cause of such a wasted life.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus needed to lift their thinking above this earthbound reasoning. God has causes we cannot discern so there will always be effects we cannot understand. Things were not so simple.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,
but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

Jesus was on a mission to demonstrate both the power of God the willingness of God to involve Himself in the lives of those who loved Him.

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus stooped to the ground and scooped up a handful of loose soil. He spat in His hand and molded a poultice of mud. As the poor man sat at his place by the road, he sensed the coolness of the shadow of Jesus standing directly in front of him. Before he could beg for alms, Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with the mud. Startled, the man drew back from His touch. Jesus’ voice calmed Him.

“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”

The man was not so blind that he could not see an opportunity. He reached excitedly for a helping hand and someone guided him to the pool. The crowd waited to see what would happen. Before long, the man returned, unaided and seeing perfectly well.

A Community Amazed
Friends were delighted and confused. They subjected the young man to extended stares to be sure they were seeing correctly. Without doubt it was the same young man whom they knew had never seen before. When people asked him how this happened, he gave all the details he knew. They wanted to know who and where this healer was.

All the young man could say was the truth,

“I don’t know.”

The desperate crowd had witnessed a new effect. They needed to see the cause.

Scriptures:
John 9:1-12

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” Then they said to him, “Where is He?”He said, “I do not know.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Job 9:10 NKJV
He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without number.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your touch is a healing touch. Blind eyes have opened, deaf ears have started hearing, withered limbs have straightened and strengthened, tattered minds have been repaired, and horrible diseases have fled at Your touch. A word from You can send demons running or still the raging storm. I have felt Your touch so many times, a comfort in times of sorrow and loss, an encouragement when the way is hard, and a deep settled peace in every circumstance. Thank You, for the touch of Your mighty hand. Amen.

Song:
One Touch

Words and Music: Bonnie Plunkett

Verse:
There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His hand will lift you
Body mind and soul
Believe Him that His pow’r will Free you
Praise Him for His mercies t’ward you
Thank Him for His love
He longs to make you fully whole

Refrain:
Just one touch of the Master’s hand
Just one word He has full command
Have faith in what He wants to do
Is all He asks of you
There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His Master’s hand will
Make you fully whole

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 9 “Abraham”

Abraham

Calling people “sons of the devil” was no way to make friends.
The leaders of the people would not allow some strange man from Galilee to talk to them like that so they called Him names, too.

“…You are a Samaritan and have a demon…”

They were not dealing with the “meek and mild” Jesus on that day. With fire in His eyes, He shot back,

“I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father,
And” (smiling, pointing at them with each syllable) “you dishonor Me.”

At this point even the passive Roman soldiers started taking notice. They were amused by the rancor and mildly concerned that such a public discourse might get out of hand. They drew their swords and took positions near the Temple guards who were of the opinion they didn’t need the help of the Romans. After a moment the boisterous crowd settled down.

Showdown in the Temple Courts
Still smiling, Jesus went on,

“And I do not seek My own glory; there is One” (pointing to heaven) who “seeks and judges.”

The Pharisees laughed at this—obviously this man sought all the attention He could get! The leaders quickly lost their smiles, but strangely enough, Jesus kept His! He was giving as good as He was getting and His words had tremendous power, but He did it all with a smile. This infuriated the Pharisees. Then, still smiling, He said this:

“I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

A moment of amazed silence was followed by a roar of protest. Who would ever say such a thing? Then the Pharisees knew they were winning the game. Even those who followed Him—including His own 12 men of questionable character—hung their heads at this statement. Why would Jesus ever say such a thing? The obvious response came quickly from the leaders.

“Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets… Are You greater than our father Abraham? Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

Abraham Rejoiced
This was exactly what Jesus was trying to tell them. He pointed out that He always sought to honor His Father. Time was a fluid thing to Jesus, something these men could never understand. Speaking of their hero, Abraham.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

He had come from a world where past, present, and future could sometimes trade places. One of the leaders was quick to do the math…

“You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

Jesus knew the truth would be too much for them, still it had to be said.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

It was too much. He claimed the covenantal name of Jehovah! Angry men scrambled to find rocks big enough to hurt. (They had dropped an adequate supply in the matter of that woman.) The Roman soldiers and the Temple guards positioned themselves to restore order if it broke down. The Roman officer on horseback moved to take the lead, if necessary. When the men were armed and ready, they found the same paralysis that had afflicted the guards the day before now shackled them all. With a confident smile, Jesus simply walked through the angry mob and went on His way.

John 8:48-59
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Prayer:
Lord, You have made a New Covenant in Your own blood for our church. Just as God made covenants with Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, He has made the final Covenant with mankind through You, Lord Jesus. It is an everlasting promise. In this sense, we are children of Abraham as well as the Children of God. We are family, bound together with blessed ties that bind in the strength of love. Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful promise begun in antiquity and still in force today! Amen and amen.

Song:
The God of Abraham Praise

Words: (Attributed to) Daniel ben Judah; Music: Meyer Lyon

1. The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of Everlasting Days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and heaven confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name forever blest.

2. The great I AM has sworn; I on this oath depend.
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to heaven ascend.
I shall behold God’s face; I shall God’s power adore,
and sing the wonders of God’s grace forevermore.

3. The heavenly land I see, with peace and plenty blest;
a land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.

4. The God who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
and “Holy, holy, holy!” cry “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah, Lord, the great I AM, we worship thee!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 6 “Father”

Father

It is fair to say that Jesus stood out from the crowd.
Life with Jesus was an adventure. Twelve men followed Him everywhere, dispersing themselves among the people watching and listening at all times. Crowds pressed Him without mercy, some with sickening needs, others with dangerous motivations. After the latest challenge by the Pharisees, Jesus began to speak publicly about when this all would end.

“I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.
Where I go you cannot come.”

Surprised by this, His enemies whispered among themselves what He might mean by “going away.” Did He mean departure—no doubt they hoped for this—or did He mean suicide? There was no way of predicting what He might do or understanding what His words meant. They could not hide their breathless questions from Jesus.

“I am from above.”
Jesus wanted them to understand. His visit to this earth would be brief by design. He had come from “above” to do a work here “below.” Just as they could not restrain Him before His “time,” neither could they stop Him from completing His mission. Once again He explained that His origin was a different one from theirs. He made it as clear as He could:

“You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

He also made it personal and dangerous not to believe in Him.

‘Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins;
for if you do not believe that I am He…’

Who are You?
The Pharisees and priest had had enough of this pointless discussion. One of them blurted out the question that troubled each of them.

“Who are You?”

They knew the rumors.

  • He was a carpenter’s son from Nazareth,
  • He was a gifted speaker who held massive crowds spellbound while teaching incomprehensible things,
  • He was either a healer or a magician who worked wonders or performed magic tricks depending on what one wanted to believe, and for sure,
  • He was a trouble maker who threatened the fragile peace of the day and the power structures of the nation.

Those in the crowd who believed in Him shouted their answer to the crucial question—He was the Christ, the Promised One, the Messiah! This was the greatest fear of the leaders. They shouted protests and all order was lost. When a quieter moment presented itself, Jesus tried once again to explain.

“I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true;
and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”

He was talking about His heavenly Father who prompted His every move and message. His connection with Jehovah was the key to believing in Him.

“And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone,
for I always do those things that please Him.”

Lifted Up
He spoke of a coming day when He would be “lifted up.’ At that moment those of faith would see and understand.

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things…”

That day of “lifting up” was still in the future but, even on this day of debate and discourse, many believed on Him.

Scriptures:
John 8:21-30
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the bond between You and our Heavenly Father is a mystery, but this I know—it is strong, unbreakable, and eternally secure. Just as You walked this earth in dynamic contact with the Father, so may I today walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I please the Father when I stand in Your righteousness and not my own. When I have seen You, I have seen the Father! Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Son of God, Eternal Savior

Words: Somerset Corry Lowry; Music: Traditional Dutch Melody

1. Son of God, eternal Saviour, source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate hallows all our human race,
thou, our Head, who, throned in glory, for thine own dost ever plead,
fill us with thy love and pity; heal our wrongs, and help our need.

2. As thou, Lord, hast lived for others, so may we for others live;
freely have thy gifts been granted, freely may thy servants give:
thine the gold and thine the silver, thine the wealth of land and sea,
we but stewards of thy bounty, held in solemn trust for thee.

3. Come, O Christ, and reign among us, King of love, and Prince of peace;
hush the storm of strife and passion, bid its cruel discords cease;
by thy patient years of toiling, by thy silent hours of pain,
quench our fevered thirst of pleasure, shame our selfish greed of gain.

4. Son of God, eternal Saviour, source of life and truth and grace,
Son of Man, whose birth incarnate hallows all our human race,
thou who prayedst, thou who willest, that thy people should be one,
grant, O grant our hope’s fruition: here on earth thy will be done.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved