March 17 “Heart”

Heart

Jesus had a lot to say about the human heart.
I heard a national politician declare that her goal was not to change people’s hearts, just their behavior. She was wise in this sentiment. Laws can modify people’s behavior somewhat. Fear of arrest and imprisonment can at least make people be more careful but people are most likely going to do whatever is in their hearts to do. Jesus, being so much better than any politician, takes a different approach. He actually has the power to change hearts! And He does!

Lust and Love
When, as the Bible says, “Male and female created He them,” God made people, he made two genders. This is the fundamental organizational truth of mankind. The physical differences are delightful and undeniable. From childhood we grow up in a world populated by boys and girls; oftentimes, “the boys against the girls.” Each gender is a mystery to the other which makes for a lifetime of fascination. God intends us to pair up this way even though some are not blessed to enjoy this pair bonding.

The differences go far deeper than anatomy; the mind is involved. Imagination occupies the heart of the loneliest among us. So much so that, as Jesus said, just looking at a woman, or even just the image of a woman, can excite lust in the heart of a man. This powerful imagination is a gift from God for with it we imagine what we will do before we do it. Every work of art or object of construction or organization of people toward a single purpose began as an act of imagination. We are able to “see” things in our minds and then create them with our hands. This is one of the evidences of Imago Dei, the image of God in us. God is CREATOR and He has made us creative.

When the heart betrays the mind, this powerful imagination can be a temptress leading us to dwell on sinful, destructive things. The natural attraction we have for the opposite sex becomes lust, a self-centered seeking of pleasure at any cost. Today whole industries exist to feed this debased hunger.

Christ in the Heart
The heart is connected to the eye and to the hand, what we see and what we touch. Jesus said it would be better to lose an eye or a hand to prevent the lust-filled action birthed in the heart. Is there a better answer than removing an eye or a hand? Of course—add Jesus to the heart! Every one of us comes into this world with heart trouble and Jesus is the only cure! Jesus has changed the hearts of killers to make them kind, thieves to make them trustworthy, adulterers to make them arduous toward their spouse, and gossips to make them Gospel preachers. On and on I could go as far as alliteration could take me.

This is not some faint hope of heaven by and by; Jesus changes hearts today. He is the hope for the addict whose heart has been chained to poison, the glutton whose belly is never quite full, the lecher who eyes are never satisfied, the backslider whose heart is never true, and the agnostic whose mind is never at rest. Jesus goes deeper than behavior to the things hidden in the heart. He will come into our hearts, cleanse them from sin, and take up residence there by His Holy Spirit.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:27-30
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 19:4-6
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Luke 6:43-45
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
John 7:37-39
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the King of my heart. You have made Your Throne there. A river of Living Water flows from Your Throne established in my heart. Lord, continue the work of purifying my heart. Let my imagination see only good things and not evil things. Show me good things You would have me create. Protect my heart from anger, lust, prejudice, and greed. Fill my heart with Your Word so that truth may flow from my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Into My Heart
Words and Music: Harry D. Clarke

1. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
Come into my heart, I pray;
My soul is so troubled and weary,
Come into my heart today.

Refrain:
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus;
Come in today,
Come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

2. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
I need Thee thro’ life’s dreary way;
The burden of sin is so heavy,
Come into my heart to stay.

Refrain

3. Come into my heart, blessed Jesus,
O cleanse and illumine my soul;
Fill me with Thy wonderful Spirit,
Come in and take full control.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 16 “Fulfill”

Fulfill

Jesus knew He was susceptible to the charge of being a radical.
He also knew it wasn’t true. He had not come to destroy. On the contrary, He had come to fulfill. In a series of remarkable statements, fulfillment is the recurring theme. He teaches us how

  • to fulfill the demands of the law,
  • to conquer hate and violence in our hearts, thus fulfilling the command to love God and others,
  • to fulfill our duty to worship God, and
  • to handle conflicts with others without going to the courts.

His logic is unassailable, His instruction is sound, and His language is direct and unambiguous.

Fulfilling the Law
Far from departing from the Law, Jesus came to fulfill it. The Word of God is not some temporary tome in need of editing. It is more firm and permanent than creation itself. The Old Covenant Law was a document of prophesies of truths to come. The people in His audience were seeing the fulfillment of these prophesies in Jesus. Under the New Covenant we enjoy the fulfillment of the Law when we are in relationship with Jesus. He fulfills the demands of the Law!

The Law of Love
Each day the faithful Old Covenant believers confessed the Shema, demanding they love God completely. The Law also demanded that they love their neighbors. Jesus warned His listeners against the destructive power of hate. Hate blocks the fulfillment of the greatest commandments in the Law. Hate is revealed in name calling, in prejudice, and derision. To fulfill the Law of Love one must not deride a brother or sister with names that demean them

  • raca—“empty one, worthless one”
  • fool—“dull or stupid one”

To feed one’s anger with derision is to take a step toward violence or even murder. Some who would never kill someone with a gun are experts with character assassination using words. To live this way is a short trip to hell. To refrain from hate is a short trip to the fulfillment of the Law of Love.

The Law of Worship
Each of us is on the earth to worship God. To walk with Jesus on the Path of Life is to live the worship-filled life. Unresolved conflicts with others spoil our worship. We may be the finest of singers or instrumentalists, but if we are harboring hate, bitterness, or envy against someone, our worship does not reach the Lord’s ears, let alone His heart. Jesus said these things must be resolved if we are to fulfill our call to worship, our purpose to worship. There is no way to calculate the degree to which revival is hindered by worship that is negated by unresolved conflicts within the church. We must obey Jesus:

“…leave your gift there before the altar, and … be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

The Law of Peace
We shortchange the Grace of God if we let conflicts within the church go unresolved to the point of legal action. Jesus said

“Agree with your adversary quickly…”

That means find a consensus according to the Word of God and agree together! Remember, The Word lasts forever!

Scriptures:
Matthew 5: 17-26
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Levitcus 19:17-18 ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Mark 12:29-31
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, draw me close to You! I want to fulfill the greatest commands to Love You with heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I want to fulfill Your call on my life to be holy and productive, loving and compassionate, creative, and skillful. Keep me from hate. Keep me from name-calling and all forms of derision. Help me be a peacemaker—a child of God! Amen and Amen.

Song:
O to Be Like Thee
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: William J. Kirkpatrick

1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Refrain:
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.

Refrain

3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.

Refrain

4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

Refrain

5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 14 “Blessed”

Blessed

“Blessed” There are no hidden meanings in the Greek. It means what it means, “happy,” “fortunate,” even “well-off.” (Vine’s Dictionary)
Jesus, the carpenter-turned-preacher/healer/miracle worker, saw the growing multitude of people who had left their homes and businesses, followed Him into the wilderness, and were waiting now for His every word. He went up into an elevated place, like a speaker’s platform, to deliver what would become His most famous sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount.”

No platitudes, please.
These people wanted the truth, not some routine, warmed over mush meant for babies. Jesus was ready. His storehouse was stacked high with truth from the Word of God, from the carpenter’s shop, from the village, from the synagogue, from the home, and from His keen eye for observation. This sermon would challenge those who wish to live a meaningful, significant life for centuries to come. Little phrases here and there would go into the vernacular of common use:

  • Go the second mile,
  • Turn the other cheek,
  • The salt of the earth,
  • A city on a hill,
  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no,
  • No one can serve two masters,
  • Judge not that ye be not judged,
  • Do not cast pearls before swine,
  • Do unto others…, and
  • Build your house on the rock.

He also gave the world a prayer that has become the universal confession of the Christian faith.

The Beatitudes
He begins with a list of conditioned responses. He itemizes life’s challenges and with each one gives a way to meet the challenge and in these ways become blessed. It is all here.

  • The human condition: poverty, hunger and thirst, loss, injustice,
  • The longings of the human heart: purity, peace, mercy, and
  • The uncertainty of the future: persecution at the hands of evil men.

To these relentless conditions, Jesus provides new and triumphant responses:

  • The poor in spirit are citizens of heaven’s Kingdom.
  • Those who mourn will be comforted.
  • The meek shall be owners of the earth’s bounty.
  • Those who hunger for God will be filled.
  • Those who have been wronged shall respond with mercy.
  • A pure heart will open to see the Throne of God.
  • Those who make peace in the middle of conflict will be those of God’s family.
  • Those who are lied about for His sake will be rewarded for the truth of their lives.

A Continuum
In the Beatitudes, Jesus is presenting a continuum, an extension of the eternal Kingdom of God into the present generation. Truth-tellers have always been attacked by those whose hopes lie in lies. To be pure in heart takes courage. To hunger and thirst after righteousness takes discipline that makes others uncomfortable. To make peace in this troubled world is an affront to those who thrive in strife. It has always been so. These things do not surprise us. We are “blessed.” Knowing the cost of following Jesus, we can rejoice that we have been called to walk in the footsteps of the prophets before us and in the light of the disciples whose writings inform us, and in the company of the Savior who walks by our side.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:1-12
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You experienced the reality of the life we face and not from the safe distance of heaven, but from right here on earth. Your knew what it is to mourn, to be poor and persecuted, to hunger and thirst, to be lied about, and to face the challenge of making peace in a violent world. Now, You live in me! Help me be a peacemaker. Give me a pure heart. I want to hunger and thirst after righteousness and be filled. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Wonderful Words of Life
Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:

Refrain:
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the laving call, wonderful words of life;
all so freely given, wooing us to heaven:

Refrain

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever,

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.