Welcome!

Welcome to the Path of Life Daily Devotional!

The Pathsrp-experiment of Life daily devotions are designed to be an aid to daily prayer. They consist of a short essay on a single word followed by a few selected verses on the subject, and concluding with songs and/or prayers on the topic of the day.

The Path of Life Daily Devotions work for morning or evening.
Start your day or end your day with an encouraging word.

Each devotion, in fact each article I write, ends with the same signature:
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

Semper Reformanda!
Semper Reformanda! is my ministry motto. It means “Always Reforming.” The church must never stop progressing toward the Coming of the Lord. We must never cease to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We must never stop seeking God’s Face. We must never restrain from testing all things to see if they are from the Lord. This ongoing process requires a growing knowledge of what God has said and a listening ear to what God is saying. If we are not constantly vigilant in these things, our lives will be tossed about by the unrelenting winds of culture. If we are constantly available to the Spirit for instruction in righteousness, we will build our lives on the Rock! To me, Semper Reformanda! is each day’s work as we walk the Path of Life.

 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

To begin reading the devotions for this year go to the end of this article.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

Interested in Christian Worship and Spirituality?–That is my subject!  For  a plethora of articles on Worship  and Worship Renewal Go To StevePhifer.com.

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September 21, 2017 “Need”

Need

Desires and Needs
The desires of the heart and the requirements of our work and play can sometimes work against each other producing a state of confusion.  If we really want something, it feels like we need it.  If we have a goal to reach, there are certain things the quest requires.  We want to reach the goal so much this also feels like a need.

Need, however, is much simpler than the desires/requirements state of confusion.  Desires and requirements are noisy little nuisances that clamor through our days distracting us here and there according to the conflicted hungers of the human body and soul.  Need, on the other hand, is a quiet, persistent call to survival, not entertainment or achievement.

Human need can be expressed with a very short list of physical needs:

  • Air,
  • Water,
  • Food,
  • Shelter, and
  • Clothing.

The spiritual life has an even simpler expression of need—Jesus:

  • His grace,
  • His truth,
  • His Spirit,
  • His presence,
  • His power, and
  • His church.

A Method to see the Difference
Prayer is a method for sorting out the confusion that sometimes exists when we deal with desires, task requirements, and real needs.  The Lord has promised to meet all our needs.  When we ask for something in prayer and it does not happen, it may be that that thing is just a desire and not really a need.  When we are attempting to do what God has called us to do and that work requires things that we ask for in prayer but do not receive, this also may be an indication that those things may not be requirements after all.  God will show other ways to do His work as He supplies what we really need.  Of course there is a third possible explanation for not having what we need when we have prayed for it; perhaps it just isn’t God’s time yet.  We hear it said that there are three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait.  There is much truth in this.

Two Sets of Needs
There are two sets of needs that should concern us:

  • our needs and
  • the needs of those we care about.

God has covenanted with us to supply all our needs.  He also wants to use us to supply what others within our sphere of influence need.

  • Bread winners in the home provide the human needs listed above for the rest of the family.
  • The spiritual head of the family supplies regular access to Jesus so that spiritual needs can be met.
  • The household of faith, the family of God must be our concern as well.  Supporting the local church in offerings and service is one of the ways God uses us to meet the needs of others.

By exalting the name of Jesus with our worship, our work, and our witness, thereby touching a hurting humanity with the Good News about Jesus, we help meet the greatest need of others—a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Scriptures:
Matthew 6:6-8; 31-34
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philemon 4:10-13; 19
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your promise to meet all my needs. As I delight in You, even the desires of my heart change into Your desires for me. You have promised me those as well. Help me to delight in You today! Change the desires of my heart to match the desires of Your heart. Cleanse me from selfish motives and ungodly desires. Let me echo Your great prayers: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” here and now, just as it is in heaven. I will “seek first Your kingdom and righteous” and I know all me needs will be met. You are my sufficiency! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: William M. Runyan

1. “Great is thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changtest not, thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

Refrain:
“Great is thy faithfulness!” “Great is thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided–
“Great is thy faithfulness!” Lord unto me!

2. Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above.
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Refrain

3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 20, 2017 “Opportunity”

Opportunity

What Constitutes an Opportunity?
Sometimes an opportunity is an event, a moment that must be seized for it will quickly pass. At other times an opportunity presents itself as a gathering of individuals who need what we can do as much as we need what they can do. Together we have an opportunity we would not have separately.

On the Lord’s Day when we came together as the church to honor the Lord with acts of worship, our multiplied praises afforded us an opportunity to sense the presence of the Lord in a communal way. Every hour of every day the church is a community of faith, bound together in the name and power of Christ by the Holy Spirit. On the Lord’s day when we come together in one place, our awareness of the Monday-Saturday reality of our community is heightened. If we could all remember what an opportunity this is, we would treasure our time together in public worship.

Opportunities Each Day
Today, as the week continues different kinds of opportunity will come to us individually:

  • We will renew relationships with co-workers, those we like and those we don’t like as well as those who like us and those who don’t like us.
  • There will be work for us to do, opportunities to demonstrate our craftsmanship and skill. Work is also an opportunity to honor the Lord as we do our work in the name of the Lord, with all our energy, and as unto the Lord and not unto men.
  • As we work our way through the week, conversations will turn to spiritual things. These times are opportunities to speak the truth of God into people’s lives. We must be gentle and let the weight of the Word have its effect.
  • When people come to us with their problems, we have the opportunity to minister the healing power of Christ to them as we lovingly listen to their stories. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say.
  • Temptations may confront us. Times of trial are opportunities to obey the Lord and not our fleshly appetites.

It is likely this week will bring us

  •  “second miles” to walk with someone,
  • “cloaks to surrender to a someone who has already borrowed our shirt,
  •  enemies to pray for and do good deeds for, and
  • even a cheek or two to turn when we have already been struck once.
  • Needy people will cross our path and we will feel prompted to help.

All of these events are opportunities to please the Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer
In the prayer Jesus gave us, there is an overriding awareness of the opportunities the day will bring:

  • “Your will be done…”
  •  “Give us this day…”
  •  “Forgive us…as we forgive…”
  • “…the time of trial…
  •  “…deliver us from evil…”

Opportunities Today
Each day presents us with opportunites to do God’s will, to depend upon Him, to forgive others, to resist tempation, and to live holy lives in an evil world. We cannot know what the week will bring except for this: we know it will be filled with opportunities to please the Lord. What joy it will be to feel His smile as we worship, work, and witness in His name and by His power.

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:16-17; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 4:2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Ephesians 5:15-20
Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me keep my eyes open today for the opportunities You send my way. There will be good words for me to say, meaningful deeds for me to perform, ordinary duties for me to attend to, and people You put in my path for me to bless. Just as every hour is filled with minutes, this day will be filled with opportunities to life up Your name with my life. How the world needs to see You! I pray that you will be visible in me today. This is my great opportunity! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B. Wilson; Music: George S. Schuler

1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad; are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
Out of my life May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True ev’ry moment you live.

Refrain:

3. Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 19, 2017 “Story-teller”

Story-teller

“This is the west, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”—from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” 1962 dir. John Ford

Each of us is a storyteller. I don’t mean that we are all liars, although many are. I mean we tell a story with our lives. What’s more, we live our lives based on a story that we believe is true.

What makes a story?
The elements of a story are three:

  1. Character,
  2. Conflict, and
  3. Conclusion.

The narrative structure of a story is also a three-part reality:

  1. Exposition,
  2. Development, and
  3. Finale.

If life were a play, we would say it this way:

  • Act One—the Beginning: childhood,
  • Act Two—the Middle: adulthood, and
  • Act Three—the End: eternity.

Apply these three trinities to the Jesus Story:

  • Act One—The Exposition:
    -The backstory of creation and the Nation of Israel
    -The Nativity
    -Theme: The Coming Redemption of Humanity
  • Act Two—Development
    -The earthly ministry of Jesus
    -The early church and the wisdom of the Apostles
    -Theme: Redeeming Love
  • Act Three—Finale
    -The End-time drama of Revelation
    -The absolute Victory of Christ over evil
    -The New Heaven and the New Earth
    -Theme: Redemption and New Creation

No Legend, This!
We live in a world of lies and legends. As Isaiah predicted, “Truth has stumbled in the streets.” We who tell a story that is neither legend nor lie have work to do. We don’t need filmmakers, or the news media, or atheists, or cynics, or comics, or celebrities, or gossips on social media. We need the love of Jesus in our hearts, the fire of the Spirit in our bones, and the truth of God in our souls.

Jesus said the contents of our hearts would come spilling out of our mouths.
Let’s fill our hearts with the Story of Jesus.

  • Let’s tell it with words of truth, deeds of mercy, tithes and offerings, prayers and supplications, and with praise and worship.
  • Let’s tell it to each other, to our children and grandchildren, to our neighbors and friends, to our enemies, to those passing and let’s tell it to ourselves in prayer every day.
  •  Let’s tell it as we work, rest, and play and let us dream of it when we sleep.
  • Let’s let the zeal of His house consume us until we disappear into the blinding, healing revelation of who Jesus is right now.
  •  Preachers, tell it when you take the pulpit. It is the power of God unto salvation for all!
  • Worship Leaders, tell it when you choose the songs.
  • Musicians, tell it with your voices and instruments.
  • Writers, write it; painters paint it; poets, set it to verse.

And let us be sure to tell the whole story, Act One, Act Two, and Act Three:

  • Jesus is our Savior.
  • Jesus is our Healer.
  • Jesus is our Baptizer in the Spirit.Jesus is our Soon-Coming King!
  • No other story rescues people from sin and destruction. No other story drains the heart of its despair and fills it again with hope and peace.

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

Storytellers We Must Be!

Scriptures:
Isaiah 59:14-15 NIV
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
Romans 1:16-17 NIV
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Matthew 24:12-14 NIV
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 26:6-13 NIV
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Colossians 3:17; 23-25 NIV
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Romans 1:15 NKJV
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have a story to tell—Your story! Like the Apostle, I am not ashamed of Your story for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Help me to tell your story with words and deeds, with thoughts and intentions of the heart, and with compassion and empathy for all I meet. Never let my humanity spoil the story. Never let me betray the truth with phony living. I invite the Holy Spirit to anoint me in all dimensions so that my life will be an open letter to the world, a moving narrative of Your life in me. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: John R. Sweney

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

Refrain:
Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.

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

Refrain

3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him, Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender, Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper, “Love paid the ransom for me.”

Refrain

4. Tell how He’s gone back to heaven, Up to the right hand of God:
How He is there interceding While on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit He has poured out from above;
Tell how He’s coming in glory For all the saints of His love.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 18, 2017 “Experience”

Experience

Experience is the final filter in our sifting of life’s meaning.
Like freshly ground coffee beans, experience colors and flavors the life we choose to live.
Tennyson wrote these words in “Ulysses”

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

We interpret the past, perceive the present and prepare the future by our experience.
Some Christian theologies shun the use of experience to decide what we should expect from God. Experience is too subjective, too subject to personal interpretation—as Peter warns:

“…that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,…”

A Book of Experiences
With these very real dangers in mind, we must admit that the Bible itself is a series of narratives about the experiences people had with God or without Him. These stories link us to the ancient book. They remind of us our own hearts and provide examples of how to please God. Narrative (experience) cannot be dismissed as a dubious source of truth. In the Bible and in our own lives experience is a part of God’s plan, a tool the Spirit uses to “transform” us by “the renewing” of our minds.

Sifting Experience
As my brother used to say, we have to deal with “the things we have done and the things that have been done to us.” These experiences can be doorways into the plan of God for us or barriers to keep us out of His plan.

  • The adult child who was abused or abandoned by a father may have a tough time seeing God as his/her Heavenly Father.
  • The musician trained in the entertainment world may have difficulty being transformed from a performing star into a minister with music.
  • The worshiper who grew up in a formal worship may either fear demonstrative worship or desire it.
  • The worshiper who grew up in free, emotional worship may resist the use of planned liturgy, thinking that anything planned is inherently insincere.
  • The leader whose experience is rooted in manipulative leadership techniques will find servant leadership the greatest challenge of all.

Through faith in God’s Word we can trade our bad experiences for the truth we read, believe and obey.

  • The fatherless adult child can find his/her heavenly Father.
  • The performer can become a minister.
  • Worshipers can grow in the use of worship forms foreign to them and
  • leaders can learn to put down the sword and take up the cross.

A Wise Warning
Wise and wary leaders will warn Christians not to seek experience but seek God and there is a great truth in this warning.

  • We must always seek the Lord Himself, not just His benefits. He is a covenant-keeping God whose promises are dependable. He is not a cosmic vending machine into which we place our prayers and then wait for the answers to fall to the receiving tray.
  • He is Almighty God who deserves to be sought, to be pursued, to be engaged and to be enjoyed in spirit-deep fellowship.

A Warm Challenge
Seek God like the deer pursued by the predator, for that, indeed, is our experience. Interpret the things you do and the things done to you in the light of the Scripture and in the light of God’s call on your life.

  • Listen for His voice in His Word.
  • He speaks through the voices of others, also.
  • He sings to us through His marvelous creation and invites to sing along with a sunset or a rising storm or a gentle rainbow.
  • He warns us through the daily news and through our careful observation of events surrounding us—the experiences of others.

These practices and others like them will open the door the future God has for us and keep it open.

They are the coffee in the filter that makes the morning fresh and flavored with promise.

Scriptures
Psalm 42:1-6 NIV
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Peter 1:19-21 NKJV
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 John 1:1-3 KJV
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, following You is more than following a philosophy—it is an ongoing experience of relationship. Your truth is real and dependable but, more than that, You are standing there with us. Like the ancient prophecies, You are with us! Your touch is real and healing. Your presence is a reality, not a psychological phenomenon. You have changed my life in amazing moments of grace. You have molded my life in steady steps of discipline. I can look forward to more moments of grace and more blessed processes of grace—experiences of growth and maturation. Help me sift the experiences of life to determine what is from You and what is not. Help me cling to Your grace. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
He Touched Me
Words and Music: William J. and Gloria Gaither

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

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

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 17, 2017 “Presenting…”

Presenting…

Today’s worship service includes a special presentation.
In honor of the occasion, a valuable gift will be given to the honoree.  In recognition for outstanding services rendered far above all we could ever ask or think, a small but important token of esteem will be presented.  Though small the gift may be, it represents the best the giver has to give, the finest tribute available.

What is the occasion?  Who is the honoree and what has He done to deserve this honor?  What is the precious gift?

The occasion is the promised entrance of King Jesus.
The King of kings and Lord of lords has announced plans to inhabit the praises of His people.  In fact He has pledged to rule upon their worship and take their worship hall and their hearts to be His very Throne Room.

The gift for this special presentation is—your heart of praise!

There is more planned today than just the singing of songs.
The time has been designated as a worship service. This will be your opportunity to make your presentation to the Lord.

  • No one else can present your worship.
  • Without your voice the “Song of the Redeemed” is incomplete.
  • The “glory due His name” requires your contribution.

The Reasonable Service of Worship
You have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light for this purpose: to present to the Lord spiritual sacrifices because He has made you His Holy, Royal Priest.  He has lavished mercy on you without restraint.  In view of His mercy, it is your reasonable service of worship to present your whole self to him as a living sacrifice of praise.

There will be time in the service for you to present your requests to Him, but before you do that, present your praise to Him, your worship, your love, your deepest commitment.  He deserves no less a gift.

The Alabaster Jar—the Costly Sacrifice
As the service begins, go to the top shelf of your life and find your alabaster jar, your finest tribute—your time, attention, love and affection.  It has been hidden away long enough.  Break its container and let the aroma of it fill the house and mix with the combined scent from all the other alabaster jars as they are broken all around you.

This is the glory due unto His name! 
This is what we gather together in His house to do.  Think of it—Jesus will be pleased by your presentation!  In your heart you will hear Him say as He did to Mary of Bethany, “You have done a beautiful thing to me!”

Scriptures:
Psalm 29:1-2 NKJV
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 56:13
I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Matthew 2:10-12
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Matthew 5:23-24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Mark 14:3-7
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.  “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
1 Peter 2:4-10
As you come to him, …you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are worthy of my praise! You have earned my worship today. Your faithfulness is more certain than the sunrise. Your loving-kindness shines through the darkest night—like a moon that does not wax and wane. Your promises are recorded for all to see and so is their effect—as sure as gravity pulls a river to the sea, Your Word rolls through my life as an increasing tide of grace. So today, on Your Day, I will present my thanksgiving to You; swing the Gate wide to take me into Your presence! I will proclaim my praise—take it to be Your Royal Throne! I will bow my heart in worship and adoration—take my worship to be Your holy nearness. In view of Your mercies, this is my reasonable service of worship. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017 “Substitutes”

Substitutes

A Poor One
In a TV interview, a contemporary film maker revealed that he did not grow up in a religious home. Film was their religion and the movie house was their church. To my mind cinema is a poor substitute for a loving, covenantal relationship with my Creator.

Life is an exchange.
Through no effort of our own we are given life—energy, intelligence, strength—all bundled up in passions, fears, ambitions and deep-seated needs. And, we are given time. None of us knows how much time, but we have a backpack full of memories of yesterday, a toolkit full of skills for today, and a hatful of dreams for tomorrow—if it comes.
Living is the process of exchanging these gifts for the rewards they might bring. “Time is money.” It is true, in a sense, and it is a lie in another sense. It is true in the sense of the exchange—we work by the hour or on commission or on salary, trading our time and skills for a living wage (and hopefully a little more.)

The statement is a lie in its incredible miscalculation. Time is much more than money.

  • It is the relentless retreat of life itself, a strategic withdrawal of our life-force that we cannot stem.
  • It is the diminution of opportunities and the accumulation of results, good or bad.
  • It is the inevitable passing of the planting and the unstoppable reaping and storing of the harvest.

So time can be money or it can be poverty. It all depends on the exchange.

  • Do we seek out the real or the substitute?
  • Do we mine for gold, or settle for fool’s gold?
  • Do we purchase the real diamond or the fake one?
  • Do we choose a sandy beach for the foundation of our lives or find the Solid Rock?
  • Do we choose false religion based on lies instead of worship in spirit and truth?
  • Have we substituted sports or film or music or money or fashion or pleasure for church?

The Jesus Question
Words spoken so long ago to anonymous crowds by an itinerant preacher still stir those who hear or read them today. Questions Jesus asked then, ring in our hearts today. One of them concerns substitutes.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

The world offers so many scams, so many bad deals, so many ways to waste our precious lives. The Lord Jesus offers so many promises, so many amazing exchanges of grace for whatever we hold in our hands and hearts, so many ways to plant good seed in words and deeds that will doubtless bring an eternal harvest, even when we sow in tears.

  • Why settle for saccharin when we can have honey?
  • Why settle sell our lives for the paper money of empty promises when pure gold is the option?
  • Why devalue life by equating it with temporal wealth when there are heavenly storehouses to fill where there is no thief to steel, no moth to devour, and no corruption of time?

Jesus offers true life—accept no substitutes.

Matthew 6:19-21; 16:24-28 NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Isaiah 60:16-19 NIV
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Romans 1:21-25 NIV
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen
Revelation 3:16
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the Gospel of Mark promises that those who preach Your gospel are immune to the poison they may accidentally drink and impervious to the venom of any snake that strikes from the shadows. Help me see the poison posing as good food and drink in this culture. Help me avoid the snakes hiding in the deep weeds of iniquity all around me. Help me see the glittering, appetizing substitutes marketed by the sin-saturated society. Lord Jesus, You shine with a true light of brilliance in this darkness. Your Word is true food and drink for my spirit. True Worship is beneficial exercise for my soul. Help me traffic in the genuine rather than the substitute, the real not the theatrical prop. All for You, Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
Wasted Years
Words and Music: Wally Fowler

1. Have you wondered alone on life’s pathway,
Have you lived without love a life of tears,
Have you searched for the gray hidden meaning,
Or is your life filled with long wasted years.

Refrain:
Wasted years wasted years oh how foolish,
As you walk all in darkness and fears,
Turn around, turn around God is calling,
He’s calling you from a life of wasted years.

2. Search for wisdom and seek understanding,
There is someone who knows and always hears,
Give it up, give it up the load you are bearing,
You can’t go on in a life of wasted years.

Refrain

3. Don’t you know Jesus died for all sinners,
He loves you and your guilt he gladly bears,
Come to Him, Come to Him your sin confessing,
You can go on with a life of fruitful years.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 15, 2017 “Encouragement”

Encouragement

Encouragement is one of those things that you have when you give it away.
The way to have it is to keeping giving it. Encouragement is the “cup of cold water” Jesus told us about.

In the opening sequence of Frank Capra’s classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, two angels discuss the crisis in George Bailey’s life. Clarence, the angel getting the assignment to help George, asks, “Is he sick?” His boss answers, “No, worse, He’s discouraged.”

Discouragement is worse than disease. 
It strikes without a warning cough or sneeze but soon we are unable to breathe. There is no fever but soon we are listless, the fires of our life burning without hope. No one is immune to this disease—we are all susceptible to it and it can spread from one discouraged soul to everyone he/she touches.

In his letters to the church, we see that Paul sought to be an encourager.
Everything any of us will ever attempt for the Lord requires courage. Courage is faith put to work—believe in action; it is theology as behavior. If we are a discouraging presence, we drain from our brothers and sisters the fuel they need for their engines. If we are an encouraging person, others draw energy for their work from the Lord Himself—our source of encouragement. It is not some sick transfer of human will from one person to the next; it is a tapping into the strength of the Lord and the power of His might.

What does discouragement do?

  • Darkness obscures the goal,
  • hides the face of our Savior, and
  • makes us feel alone, misunderstood, and put upon.
  • Discouragement only decorates pity parties.
  • A martyr spirit sours our faces and makes us whine instead of sing.

What does Encouragement do?

  • Encouragement turns the lights back on,
  • reconnects us with others, including Jesus, and
  • makes us smile and sing.
  • We celebrate the coming victory, even when it is a long way off.
  • We are refreshed by a cool cup of living water.

Encouragement comes from relationships with others who share our beliefs. It is more than a shared optimism. It is a shared faith, a hope held in common, and a love that we know will triumph in the end. But we must be more than receivers of encouragement; we must be givers. It is likely that the most encouraging person you know, may be the one who needs most to be encouraged. The person who gives encouragement to others will see it flowing back in strength and joy.

A Discouraged King
In King David’s life a time came when there was no one to encourage him. What did he do? In the King James Version it says “He encouraged Himself.” How can we do that? Through prayer and the Word of God.

We are not really alone.
Jesus is with us—when we read the Word, we open our hearts to His presence, our ears to His voice, and our minds to His vision for us. We all need encouragement so we must all distribute it like cups of cold water to those we meet. As we do, we ourselves drink deeply from the well of living water. When we are encouraged, it really can be a wonderful life!

Scriptures:
Mark 9:41 41
I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14;2
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you…, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Romans 1:11-12
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
Philippians 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Colossians 2:2-3
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
1 Samuel 30:6 AMP
David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You know the human condition; You know it well. You laid aside Your heavenly majesty to become someone like us. You were a helpless baby, a dependent child, an adolescent with raging hormones, and a young adult craftsman running a family business. You felt what we feel as human beings. I am sure You were tempted by discouragement. Since this is nor really a sin, perhaps You actually were discouraged. Yet You found the strength to complete Your mission. You found the courage to face Your accusers with deafening silence. Encourage me, Lord to do Your will today! Amen.

Song:
I Know Whom I Have Believed
Composer: Daniel W. Whittle

1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.”

2. I know not how this saving faith To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word Wrought peace within my heart.

Refrain
3.I know not how the Spirit moves, Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word, Creating faith in Him.

Refrain

4. I know not what of good or ill May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days, Before His face I see.
Refrain
5. I know not when my Lord may come, At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him, Or meet Him in the air.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 14, 2017 “Seeking”

Seeking

If the act of seeking burned calories we would all be thin.
It is something we all do, all or most of the time.

  • When we are weary we seek rest.
  • When we are bored we seek amusement.
  • When we are afraid we seek safety.
  • When we are broke, income is what we seek.

We could go on like this for 500 words but there is no need. I am seeking to make a point.

Seeking the Lord
The Psalmist recommends that, of all the things or people we burn calories seeking, we should also seek the Lord. Seeking God leads to a rejoicing heart. Constantly seeking His face is an unfailing source of strength. What does it mean to seek the Lord, more specifically, to seek His face?

Definitions
The dictionary helps us understand the many meanings of this simple word:

  • “To go in search of” our Creator.
  • “To try to find or discover” the truth about God.
  • “To try to obtain” the attention and care of our Heavenly Father.
  • “ To try or attempt” something with or for the Lord.
  • “To go to” where God is.
  • “To ask for or request” something from the Lord.

All of these meanings of the verb “to seek” are helpful to us as we see why we are so busy seeking.

  • We need God!
  • We need to know the truth about God!
  • We need to pray to Him; that is to spend time with Him and to be cared for by Him.
  • We need to do what He has put us on this earth to do in order to enjoy our lives.
  • We need to live in Him, under the authority of His Kingdom; it is the only safe place to live.
  • We need things that only He can provide

This is the multifaceted quest of human beings everywhere.
Without God, this is our restlessness and our frustration. Seeking God in all the wrong places wears us out.

  • We run from method to madness seeking a framework for living.
  • We are drugged and stupefied by the drone of voices in their monotone songs of pleasure and selfishness and deceitful freedom. The freedom of self-destruction is no freedom at all.
  • We are convinced by our mentors that there are indeed no monsters under our beds and no God to face when we finally wake up.
  • We sign our names on contracts already voided by experience.
  • The face we seek is the one in the mirror.

A Glowing Promise
For the Christ-follower, seeking the Face of God is every day’s business and every night’s comfort. This is no fantasy or myth—this is a glowing promise: if we seek Him we will find Him! We will find Him in His Word as we read and believe, in His presence as we pray and worship, in His will as we obey, and in His church, as we take our place in a family of seekers, like us, who have been found.

Scriptures:
Psalm 105: 1-5
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
Psalm 24:3-6 NKJV
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.
Isaiah 55:6-7 NKJV
Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Matthew 6:31-34 NKJV
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Jeremiah 29:13-14
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I seek Your face; help me bring my whole heart to the task. I read the promises You have made and as I do, my faith builds. I expect to find You! I believe that in my spirit I will see Your face. To behold Your glory is to be changed from glory to glory—this is my heart’s desire. Show me the things in my heart that block my spiritual vision. Show the behaviors in my life that block my spiritual progress. Your Kingdom is the object of my quest. Your righteousness is my desire. I know that You will meet all my needs as my quest continues. I ask You to let lesser things fade in my vision so that, unhindered, I can seek Your face. All for You, Lord Jesus; all for You! Amen.

Song:
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Words and Music: Karen Lafferty

Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness.
And all these things shall be added unto to you;
Allelu, Alleluia.

Man shall not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu Alleluia,

Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 13, 2017 “Duty”

Duty

Sometimes hope shines from an empty tomb.
Sometimes it sings in the quiet following a violent storm.  Sometimes hope whispers inside us while the storm still rages outside. Always, hope hardens the will as each day we perform our duty.

Duty is not a thing of sadness, nor is it a thing of parades and marching bands.
Duty is the quiet song of the sparrow in the morning, at noon, and in the late afternoon, as the worthless little brown birds fly joyfully from bush to bush, doing what God made them to do.

  • They don’t get the press that eagles get, high on their perches or soaring almost too high to see.
  • They don’t signal doom like circling buzzards or danger like the watching hawk.
  • They don’t form graceful lines as they fly like geese overland or like pelicans over the sea.
  • They do not make formations that we can discern.
  • They fly close to the ground in short hops, almost falling even as they fly.

Yet, the Lord told us to observe and learn from birds as examples of the Father’s excellent care. Sparrows are the least of these. We are certainly more valuable to God than sparrows!

He does not look for graceful arcs or impressive appearance or stunning skills.  God looks for the one who will do his/her duty, day after day, night after night.  The Lord prizes the one of the humble and contrite spirit who hits the mark and performs the job dependably at each opportunity.

What is our duty?
As His ultimate creation, each person has a duty to honor God.  We honor God

  • Through consistent and faithful prayer,
  • Through constant consumption of the Word of God,
  • Through continuing compassion for others, and
  • By walking through the doors He opens for us and refusing to enter those He closes to us.

Solomon’s Experiment
King Solomon had the resources and the time to conduct a grand experiment to determine the meaning of life.  Like a good researcher, he reported his findings in a thesis called “Ecclesiastes.”

  • When life is lived in vain, Solomon’s observations are bitter and realistic —it is like trying to eat the wind.
  • His conclusion is the hope that strengthens the heart—love God and keep His commands; this is the whole duty of man.

King Jesus lived that life for us.
He did His duty, taking up the cross of God’s love and justice and bearing it to Calvary.  His command to us signals the start of every day and shines like a bright star through every night—take up your cross—your duty—and follow me. That duty may seem small and little noted by others, but it is the brief flight of a sparrow that holds the intense attention of heaven. Each sparrow is an eagle in heaven’s eyes.

We should not underestimate the power of consistent living.  As we live faithfully each day, hope shines from an empty tomb, sings in the quiet following a violent storm, and whispers deep inside us while the storm still rages outside.

Scriptures:
Matthew 6:25-28; 33 RSV
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? …But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
Matthew 16:24-27
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Isaiah 66:1-2
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD.”This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Acts 23:1-2
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
Ecclesiastes 1:12-14; 12:13 AMP
I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied myself by heart and mind to seek and search out by [human]  wisdom all human activity under heaven. It is a miserable business which God has given to the sons of man with which to busy themselves. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a striving after the wind and a feeding on wind…All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to do my duty to You today. I will sing Your praise. I will respond to You with worship. I will read Your Word and listen prayerfully as I read. I will perform the tasks You have given me to do today. These things I will do with joy, anticipating Your reward both now and in eternity. Thank You for bearing Your cross of pain so that I can follow You, taking up my cross of joy in serving You. Show me my duty, Lord, make it clear. I will obey. In Your lovely name! Amen.

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master
Words: Howard B. Groce; Music: Claribel

1. Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul’s fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

2. Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

3. Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 12, 2017 “Tribute”

Tribute

We honor our friends when they achieve notable milestones.
We give tribute to the great ones we have known when they pass from this world to the regions beyond.  Praise is really our tribute to the Lord, our detailed exposition of His glory and our gratitude for His impact on our lives.

Early in the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry an outstanding tribute was given to Him by Mary of Bethany.  She possessed a container of a valuable ointment called Nard.  The container itself reflected the value its contents; it was a superb jar of alabaster, a white semi-translucent mineral used for fine vases and decorative items.    It was her most prized possession.

Jesus often stayed in their home in Bethany to rest from the rigors of public ministry and private mentorship.  The Bible says that Mary and her sister, Martha, made Jesus welcomed in their home.  Her brother was the famous one who had been raised from death at Jesus’ command.  Mary’s accustomed place was at the feet of Jesus, listening to His every word.

On this night, her sensitive heart was deeply troubled.
She seems to have been the only one who heard Jesus’ frequent predictions of His coming sacrifice.  Overcome with love and grief she broke her alabaster jar and lavished its contents on Jesus.  With this act of worship she earned the rebuke of the disciples and the commendation of the Lord.

A Lesson in Worship
The details of just where and exactly when she paid tribute to her Savior are not clear in the Bible.  The important things are crystal clear and from these details we learn much about worshiping the Lord Jesus.

  • True worship is costly. Tribute literally means a payment of money as a sign of submission or allegiance.
  • True worship is willingly given.  No one forced Mary to make this tribute; her love compelled her.
  • True worship demands our best gifts.  God is worthy of nothing less.
  • True worship blesses the Lord.  Of all His followers, Mary touched the Lord’s heart in a special, meaningful way.  Our worship matters to the Lord Jesus.

Hear the words of commendation Jesus gave her when the disciples rebuked her:

  • “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
  • “She did what she could.”
  • “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
  • “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Our worship is our tribute to the Lord Jesus. 
We can do something beautiful to Him as we give Him the best of our talents, skills, words, time, and energies.  We can praise Him at the limits of our abilities.  We can be in tune with the moment-by-moment leadership of the Spirit, sensing as Mary did, the significance of every day.

When we gather with the church to minister to Jesus, each of us breaks our own alabaster jar and lavishes it on Jesus in tribute to Him.  As we do this, the Gospel is empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach our part of the world.  Souls will be born into His Kingdom and that is the greatest tribute of all.

Scriptures:
Luke 10:38-42 NKJV
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
John 12:1-6
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Matthew 26:8-13
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I don’t have to wait for Sunday services to break my alabaster jar! I do it now! I focus my heart on You. I open it and pour its contents on You in the most profound love I can express. If there are hard places in my heart, I invite You, Holy Spirit to break them. I want nothing between us, Lord except love. I break my heart open, even the dark, hidden places that only You and I know about. I want that darkness to flow out of me—a catharsis of worship, of pain, of bitterness, of confusion—whatever abides there that is not Your plan for me. I will wait in Your presence for the ministry of the Spirit to do this breaking, emptying, and filling work in me. Lord, this is the greatest tribute I can bring today. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Song:
Change My Heart, O God
Words and Music: Eddie Espinova

Change my heart, O God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God.
May I be like You.

You are the Potter.
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me.
This is what I pray.

Change my heart, O God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God.
May I be like You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved