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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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November 18, 2017: “Escape”

Escape

Escape is not always a cowardly thing.
Sometimes heroes are the ones who lead an escape.  Jesus is certainly such a hero.  Through his courage and action, we can escape:

  • the judgment our sins demanded,
  • the wrath of God which is surely coming on the earth, and even
  • death itself.

There are other things we cannot escape:

  • the responsibility for the call of God on our lives,
  • the consequences of a lifestyle of sin,
  • the pain we cause others who are counting on us if we fail to follow through with our ministries, and
  • that wonderful/horrible day when we stand before the Lord and give an account of what we did and did not do with His grace in our lives.

There is a great danger that each of us must learn how to escape. 
The more serious we are about fulfilling the plan of God for our lives, the greater this danger looms.  Faithful ministers of the Gospel are especially susceptible to this danger.

Because we love Him so much and the work before us is so important and the needs of the people around us are so pressing, we can acquire the idea that we are indispensable to the work of God.  This leads to illegitimate feelings that we must learn to escape:

  • If we stop praying for a minute it is a sin for the Bible clearly says to pray without ceasing.
  • If we take a day off and do nothing to advance the Kingdom, we are sinning because we are not redeeming the time and our harvest is in jeopardy.
  • If we relax our high-speed, multitasking brains for an hour or two, we may miss the return of Jesus because the Bible says “ in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.”

This behavior pattern is called a messiah-complex.
How we escape the messiah complex?  We established that Jesus is our hero, our rescuer, our Messiah.  Escape begins when we realize that He is the one upon whose shoulders the government of the Kingdom of God rests—not us!  Jesus is the Messiah—we are not! The man or woman of God must learn a new level of trust in God Almighty.  The Bible says He never sleeps.  Might that be true so that we can sleep?  In fact, God set the example of resting—taking time off!—on the last day of the creation week.  If are going to be rested and ready to worship God on the Lord’s Day, we need to set aside time to rest up, to escape from the pressure of work for a few hours.

One of the reasons we are given minds capable of learning all sorts of things is to give us interests beyond our work.  We should never let the enemy of our souls accuse us wasting time when we are following those interests.  God remembers that we are human beings.  He knows our minds need rest and our bodies need exercise.

Go ahead today and escape or a while from the cares of this life.
Have some fun.  Learn something new that means absolutely nothing to your work.  The Kingdom of God remains secure, resting squarely on the broad shoulders of the Messiah—and that isn’t you!

Scriptures:
Hebrews 4:9-11
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Proverbs 11:9
With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.
Psalm 68:20
Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
Luke 21:34-36
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Psalm 103:14 NKJV
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 91:1-2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today is the Sabbath, the day You ordained for rest. Free me from any tiny bit of a Messiah complex. You are the Lord; I am Your servant. You do not count my rest-time as time wasted. Tomorrow, Sunday—the Lord’s Day—is the day when I will spend every ounce of my heart, soul, mind, and strength to the joy of expressing my love for You. In preparation for the day of worship, I will enjoy a day of rest and/or diversion. These things, too, are gifts from You. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Rock of Ages
Words: Augustus Toplady; Music: Thomas Hastings

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment th

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 17, 2017: “Conspiracy”

Conspiracy

Soldiers, perhaps the same squad that performed the gruesome crucifixion, were scattered in front of the tomb.
One by one the sixteen soldiers of the Roman guard stirred from the deep sleep that had taken each of them. They groaned and stretched as if they were waking from an all-night drunk. But it was still the middle of the night. The full moon floated serenely overhead and the night sounds common to a garden graveyard could still be heard. Each soldier also jerked awake when he remembered what had happened just before this heavy sleep had struck the down. Shakily each one stood to his feet, looked for his sword and shield, and reconnoitered the tomb site.

The huge stone that took all sixteen of them plus a lever and fulcrum to roll into place was back where they found it. The sight of this sparked the memory of the tall soldier in white who had easily manipulated the stone. They were glad he was gone. The soldiers exchanged apprehensive looks. The tomb was standing open, a dark cavern holding unknown terrors. The officer knew it was up to him. He could command any of the guard to look inside and he would do it. But he was a Roman officer and he was honor-bound. He knew they were in deep trouble if the body was gone. And he knew that the open tomb could really mean nothing else. He would have to answer to his many superiors, so it was he who must investigate.

He signaled for a torch, ordering a soldier to thrust it into the darkness of the tomb’s mouth to illuminate what was inside. The officer tightened his grip on the sword in his right hand and the shield in his left and looked into the tomb. He could see that the body was gone. He commanded the soldier with the torch to move it around so he could see everywhere inside. He could see no one hiding in ambush. He exchanged his sword for the torch and entered the Tomb.

The stone slab where the body was supposed to be contained only the linen wrappings of the body. Why would thieves do this? Wouldn’t they need the protection of the anointed grave clothes when they carried the body away? And, another wonder, it was all so neat. The linens were not torn or disturbed in any way and the head clothes were folded neatly as if they were meant to be some sort of mute witness. But, witness to what? A robbery under the noses of sixteen Roman soldiers? None of this made any sense.

What to do?
Finally, the squad of defeated warriors could relax and try to determine what they should do next. When their superiors found out about this either their lives or their careers were in jeopardy. The youngest of them knew what he should do. With his eyes on his commander, he back away into the darkness and at a safe distance turned and ran into the night. A good idea has many companions. The others followed in quick succession until finally the officer stood alone holding the torch, its limited light offering little illumination to his dilemma. Slowly he picked up the scattered implements of battle and trudged out of the darkness of the night into a future even darker.

Report to the Leaders
Later some of the soldiers took the only action that made sense; they went to the Jewish leaders and told them all they had seen. To their amazement, the leaders looked more alarmed than the soldiers had been! Quickly they produced cash and a promise.

“Don’t tell anyone the truth; lie and say His disciples stole the body while you slept.”

“But there were sixteen of us!”

“No problem! Money is no object–Here’s more. Tell all your companions that if Pilate gives them any trouble, we will cover for you. This means more to us than it does to Rome.” The soldiers went away, richer for the experience.

Thus the conspiracy began that continues to this day:
“Suppress the truth about Jesus. Lie, murder, slander, persecute believers, do what must be done to keep the truth about Jesus sealed in a tomb. If the truth gets out, it will set people free.”

Scriptures:
Matthew 27:62-66 NIV
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Matthew 28:11-15 NKJV
… some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure. “So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Acts 4:27
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let me always contemplate the cross through the opening of the empty tomb. The Bible says Your death was “once and for all”—a never to be repeated event. There is no need to repeat it. Unlike the innumerable lambs sacrificed under the Old Covenant, You, Lord, are the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. However, Your victory over death is repeatable—each of us can share in Your new life! Help me walk in resurrection power today, countering the lies people tell about You. Help me live and tell the truth. As the ancient Christian confession proclaims, “Christ has died. Christ his risen. Christ will come again!” “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Christ Arose!
Words and Music: Robert Lowry
1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 16, 2017: “Relentless”

Relentless

To relent means to give up and that we will not do! 
The week is a work in progress.  Monday set up the obstacle course for the week and so far, so good.  Things we knew were coming lie before us and things we never expected have joined them.  Encouraging things have happened, too, another day of the work week dawns.  Some things we know how to handle and the work that must be done.  The job is to summon the resources to do that work: energy, experience, patience, tenacity, and a healthy dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.  Other challenges are new so new resources must be found: new wisdom, (Remember to ask the Lord!) new skills, (The Holy Spirit is your teacher!) and new applications of proven principles. (Count on the faithfulness of God!)

There may even be new opposition. 
Satan may send his forces against you and the work God has given you to do in new ways, tactics you have never before faced.  Do not be ignorant of his devices.  When your opposition is rooted in the spirit realm, the Holy Spirit sets off a fire alarm in your heart.  When you hear that bell, you know that victory is as sure as that empty tomb on the first Easter morning.  The Lord’s record is “a gazillion gazillion and 0” and He is not about to lose this match.

What weapons shall we use in battle?
(Prayer is not a weapon; prayer is the battle itself!) We should learn from the victors whose story is told in the Revelation. They overcame the enemy

  1. by the blood of the Lamb and
  2. by the word of their testimony.

We can choose to be relentless today because the Blood of Jesus has broken the powers of the sin and death.  We are free because no shackles can withstand the power of the Blood and no prison walls can bind us when Jesus has torn them down.

We will not give up the fight!
Like young David who faced a giant in the serenity of his own testimony of past victories, (the lion and the bear) we face the battles this week offers in the serenity of God’s spotless record in our own lives.  Even in times when the enemy temporarily gained ground in a battle, we rested in the presence of the Lord knowing that the war was not over and that victory would be ours—and it was so!  The Blood of the Lamb (the whole story of Redemption and new creation) and the word of our testimony (our on-going story of redemption and new creation) form a one-two punch Satan has never figured out how to block.

With God on our side, we are equal to any task this week presents us.

  • We can lead beyond our natural leadership.
  • We can create better than our talent and skill would allow.
  • We can love others far beyond our natural affections and affinities.
  • We can pray when we don’t even know what to pray for.
  • We can communicate things we have never learned.

Why on earth would we ever relent?

Scriptures:
Proverbs 21:31
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.
Luke 18:1
Then Jesus told his disciples … that they should always pray and not give up.
Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
1 John 5:3-5
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Romans 12: 21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Revelation 12:10-12
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!
Romans 8:31-39
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”   No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are with me in the relentless demands of life. You will never abandon me to chance. You will never be overmatched by my enemies. You will reveal to me Satan’s devices and schemes. Your Spirit will bring to my mind the truths I need to counter the enemy’s attacks. If the demands of life are relentless so are the blessings You shower on me. The Bible says that where sin abounds, grace does that much more abounds. I choose to walk in Your grace, Your relentless grace. With faith in Your name—Amen!

Song:
I Would Not Be Denied
Words and Music: C. P. Jones

Verse 1
When Pangs Of Death Seized On My Soul,
Unto The Lord I Cried
Till Jesus Came And Made Me Whole,
I Would Not Be Denied.

Refrain:
I Would Not Be Denied,
I Would Not Be Denied,
Till Jesus Came And Made Me Whole,
I Would Not Be Denied.

Verse 2
As Jacob In The Days Of Old,
I Wrestled With The Lord;
And Instant, With A Courage Bold,
I Stood Upon His Word.

Refrain

Verse 3
Old Satan Said My Lord Was Gone,
And Would Not Hear My Prayer,
But Praise The Lord! The Work Is Done,
And Christ The Lord Is Here.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November, 15, 2017: “Cold”

Cold

Cold (cool, refreshing) is to life, like silence is to music.
There is more to music than sound; there is also silence. The sound of music is not just the measured vibration of the notes:

  • A-440, the standard pitch, is a note sounding at exactly four hundred forty vibrations per second.
  • Half that, A-220, and the note sounds an octave lower.
  • Double it, A-880, and the pitch sounds an octave higher.
  • All other pitches vary in relation to this standard, each with a precise number of vibrations per second.

In theory.

Real live people making music on real instruments make their own imprecise versions of the pitch.  The standard is seldom an exact match to the sounds musicians make.  It is called being “out of tune.”  Playing “in tune” is the mark of a fine player.  It isn’t easy and requires the constant attention of the musician.

Silences are also precisely measured in terms of time:

  • 1 beat,
  • one half of a beat,
  • one third of a beat, or
  • 1 measure or more.

Rests are counted just as carefully by the musician as the notes.

How is cold to life, like silence is to music? 
Life is heat but living requires periods of cold.  Like an immature musician who skips the rests and practices only the notes, we tend to focus on the heat we need to stay alive:

  • body temperature,
  • spiritual temperature,
  • circumstantial heat in the trials of life, and
  • the chosen fires of discipleship.

Sometimes we need to cool down.
As we play our life’s little sonata, we begin to produce music that makes sense when we learn to count the rests as well as the notes.  We do not panic when we feel ourselves cooling a bit, knowing that we cannot live long with constantly elevated temperatures.  We also know that when the “rest” is over, the “notes” will be there again for us to play.

All in all, God never forgets that we are human beings, not divine ones.  We need heat to live and we need cold to rest.  Like the tall and strong hardwood tree that braves the northern winter without its covering of leaves, we rest during the cold seasons.  We can rest because we know that the God of the winter is also the God of the spring.  Warmth will come again as surely as grace flows like a River of Life from the Throne of God, and these bare branches will soon be hidden by the green of new leaves.

As our calendars cool, it is important that our hearts retain their heat for the Kingdom of God. Our music will be measured and comprehensible because the notes we play will be ordered and defined by the rests we count.

Scriptures:
Genesis 8:20-22
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Psalm 103:6-18 NKJV
The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children,  to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.
Proverbs 25:25
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, life keeps the heat on for. Sometimes it feels I will be overcome by the details, exhausted by the demands, and discouraged by the defeats. I know You are working all things together for my good and I look forward to those resolutions. As I follow Your will for my life, help me not to miss the rests, the cooling off times You also provide. Help me find moments to take deep breaths and relax in faith, knowing that You have me. Protect me from those who would steal my rest. And, Lord, as I cool down from time to time, keep my heart warm for You! For Your Glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Haven of Rest
Words: Henry L. Gilmore; Music: John R. Sween

1. My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,
So burdened with sin and distressed,
Till I heard a sweet voice, saying,
“Make Me your choice”;
And I entered the “Haven of Rest”!

Refrain:
I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.

2. I yielded myself to His tender embrace,
In faith taking hold of the Word,
My fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul;
The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord.

Refrain

3. The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole,
Has been the old story so blest,
Of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have
A home in the “Haven of Rest.”

Refrain

4. O come to the Savior, He patiently waits
To save by His power divine;
Come, anchor your soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
And say, “My Belovèd is mine.”

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2017: “Believing”

Believing

There is an exercise for the spirit, soul, and body. 
No heavy weights will clank behind us.  Our breathing will not be affected.  No muscles will be flexed or stretched.  No calculations will spin in our brains.  No emotions are required but joy in the aftermath of the workout is assured.  What is this marvelous exercise?

Believing.

Believing the Word of God, the words of Jesus, and the covenantal promises of our Father in heaven rejuvenates the body, refreshes the soul, and revives the spirit.  It is a daily discipline.  Yesterday’s believing will not get us through today.  Tomorrow’s believing will have to wait until this day turns from test to testimony and goes into the record books.

In daily prayer we review the things we believe and we believe them again.  Systematically we read the Book, pray the psalms, see the story of Jesus and the disciples on the movie screen of the mind, and we check our inbox for letters from the Apostles.  As we read and pray, we believe—again.

  • Jesus speaks to us.
  • We travel with Peter and Paul and Silas and Luke throughout the world tell people about Jesus.
  • We weep with the prophets over a backslidden people of God.
  • We wonder with them at the bright Kingdom soon to come.
  • We are charged with the job of living the productive life in the Spirit and
  • we gaze with wonder at the revelation of Jesus we soon will see.

We are believing.

Our believing affects not only us, it affects the world we inhabit.
Though “deep darkness covers the peoples,” the Lord “shines on us” as we step into the day.  At the end of the day, the burning ball of the sun might set, but our central light keeps shining deep into the night.  Why? Because we are  continually believing.

In the shadows enemies may plot against us.  In the streets and offices of the marketplace foes may lie in wait to ambush us.  We do not fear what man can do to us for a squad of angels goes before us and goodness and mercy are following us. Why?  Because we go into the world believing.

We are saved, translated from darkness to light, because we confessed with our mouth and believed in our hearts.  We are fruitful in life because we feed on the eternal Word of God and drink deeply of the living water flowing freely from the well Jesus dug in our hearts when we first believed in Him.  We are fearless because we believe that if God is for us, it simply doesn’t matter who is against us.  We are at peace, our borders secured by armies of angels and our hearts guarded by the unsleeping eye of our Father in heaven.

Today, your assignment is this:  Keep believing!

Scriptures:
Psalm 119:65-66
Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.
Mark 5:36; 9:24 NKJV
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 11: 24 NKJV
…I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mark 16:15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
John 20:26-31
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Romans 3:22; 6:8; 10:7-11
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believeNow if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
… “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Prayer:
The Apostles’ Creed
The Book of Common Prayer
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Don Moen

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church And we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birth.
We believe in the resurrection,
That Christ one day Will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy, Holy is our God
Worthy, worthy, Worthy is our King
All glory and honor Are His to receive.
To Jesus we sing Because we believe.

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 13, 2017: “Anticipation”

Anticipation

Anticipation is hope harnessed to a particular outcome.
It is faith focused on a deep desire, and charity channeled in a chosen direction. Delay creates anticipation; we must wait for the outcome, the desire, and the direction. Anticipation keeps our waiting time from being a waste of time. As we preview the anticipated outcome our faith grows and the direction we have chosen is confirmed.

We do not wait for things in a spiritual void; we have promises to hold on to, prophesies to believe, and a covenant to cling to. Quietly, deep in our spirit where His Spirit abides, a voice speaks, “Hold on! It’s coming! God has promised!” The voice comforts and encourages us, building a stronger anticipation. Further delays are processed through this three-fold filter of faith, hope, and love so that setbacks are never seen as final.

As another week begins, let us anticipate God’s faithfulness.
Fresh from our Lord’s Day expressions of thanksgiving, praise, and adoration, we are confident that God will continue to be true to His Word this week. There may be sleepless nights this week, even tear-filled nights, but in the morning we will dry our eyes in confidence that the tears of the night will soon be only a memory as the faithful sun rises in the east and the Faithful and True Son rises in our hearts.

We will sow good seed this week, precious seed. Plowing the fallow ground of our own hearts is not easy work for the rocks are plentiful and they lie in surprising places. As a descendent of Adam, this sweat of our brow is necessary if we are to ever have a harvest. We will also water the seed others have sown in relationships and Kingdom work this week. This relational work is as important to the anticipated harvest as is the sowing of the seed. When the harvest comes, those who have sown in tears and those who have gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed shall doubtless join those who have faithfully watered the seed and tended the field and all shall come rejoicing bringing their sheaves with them.

The farmer plows and plants his field in anticipation of the harvest.
The harvest is his hope, his field of faith, and his labor of love. We also,

  • sow the good seed of the Word of God in our own hearts,
  • sow good deeds of mercy into the lives of others,
  • abundantly water the work of the Lord in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and
  • scatter the good seed of the Gospel in every field we enter and upon every path we walk.

We joyfully anticipate the harvest, not because we are great farmers, but because the field is the Lord’s and the seed is precious, powerful, and perennial.

Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Psalms 30:5 NKJV; 126:5-6 KJV
Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NKJV
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
2 Corinthians 9:6
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my confidence is in You and Your faithfulness. The only sure thing the world can offer me is pain. You, Father, offer me much more—abundant life—guaranteed by Your character. Let me echo the theme song of the Old Covenant, “Lord, You are good and mercy endures even to my generation!” I enter this day full of anticipation of good and perfect gifts from above. I anticipate victory in every conflict, endurance in every trial, wisdom in every dilemma, and joy in every circumstance. Your Word will light my path. Your voice will sound in my spirit and Your peace will be my song. In short, I anticipate Grace today! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand
Words: Jennie Wilson; Music: Frankin L. Eiland

1. Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Refrain:
Hold to God’s unchanging hand,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand;
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

2. Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.

Refrain

3. Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.

Refrain

4. When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 12, 2017: “Adore”

Adore

Adore is a strong word.
We sing it wistfully every Christmas when somebody slows down “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Each time we do it seems to be new all over again:

“O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

“Adore” goes beyond affection to a deep desire, beyond interest to a consuming passion.  Webster’s Dictionary defines it:

  1. To worship or worship honor as a deity or as divine,
  2. To regard with loving admiration and devotion,
  3. To be very fond of…

Notice how the definitions lose intensity as they are listed.  On this Lord’s Day the ministry before us is to “worship and honor as divine.” Our liturgy (the words we say or sing) will be filled with truth about Jesus.  Our job is to add the passion so that the worship can have both truth(the Word of God and our undivided minds) and spirit(the power the Spirit and our deepest passion.) Today’s worship service will not be about the music, or the musicians, or the singers, or the preacher, or the technology—it will be totally dedicated to honoring the One True God, and Jesus is His name.

Hopefully.

Sometimes churches get off track and some of those others things take center stage.  It shouldn’t happen, everyone knows that, but it does happen.   It happens when we try to use worship to some other ends, like church growth, or outreach to certain groups.  Worship is not a means to an end, it is our purpose on the Lord’s Day!  As we worship in spirit and truth we disciple others and evangelize the lost because His presence and His Spirit makes all that happen.  Our job is to keep everything centered on Jesus!

Worship Anyway!
What should you do when you are attending a service and you sense the emphasis is wrong, the music is not sing-able, the technology is a distraction and it just doesn’t feel like worship?  What should you do?

Worship anyway!

Close your eyes and concentrate on the words.  If you find them unusable, start quoting scripture that tells you about the Lord.  This is when it would be good to have some psalms memorized!  Don’t open your Bible and read; that would be a rude political statement and that certainly isn’t worship!  If you run out of scripture just start telling the Lord how much you love Him!  Adore Him in some way—that is why you came.  That is what the day is for.

Remember that the physical precedes the spiritual.
The Sacrifice of Praise happens when we adore the Lord as a determined act of the will, not because the music makes it easy or our emotions lead us in that direction.  You will find that if you open up your heart and enter in to praise with the best you have to give, your physical effort will be blessed by the Holy Spirit and your worship will be pleasing to God.

So, indeed, come, let us adore Him today. Not because it is easy, but because we really do worship and honor the One, True, and Living God!  We adore the Lord!

Scriptures:
Mark 12:29-31 NKJV
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.”
Psalm 31:23-32:1
Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 97:10-12
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10
As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious 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…But 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.
1 Chronicles 21:24
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Psalm 51:15-17
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will go to Your house today for the single purpose to adore You. My affection for You will be more than affection: it will be adoration. My praise of You will be more than praise; it will be my passion. My desire for Your nearness will be more than desire; it will be desperation. I need You, Lord, so I gather with the saints to hear a word from You, to feel Your healing touch, and to give You what I have to give even if it is only a broken heart and wounded spirit. These things, the Scripture says, You do not despise. Accept my adoring praise today and share Your presence with me and all my brothers and sisters. With love and adoration, I am Yours. Amen.

Songs:
Let Us Adore/Adeste Fideles
Words and Music: Julius Chajes / G.F. Handel and Traditional

Let us adore (Let us adore)
the ever-living God (the ever-living God)
and render praise (and render praise)
unto Him, (unto Him,)
Who spread out the heavens (Who spread out the heavens)
and established the earth. (and established the earth.)
And Whose glory (and whose glory)
is revealed in the heavens above (in the heavens above )
And His greatness (and His greatness)
is manifest throughout all the earth
He is our God and there is none else.
_____________
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.

For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy,
Christ, the Lord.

We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory,
Christ, the Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 11, 2017: “Pillars”

Pillars

Pillars hold up important, heavy things.
Life itself has pillars, strong principles that support those who choose to live. The Psalmist, speaking for God Himself, introduces the metaphor:

“I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity. Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast.”

This is good to know, isn’t it? God has installed principles into the living process that are strong, like marble columns of truth that hold up the temple of life. Where can we go to discover these pillars? You know the answer. We go to the Book He has given us.

The Worship/Service/Rest Pillar

  1. Jesus summarized all the commandments of the Old Covenant into two for the New Covenant: Love God with all you’ve got and
  2. Love people.

These two commandments join worship and service into one powerful pillar. We are designed to be in a loving relationship with God that captivates us completely—heart, soul, mind, and strength. This relationship provides us the strength, wisdom, and patience to love people and to serve humanity all our days.

The word used by Paul in Romans 12:1 develops this worship/service concept.

  • 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.”
  • 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.”

The reason for the two different translations is this: the original word means both service and worship. From Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament words:

latreia – primarily “hired service,” is used (a) of the “service” of God in connection with the tabernacle, Rom 9:4; Heb 9:1… (b) of the intelligent “service” of believers in presenting their bodies to God, a living sacrifice, Rom 12:1…

We must add the Sabbath principle to that of worship/service. Rest from our labors gathers strength for our worship! These strong pillars will support one’s whole life on this earth.

The Pillars of Paul
The Apostle Paul identifies three pillars of the spiritual life—the three “best things:” Faith, Hope, and Love. There is no way to overstate the importance of these pillars.

  • Faith is essential. We do not walk in the wisdom of this world; we walk in faith—believing before there is proof. We do this by embracing the substance of things hope for and acting on the evidence of things not yet seen. Without this pillar it is impossible to please God. With it, all things are possible.
  • Hope is energy for the soul. With faith in place a seed is planted deep in our hearts and it begins to grow. There is a confidence in the future quite unrelated to current events or the status quo. Hope holds us fast to our faith as contrary winds blow. We emerge from the storm stronger for the testing.
  • Love is the connector. We are not meant to trudge through life alone. We are designed for fellowship—with God and with people. Connected above and all around by love, we are insulated from cold and warmed by the proximity of God and His people.

The Pillar of the Word
How can we be sure of these pillars? Because they are “Bible!” The Book He gave us describes the pillars of life. This mighty column has been proven to hold up the lives of believers since Moses brought down the tablets of stone from the Mountain. Jesus battled Satan armed with the Word of God. He came “in the volume of the book” to redeem us from a collapsing life. The Apostles stood on the Word and changed the world. The church fathers, led by the Spirit of God, sorted out the false from the true and formed the canon of scripture and thus it has remained. Heaven and earth will pass away before the Word would ever fail.

Live your life today. Rest your life on the pillars of God: Worship/Service/Rest; faith/hope/love; and the everlasting Word.

Scriptures:
Psalm 75
We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds. “I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity. Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast. I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns; Do not toss your horns so high, nor speak with a proud neck.'” For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west, nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains. It is God who judges; he puts down one and lifts up another. For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup, full of spiced and foaming wine, which he pours out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and drain the dregs. But I will rejoice forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.He shall break off all the horns of the wicked; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
Mark 12:28-31 NKJV
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 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.”
Romans 12:1 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.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 John 4:7 NKJV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 Peter 1:22-25 NKJV
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the firm foundation of my life. Help me build well upon the pillars of the faith: Worship/Work/Rest, Faith/Hope/Love, and the Eternal Word of God. Help me today to be faithful to you in thought, word, and deed. If I make a false step, correct me. If I lapse into despair, remind of Your promises. If I am unloving, rebuke me and show me how to make it right. If I am enchanted by the lies of this world, convict me, reprove me, and bring me back to the truth of Your Word. Let this day be one of faith and faithfulness, love in word and deed, and joy in my eternal hope. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
How Firm a Foundation
Words: (disputed) “K;” Music: Anonymous

1. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. “In every condition, in sickness, in health,
in poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth,
at home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
as days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.”

3. “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

4. “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

5. “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

6. “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 10, 2017: “Shame”

Shame

The shame was ours not His.
The cross was a thing of shame, meant by ancient authorities to punish the evil doer with a slow and painful death and also to shame the guilty one and all who were his. Shame is a punishment all its own. It is as heavy as a cross and bites as deep as a Roman whip. The deeds at Calvary completed a three decade+ process of humiliation for the Son of God.

  • He emptied Himself of divine qualities to become a helpless infant.
  • He learned as child learns, this One Who at one time knew everything.
  • He worked with wood, doing business with the villagers, this One Who created everything.
  • He suffered the rejection of the children of Joseph and Mary, bitter preparation for a nation soon to reject Him, this second person of the Godhead.
  • Life flowed through Him so that the dead lived again, the crippled walked again, the deaf and dumb sang again, and all manner of sick and oppressed folk laughed again.
  • They crowned Him King crying “Hosanna!” and then cried “Crucify Him,” when public opinion changed.
  • His closest followers, except for the women, listened to Him but did not hear Him. They watched and prayed with Him in the Garden and then they slept.
  • The Soldiers came to begin the final act of this theatre of shame: trials, scourging, and a cross.

He deserved none of this, this deep, deep shame. Yet He bore it all. In the Garden while His friends slept, He drained the cup of shame to the dregs and called it God’s will. Our shame was laid upon Him to the full.

Why should we bear our shame still?
This divine obliteration of shame is a proven historical event. It is appropriated by faith by anyone who will simply repent, confess, and believe. Why then, do so many trudge through this life with a cross of shame on their shoulders? I see two types of shame; let’s call shame by other biblical terms like “sorrow.” Paul speaks of a “godly sorrow that leads to repentance” and of a worldly sorrow that leads to death.

  1. There is a godly shame that leads to repentance, forgiveness, and regeneration—a new life free from the record of the past.
  2. There is a pathological shame that grips the soul and never lets go until life is choked out completely.

The difference is Jesus and His cross and His empty tomb. He carried our well-deserved shame with Him into that tomb and he left it there! He came out in resurrection power holding in his nail-scarred hands the touch of healing and forgiveness and redemption for us. Today those strong carpenter’s hands can cut away our binding fetters of guilt and shame.

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it. Just as the shame He endured was ours, not His, the acceptance and innocence that replaces our shame is His not ours—but it is His gift to us.

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it

Scriptures:
Proverbs 3:11-12 NKJV
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NKJV
For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Romans 9:33 NKJV
As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Isaiah 53
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Psalm 69:8-9; 17-21
Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my own kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me. Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; in your great compassion, turn to me.” “Hide not your face from your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress. Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me. You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in your sight.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me to never forget the shame that You endured. It was mine, not Yours, yet You bared Your back to the soldiers and their whips, You shouldered the cross and carried it up the hill. You endured the violence of the words and nails of Golgotha. From the cross You quoted the psalms You learned as a child, yield Your abandoned spirit to the Father. Let me never forget the three-day silence of the Tomb as You raided hell’s headquarters, wresting the keys of death, hell and the grave from Satan’s grip. When You stepped from that tomb, you left my shame inside. Help me never to pick it up again. Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
At the Cross
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Scottish Folk Tune

1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?

Refrain:
At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light
And the burdens of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day.

2. Was it for crimes that I have done, he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Refrain

3. Well might the sun in darkness hide, and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker, died for his own creature’s sin.

Refrain

4. Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.

Refrain

5. But drops of tears can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away; ’tis all that I can do.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 9, 2017: “Adversities”

Adversities

The world is made out of rocks and water.
We can be sure that any path we take will be strewn with rocks that might trip us and will surely hurt our feet. In spite of the rocks we keep walking. This path will also be interrupted by swollen creeks and rivers, wide and dangerous lakes, and maybe even an ocean or two. These water hazards must not stop us. We cross the creeks and rivers, take the long way around the lakes, and book passage on an ocean going vessel to reach our destination.

Life is made out of adversities.
No worthwhile destination is reached unopposed. Adversity always challenges travelers. Apart from the rigors of walking, riding, driving, flying or any other means of travel, adversity comes through relationships, personal conflicts, failures, disappointments and outright enemies. No one is exempt. Perhaps Adam and Eve walked in an earth without adversity but we do not. It is part of life to be opposed, resisted, ignored, underestimated, overestimated, and even victimized by people. In light of these cheery facts, it is little wonder why True Believers are called Overcomers!

A Generation of Overcomers
As a Baby Boomer, I was raised by what is often called, “The Greatest Generation.” My parents’ and their generation were raised in the Great Depression and grew up just in time to fight and win WWII. When the war was won, they set about repopulating the earth, at least their corner of it, and we Baby Boomers came to be. The people of the Greatest Generation were a collection of overcomers. They cleared the rocky road of economic depression, waded into the river of war, and built a bridge to the future that my generation gladly crossed.

Our Generation, Too.
We should not be surprised that adversities face us every day. It is true that we have a call from God on our lives, but that doesn’t give us a rock-free path to walk. We will come to rivers of resistance to the plan of God that we must conquer to get to the place He is calling us to go. Generational oceans may lie between us and the will of God and we may have to wait them out to at last complete our voyage to the New World on the other side. Just as God did for our forebears, He helps us get where He has called us to go. He is the God who overcomes adversity.

The testimony of the disciples is clear: Everything opposed them but nothing defeated them:

  • Cast down but not defeated,
  • Perplexed but without despair,
  • Persecuted but not alone, and,
  • Struck down but not destroyed.

It is as Jesus promised: in this world we will have tribulation but He has overcome the world. Further, our Lord Jesus makes continuing promises to those who live such overcoming lives. Read about them in Scriptures below.

So, watch out for rocks. Pass through, around, or over the waters in your way. None of these adversities can overcome an overcomer like you!

Scriptures:
Psalm 71:17-24
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; you have done great things; who is like you, O God? You have showed me great troubles and adversities, but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth. You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me, Therefore I will praise you upon the lyre for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. My tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, for they are ashamed and disgraced who sought to do me harm.
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!
Isaiah 43:1-3 NKJV
But now, thus says the Lord , who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
John 16:33
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed —always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Revelation 2:7; 11; 17;26-28; 3:5; 12; 20-22 NKJV

  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”‘
  • “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”‘
  • “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”‘
  • “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations — ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”
  • “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
  • “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
  • “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no need for me to inform You of the adversities I face; You see every one of them. You also see the solutions, the keys to victory. I know Your wisdom will instruct me what to do about the rocks in the road, the rivers and oceans in my way, and the people who oppose me when they should be helping me. Give me Apostolic resilience! Grant me Holy ghost endurance. Let me share in Your overcoming victory today. In Your Name and for Your glory! Amen.

Song:
Victory Ahead
Words and Music: William Grum

1. When the hosts of Israel, led by God,
Round the walls of Jericho softly trod,
Trusting in the Lord, they felt the conqu’ror’s tread,
By faith they saw the victory ahead.

Refrain:
Victory ahead! Victory ahead!
Through the blood of Jesus, victory ahead;
Trusting in the Lord, I hear the conqu’ror’s tread,
By faith I see the victory ahead!

2. David with a shepherd’s sling and five stones,
Met the giant on the field all alone,
Trusting in the Lord, he knew what God had said,
By faith he saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

3. Daniel prayed unto the Lord thrice each day,
Then unto the lion’s den led the way,
Trusting in the Lord, he did not fear or dread,
By faith he saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

4. Often with the carnal mind I was tried,
Asking for deliverance oft I cried,
Trusting in the Lord, I reckoned I was dead,
By faith I saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

5. When like those who’ve gone before to that land,
By death’s river cold and dark I shall stand;
Trusting in the Lord, I will not fear or dread,
By faith I see the victory ahead.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved