August 14 “Judas”

Judas

The prophet Isaiah describes Messiah as what is called “The Suffering Servant.” (Isaiah 53)
The Jesus Story is one of suffering, to be sure. We have seen the sufferings of Jesus in the story thus far and we have yet to arrive at the account of His passion.

  • We saw His grief at the rejection in His hometown synagogue when they wanted to throw Him off a cliff.
  • We have seen Him retreat in pain to the wilderness after a town sent him away.
  • We watched Him weep over Jerusalem’s misunderstanding of Him.
  • When people received His miracles but rejected His message, his heart broke.

Still, the greatest pain was yet to come—His Passion: betrayal, arrest, trial, scourging, torture, and death at the hands of people He loved.

Judas
The Passion of the Christ begins with the betrayal of Judas, a man hand selected by Jesus for greatness, for the privilege of taking the Good News to the world. Of all the injuries Jesus suffered prior to His passion, the betrayal of Judas was the most painful. We tend to isolate Judas from the others because he carried the purse or because he was a thief. To Jesus, the kiss of Judas was as painful as it would have been if Peter had delivered it, or John, or James, or any of the others. Jesus loved the way God loves—not by degrees, this one more than that one—Jesus loves us all the same. The betrayal of Judas was a knife to the heart of the Lord.

The Passover Plot
Defeated at every point by the brilliance of Jesus’ answers and shackled by His constant display of power, the leaders of the people were out of options. The Feast of Passover was almost there. They had to find a way to discredit Jesus, arrest Him, and try Him before the people, and kill Him. But how?

Their opportunity came from a surprising source, one of His own men, one Judas Iscariot. Novelists and screenwriters feel they must reveal the motivations of Judas. Why did the man betray Jesus? The writers of the Bible make no attempt at this fruitless conjecture. It simply doesn’t matter why Judas turned on Jesus; it only matters that he did. Dr. Luke gives us the only hard evidence of how this happened.

“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”

This fact does not absolve Judas from the responsibility of his actions but it does identify the source of the incident—Satan himself. The snake of Eden, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter in the wilderness, the father of lies somehow corrupted the mind of Judas; it does not matter how.

It does not matter

  • what lies he told just as he did to Eve,
  • what past sins he included in his indictment of Judas,
  • what enticements he dangled before the man, or
  • what scriptures he misquoted to deceive the disciple.

None of this matters for the decision was final.

Deeds Done in the Dark
Under the cover of darkness, Judas sought out the leaders, shuffling through the ranks of guards, soldiers, and servants until he was ushered in before the desperate councils of the priests and elders. The details were agreed upon and the price. The mountainside retreat on Olivet, safely away from the crowds, would be the setting. The suffering would begin, as it had in the beginning, in a beautiful garden.

Scriptures:
Luke:22:1-6
NKJV
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there has sometimes been betrayal in my heart as well. There have been times when You wanted me to stand and I took a seat, when You wanted me to speak up for You and I stayed silent, when I was tempted by sin and lost the battle. I will not allow myself the deception of considering myself superior to Judas. Help me be true, Lord Jesus! Judas did not possess the indwelling Spirit of God to make him strong but I do. By Your grace every gesture of affection I give to You will be worship, not betrayal. Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true. Amen.

Song:
Keep Me True

Traditional Chorus

Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Every hour by Thy power, Keep me true.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 13 “Watchfulness”

Watchfulness

There is nothing of the ostrich in the true Christ-follower.
Our heads are not buried in any kind of sand. We are called to be a watchful people, carefully observing events and people around us. We observe events because these are the Last Days and civilization is hurdling toward an end and a new beginning. We observe people because this is an age of deception, of false messiahs preaching false hope. Careful observation is a necessity. This is the lesson Jesus taught in the Temple courts.

“…the kingdom of God is near.”
Jesus established a routine. He spoke all day in the Temple courts and spent the nights on the heights of the Mount of Olives. He and His men found a grove where they could rest. Early every morning, a crowd gathered in the Temple courts to hear Him again. His message was simple and pressing. Just as one could observe the signs of the seasons, we can also observe the signs of the times.

“So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

It was a not a new subject; Jesus had been explaining the details of the Kingdom of God for the three years of His earthly sojourn. This was the content of His teaching. The time was short; an urgency sounded in His voice—this generation would not pass away until all was fulfilled.

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

What should the people do? His words to them are His words to us.

“Watch therefore, and pray always…”

Looking to the Heavens
Jesus tells us to look up for our redemption is drawing near. This means that our understanding of what we see in events and in people is interpreted through a particular prism: the Eternal Word of God. We are commanded to observe but the Spirit helps us understand what we see. There is a God in heaven who watches the earth. He has a people of faith who have been redeemed from the wickedness of this world even while remaining in it. He is working through these people to reach the lost and save the sick, just as He did when He walked this earth so long ago.

Set Our Affections on Things Above
There is a Kingdom higher than those of men—the Kingdom of God. It is here that our affections must be planted. When the Kingdom of God is ushered in, justice will prevail at last. Wrongs will be righted forever. Freedom will sound its clarion call from shore to sea to shore and back again. This Kingdom is higher than any other and it is coming! In no other port should our passions anchor. In no other castle should our hopes reside. Our worship must sing of no other One but Jesus. Only the things above can help us make sense of things below.

Behold the Lord
Far from holes in the sand, our heads are tilted heavenward! Through our worship we can see our Savior in those regions above! To see Him there, to behold Him there, is to be changed. This is not some cosmetic change but a deep transformation—from glory to glory—the Bible says.

Scriptures:
Luke:21:29-38
NKJV
Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.
Colossians 3:1-4 NKJV
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as the Bible predicted, perilous times are here. The kingdoms of this world press on us from all sides. Help me to lift my eyes beyond their glittering towers to Your Kingdom above. I want to fix my heart there. I set my affections on Your throne, Lord Jesus. Let me interpret events and people today in the light of eternity. As I behold Your glory, change me Lord from glory to glory. In these Last Days, may I find the Outpouring of the Spirit and shun the great falling away. I want to be a watchful, faithful follower of You, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Song:
Open Our Eyes, Lord

Words and Music: Robert Cure

Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus,
To reach out and touch Him, And say that we love Him.
Open our ears, Lord, And help us to listen,
Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus.

Open our hearts, Lord, That we might receive You,
Open our spirits, and teach us to worship.
Open our lips, Lord, and teach us to praise You,
Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 12 “Shaken”

Shaken

Substantial structures will shake when the ground beneath them trembles.
A trembling house will cause the hearts of its occupants to shake as well. In general, we don’t care for shaking. We like stability, predictability, sure foundations, and rock solid mountains on the horizon.

Perilous Times
The Apostle Paul warns us about the last days.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come”

Sometimes there is a shaking in human events:

  • Armies march over the horizon to lay siege to our city and shaking predicts the assault.
  • Public morality erodes the behavior of the average citizen, shaking the safety of our institutions disturbing the peace at its core.
  • Crime stalks the streets as greed stalks the chambers of commerce and the value of the currency trembles.
  • Rising tides of wickedness threaten to inundate our villages and towns in filth and we feel the trembling before the flood.

As much as we long for stability, we can still feel the ground shaking beneath us. These times do not come without warning; the sense of shaking is the warning.

Impending Disaster
The people in Jesus’ audience were about to experience shaking of the most perilous kind. The Romans would finally tire of the constant rebellion of the Jews and conquer the city. Hear the prophesy of Jesus:

“…Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

In 70 AD the shaking became an earthquake of destruction as a Roman army laid siege to the city, denuding the surrounding countryside of timber to build their machines of war. They broke through and destroyed the Temple and the city.

The Diaspora
In today’s passage, Jesus warned the people, instructing them in the meager defenses available to them.

“…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…”

The nation of Israel would be destroyed and given over to the Gentiles. They would be scattered over the earth until the “times of the Gentiles” would be fulfilled. Because of the strength of their traditions and the skills of their lives, they would take root wherever they went and be productive in spite of the hatred of the nations where they settled. Much of this history is well known and is a testimony to the faithfulness of God to His covenantal promises.

The Times Fulfilled
In May of 1948, the United Nations voted to establish the nation of Israel in their ancestral homeland. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The city of Jerusalem and the site of the Temple were in the hands of Gentiles until June of 1967 when Israel defeated a host of invading nations to win back the city. Many believe that this event completed the “times of the Gentiles” of Jesus prophecy. The Last Days are upon us.

The Last Days
As the Lord prepares the church for His return, a new kind of shaking will happen,

“…the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

This is more than a storm of nature; this is the coming of the Holy Spirit to the earth! It began on the Day of Pentecost and continues to this day. It is  a shaking that is leading to the return of Christ:

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Along with the “perilous times” of the great falling away, will be the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When we feel the foundations shaking,

“…look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Scriptures:
Luke:21:20–28
NKJV
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Hebrew 12:25-29 NKJV
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
Acts 2:17-18 NKJV
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe that just as You came to this earth to fulfill Your holy mission of Redemption, You will return to this earth to finish the work. Thank You for the nation of Israel, a living witness to Your faithfulness. You preserved them when they were scattered to the winds and You restored them to their homeland, fulfilling the “times of the Gentiles.” Help them, and help all of us, to hear Your wonderful story and call upon You. Help us all be ready for You are soon to return! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen and amen.

Song:
Redemption Draweth Nigh

Words and Music: Gordon Jenson

1. Years of time have come and gone since I first heard it told
How Jesus would come back to earth someday.
If back then it seemed so real, then I just can’t help but feel
How much closer His coming is today.

Refrain:
Signs of the times are everywhere.
There’s a brand new feeling in the air.
Keep your eyes upon the Eastern skies.
Lift up Your head, your redemption draweth nigh.

2.Wars and strife on every hand and violence fills our land.
Still some people doubt He’ll ever come again.
But the Word of God is true. He’ll redeem His chosen few.
Don’t lose hope for soon Christ Jesus will descend.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 11 “Patience”

Patience

Patience is an iron tool forged in the fires of adversity.
Repeated successes only produce impatience and hopes too quickly dashed. Lost battles can refine the tactics and resolve of an army. Lost opportunities can strengthen the hearts and sharpen the minds of the disappointed. Patience is a hard-won virtue that turns today’s defeat into tomorrow’s victory. Jesus said:

“In your patience possess ye your souls.”

What need have we of such an iron tool?  We have some heavy work to do for the Lord Jesus.

Two Temples
One Temple, under construction, seemed to rise a little higher against the sky each week. With the elevating walls and ramparts, the hopes of the people rose as well. Would this Temple be the site of Messiah’s prophesied ministry? Would their avenging hero return though these city gates and enter these Temple Courts to defeat the pagan Romans? Was this man, Jesus, that Hero? His words and deeds indicated that it could be so.

The other Temple was the body of Jesus, the earthly tabernacle where divinity condescended to dwell in the earth. “It is appointed unto man to die.” Everyone knew this, but Jesus knew that His story would not end with death. He knew that death was doomed to defeat like an invading army ill prepared for battle with a superior foe. His unexplained use of “this temple” as a metaphor for His life would become part of the indictment against Him.

The questions about the destiny of Herod’s Temple came from sincere hearts, not critics. As they admired the beautiful structure under construction, Jesus warned that it would all too soon come crashing down. Naturally the people wanted to know when this would happen. What would be the signs of it?

Deception and Confusion
The answers Jesus gave were for those days and for ours. The purpose of deception is confusion. Many would come claiming to be Messiah and proclaiming the time of deliverance was near. These false messiahs were not to be believed. To follow them meant to be deceived. Confusion would reign at all levels of society as competing groups with competing narratives explained the world to hapless listeners. With so many false messiahs and so much false hope, despair and disillusionment would hang in the air like a toxic fog.

The End Is Not Yet
Jesus warned that these events were not to be long in coming. When they started to unfold, it was time to find and hold to the truth, to live in the hope that patience gives. These are the signs:

  • Political strife—nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom,
  • Natural disasters—earthquakes,
  • Human disasters—famines, devastating diseases, and
  • Never-before-seen signs in the sky.

Before the end, political power will turn against the followers of God.

  • It will begin with persecution, and
  • Will continue with loss of rights and imprisonment.
  • A fierce, unreasoning hate will arise against the People of God, and
  • Family members will betray each other.

Through it all a witness to the truth would be seen and heard as supernatural speech poured forth from the faithful.

“…settle it in your hearts…”
Jesus was speaking to the citizens of Israel. Within a generation, the armies of Rome would destroy the city and the new Temple. His words are also meant for us today. Amid the confusion of life today we must settle in our hearts that we believe the Word of God and follow Jesus. The truth will guide us through the confusion like an unfailing beacon, giving us patience.

Patience is an iron tool forged in the fires of adversity. What need have we of such an iron tool?  We have some heavy work to do for the Lord Jesus.

Scriptures:
Luke:21:5–19
NKJV
Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see — the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.
James 1:2-8 NKJV
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the master of all time, the Master of my days. My hope is in You, my trust in Your Word. Whatever this day may bring, You are the Master of it. Whatever enemies may assault my life, You are the Victor over them. Help me to take the temporary setbacks and momentary defeats and forge a mighty Hope in these fires. This iron hope will be the strength in my patience. You are the master of all time, the Master of my days. Amen.

Song:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Words: Martin Luther; Music: Traditional

1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 10 “Offerings”

Offerings

There was a specially constructed prop in this religious farce.
In the outer court of the Temple 13 metal horns had been installed for the giving of offerings for the relief of the poor. This from a commentary:

“…a court of the temple where 13 chests were placed to receive the offerings of the people toward its maintenance (2 Kings 12:9; John 8:20.) These chests were called trumpets, from the trumpet-like shape of the tubes into which the money was dropped, wide at the one end and narrow at the other. Mark (Mark 12:41) says, “He beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

These “trumpets” were actually funnels designed for coins to make loud noises while finding their way to the bottom. To increase this sound effect, the rich “givers” changed their offerings into many small nearly worthless brass coins thus making a grand show of their giving. Remember, these are the same men who “devoured widow’s houses.”

Jesus took a seat.
The Lord took a seat to watch the show. He observed each finely dressed leader make his entrance, remove his impressive bag of coins, wave it high for all to see, and empty it into the receptacle. The noise of this offering was so impressive the man’s followers applauded such generosity.

As everyone knows, men will inevitably compete with each other so each subsequent “giver” had to give more brass coins to make more noise to get more applause than the man before him. I wonder if Jesus thought something like this, “Do these men think God is a fool?”

The Widow’s Mite
An unnoticed woman, poorly dressed but clean in body and soul, approached the offering receptacles. She had as much right to be there as any of the rich hypocrites. She even had the right to take from the offering since she was certainly among the poor. Time and time again she approached the horn only to be shoved away by a more important “giver.” She was used to this so with each rejection she backed up and waited her turn.

Jesus was watching this study in contrasts:

  • The finery of the rich and the rags of the poor,
  • The pride of the religious and the grateful heart of the widow,
  • The “importance of the crowd of the leaders and the “insignificance” of the woman,
  • The pretense of the powerful and the piety of the powerless.

Jesus was watching, watching it all.

A Small Noise
Finally, when no one was watching her, the widow managed to toss her one brass coin into the metal trumpet. The sound was so small that no earthly ears picked it up but in the courts of the heavenly Temple, the sound of her offering was that of a whole trumpet section, high and bright, echoing antiphonally through the marble halls of Heaven.

Were it not for Jesus, no one would have noticed her at all. Jesus would have none of that!
He stopped her in her tracks.

“Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

The woman blushed like a bride. Jesus smiled at her embarrassment. She never sought attention. She only wanted to return an offering to God for His faithfulness to her. In the heavenly books, when the sound of her offering finally reverberated to silence, angels credited her account as more valuable than any given that day.

Scriptures:
Luke:21:1–4 NKJV
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
Psalm 29 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. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!” The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will fill my heart with thanksgiving today. I know that thanksgiving is the gateway to Your presence. Accept my offering of praise to be Your holy throne, Your holy dwelling place. Save me from pride and pretense. Deliver me from performance praying or theatrical giving of alms. I will keep my right hand in blessed ignorance of what my left hand gives. I seek not the applause of people. I only seek to minister to You, giving You the glory due Your name. All for You, Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
I Give You My Heart

Words and Music: Reuben Morgan

This is my desire To honor You
Lord, with all my heart I worship You
All I have within me I give You praise
All that I adore  Is in You

Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for you alone
And every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
Lord, have Your way in me

This is my desire To honor You
Lord, with all my heart I worship You
All I have within me I give You praise
All that I adore  Is in You

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 9 “Pretense”

Pretense

It is called “play-acting” and it is a game children play.
Historians of the theatre tell us about drama having its origins in Greek tragedies with Greek choruses chanting the action and advancing the plot. True enough, but religious play-acting has a long and slimy history as well. In worship, both the worship of the One True God and the pagan ceremonies of the heathen, acts of presentation are used, not to pray from sincere hearts, but to achieve some sort of an effect, to move people emotionally. The actors seek to make an impression on the audience.

True worship is a presentation to God and not to people.
This unbreakable law is implied in Jesus’ words to the woman at the Samaritan well. True worship is presented to God in spirit and truth. Any pretense of worship that is really aimed at people is not worship at all; it is not worship in truth.

Masters of Pretense
The leaders of Jesus’ day were accomplished actors. Here is Jesus’ review of their on-going, serial religious epic:

  • They “go around in long robes…” The costuming was great—most impressive.
  • Their long, over-rehearsed “prayers” claimed the attention of worshipers who had really come to meet with God. Such a terrible bait-and-switch deception!
  • They “love greetings in the marketplaces…” These celebrities love the adoration of their fans. Their publicity machines are well-oiled and functioning properly.
  • They love to take the “best seats in the synagogues…” What is better than to be seen in the theatre. Preferred seating is always available.
  • In between shows, they expect the reverence of the people at all public events with “the best places at feasts.”

Some show, huh? Most impressive!

Behind the Scenes, Beneath the Make-up
It was all for show, a grand, long-running pretense. The true results of this worship-tainment, were poverty stricken widows, broken promises, and wasted lives. In contrast to the costumed company playing at the Temple, John the Baptist came wearing camel’s hair and thriving on wild honey. His presentation was real with not an ounce of pretense. God had called him and he had answered. All his preaching to the crowds was actually the presentation of his life to God. Sensing the reality of his ministry, people crowded to the waters of repentance to get a fresh start in life.

The Seamless Robe
There was no pretense in Jesus, nor within the Twelve who followed Him. It simply wasn’t possible to be fake when the authentic One was standing there. He needed no fancy costume. A simple robe, woven in one piece, spoke with as much eloquence of a genuine life as did the sermons of Jesus themselves. His life was a whole, not a patchwork. He wore love and compassion and truth all in that seamless tunic, all parts of His wonderful essence: real, powerful, available, compassionate, forgiving, restorative, and laden with hope.

This was the true drama of life, not a Greek entertainment for profit. This was the epic of salvation unfolding before their eyes and drawing to the conclusion of Act One: “The Coming of Messiah.” Other Acts would follow: Act Two: “The Church in the World.” Act Three: “The Restoration of all Things.” There was no pretense in this play, no deception in this drama. It is the story of an avenging Hero rising with healing in His wings.

Pretense is a game for children. Prayer is the work of the Kingdom.

Scriptures:
Luke:20:45-47
NKJV
Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
John 19:23-24 NKJV
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Malachi 4:2 NKJV
But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Give me a pure heart with no base motives mixed with the good ones. Refine my life as gold is refined by fire. Let my life itself be an eloquent homily concerning Your love and grace. Give me a seamless robe, too, like the one You wore. Let there be no duplicity, nor falsity, no pretense in my walk before You and before the world. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
My God Is Real

Words and Music: Kenneth Morris

1. There are some things I may not know,
there are some places I can’t go,
but I am sure of this one thing,
my God is real for I can feel him in my soul

Refrain:
My God is real, he’s real in my soul,
my God is real for he has washed
and he made me whole,
his love for me is like pure gold.
My God is real for I can feel him in my soul

2. I cannot tell just how it felt
when Jesus washed my sins away,
but since that day yes since that hour,
God has been real for I can feel his mighty power

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 8 “Lord!”

Lord!

A personality as many-faceted as that of Jesus tends to collect names.
His many names were not random gifts from friends or enemies. They were holy names, full of promises and describing his mission and character: Messiah, Son of David, Lord of All, Emmanuel—God with Us, Son of God/Son of Man, Lamb of God.

Jesus asked His enemies a question.
Speaking in the abstract, Jesus asked the leaders who the Christ—the Anointed One—would be. Would He be called the Son of David? Must Messiah come from the family line of King David? The answer was known to all, so this was a rhetorical question. Then Jesus asked the question behind His question. If Messiah was to be the Son of David, how is it that King David called Him “Lord?” How could David’s son also be his Lord?

Son of David
The Jews were a people of histories and carefully kept genealogies. Their family lines were carefully drawn from generation to generation. This information was held as sacred to them. It was not to be tampered with and it could not be faked. There was no way for any man who claimed to be Messiah could fake his genealogy. Jesus was a product of David’s family line on both Mary and Joseph’s side. He was the Son of David.

Lord of All
The answer to the second question Jesus asked was in the process of being revealed. His daily life was proving this title with every miracle. To be called Lord, one must be the absolute master.

  • He was Lord over sickness and disease.
  • He was Lord over the spirit-world.
  • He was Lord over nature for the winds and waves of violent storms obeyed Him.
  • He was Lord of material things for food multiplied at His blessing.
  • He was the Lord of life for the dead rose to life again when He called them back.
  • He would soon prove to be the Lord of death itself.

Jesus was Lord of all.

Emmanuel: God with Us
Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah to proclaim that Messiah would be born of a virgin and His name will be Emmanuel-God with Us. This tender name for Jesus brings God near to the human soul.

  • He is not far away, dwelling in distant disregard for His creation, for us!
  • He is as close as our breath for our breath comes for His Spirit.
  • He has dispatched angels to watch over us every minute. His care for us exceeds that of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
  • Our lives are His dwelling place, our bodies His holy Temple.

Jesus was and is Emmanuel—God with Us!

Son of God/Son of Man
The holy mystery of the Incarnation is expressed in two almost interchangeable names. Jesus has always existed. He is the Son of God. The ancient Trinitarian confession says it so well:

“Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Somehow, the Son of God emptied Himself of heavenly majesty and took on human flesh and became the Son of Man, tempted in all points wherein we are tempted and yet never yielding to sin.

Lamb of God
Standing in the waters of Jordan, John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus was on His way to the cross of Calvary where Justice and Mercy would finally embrace when sin’s debt was fully paid.

A personality as many-faceted as that of Jesus tends to collect names.

Scriptures:
Luke:20:41-40 NKJV

And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”
Matthew 1:22-23
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 85:10
Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Revelation 5:9-10; 12-13
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” …saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Prayer:
You Are God

Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer
You are God: we praise You; You are the Lord; we acclaim You; You are the eternal Father: All creation worships You. To You all angels, all the powers of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. The glorious company of apostles praises You. The noble fellowship of prophets praises You. The white‑robed army of martyrs praises You. Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you; Father, of majesty unbounded, Your true and only Son, worthy of all worship, and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father. When You became man to set us free You did not shun the Virgin’s womb. You overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. You are seated at God’s right hand in glory. We believe that you will come and be our judge. Come then, Lord, and help Your people, bought with the price of Your own blood, and bring us with Your saints to glory everlasting. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Song:
He Is Lord

Traditional

He is Lord. He is Lord
He has risen from the dead and His Lord.
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 7 “Afterlife”

Afterlife

While the Pharisees and priests were taking their lumps at the hands of Jesus in a public debate, another team waited its turn in the ring.
The Sadducees were a joyless group of liberal theologians who had outgrown any beliefs in the supernatural. They denied the existence of a spirit world; there were no angels or demons. Chief among their beliefs was a denial of the resurrection; when people died they were just dead with no hope or fear of an afterlife. To the Sadducees, all that existed was what they could see and feel, count and measure. Sound familiar?

The Sadducees were the mortal enemies of the Pharisees who were the super-spiritual leaders. Strangely enough the presence of Jesus served to unite these enemies, at least for the moment. During His earthly ministry, the Pharisees led the opposition to Jesus. In the book of Acts, the story was one of a resurrected Jesus so the Sadducees took the lead.

Parables are easy, right?
These intellectuals took a play from Jesus’ playbook and presented Him with a parable of their own composition. They told a wretched story of a married man with seven healthy brothers and a wife who was childless. When the man died, the law of Moses required a brother to take his place to raise up children in his brother’s name. Unfortunately, the brother died before he completed his mission. The next brother in line took his turn and died in a similar childless state. Next! This pattern went on until all the brothers had died and the poor woman still had no children. Finally, mercifully, the worn-out woman died also. The spokesman of Sadducees smiled a wicked, lecherous smile as he sprung their trap:

“Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

“Sons of the Resurrection”
Jesus looked at the man and the group he represented. Such pride! Such arrogance! Such ignorance of the Word of God! This time, Jesus did not answer their question with one of His own. He went straight to the Word. Mark reports that Jesus told them they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Dr. Luke tells us more:

“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

He went on to remind them that their beloved Moses referred to the voice emanating from the burning bush as that of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“…For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

Thus ended the Q and A for that day. After this, no one asked Jesus about anything!

The Afterlife
For the faithful, since death will be no more, there will be no need for procreation. This means that particular purpose for marriage will disappear. That does not mean that all the other joys of being man and wife will be gone.

The afterlife is there waiting for each of us. When we breathe our last, our story does not end. A new chapter with a new setting begins. What we have done in this life shapes how we will live in the life to come. What will it be for you?

Scriptures:
Luke:20:27-40
NKJV
Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.” Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” But after that they dared not question Him anymore.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I choose to believe in You! I believe the words You spoke for they still speak in my heart. I know there are angels surrounding Your glorious throne in worship and I know also that angels are camped around me, keeping me safe. I know there is a spirit-world for I sense the presence of evil around me. I see the destruction wrought by evil everywhere. I have seen evil in the eyes and heard it in the words of evil people, influenced by hell itself. I know there is a hell for those who reject You and a grand promise to those who follow You. Today, help me lay up treasures, not here below where time and use can destroy them, but in heaven where they are secure from all evil. You are the God of the living and not the dead! Amen and Amen.

Song:
I’ll Have a New Life

Words and Music: Luther G. Presley

1. On that resurrection morning When all dead in Christ shall rise
I’ll have a new body. Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life
Won’t it be so bright and fair When we meet our love ones there
I’ll have a new body  Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life

Refrain:
I’ll have a new home of glory eternal
Where the redeemed of God shall stand
There’ll be no more sorrow. There’ll be no more strife.
Raised in the likeness of my Savior Ready to live in Paradise
I’ll have a new body, Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life

2. When old Gabriel blows his trumpet And we walk the streets of gold
I’ll have a new body. Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life
No more pain worry sorrow In this wicked world of sin
I’ll have a new body. Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life

Refrain

3. Oh dear brother are you living For that day when Christ shall come
I’ll have a new body. Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life
Graves all bursting Saints a shouting, Heavenly beauty all around
I’ll have a new body. Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 6 “Image”

Image

The scribes and Pharisees had Jesus under 24 hour surveillance.
They tried every device they could think of to catch Jesus in His words. He was teaching in the Temple courts every day and the authorities were watching.

  • Temple guards were at the ready.
  • Hired witnesses were listening for things He said they could misquote before the courts.
  • Skillful actors, pretending to be sincere followers, worked the crowd doing opposition research.

And still He eluded them.

  • He kept the guards at bay because He did not deal in violence.
  • His words were too well-spoken to be twisted by hired liars.
  • His followers showed no interest in betraying Him—not yet.

A “can’t-miss-scheme” misses and by a large margin.
A few of the leaders pretended to be converts to His message. They came to Him with flattery soaked in venom.

“Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Jesus stopped to look at them and a staring contest began. He wasn’t fooled by their flattery. He locked eyes with the spokesman and burned a hole in his act. After a terrible moment of unequal eye-to-eye combat, the man dropped his eyes to the ground beneath him. Jesus looked at his chief lieutenant next to him who surrendered in even less time. One by one, Jesus stared down each hypocrite as the crowd waited to hear how He would answer. He blew the lid off their charade.

“Why do you test Me?

It was an excellent question. They had never bested Him in any argument. He always won these little debates. Yet, there they were, trying one more time. How would He deal with them?

“Show Me a denarius.”

Of course, a leader of the people would never admit to carrying money so he had to signal a servant to bring him a coin. Thus supplied, he tossed the coin to Jesus. Jesus made a great catch and held the coin up for all to see.

“Whose image and inscription does it have?”

As with so many of Jesus’ questions, there was only one answer. The leaders were silent, not wishing to fall into another trap. The servant who brought the coin knew the answer and yelled out,

“Caesar’s.”

He thought he would be rewarded for having the right answer but the stern look from his Pharisee-boss told a different tale. Jesus tossed the coin back at His questioner who missed it, letting it fall to the pavement. The hapless the servant saw his duty and bent to retrieve it only to be clouted by the Pharisee. Jesus closed the issue with a principle for the ages.

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Power of the Image
The Pharisees were outsmarted again and we are made aware of the importance of images:

  • The image of the government on certain things and,
  • The image of God in people.

The people of God live in the real world of governments, laws, and civic responsibilities. While we are citizens of a higher Kingdom and bear the image of God in our very lives, we must still render unto the government its due. The church needs an orderly and fair society to do her godly work. As long as the laws do not prescribe disobedience to God’s laws, we must obey and do so to the glory of God.

Scriptures:
Luke:20:20-26
NKJV
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Romans 13:1-7 NKJV
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, it so amazing that I am made in the image of God—and so challenging. You are the Creator, so You made me creative. You are loving, so You gave people the ability to give and receive love. You are truth, so gave each of us a deep desire to know the truth of things. You have high and blessed purpose, so You installed in each of us the desire to be significant, to live significant lives, to make a difference in this world. Lord, help me live up to the image stamped on my heart—Your image, O God! Wonder of wonders! Alleluia!

Song:
O to Be Like Thee

Words: Thomas O. Chilslm; Music: William J. Kirkpatrick

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 5 “Cornerstone”

Cornerstone

Jesus often used works of fiction to tell a truth.
Speaking of His authority, Jesus told another parable.  In it the identities of the fictional characters were only thinly hidden beneath the surface.  He was talking about Himself and the religious leaders and everyone knew this.

The Parable:
The owner of a successful vineyard left on a long journey leaving the vineyard in the care of his employees.  At vintage season, he sent a series of trusted leaders back for the profits.  One by one they were beaten and sent away empty handed.  Finally, the owner sent his only son thinking that surely he would be respected.  He was not.  In fact, the evil vine-dressers killed him and threw his body out of the vineyard.  Jesus then made the application with a question

“Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

He did not wait for an answer:

“He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.”

With these words, Jesus condemned the leaders who opposed Him and claimed to be the Son of God.

Israel—the Vineyard of God
Jesus’ metaphor was a vineyard—The People of God were God’s vineyard.  This was not a garden of beauty; it was a business.  The owner had responsibilities toward the vineyard and the workers in it.  He also had the right to expect a profit.  The vineyard produced healthy vines that in turn produced fine grapes.  With a winepress, these grapes were processed into wine.  There were storage facilities to process grape juices into new wine and stores of vintage wines.  The vineyard was a business.

The business of Israel
Like a vineyard, the nation of Israel existed to do the business of the Kingdom of God in the earth.  That business was clearly stated in Scripture.  They were to function as “a kingdom  of priests” to all of creation.  Their job was to tell the world about Jehovah, the God who keeps covenant with mankind.

Toward this end, the vineyard (the nation) had to remain unspotted by the pagan world surrounding it.  The worship of Jehovah was the primary expression and guardian of this holiness.  Why? Because in addition to receiving and preserving the Word and Words of God, the promised Messiah, the Deliverer, the Lamb of God, must come from within the nation of Israel. Messiah was the chief product of the vineyard.

In the Fullness of Time
The historical record of the nation of Israel was a cycle of apostasy and renewal.  Foreigners invaded time and time again, bringing the “vineyard” nearly to ruin.  At the time of Jesus, Rome had conquered Israel.  Rome was tolerant of all pagan religions—what was the problem with a few more gods? The worship of Jehovah demanded that only He be worshiped.  Tension between the political rulers and the religious rulers marked the time of Jesus’ visitation.

The Temple of Compromise
Herod’s Temple was under construction at the time of Jesus. It was a Roman attempt to appease the Jews by rebuilding the Second Temple.   Standing in the middle of this reconstruction project, Jesus proclaimed Himself as the Cornerstone of the true Temple.  This Temple of compromise, erected with heathen funds and manned by a corrupted priesthood, would soon fall.  The Temple was completed in AD 65 and destroyed in AD 70. In no uncertain terms Jesus claimed to be the Cornerstone of the true Temple.

The Temple of God’s presence, resting secularly on Jesus the Cornerstone, still stands and will stand until the Plan of God is completed.

Scriptures:
Luke:20:9-19
NKJV
Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.
Exodus 19:5-6 NKJV
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Psalm 118:22-24 NKJV
The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the cornerstone of my faith—not just my faith—my life! I rest secure on You the solid Rock. No matter how violent or relentless the storms that come my way, I will stand because You, the Cornerstone, the Sure Foundation will never be dislodged. Today, I am worker in Your vineyard, the Church! I am a branch in You, the True Vine. Today I will draw sustenance from You, knowing that in time, I will produce the fruit You sent me here to produce. Be glorified in me, Lord Jesus, the Cornerstone!

Song:
Cornerstone

Words and Music: Leon Patillo

Verse:
I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone
I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone
A tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone,
A sure Foundation, A sure Foundation.
He that believeth shall not make haste.

Refrain:
Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father;
Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace,
Prince of Peace, Prince of Peace!

I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone
I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone
A tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone,
A sure Foundation, A sure Foundation.
He that believeth shall not make haste.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved