May 9, 2017

Established

There are those among us who know how to get things done.
The Lord we serve certainly belongs in that group. When God establishes something we can count on it.

Early in the week, it is good to review our holdings, to remember what things have been established in our lives by the hand of God. He has established a New Covenant with us with four outstanding promises:

  1. The forgiveness of sins,
  2. A close relationship with Him,
  3. An intuition about spiritual things, and
  4. His very Word written into our hearts.

These are some of the realities established in the New Covenant:

  • We need not fear the darkness. There is a lamp for each step we take and a light for the pathway ahead. His Word is established in the heavens.
  • He has given His name as a prayer, a praise, and a powerful defense. To whisper His name, is to summon angels, to touch the hem of His garment, and to break the Alabaster jar. All who would dare oppose us, tremble at the sound of His name, or at least they should, and for sure they will.
  • He strikes the key for a song for us to sing in the night that soothes the troubled soul.
  • He has established our comings and our goings from this time forward and forevermore.
  • He has hemmed us in behind and before and laid His hand upon us.

With this partial list of all that God has established for His people, we can face the week with courage and strength. We can expect things to go well for us and if they don’t, we will not despair because we know our footsteps are ordered of the Lord and that He has plans for us to prosper in the ways that really count

The Lord has established New Covenant worship with these blessings:

  • He has established Gates of Thanksgiving—let us proceed through them in gratitude to face the day.
  • He has established Courts of Praise—let us dwell in them today, rejoicing in the Lord.
  • He has established a Holy Place of Worship, the Word, and Prayer—let every word and deed today be adoration for Him, as we boldly place our petitions before Him.
  • He has established the Holy of Holies—let us live and move and have our being in the beauty of His holiness.

Institutions may fail. Plans may go awry. Friends may fail us and foes assail us, but our God can never fail. His Kingdom is established and secure.

Remember, He knows how to get things done.

Scriptures:
Psalm 89
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.'” The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. …The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south… Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt (them.) Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: “I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have exalted a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. No enemy will subject him to tribute; no wicked man will oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth… Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.
Genesis 17:3-8 NIV
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, …I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have confidence in You today. The things You have established in Your New Covenant with us are unfailing. Time has not weakened them. Use has not eroded them. Like Your mercies, they are new every morning. If there is any randomness in these things, we have contributed it. Help me be intentional and faithful to You today. Don’t let my distraction or my weak will stop me short of the life You have established for me. I want to walk in Your fullness today. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song of Praise
Our Great Savior
Words and Music: J. Wilbur Chapman

1. Jesus! What a friend for sinners!
Jesus! lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole

Refrain:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

2. Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my vict’ry wins.

Refrain

3 Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

Refrain

3 Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

Refrain

4 Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’ertakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.

Refrain

5 Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find,
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 30, 2017

Declare

Declarations are usually made by officials.
The mayor of a city will declare a day to honor a visiting dignitary or an outstanding citizen.  The leader of a country can declare a day for prayer, or a moratorium on some unwanted behavior.  Upon reentry into one country, when going through customs, a traveler to some other country will have to declare the goods he or she purchased.

We may not see ourselves as leaders or dignitaries or outstanding citizens and we haven’t been anywhere or bought anything to demand a trip through customs.  Why are we commanded to declare something?  What power do we possess to seize a day in honor of someone we love?  Who will listen if we declare a day of prayer?  What foreign goods do we have in our possession?

Commanded to Declare
In the most unlikely of circumstances, we are invited, really we are commanded, to declare the glory of the Lord!  The first day of the week has been declared to be the Lord’s Day, an accumulated day of Rest and Worship (Old Covenant) and a day to Celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus (New Covenant. )  When we declare His glory, we are choosing to share in the joy of the church and in the faithfulness of God to His people through His covenants.

It is important that we open our mouths to make this declaration.

  • There is a time for silent meditation; this is not that time.
  • Some moments call for inner contemplation; these are not those moments.

The Lord’s day is a day to declare with a loud voice in the company of the saints the wonders of God for all to hear.

We do this best with songs.
Songs of declaration are not songs about us; they are about the Lord.  The words are filled with truth about who God is and what He has done.  We proclaim His excellence, integrity, holiness, mercy, faithfulness, truth, power, and His love.  We must lift our voices over the noise of a fallen creation.  Our unison song must penetrate the din of lies all around us.  Our soaring harmonies must stretch from low bass to highest soprano to dominate the sound spectrum, allowing no other melodies and chords and cadences to be heard.

The Song of the Heart
Before our song can overcome the cacophony of sin, it must originate in the deepest part of us—our hearts where Jesus lives by the power of the Spirit.

  • When our hearts have seen the King, we can witness to His glory with our voices.
  • When our minds are filled with Him, our mouths will be filled with His praise.

Those who do not know Him simply cannot declare His glory the way those who know God in their hearts can.  It is as if the Holy Spirit amplifies the song of the redeemed so that all can hear, from the enemies of God to the friends of God.

Seek His glory in your heart.  Declare His glory with your lips.  Make the joyful noise that only you can make.  Use the voice He has given you and use it to the full.  There will be time to contemplate.  There will be moments of meditation.  But find a time early on this Lord’s Day to declare His glory!

Scriptures:
Ephesians 3:10-12
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
1 Peter 2:4-6; 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.
Psalm 96 NKJV
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.” Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Psalm 33:1-3
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
Psalm 47:1-2
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!

Prayer:
Glory to God
From the Book of Common Prayer
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for Your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; You are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Songs of Declaration:
We Declare That the Kingdom of God Is Here
Words and Music: Bob Fitts

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here
Among you! Among you !

The blind see! The deaf hear!
The lame men are walking!
Sicknesses flee at His voice
The dead live again And the poor hear
The good news!
Jesus is King so rejoice!

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here
Among you! Among you !

We Declare Your Majesty
Words and Music: Joseph Garlington

We declare your majesty!
We proclaim that your name is exalted;
For You reign magnificently, rule victoriously,
And Your power is shown throughout the earth.

And we exclaim, our God is mighty!
Lift up your name, for you are holy.
Sing it again, all honour and glory,
In adoration we bow before your throne.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 29, 2017

Collecting

To be human is to be a collector. 
We just seem to accumulate things.  Collections range from a garage filled with so much stuff you could never park a car there, to carefully indexed and displayed collections of books, paintings, model cars, guns, recordings, films, etc.   People collect things.  Some of us find it difficult to let go of the past and those boxes of random objects in the garage are all that’s left of it in the physical world.  Others of us have become so fascinated by an object that we can’t seem to get enough of them.

On days of rest and recreation, our collections call to us. 
A casual trip to the garage reminds us of all the boxes we need to go through so we quickly get back in the house.  For those intentional collections, the possible ways to enjoy them are many:

  • We can just look at them, appreciating their value and meaning.
  • We can look for more of them online or out in the market place.
  • We can choose one or more of them to play with.
  • We can catch up on the indexing and cataloging for it seems we are always behind on that.

As a Christ-follower we also accumulate valuables:

  • Moments with the Master, times of presence and power filed neatly away in our hearts for times when we need to remember,
  • Truths eternal, packed into certain words and into the many names of God for times when enemies or errors confront us,
  • People we love and who love us in return, gifts of grace from God’s own hand for times when we need a human touch or a word from a friend, and
  • Blessings all around us, far outnumbering the things we still need, for every moment of every day, the provision of Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Who Provides.

The treasures we have accumulated speak peace to us, bring a smile to our face, relax the tension in the back of our neck, and give us pause in that wonderful gap between the work of the week and the worship of the Lord’s Day.

Follow your interests.
Collect wonderful things that fascinate you.  If God made them, they were made for you to enjoy.  If human beings made them and they are honorable, those artists and craftsmen have created from the image of God in them.  That same image in you responds to their work and it is a good thing.

We must also look deeper than our various collections of things to the astounding accumulation of grace stored in our hearts, indexed in our minds, and available to our spirits.  They are kept in heaven’s secure vaults where there are no moths, no decay, no thieves, and where nothing is ever lost.

To be human is to be a collector.

Scriptures:
Luke 12:32-33
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 13:52
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Colossians 2:2-7
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.  For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Romans 11:33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”   “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”   For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Ephesians 1:18-19
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I love the Bible, that shinning collection of stories and words of wisdom and unbelievable poems and essays that brings You to me. I love the massive collection of worship songs Your people have written and sung through the ages, going all the way back to King David. I see Your Church as a collection of narratives, stories of grace so amazing and I see beyond their stories to the people in Your collection, people You have called out of darkness into Your marvelous light. I consider my own story, a narrative of Divine intervention, of miracles of miles and inches, of moments of astounding grace and most of all, the people in my life, good people and true. When I count my collection of blessings, there is no ending to them. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Count Your Blessings
Words: Johnson Oatman; Music: E.O. Excell

1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Refrain

3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain

4. So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 28, 2017

Adversaries

No one goes through this life unopposed.
It just isn’t done. Sometimes the adversary is another person, or a corrupt system, or a rigged game, and sometimes we are our own adversary.

The Christ-follower can identify with the Prophet Daniel. In the spirit-world we face down hungry lions every day. This isn’t fantasy or paranoia; it is simply the truth. Sometimes a single lion will stalk us; at other times the whole pride of lions has our scent. Like the Prophet, a den of lions might be the reward we receive for being faithful to God. No matter the number of snarling beasts we face, their jaws are locked and there power over us is limited by the hand of God. They try to roar but can only mumble

Satan comes against the Church.
When Jesus promised that the “Gates of Hell” will not prevail against the church, he was telling us to look out for serious adversaries. The enemy of our souls doesn’t waste his limited offensive strength against strongholds he has already won. He comes against the church. Like a hapless legion of ignorant soldiers the armies of Hell have battered the church since it was founded on the Day of Pentecost. The church has taken more than her share of casualties in these assaults but she has never been stopped. Our adversaries take no delight in the addict, or the felon, or the atheist, or the humanist, and even—ironically enough—in the Satanist. Their focus is the church—you and me.

  • These adversaries want to spoil our worship and distract us.
  • They want to tempt us to sin. A church that is not holy is no threat to them.
  • They want our kids and grand-kids. They target them in every way.
  • They want us to be sick, overweight, depressed, and disagreeable, making us unable to do what God has called us to do even when we want to.
  • They want to divide us. Hell knows that the unity of spirit and purpose makes the church impregnable and unstoppable.

Our adversaries remember two days that we often forget:

  1. The day of the dedication of the Temple, and
  2. The Day of Pentecost.

On each of these days The Glory of the Lord fell. The trigger of these visitations was unity.

What are our adversaries, these tight-lipped lions up to? What is their strategy? They are charged with seeing that something like these two days never happens again so they deceive us into competing divisions.

What should our counter-strategy be?
We must undo the divisions culture has thrust upon us:

  • Old from young,
  • Rich from poor,
  • Worker from professional,
  • Dark skinned from light,
  • preacher from parishioner,

and be One again! One–just as Jesus prayed and just as the Bible commands.

When we are One–No adversary can defeat us!

Scriptures:
Psalm 71 NKJV
In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame. Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually… O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries of my life; Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more…. My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long; For they are confounded, For they are brought to shame Who seek my hurt.
1 Peter 5:8 NIV
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 NKJV
…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord…that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Victor! The outcome has already been decided but prayer is the continuing battle. Worship is our warfare. Through praise we assault the strongholds of the enemy and see them weaken, crumble, and fall. Some are stubborn and so must I be, relentless in prayer, ever asking, seeking, knocking until the victory comes. Help me be faithful in this combat. And for Your church, make us one again! Undo the wicked strategies that divide us. Bind us together as One Army, ready for battle. In Your mighty name, Amen.

Song:
Onward Christian Soldiers
Words: Sabine Baring-Gould; Music: Arthur S. Sullivan

1.Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Refrain
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

2.At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Refrain

3.Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Refrain

5.Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Refrain

6.Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 27, 2017

 

Understanding

It takes understanding to solve a puzzle.
Call it discretion; call it wisdom; call it knowledge; call it insight; call it discernment, call it what you will, understanding is the thing we all need all the time. With the gift of understanding we organize invisible things. We place random things in a context that orders them aright. Understanding turns notes into a song. It sequences events into a narrative. It shapes words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into a message received.

Wise old King Solomon says it this way: “With all thy getting, get understanding.”

Ours is not the way of understanding.
The pieces of the puzzle just don’t seem to fit

  • The culture around us has substituted education for understanding, facts for truths, and images for insights.
  • We live in a world of surfaces: shining, attractive, commercial, and shallow.
  • Depth is for nerds.
  • Understanding is for the senile.
  • The joys of irony, the mysteries of paradox, and the wonders of the enigmatic, are lost in the flash of attention spans measured in mere seconds.
  • We numb our souls with chemicals and hypnotic entertainments because we prefer such temporal medication to any meditation of the eternal.

The good news is this: This random world has not been abandoned.

  • To this shallow world comes a Man of great depth.
  • To this chaos comes a Spirit of order and peace.
  • To the overmedicated mind comes the Balm of Gilead, the Sun of Righteousness, rising with “healing in His wings.”
  • To this wiggling, writhing population comes a Father who does not waver and whose embrace brings stillness.
  • To this decaying world comes its Creator, whose words still call wonders into existence, a future New Creation, foreshadowed now as the twice-born heart of a child of God.

With all our getting, let us get understanding.
In every company where Christ-followers labor, there should be at least one office, one work bench, one station, one workplace that is the Office-Place of the Lord. People know who among them can pray. They know whose opinion is not just so much noise. They recognize the co-worker or the boss or the subordinate who has understanding. Him or her they seek out. It may be a quick question at the water cooler or a whispered conversation in the break room or a sidebar in a staff meeting, but they know who might have an answer to be trusted, an insight to be shared. There are those in every company whose feet seem to have a lamp, and whose path seems to be illumined by a light source from somewhere else.

We must be those insightful, wise, discerning, discrete, understanding people, for no one else can be.

In this way we follow the 12 year old Jesus. We must be about our Father’s business.

Puzzle solved.

Scriptures:
Psalm 119:73-77 NKJV
Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant. Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.
1 Chronicles 22:11-13 NIV
“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
Proverb 4:7
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
James 3:13-18 NIV
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
1 Coriinthians 2:13-16 NKJV
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy* Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”* But we have the mind of Christ.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the Bible makes an outlandish claim: “We have the mind of Christ!” That cannot possibly mean that I am as smart as You. It means that I have You in me, including Your amazing mind. Help me listen to Your Spirit within as He brings to my mind what You have said. Give me insight into the puzzle of life that I may solve some of it every day. Let the principles You teach go so deep into my heart, that I live by them every day—today, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Open My Eyes that I May See
Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

2. Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wave-notes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 26, 2017

Effect

We must remember that the heart of God never changes. 
His grace is a great River of Life that can never be stopped on its journey from HIs throne to the depth of our human need. “Wherever the river, everything will live!”  So said the Prophet Ezekiel.  God’s love has never diminished in strength from the days when He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day until today, when He delights to walk with us.  Just as His love has never grown or diminished, it has never shifted in its focus; God still loves what He has always loved and what has always displeased Him displeases Him still.

God made this world a realm of “cause and effect.”
Everyone son and daughter of Adam and Eve has been made for a purpose. We have each been designed to be the “cause” of certain “effects.”    Gravity (the cause) makes water run down hill (the effect.)  God made it so and the whole globe ebbs and flows with this dynamic.  Through the constant pull of gravity, great rivers drain their continents yet never fill the sea.  Jesus chose this image to represent the effect of the life of the believer—a cleansing, nourishing flow of life through a barren land.

The dictionary defines “effect” as:
noun

  1. something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence
  2. power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence
  3. the state of being operative or functional; operation or execution; accomplishment or fulfillment
  4. a mental or emotional impression produced, as by a painting or a speech.
  5. meaning or sense; purpose or intention.

The River of the Spirit
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in us is the cause of certain effects God expects from us.

  • We walk this earth in the power of the Spirit (cause) and carry the Lord’s presence with us wherever we go (effect.)
  • The places we work (cause) are blessed with a living, breathing incarnation of the truth of God when we are there (effect.)
  • The residence and work of the Spirit of God (cause) makes us holy and powerful (effect.)
  • Just as Old Covenant Priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the obstructing river and into battle and into the tabernacle and temple, Christ-followers likewise carry the Lord’s presence and power with them into this world.  Darkness rolls back like the River Jordan.
  • Enemies of God are thrown into confusion like the Philistines and the presence of God rests upon His people in worship as He did in the Temple.

Is this fancy?  Is this fiction?  If this is so, why do we not see hindering rivers roll back, enemies of God breaking ranks, and why do we have services without the manifest presence of God?

The Lord’s brother tells us why. 
It is because the greatest cause of any effect has been neglected—prayer!  James says that the fervent prayer of the one who closely follows the Lord Jesus is effective! It “avails much,” to use the King James language. God’s heart never changes.  He will still answer prayer and empower lives for His glory.  We are the one who change.

Life deflects us from praying.  The lazy flesh we all inhabit shrinks from the work of prayer. Time and convenience conspire against prayer.  Could it be that we don’t want to pray?  Might we be more interested in the effect than we are the cause?  God forgive us!

The apostles are unanimous in their call to prayer.  Jesus is detailed in His instructions on how we should pray.  The Spirit is resident and ready to empower our praying.  Our Covenant-keeping Father is poised to respond.  When our prayers approach the level of fervency (measured by consistency, not by volume) and faith our praying can be most effective; His power will flow through us.

Through consistent prayer we can each be a blessing to those around us just like an unstoppable river flowing to the sea!

Scriptures:
Isaiah 32:15-17
…till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high… The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
James 5:13-16
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
John 7:37-39
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Revelation 22:1-2
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Ezekiel 47:9
…so where the river flows everything will live.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the spring of Living Water bubbling in my deepest self.  As I pray, let the gentle flow become a torrent. Use me to affect this world for good. As I live, flow through me to the healing of the nations—of the people You place in my path. May my words be filled with truth, my eyes see with Your perspective, my hands touch with Your compassion. With You as my cause, the effect of my life will count in this world and in the next. Amen.

River Songs:
O River of God
Traditional
O River of God, flow down on me.
O River of God, flow out through me.
O River of God, so rich and free,
O River of God, I long for Thee.

I’ve Got a River
Words and Music: L. Casebolt

I’ve got a River of Life flowing out from me,
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to;
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free,’
I’ve got a River of Life flowing out from me,

Spring up, O well, within my soul.
Spring up, O well and make me whole.
Spring up, O well and give to me
That life abundantly.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 25, 2017

Discover

Horizons are meant to beckon. 
Distant mountain ranges call us to them.  Along the way, we discover the rising plain, the hills and valleys, the rivers and streams that drain the land, the rows of trees on each bank of each stream to shelter, feed, and water the animals.  A long journey toward a gleaming horizon is a voyage of discovery.

The Age of Discovery
As the Middle Ages were coming to end and a rebirth of culture was just beginning to burst upon Western Europe, advances in navigation, ship building and a hunger for new horizons created the Age of Discovery.  The world was not newly round, but the awareness that the earth was a globe was new and it stirred the imaginations of explorers. Beginning in the 15th century Europeans explored Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the far Pacific islands.  Western civilization divided into the New World and the Old World.  Empires built on trade and Christian missions connected the most advanced nations of Europe with the most primitive peoples and lands of the world.  This expansion continued well into the 18th century.

The Spiritual Horizon
The Christ-follower lives a life something like the Age of Discovery; we are on a journey of exploration.  One of the most precious gifts the Lord grants us is a spiritual horizon, a distant destination.

This horizon calls to us.

  • How far away is it?
  • What lies just beyond it?
  • What mysteries will we discover on the journey from where we are to that distant, enticing horizon?

A Moving Boundary
Of course, in this life we can never reach the horizon; it moves as we move and is stationary when we are still.  The great poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, wrote about this in his poem, Ulysses:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

The shimmering horizon in the distance marks a boundary beyond which life is eternal, pain is forgotten forever, sadness is not even a memory, and joy is constant in the pleasure of God’s presence.  The journey between this today and that tomorrow, is also a joyful one.  While we retain our free will to walk away from God, abandoning His plan for our pilgrimage, if we stay on track, God has planned work after work, friend after friend, blessing after blessing, and joy after strengthening joy for us all the way there.

Sharpen your tools and do the work; there are things for you to discover.

  • Exercise your mind; there are puzzles for you to solve.
  • Strengthen your body; there are mountains to climb, deserts to cross, and deep forests to explore.
  • Above all, sustain your spirit by constant contact with God’s Spirit; there are truths to discover in the Word of God that you have never imagined, truths that will set you free to explore the mysteries of life.
  • Ask your deepest questions of the Spirit through the Word; there is much to discover there.

While horizons dutifully retreat before us as we move, the pursuit of them is our main business in this world.  Tennyson advises us to never stop discovering:

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life, life piled on life…

The life of discovery is, indeed, “life piled on life.”  For the Christ-follower it is “breath” and “life.”  Open your mind, your heart, and your hands to those who share the pilgrimage with you.  The ground is rising with every step.  There will be new elevations and new vistas of wonder to greet your eyes.  Heaven is on the horizon and the power of the Lord Jesus is with us today.

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:7-8
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Ephesians 1:16-19
… I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…
Psalm 119:144
Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.
Proverbs 2:1-6
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
James 1:4-5
…If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Ephesians 2:10 10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my guide. Point me to the correct horizon. Create in my heart a longing for Your will in my life. Save me from foolish pursuits that lead me nowhere and waste my time. Help me know that Sabbath rest from You is an essential part of a successful journey. Help me recognize the fellow adventurers You send my way. Let me be a help to them as I honor their voyage of discovery as just as important as mine. Thank You, Lord, that life is not random, that there is a mission, a horizon to pursue, a voyage of discovery for each of us. Help me honor those who have been long upon the road as well as those who are just starting out. May I be an encouragement and may I learn much from the companions You send my way. Amen.

Song:
I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go
Words: Mary Brown and Music: Carrie E. Rounsefell

1. It may not be on the mountain’s height,
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.
But if by a still, small voice He calls
To paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
“I’ll go where You want me to go.”

Refrain:
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain, or plain, or sea.
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord.
I’ll be what You want me to be.

2. Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin,
Some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if Thou wilt be my Guide,
Tho’ dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what you want me to say.

Refrain

3. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place
In earth’s harvest fields so wide
Where I may labor thro’ life’s short day
For Jesus, the Crucified;
So, trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me,
I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 24, 2017

Resolve

The admiral was right.
After his successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Admiral Yamamoto, of the Japanese imperial command refused to celebrate victory.   He had lived and studied in America and knew something of her war making potential.  Some historians believe the admiral expressed his fear with this statement, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” That “terrible resolve” destroyed the Japanese military machine in less than four years.

re·solve…  to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something): I have resolved that I shall live to the full.

To resolve to do something is much deeper than making a simple decision. 
We resolve to do something when a strong stimulus has affected us in a deep place.  This is the kind of decision we write down and post on the bathroom mirror to be reviewed every day.  We are determined that nothing will keep us from doing what we have resolved to do.

Today as we again turn our inner vision to Cause of Christ, there are some deep resolutions we need to make.  Our continual contemplation of Calvary should fill us with a powerful resolve.

  • In view of the faithfulness of Jesus when he drank from the terrible cup of iniquity in the garden, we should resolve to live holy lives by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
  • With consideration for His willingness to endure the shame and suffering of the whole ordeal of the atonement, we must resolve to do whatever the Lord asks us to do for Him in this world.  Our prayer should daily be, “not my will but Yours, Lord.”
  • In view of the mercy of God on vivid display at the Cross, we should resolve to continually offer ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices of praise.

It is only reasonable that we do so

As we marvel at the amazing story of redemption in the Bible,

  • beginning from the unknown animal whose death supplied the covering for the naked guilt of Adam and Eve
  • to the salvation of Noah’s family through the waters of the Great Flood,
  • through the deliverances of the Children of Israel from the cruel slavery of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the forty years of God faithfulness to His faithless chosen ones in the wilderness,
  • to the crossing a the river Jordan and the conquest of Canaan,
  • to the miraculous ministries of the judges,
  • to the Kings, both those wise and righteous and those wicked and apostate,
  • to the warnings and promises of the prophets before and after the Babylonian captivity,
  • to the coming of the last and greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, and finally,
  • to the entrance of Messiah on His earthly mission of salvation, not as conquering King but as suffering sin bearer,  we must resolve to keep the story of God’s love alive!

We have a story to tell of God’s love and redemption.
Let us resolve to tell it, and tell it, and tell it again.  No other story changes peoples’ hearts.  No other narrative, brings reconciliation with God and peace between brothers and sisters.  Only the Jesus Story dispels fear, quiets the storms of the soul, and clears the mind of falsehood.

In view of The Cause of Christ, we pledge to be the people of God, a priesthood of praise, warriors of worship, and craftsmen of the truth.  Be it hereby resolved!

Scriptures:
Luke 9:51-52 NKJV
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face.
Isaiah 50:7 KJV
For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
2 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 15:2; 58
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain…
…Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.   For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-3
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Colossians3:2-4 NKJV
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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, As Isaiah prophesied, the Bible tells us that You set your face like a flint, determined to go all the way the Cross to fulfill the Father’s plan. May we, may I, be no less resolved to take up my cross and follow You today. Holy Spirit put the steel in my backbone required to stand tall for the truth today. Light a fire in my eyes that will melt the frozen hearts who cross my path today. Give me a peace so deep it radiates hope to those who see no way out of the mess they have made of their lives. Project my voice above the noise of the culture’s clamoring so that I could be heard telling the old, old story that is still such Good News. I am thus resolved, my face set like a flint, to see what You will do. By Your Spirit, Lord. Amen.

Song:
I Am Resolved
Words: Palmer Hartsough; Music:James Fillmore

1. I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.

Refrain:
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

2. I am resolved to go to the Savior, leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true one; He is the just one, He has the words of life.

Refrain

3. I am resolved, and who will go with me? Come, friends, without delay;
taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit, we’ll walk the heavenly way.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 23, 2017

Throne-room

To worship the Lord Jesus is to be found in a crowd, not lost in one.
We belong here with the angels, seraphim, and winged creatures with multiple eyes and faces.

  • Without our voices the choir is incomplete.
  • Our hearts beat in time with the multiplied meters of eternity as if they themselves were eternal—for they are!
  • Formed in His likeness, we gather with other hot-hearted worshipers of earth and sky and the heavens beyond, to make the music of worship.
  • The doorposts shake in sympathetic vibration, matching pitch with the multitudes.
  • The flaming of so many ignited hearts fills the Throne Room of Almighty God with smoke.
  • No conflagration, this, no fire of destruction, it is an eternal flame rising from creation to mingle with the flaming Shekinah of the Creator, bathing the Throne Room in living light.

The Majesty of the One
Even with the roar of worship and the sensual overload of lightnings and thunders and instruments and voices, we hardly notice each other. All we can see is the majesty of the One-Who-sits-on-the-Throne. All our hearts can hear is the wonder of His voice singing over us. His song is a song of love and covenant and peace, of victory and the end of conflict—a brilliant counterpoint to the song of the angels and the church.

We who think of ourselves as earthbound, need to see beyond our sanctuaries to the Throne Room of God, for where we worship Him, He is enthroned there. We must sense the presence of the church but stretch beyond our five senses to return the Divine Embrace of Jesus, for when we worship Him, He is with us, close enough to touch. We must enter the circle of the One-in-Three and let the mutual love of Father/Son/Spirit whirl around and through us for this is the source of worship.

On the Lord’s Day, let us reach out and touch the Lord, for He is passing by. There is a touch that only He can give, a word that only He can speak, and a name, our name, that only He can whisper as we pray.

How wonderful to be found in a crowd.

Scriptures:
Revelation 7:9-17 NIV
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Isaiah 6:1-7 NIV
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Hebrews 12:22 NIV
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Lord and King, King of kings, Lord of lords, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, who can cease to give You Praise? Who can dare to be silent before such glory? Yet silent we must be when You speak. Somehow words from Your Throne room echo in our hearts. We want to run the aisles of glory but we dare not, for it is in our stillness that we know that You are God. With bursting hearts we bow before Your Majesty. Awash in Your glory, we are healed. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Majesty

Words and Music: Jack Hayford

Majesty! Worship His majesty!
Unto Jesus, be all glory, honor and praise.
Majesty! Kingdom authority,
Flows from His throne, unto His own, His anthem raise.

So exalt, lift up on high the Name of Jesus.
Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus the King.
Majesty, worship His majesty!
Jesus who died, now glorified, King of all kings!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 22, 2017

Giving

Relax. This is not about money.
This is about something much more valuable than the currency of any nation on earth. This is about the heart. More than a muscle or a pump for pushing blood round and round inside of us, the heart is who we really are. Our inmost thoughts and deepest desires are what the heart really pumps through us.

And the heart is what God wants us to give. He gave His heart to us—not just sharing His image with us—but sending Jesus to save us. The Gospel is the heart business.

The heart can deceive.

  • A rotten heart spoils worship that is otherwise flawless.
  • A deceptive heart creates a fantasy world for us to live in, not a real one.
  • We believe the lies our hearts tell us and build our lives on this brand of shifting sand.
  • When the storms come and the waters rise, our hearts are swept away with our furniture leaving us wondering how God could let something like this happen to us!

But there is another way to live.
Because Creator God has sent His Heart—King Jesus—to live in our world and conquer it for us,

  • His truth can fill our hearts.
  • Then, with the guidance of the Abiding Spirit within, our hearts start telling us the truth.
  • The truth goes coursing through our veins into every bit and bone, molecule and muscle of our being.
  • We believe the truths our redeemed hearts tell us and build our lives on this brand of solid rock.
  • Storms still come and waters still rise, but our hearts and all our accumulated stuff stay where they are, secure in the grace of God.

All of this to say this: When we gather with the saints of God to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, it is not really about receiving—it is about giving—giving our hearts to God. We are commanded to give the Lord the “glory due unto His name.” That’s a lot of glory! We can’t do that on auto-pilot. It takes our whole heart and our complete focus. We should not be distracted by anything or anyone. It is time to obey the Great Commandment, to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

With all the songs and the confessions and the prayers and actions of worship adoration, we are giving to God the thanksgiving and praise—the glory!—He deserves.

We are giving Him our hearts. After all He gave His to us!

Scriptures:
Psalm 29
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.
Revelation 4:8-1; 19:4-7 NIV
Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 13:15-16 NKJV
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Colossians 3:17 NKJV
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Acts 20:35 NKJV
… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I cannot add to Your stature with my praise. The honor and glory I give You does not increase Your magnificence at all. When I give You glory, my soul sees Your splendor more clearly. My heart hears the music of Your Throne Room and sings along with abandon. I come boldly to the Throne of Grace bearing my petitions, knowing You hear me and care for my needs. I cannot add to Your glory but I can express it to the best of my ability. Let the measure of my praises be “the Glory Due Your Name!” Amen.

Song:
Give unto the Lord

Words from Psalm 29; Music: Steve Phifer

Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due His name.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Give Him blessing. Give Him honor.
Give Him glory. Give Him power.
Give unto the Lord the glory due His name.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

We give You blessing. We give You honor.
We give You glory. We give You power.
We give unto You, Lord, the glory due Your name.
We worship You, Lord, in the beauty of holiness.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved