Sunday The Victor


It was going to be a long night.
A squad of sixteen strong soldiers stood watch through the night, four at the time. Soldier jokes quickly wore thin and soon no attempts at humor could lighten the mood. From the lone officer to the youngest recruit to the most ignorant and crass veteran, the soldiers resented this duty. Sleeping out under a full moon held no romance for them. Armor does not make the ground softer. Night air does not ease the persistent cough or loosen the joints grown stiff in the humid dark.

More disgusting than the discomfort was the duty itself: guarding a dead man. The soldiers had spoken to the execution squad and were sure their comrades had done a good job. The corpse was not going anywhere. It had taken all sixteen of them to roll the huge stone into place. The lever and fulcrum they had used protruded from the bushes near the tomb but that was no risk for these weak-kneed Jews. There was no danger in this garden, just as there was no comfort to be found either.

Along toward Morning…
With twelve soldiers sleeping, or trying to, while three watched the approaches to the tomb and the other paced back and forth in front of the stone, a sudden shaking of the earth brought them all to an immediate full alert. They could not know that this earthquake was highly localized and no one else would even report it. It seemed the whole earth was shaking as dust flew up from the floor of the garden to cloud the air. Their training took over and immediately they formed a cordon of defense, ready to repel an attack from any direction.

Something like lightning, but much more startling, much brighter, struck out in all directions from inside the tomb and with a thunder that rattled the brains of each soldier. A brilliant beam of this magnified light circled the huge stone from inside the opening of the tomb sending out shards of light into the darkness. The dust from the earthquake reflected the circling light giving weird and beautiful shapes to the shining beams.

Blinded by the light and bewildered by shaking of the earth the soldiers drew their swords and positioned their shields. One of them found the lever since his short sword was temporarily mislaid.

Suddenly, they were not alone.
Without the soldiers seeing where he came from, a tall warrior suddenly confronted them. He carried no weapon and it looked like he would never need one. With a single look, the angel silenced and shackled the soldiers of the Empire with a fear they had never known. Instead of reaching for them, the angel went for the stone.

With unimaginable ease the angel rolled the stone from the door of the Tomb with a single hand and then sat on it. The light and smoke from inside the tomb poured out into the garden like the bursting of a dam. The soldiers, all sixteen of them, collapsed to the ground and fell into a trance as if they were dead. They did not see what happened next.

Emerging from the blinding light, Jesus stepped out of the tomb.
The soldier angel stood in His presence. This was the One he had worshiped and adored as long as he could remember and angels can remember the very beginning. From every corner of the garden and from every corner, it seemed, of heaven itself, came the choirs of heaven singing a new verse to the song the shepherds had heard so many years before. For centuries to come those of earth would gather on the first day of every week to sing the song.

On this morning of the third day, in the isolation of this garden of death it was for heavenly creatures only to sing the song of victory. The angels remember like it was yesterday the other Garden, the Garden of Life where the reign of death had its beginning. Now the wrong was righted. The joy restored in triumph. Jesus, the Second Adam, was the Victor! The sharp sting of death was blunted. The bondage of the grave was broken. He had won for all of those who would believe in Him complete victory over sin, over sickness, over wrath, over judgment, and over even the loneliness of selfishness.

We gather on the first day of the week because the ancient song must be sung at the beginning of everything new: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

Matthew 28:2-4; Mark 16:9-10; Luke 24:4-6
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
1 Corinthians 15: 20-23;54-57
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 5:9-14
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped

Prayer of Praise:
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. 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.

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Easter Hymn

1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2. Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Saturday The Garden Tomb


Tombs, when they are closed, hold their secrets.
Stories are finished whether they had a chance to end or not. Voices are stilled, left only to the dubious recordings of memory and subject to alteration by pain and preference. Eyes are closed. The heart is still. If there is a journey of the spirit that sets sail at the moment of death, there is no evidence of it inside the closed tomb.

At the tomb of Jesus, even the angels could not know what was happening after the stone was rolled into place by the soldiers. The holy creatures had stood before the Son of God in heavenly majesty, their angel hearts bursting with worship. He had sent them on countless angelic missions to aid the people of God. They had also served by only standing and waiting. Some of them sang to the shepherds. An army of them stood at the ready during Jesus’ earthly ministry, ready to rescue Him were he to simply kick a rock as a signal for them to charge.

Guardian Angels
As a child and young man, Jesus never called them so they had to watch as those around Him

  • ignored Him,
  • did carpenter business with Him,
  • misunderstood Him, and
  • gave up on Him like His brothers and sisters must have done.

For the last three years, angels had traveled with Him throughout Galilee and down to Jerusalem. They stood by as those He came to save

  • underestimated Him,
  • took freely of His miracles,
  • suspected Him, unsure of His motives,
  • watched with amusement as He grappled with the religious leaders, and
  • went about their lives as if nothing important had happened.

Now angels wept, unable to see into the tomb, having confidence in God but sorrow for their Master.

The Women Who Loved Him
In other quarters, human tears flowed form sources deep within. Just when the women thought there could be no more tears, another torrent of grief would break. They wanted Him back. They wanted to finish the work of caring for Him, at least for His body, all they had left of Him. But it was not really all they had.

In a place in their hearts deeper than the well of their tears, a tender of flame of hope flickered in slight but promising light. Unlike the men, the women had really listened to Jesus. They remembered those strange things He said about three days. Their wounded hearts yearned for tomorrow, the third day.

His Chosen Men
Hiding for fear of their lives, the disciples did not dare gather all in one place. They had broken down into their little clumps of friendships perhaps all in some proximity just in case. Unlike the women who could allow their tears to flow unhindered, the men pushed their grief deeper into their hearts while their minds raced to process some sort of action plan. But with Jesus dead, there was certainly nothing any of them could do.

Meanwhile, the tomb was closed, hiding its secrets.

“He Descended to the Dead”
For centuries, theologians have discussed what Jesus might have been doing on this Holy Saturday. One ancient belief is based on an interpretation of a few verses. It is romantic and appealing to the believer: “Jesus entered the regions of hell, confronted Satan, wresting from him the keys of death, hell, and the grave. He then led the souls in the Bosom of Abraham, Paradise, out of their spiritual prison into the heavenly realms.” Some believe this ardently, others oppose it with equal ardor.

What we all can do as we relive this Holy Saturday and the closed tomb, is join our tears to those of the angels and the women and wonder with the men what we must do next.

John 19:38-42
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus… Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Luke 16:22-26
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.
Ephesians 4:7-8b 
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
Revelation 1:18 KJV
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Lord Jesus, I believe the words of the ancient creed! The stillness of the Garden Tomb hid Your deeds on that Saturday. You descended to the dead! You led captivity captive. You rescued the Old Covenant saints! The countless innocent lambs and goats and bulls counted at last for the redemption of the faithful when You, the Final Lamb, the Lamb of God, gave Your life! You hold the keys to death, hell and the grave! You are the Victor! You robbed death of its sting and plundered the grave of any victory. I will be silent today and weep with the angels, but I will weep in hope that tomorrow is the third day! Amen and Amen!

Were You There?
Traditional African-American Spiritual

1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

2. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Friday The Crucifixion


Tools of the Trade
The Roman implements of torture and execution were tools of the trade for the soldiers of the Empire. Iron was expensive, whether the sharp bits lodged in the tentacles of the whip that tore the flesh of prisoners or the sharp pointed nails that split the hands and feet of their victims, precious iron had to be cared for and cleaned. A carefully maintained whip and supply of crucifixion nails could do their duty on many a criminal’s back and fasten many a rebel to the wood.

But the Roman soldier knew nothing of germs and microbiotic residue. Each new flogging carried with it all the ones who had gone before. Each fresh use of a set of nails was not at all fresh. But what did that matter? In a few days each one crucified would be just so much rotting meat, food for the birds, until whatever was left was taken down.

Such was the business of a place called Calvary.
This Place of the Skull warned of Roman justice to those who would take up arms, even if only treasonous words, against the Empire. Fear was the theme of this theatre. Guilt or innocence was not an issue; order was the point. Stay in your place, you wretched Jews. Worship your one God in your Temple and tend to your ancient ceremonies and chants. Speak against Rome and Calvary is your destiny.

The Cross of Christ
To this place an innocent Man came, condemned, bleeding from the whip, crowned with twisted branches from a thorn bush, carrying a heavy cross.

  • Soldiers forced Him up the stone-strewn trail to the summit with fresh lashes from their carefully maintained whips.
  • They forced Jesus to stretch out on the cross where the freshly washed nails were hammered through His hands and feet.
  • A mounted soldier backed his well-trained steed, pulling the cross and its prisoner from the ground. For a moment it remained poised against a sky where storm clouds were gathering. One more step backward by the horse and the cross plunged into the hole in the mountain that had been used countless times before.
  • Other soldiers went to work quickly to stabilize the cross with little regard for the blood splashing down on them.

The Gathering Storm
Their work done, the soldiers divided their spoils while enjoying the suffering of another rebel against Rome. They joined those in the crowd in their lame insults, each of which yielded more laughter that it deserved. They all pretended not to notice the dying of the light in the approach of the storm. This tempest was not coming from west to east but from all directions at once. It seemed to be linked to a storm deep within each witness of these events.

Jesus spoke from the cross, His voice lost in the abuse hurled at Him and heard only by those who were listening. Yet His words have lasted longer than any storm, piercing though all of the noisy crowds who still today relentlessly come to mock Him.

At last, with His last breath, He declared. “It is finished.”

And it was.

Salvation’s price had been paid.
All the whips and nails of a hostile humanity proved unable to still His voice or to stem the flow of His life-giving blood. The sin barrier was forever broken so there was no longer any need for God to separate Himself from the people He loved. The veil in the Temple ripped from top to bottom, opening a new and living way. And nothing can ever change this.

Indeed the whip and the nails were infected by all who had known them before and by all of us. They carried the disease of sin and the blood they spilled is the only cure.

Matthew 26:57; 67-68; 27:1-2; 27-31-40; 45-46; Mark 15:36-38; John 19:30:
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

For Fridays
The Book of Common Prayer
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first He suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord. Amen.

The Day He Wore My Crown
Words and Music: Phil Johnson

The city was Jerusalem The time was long ago
The people called him Jesus
The crime was the love He showed
And I’m the one to blame I caused all the pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown

He brought me love that only He could give
I brought Him cause to cry
And though He taught me how to live
I taught Him how to die
And I’m the one to blame I caused all the pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown

He could have called His holy Father, and said,
“Take me away, please, take me away.”
He could have said, “I’m not guilty.
And I’m not going to stay I’m not going to pay.”

But He walked right through the gate
And then on up the hill
And as He fell beneath the weight
He cried, “Father, not My will.”
And I’m the one to blame I caused all His pain
He gave Himself, the day He wore my crown.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Wednesday The Garden


Like the full Passover moon overhead, an angel from heaven stood watch in Gethsemane.  The sleeping disciples were scattered throughout the grove of ancient olive trees using cloaks and outer garments to keep warm and to soften the hard ground.

Jesus was alone in a way that no one has ever been alone. Sensing the moment and the heaviness of the burden, the angel came near to Jesus as He agonized in prayer. He touched the Lord’s shoulder, imparting strength, a flow of energy as heaven touched earth and earth responded. The strength the moment required was quickly spent in prayer, prayer so deep the blood vessels in his scalp and forehead broke as sweat and blood mingled flowing down His face to drop heavily to the garden floor.

His prayer was the same as before, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me!” His voice was hoarse with the depth of His struggle.

The angel stood by, this time unable to assist his Lord.

The Decision
Jesus was doing what no one else could ever do; He was drinking a cup no one else could drink and He must drain it dry.

“Nevertheless, not my will but Your will, Father, is what I will do.”

In this garden with a watching angel and sleeping friends, the decision was made. Jesus had emptied Himself of heavenly majesty and traded His jeweled crown for one to be made of thorns. He was the only one who could drink from the cup containing the sins of the world, all of them, yours, mine, those of all history and of all the evil deeds yet to come.

The Prize
He had won the struggle and this was the prize. He had been tempted to sin in all points as we have all been tempted yet not once had He yielded. Now, He had won the right to take all our sin upon Himself.  The decision was made that night in the Garden and tomorrow the deeds would be done: trials, beatings, scourging, abuse, insults, and finally a cross and just the right number of nails to pin Him there.

The Kiss
As Jesus prayed, Judas led Temple guards with torches, swords, and binding ropes. The disciples stirred from sleep and tried to fight the intruders but they were a sorry lot of warriors. One blow, that’s all, and a severed ear fell to the ground. Jesus rebuked the disciples and Peter, the one with the sword. His Kingdom did not advance by the sword. While still speaking, Jesus found the severed ear and replaced it to its rightful place as whole as the untouched one. Even a miracle could not prevent the events unfolding in a steel-blue moonlight of Gethsemane.

The disciples fled in terror as the guards led Jesus away. Soon the garden was quiet again with no one but the moon and the angel left to ponder these things.

Luke 22:39-48
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Lord Jesus, I have felt what it is like to be alone. In the depth of my isolation, You were with me. Your words were on my lips. Your presence was in my heart. Your hope was the song I heard, faint but unmistakable. I was not alone, really. In this week as we seek to somehow appropriate Your love for us, help us feel some of what You felt there in that garden alone, your friends sleeping, your enemies approaching while an angel touched your shoulder. I cannot know the agony of sweat turned to blood. I cannot feel the weight of the world’s sins, only mine. But even here in this garden I can still hear the angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” Amen.

Amazing Love
Words and Music: Chris Tomlin

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

You are my King.
Jesus You are my King.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Tuesday The Last Supper


Unable to speak, walls are mute witnesses to what happens within them.
They merely hold up the ceiling, hold out the weather, and hold on to their secrets.

It was a large room, borrowed, of course, for the occasion of the last supper Jesus and his disciples would have together. Thirteen men, and perhaps the necessary servants for such a large gathering, filled the room, not at all sure of what to expect.

  • After Jesus quelled the selfish thoughts on the part of some about who might be the greatest among His followers by taking a towel and washing every foot they walked on, the mood became a serious one.
  • The air was thick with the smells of food, with the oily scents of burning lamps and candles, and with—significance.

Never Quite Sure…
Those who followed Him were never quite sure what He was doing at the moment or what He might do next. In the last few weeks a sense of sorrow emanated from Him. He told them strange things about being killed and rising again but they had no room in their hearts for such talk. He was the proven master of all things: storms, sickness, demons, and death itself. He never exhibited one bit of fear of the religious leaders or the Roman leaders or even their terrible army. Who would kill Him? It was not easy to ignore the questions such remarks left in their plans.

Just as He had called each of them to follow Him, Jesus had called them here to this meal. On this occasion He chose to reveal details of what was to come for them.

  • He established the New Covenant meal ceremony—it would be a New Covenant in His own blood,
  • He predicted His own betrayal, telling them He was going away but would soon return to them in a way so new they could not imagine it.
  • He left them the legacy of His peace, the peace that prevailed in the face of every danger and dilemma.
  • He told in great detail about the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Divine Helper who would soon reside within them.
  • And He prayed for them to be in the world but not of it and above all things, to be ONE, even as He and the Father are ONE.

There was no way those sitting together in this large chamber with its smoke-stained walls standing silent watch could grasp the meaning of His words but they did not forget. Each Gospel writer is faithful to record the details for us.

The Lord’s Supper
So for centuries, believers have received the cup and the bread in honor of Jesus’ sacrifice. We have debated its meaning, its nature, its appropriateness for any or all of us. But we have obeyed His command to do this “in remembrance of me.” Though the ongoing discussion divides us, the meal itself unites us across all the lines we draw and the borders we guard.

Why? Because their Last Supper became our Lord’s Supper. As we enter into the past, our present is blessed with His presence.

Matt 26:20
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve
Mark 14:16-17
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve
Luke 22:13-14
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
John 13:1-5
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

(from the Book of Common Prayer Adapted SRP)
(Lord Jesus, we) proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people … the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.

Let Us Break Bread Together

1. Let us break bread together on our knees;
let us break bread together on our knees;

When I fall on my knees,
with my face to the Lord of life (rising sun),
O Lord, have mercy on me

2. Let us drink wine together on our knees;
let us drink wine together on our knees.


3. Let us praise God together on our knees;
let us praise God together on our knees.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Palm/Passion Sunday


No one knows where Jesus found that whip, the one He used on the money-changers that day, but He knew how to use it.

It was the third Temple to stand In Jerusalem.
The first Temple, built by King Solomon on the plans of His father, David, stood for many years before apostasy and the Babylonians brought it down. The second was built by Zerubbabel, a “Prince of Judah,” born in Babylon but also born in King David’s line. It stood until the reign of King Herod who began construction on a Temple of a size and beauty to rival Solomon’s structure. This political gesture was still under construction the day Jesus found that whip.

The gentle Jesus had fire in His eyes.
His strong, carpenter’s hands were sure of grip and his powerful arms smooth in motion. He did not miss. Doves flew from broken cages. Coins scattered noisily on the stone pavement. Merchants scrambled down dangerous Temple steps facing injury if they fell forward and the lash if they stood still.

It wasn’t as if no one had seen Jesus angry before.

  • His disciples had seen the fire in His eyes every time He and the religious leaders confronted each other in the city streets.
  • Many times Jesus seemed almost amused at the stupidity of His attackers. As quickly as lightning can light up a stormy night, His eyes would flash with anger at their wickedness, their pride, and their uncaring malice toward the people of God.
  • His ready powers of speech could produce impressive names as His anger erupted toward them: “Whited sepulchers,” –that meant they were cleaned up graves with only death and corruption inside, “brood of vipers,–meaning they were just so many snakes.

Sometimes His anger was so great that it brought tears.
On this day, as He approached the city, He had broken down in tears over their disregard of the visitation from God that was happening in front of them. He had wept before because the people were leaderless, like “sheep without a shepherd.”

  • This was a city of intrigue instead of truth.
  • This government was one of raw power instead of grace and these leaders of show and not substance broke His heart.
  • Now this Temple was a house of greed instead of grace, a place of profit instead of prayer.

Perhaps His eyes still stung with tears even as he overturned the tables, scattered the scavengers, and proclaimed their sin for all to hear!

“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?
But you have made it ‘a den of thieves.”

A Different Order
Their corrupt political machine grinding to a halt before them, the religious leaders scrambled to restore order. Before they could do that, Jesus started healing sick people. The same strong hand that served out justice without mercy, now delivered mercy and justice. There was nothing the establishment could do to stop Him.

Some of the people listened. Some of them felt His touch. They came to the temple that day with barely enough to buy a dove for a sin sacrifice and they went home healed. How can this be? How can one group of people have welts to dress from the whip and others have new life to relish from the same hand?

The only answer is grace—the one thing a Temple must possess.

When the healing was done, Jesus returned to rest in Bethany. The next day brought another debate with the leaders and another loss for them. Jesus was just as sure a marksman with the comment or story as He was with the whip. They were sorely outmatched.

Mark 11:15-18; 13:1-2
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”
Psalm 24:7-10 NKJV
Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!

Lord Jesus, to you we shout “Hosanna!” which means “save us now!” We must honor Your procession into this house of worship. We shout Your praises and sing of Your might. We will not let rocks and stones out-sing us! We will carpet the ground before with our hearts. We will wave our hands like living branches to welcome You into our House, into our spirits. Hosanna! In the Highest! Save us now, O Lord! We need You and Your astounding peace. May Your Kingdom come and Your Will be done in us this day! Hallelujah! Amen!

Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Words: Jennette Threlfall; Music: Traditional

1. Hosanna, loud hosanna the little children sang;
through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them, close folded to his breast,
the children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

2. From Olivet they followed mid an exultant crowd,
the victory palm branch waving, and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven rode on in lowly state,
nor scorned that little children should on his bidding wait.

3. “Hosanna in the highest!” That ancient song we sing,
for Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven, our King.
O may we ever praise him with heart and life and voice,
and in his blissful presence eternally rejoice.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 9, 2017


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.

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.”

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 30, 2017


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!

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!

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 28, 2017


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!

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

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.

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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved