October 22, 2017 “Extol”

Extol

What is the difference between exalting the Lord and extolling the Lord? 
Since dictionaries tend to use “exalt” as a synonym for extol, finding the meaning can be confusing.  However, a comparison of how the words are used in the Psalms reveals the distinction:

  1. Extolling the Lord is the accumulated exaltation of the Lord.  The word “extol” (and its KJV equivalent “bless”) is usually given in the context of the corporate worship of the people of God.
  2. Individually, each of has the capacity exalt the Lord—to honor Him with the highest place in our hearts, to tell of His excellence, to sing of His grace and in many other ways acknowledge His greatness.
  3. When the people of God gather and we all begin to exalt Him, our praise accumulates as together we begin to extol.

OT:5549 calal (saw-lal’); a primitive root; to mound up (especially a turnpike); figurative, to exalt; KJV – cast up, exalt (self), extol, make plain, raise up.
OT:1288 barak (baw-rak’); a primitive root; to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration),  KJV – X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank

Let us extol the Lord!
Today we will gather in the House of the Lord to mount up our praise, to exalt the Lord together!  The volume of sound in the room will mount up.  In the spirit realm, the value of the sacrifices of praise of the people of God will mount up to the heavens.  Just as the instrumentalists and the singers became “one, to make one sound” in praising and thanking the Lord, when King Solomon dedicated the Temple, the unity of personal exaltation of God becomes a corporate unison of bodies, souls, and spirits, as we join the hosts of heaven to extol the Lord.  Heaven and earth meet at His footstool to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

This is one celebration we dare not miss!  This is a gathering in the Spirit.

  • Here we are seated together in heavenly realms for our exaltation has mounted up and the pleasing aroma of our collected sacrifices of praise has accumulated into a sweet smelling savor to God Himself.
  • Jacob’s ladder has been extended from eternity’s throne room into our moments and days.  Angels now ascend and descend with armloads of grace.
  • The Lord we extol presides over this gathering, His precious Spirit quickening yielded hearts and melting cold ones.
  • The focus is on the One Who Sits Upon the Throne, the Lamb, Slain Before the Foundation of the World who has formed for Himself a people out of every tribe and tongue and nation, a Kingdom of Priests and Priesthood of Kings to sing His praise.

And we have a place there. 
We have a verse to sing in the eternal song, a harmony to add, a grateful tear to shed, splashing at our feet, running together with all the grateful tears of the Redeemed and flowing together into the full tide of the River or Life.

How wonderful it is to join the throng, to sing the songs of time and eternity, to exalt God with all our might, and to see our sacrifice of praise mount up with all the others until it is high praise indeed.

Scriptures:
Psalm 34:1-3
I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 95:1-2
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psalm 109:30
With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng I will praise him.
Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Psalm 145:9-12
All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Psalm 147:12-14
Extol the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
Psalm 149:1-6 NKJV
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand …This honor have all His saints. Praise the LORD!
Hebrews 12:22-24
… 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, You are worthy of all praise. Help me add my song to the song of the multitudes around Your throne. Amazingly, my heart-song has a place in this symphony! You have called me out of darkness into Your marvelous light expressly so that I might praise You with the saints gathered in grace. This is no solo; this is the ensemble of the ages, the choir and orchestra of the Redeemed! Together, from steadfast hearts, we sing and make the music of praise and worship. This amalgamated song of heaven and earth rises above exaltation to status of High Sounding Praise as we extol You! Bless the Lord, O My soul! Amen.

Song:
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Lowell Mason

1 O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!

2 My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
to spread thro’ all the earth abroad the honors of your name.

3 Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease,
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,’tis life and health and peace.

4 He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean; his blood availed for me.

5 To God all glory, praise, and love be now and ever given
by saints below and saints above, the Church in earth and heaven.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 21, 2017 “Laughter”

Laughter

Laughter comes so naturally to us that we never have to learn to do it.
Tiny babies will giggle, and chuckle, and even guffaw without ever being taught how. We laugh with them, not because we see the infantile humor they see—that always seems to mystify adults—but we laugh because laughter is contagious.

Everybody loves to laugh. It releases tension built up inside of us and it relieves fears and worries. We need to laugh some every day if we are to be healthy, whole human beings. We even justify unusual behavior by saying we are just “doing it for laughs.” Surely God smiles when we have a good laugh.

What is laughter? It is part of a human phenomenon called primal speech—sounds that express our feelings but not in words. Primal speech includes: wailing, sighing, groaning, and expressions of amazement like, “Oh!” or realization like, “Ah!” or a pleasant taste like, “Ummm!” One reason why music is so important to people is that musical sound operates in the soul like non-verbal speech saying things we feel deeply but things for which we have no words.

The Best Medicine
Laughter is perhaps the greatest form of primal speech ranging an internal laugh signified only by a smile, to a chuckle deep in our chests, to a chortle in our throat, to a loud, continuous howl.
According to the scripture, laughter is one of the best medicines God has given us. Not only is it healthy, laughing is fun! The relaxation that results from a good laugh is part of the Sabbath rest the Lord has given to us. Responding to something funny is refreshing. Even in times of great stress, the sense of humor of those who bear the burden with us serves to relieve the tension.

It is impossible for us to follow the command of the Lord to rest without engaging in pleasantries, laughter chief among them. The Bible has much to say about laughter and joy.

  • Remember Sarah’s incredulous laughter at the prospect of having a child and her astonished laughter when Abraham’s son came along? It was so important, she named the boy, Isaac, which means, ”laughter.”
  • In the Book of Psalms commands to be joyful abound.
  • Solomon’s writings declare there is a time to laugh and that cheerfulness is like a feast.
  • Jesus Himself said that those who mourn will soon be laughing. Surely He also laughed as children played at His feet and in His lap.

Good humor is more than an ice cream company—it is a requirement if we are to ride out the unsettling waves of life as time rolls them in.

Find something to do today that will bring joy to your heart, put a smile to your face, and coax a chuckle, chortle, giggle or guffaw out of you. As laughter escapes your soul, peace will come in to occupy the space where once was fear, or, sadness, or grief. This is the medicine each of us needs today.

Scriptures:
Genesis 21:6-7
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Psalm 126
When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Ecclesiastes 3:4
…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Luke 6:20-21
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 15:15
All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Prov 15:30
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Psalm 100:2
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 68:3
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when man was crafted by the Creator out of clay of Eden, one of the gifts You gave us is the gift of laughter. It is fun but it is not frivolous. A good laugh is like a good medicine, lightening a heavy moment, brightening a dark day, and soothing a withering soul. Part of this gift is the ability to see what is funny so we can laugh about it. From the absurd to the ironic to the silly, funny happens. Thank You, Lord! Help me take several doses of this medicine today! Amen!

Song:
Joy Unspeakable
Words and Music: Barney E. Warren

1 I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.

Refrain:
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

2 I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.

Refrain

3 I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face. [

Refrain

4 I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 20, 2017 “Listening”

Listening

Imagine for a moment that the events that Friday had somehow been recorded.
The contemplation of the Cross of Christ, calls for us to listen to the sounds of the world’s most infamous scene of execution.

The sounds of the approaching parade of pain were still distant, locked within the city walls, the sounds at the Place of the Skull were those typically heard there:

  • Two criminals writhing against the pain of nails freshly driven into their hands and feet,
  • Cursing soldiers waiting another job of killing,
  • Wind sweeping over the hill called Calvary, as it had done for ages, slowing smoothing the rock face and floor of the summit, scattering trash and dust,
  • The distant cries of circling scavenger birds, high in the clear sky, riding thermals and biding their time,
  • Heavy breathing from the two criminals drooping on the crosses, their weight pulling at rusty nails, their lungs collapsing a little with each effort to inhale, and
  • Moans from these guilty men still clinging to life while hoping for death.

All in all, not a noisy scene, the atmosphere was heavy with hopelessness, the weight of the seeming inevitable triumph of evil.

Gradually the distant noise of the crowd following Jesus became clear. 
Such hostility impressed the cynical soldiers waiting for the next victim.  Whoever he was, he must have been an enemy of the people, a deceiver, a cruel man reaping what he had sowed, a self-centered charlatan whose many misdeeds had caught up with him at last.  The weeping of the few who loved him was lost in the din of those who reviled him.  This was going to be easy work, untroubled by claims of innocence and cries of injustice.  This evil man deserved the nails.

The soldiers saw something different in this procession, a man from the crowd was carrying the condemned man’s cross.  As the spectacle drew nearer, the reason was clear.  The criminal was already near death; he had collapsed beneath the cross.  His body was shredded, bleeding, and his pale skin gave a sickly glow as fresh blood flowed in little rivers of  red from so many, many wounds.  The Roman soldiers at the top of the hill shifted their hammers from one hand to the other, knowing the signs—the wrath of Rome—the whip filled with sharp objects and hooks designed to tear flesh and inflect pain beyond imagining.  This evil man had not only offended the people, he had offended Rome itself.  Between the Roman whip and the Roman cross, this will be short work, hopefully the last one of the day.

All was routine as the noise of the crowd broke the serene savagery of the mountain of death.  Like spectators in the arena, every blow of the hammer brought cheers from the crown and wails from the mourners, mostly women, the soldiers noted.  Their practiced hands made quick work of this execution.  Through the wall of noise they heard the voice of the criminal and they tried not to think that this was no voice of evil.  There was no anger, no cursing, and no cries of injustice.  His words were like arrows through the night. The soldiers heard words of compassion and concern for others, words of comfort for one of the criminals beside him and even words of forgiveness for all them.  They did not notice that the clear sky had grown dark.  The light breeze had become the blast of a storm.  Just crazy weather, they thought.

The earthquake, however could not be ignored.
The three crosses shook with the trembling earth, but they did not fall.  The sun seemed to have fled, leaving the incessant lightning to provide the only illumination.

More prayers from the man on the center cross and suddenly he slumped in death.  The soldiers knew that it was more than the loss of blood or than the depth of the wounds.  They knew that even as he died, it was more his decision than their work.  This was a life, not taken, but given.

  • Perhaps instead of a liar, this was a man of truth?
  • What if he was a revealer and not a deceiver?
  • Could it be that he was a healer instead of man of cruelty?
  • Is it possible that it was not for his own misdeeds, but those of others who were truly guilty that he went to the cross?
  • Could this be a monstrous injustice rather than an act of legal justice?
  • Could this be the triumph of good over evil

A Soldier’s Witness
At least one of the soldiers had questions like these swirling through his pagan mind.  Surely the gods were offended at this execution. The whole world was reeling in protest.  One voice sounded in the midst of the storm and darkness, a soldier’s voice, “Surely, he was the son of God!”

Scriptures:
Mark 15:25
It was the third hour when they crucified him.
Matthew 27:54
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Revelation 5:11-14
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:
Lord Jesus, in my spirit today I wish to survey Your wondrous cross. Help me feel the tragic wind on that barren hill. Help me hear the angry shouts of the mob, the curses of the soldiers, and the weeping of those who loved You. Above all let me hear Your voice: “Father, forgive them.” “I thirst.” “It is finished.” “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” I want to sense the silence that followed your death and then the terrible storm. I want to feel the darkness in the middle of the day. Let me share the quiet tears of the women who love You. Why do I desire these things? So that I may never forget. Amen.

Song:
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Lowell Mason

1 When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

2 Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

3 See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4 Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 19, 2017: “Reaping”

Reaping

Few things in life come with a true guarantee. 
Reaping a harvest of good for the glory of the Lord and the benefit of mankind is one of them.  Two verses from the Bible express the inevitability of the harvest, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

  • Psalm 126 promises that the one who lives with passion for man and God and plants the Word of God, that person will doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing a great and joyful harvest.
  • Galatians promises a great harvest to those do not grow weary in doing the right things.

The promise of the Old Covenant is continued in the New Covenant.
Combining the two gives us the conditions of the promise:

  • The sower pictured in Psalm 126 is said to sow in tears.  The guaranteed reaping flows from the passionate life.  The heart that sees the harvest is the one moved by the plight of those without God.
  • The seed that brings the harvest is the precious seed of the Word of God.  Good will and positive thinking doesn’t guarantee anything but the good seed of the Word will have its affect those who hear.  Some will laugh and turn away.  Others will engage in a shallow attempt to follow God until conditions worsen and the seed planted in then comes to naught.  Still others will gladly receive the seed of the Word and it will become new life in them forever.
  • Galatians presents perseverance as the final condition.  The sower who gets the happy harvest celebration is the one who learns how to ward off weariness with rest and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

The “Doubtless” Harvest
Passion, knowledge of God’s truth, and consistent faithfulness in the work God has given us to do will “doubtless” bring a harvest of joy.  The tears we shed for the lost,

  • for the church,
  • for the pain of the world,
  • for the pain in our own hearts when others treat us the way people treated Jesus,
    will water the good soil of those who listen to us and the harvest will come.  Tears will be forgotten in the laughter of the time of reaping.

That time is more sure than tomorrow’s sunrise.  It doesn’t matter how long the night may last until that dawning of the day of reaping.  Until then, let us be passionate, full of truth, and faithful in all things.  The happy harvest is one of life’s few sure things.

Scriptures:
Psalm 126:5-6 KJV
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Matthew 13:3-9;18-23 NKJV
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!””Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the God of guarantees! Your promises are sure, irrevocable, and powerful in real life. Your truth is fixed but is also marvelous in its many applications. Help see Your Precious Seed and perhaps the fresh plowed fields where I might sow that seed. The day will come when before Your judgment seat I will lay down my harvest at Your feet—the faithful record of my faithfulness—souls won to You, deeds of mercy, acts of righteousness, words of truth fitly spoken. I want with all my heart to hear You say, “Well done!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

2 Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3 Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2017: “Essentials”

Essentials

Every task in life has its own essentials—

  • Fundamentals to be mastered,
  • Languages to understand, and
  • Disciplines to maintain.

Today we consider the essentials of life itself—

  • The fundamentals of living a life that matters,
  • The languages of life, and
  • The daily disciplines that keep life livable.

There are not that many absolute essentials to life, but there are a few, vital factors that make life meaningful and enjoyable.

Three Essentials
Among his many detailed instructions essential to a full life in Christ, Paul elevates three essentials to the top of the list:

  • Faith,
  • Hope, and
  • Love.

The brilliance of Paul’s analysis is apparent:

  • Faith—we will believe something that gives meaning and shape to life;
  • Hope—we will function in those beliefs because they provide expectations from life that motivate us to keep going; and
  • Love—we are not alone and the best way to connect with people and with our Creator is to purposely develop and express affection and real concern for others.

Faith is an Essential.
Faith presents itself in a number of guises, among them: world view, philosophy, and theology. Faith may even masquerade as science or cynicism or sarcasm, but it is all faith. At the core of any belief system is a set of assumptions, things that must be believed without proof. Faith provides the context in which we choose to live life.

A secular faith provides us with this poverty-stricken context for life:

  • I am an accident of an uncaring universe.
  • I have no purpose beyond my own choices.
  • I am an animal controlled by instinct, driven by the will to survive and procreate.
  • I am accountable to no one except my fellow man.
  • I have no eternal destiny; this life is all there is.
  • There is no judge or judgment day beyond human existence.

Each religion provides its own context for life. Let us consider the context the Christian life provides:

  • I was created by God and He has an eternal purpose for me; my life matters.
  • Made in the image of God, I am a trinity: body, soul, and spirit.
  • I have a free will and a deep desire to know, love, and serve God.
  • Jesus took the judgment of my sins at the cross and I will stand before Him one day to receive His judgment of my deeds as a believer.
  • I will live forever to serve and worship the Lord Jesus.
  • This life is preparation for the next.

The proper faith leads to hope and love.
With this faith, we can stride into each day with confidence that God is faithful. The theme song of the Old Testament is, “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever.” Faith gives us hope. With this faith and hope, we can approach others through genuine love. We need not fear what man can do to us—God is for us! We can love those who love us and those who hate us. We can love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love for God empowers us to love our neighbor as much as we do our self.

Whatever details of your life you encounter today, if you carry with you these essentials, when the night falls and it is time to sleep, you will look back on a day lived to its fullest.

Scriptures:
Psalm 107:1 NKJV
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Mark 12:30-31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Matthew 5:43-45 3
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Colossians 1:3-6
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints- the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach me the fundamentals! Help me to never forget the essentials. I will rehearse the faith in prayer and scripture confession. I will exercise my days in the firm hope of Your promises and Your character. I will love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength while loving others as myself. These three essentials will empower the life I live before You and before the world. Lord, these aspirations are beyond my human ability. Holy Spirit, You dwell within me to empower me to do what I cannot do in the natural. Help me live this essential, spiritual life. For Your glory! Amen.

Song:
Faith Is the Victory
Words: John Henry Yates; Music: Ira D. Sankey

1. Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers rise
And press the battle ere the night Shall veil the glowing skies;
Against the foe in vales below Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world.

Refrain:
Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, That overcomes the world.

2. His banner over us is love, Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints before With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath, Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death Is still our shining shield.

Refrain

3. On every hand the foe we find Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head, With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread, And echo with our shout.

Refrain

4. To him that overcomes the foe, White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know His name confessed in heav’n;
Then onward from the hills of light, Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night, In Jesus’ conqu’ring name.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 17, 2017: “Competing”

Competing

Competition is an unavoidable part of life.
Two competing quotes:

“Winning isn’t everything; it is the only thing.”  Coach Vince Lombardi (among many others!)
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Jesus Christ

Today each of us goes to our place of work.  In the vast majority of those places workers will compete.  When the competition begins, the need to win becomes paramount.

  • Fathers and mothers compete against the conspiracies of the media, the marketplace, and the mania of the post-modern milieu for the future of their children.
  • Salespersons compete against others in the marketplace and even with other personnel.
  • Those in the medical profession compete against the onset and spread of disease.
  • Teachers and administrators compete against ignorance.
  • Physical therapists help disabled people compete against impairment.
  • Mental health professionals compete against sicknesses of the mind and soul.
  • Christian ministers compete against sin and its destructive forces arrayed against society.
  • Christians compete against their own inclinations to wander away from God and the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • The Church competes with the powers of darkness in high places, in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, in the warfare of worship and with the irresistible force of radial obedience.

The list could go on and on.

This is not a game; this is war.
The coach’s quote above and the words of Jesus differ in one really significant way.  Lombardi was talking about professional football—a game.  Jesus was talking about eternal life, not at all a game.   Today we do more than take our places in the work force, we take our positions in a line of battle.

  • The enemy never takes a day off.
  • His propaganda outlets never cease broadcasting.
  • His agents in the field are tireless.

He has formed an evil empire that roars and stalks the innocent like a universal pride of lions, hungry, always hungry, seeking those unguarded ones to devour them.

When wars are lost, suffering breaks upon the defeated peoples far exceeding the pain of the war itself.  If we lose our families, our marriages, our children, or our country, it doesn’t matter what trifles we traded them for.  It will be a bad bargain.  No matter how difficult the battle may be, the defeat will be worse.

But we will not lose.  Jesus is victor!
You take your place in the line of battle with spiritual weapons for this spiritual warfare.  They are mighty through God, not through electricity, or pyrotechnics, or computing, or fossil fuels, or even nuclear power.  Our weapons are mighty through God to the destruction of strongholds and every device or deception that exalts itself to obliterate the name of Jesus.

Enter today’s competition assured of victory because winning this war is the only thing that matters!

Scriptures:
Mark 8:36-38
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
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.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Colossians 2:14-15
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Mark 8:34-38
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I step into this day confident of Your overcoming grace. You have face all my enemies and defeated them. The competition wasn’t even close! You know my heart, Lord, how sometimes it strays from what is right. Temptation draws me away, competing for my attention. As You told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Your blood has cleansed my heart and Your Spirit dwells within. That makes me a winner no matter what the contest today. Help me prevail in today’s competition and to do so with a smile for my co-workers and especially for those who compete with me in unholy ways. Help me overcome evil with good. I want to walk in Your victory today, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Song:
Victory in Jesus
Words and Music: E.M. Bartlett

1. I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

Refrain:
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

2. I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 16, 2017 “Effort”

Effort

Effort comes in various sizes from little to medium to large to maximum. 
Effort costs something.  Supplies of energy or brain power or will power need to match the size of the effort put before us.

To get another week started takes effort on our part.  If the weekend went well and we were faithful to rest, worship, and have some fun, the amount of effort it takes to get back to work may be small and routine.  If the weekend was more demanding than usual with extra events and maybe some long distance travel, Monday morning may take a much larger effort.  In either case, those who can shut off the alarm and turn on the energy on Monday morning will have a better week than those who spend much of the day recovering from the weekend.

For the Christ-follower, effort has a strange companion—dependency. 
This is far from the negative dependency of drugs or alcohol.  This dependency is a wonderful companionship with the Holy Spirit.   At the last supper, Jesus told the disciples wonderful things about their coming new relationship with the Holy Spirit.

  • Under the Old Covenant believers had the Holy Spirit with them when they were given specific tasks to do for God, but there was no abiding presence of the Holy Spirit because full atonement had not been made for the sins of people.
  • Under the New Covenant forgiveness of sin was real and complete because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  The human vessel could be truly cleansed from sin and fit to be the habitation of God by His Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would take us residence in them instead of just being with them.

Jesus called the Spirit by a particular name, the paraclete, meaning literally, “the one who comes beside.”

parakletos
“called to one’s side,” i. e., to one’s aid, is primarily a verbal adjective, and suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid

The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter.  He adds supernatural ability to our human effort.  We work and He works with us.  Our efforts are often located in the physical and mental realms—we work hard and think hard and believe hard with all our humanity.  The Comforter (the paraclete) comes along side to add His power to complete the task.  The Spirit is at work when we are at work.  He works in the material world and in the spirit realm, too.

By faith we choose to depend on the power of the Spirit. 
We never want to be listed with the “foolish Galatians” who thought they could finish in the power of their effort what they had begun in the Spirit.  Paul said they had been bewitched to believe such nonsense. Paul reminded the Corinthians that he deliberately chose not to depend on his considerable gifts but on the power and demonstration of the Spirit.

As this week starts, bring your “A-game,” as the saying goes.

  • Match your resources to the effort required for the job.
  • Work “smarter not harder.”
  • Do your work as unto the Lord and not unto men.
  • Learn to lean on the paraclete, the Holy Spirit who lives inside you and works alongside you in every task.

Your effort and God’s power will make this a meaningful week.

Scriptures:
John 14:15-18; 25-27
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. … But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 16:6-15
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. … when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
Galatians 3:3-4
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 2:1
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. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Colossians 1:29; 3:23-24
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
.
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my strength, my endurance. I will give my best to the work today, fully expecting You to come to my aid. You will make my work better, my efforts somehow charged with the power of the Spirit. My work will be a compound substance consisting of earth and heave, the human with the divine. I hold no delusion that I can do this work along; I hold a promise that You will be with me in every effort. For Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master
Words: Howard B. Grose; Music: Charlotte Alington (Claribel)

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 15, 2017 “Praise!”

Praise!

Everything that exists in time has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
Worship is no exception. Praise is the starting place for a service of worship. Psalm 100 states that praise is the gateway to the courts of the Lord. We enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving.

If your worship leader understands his/her ministry, the praise part of the service today will enable you express your gratitude to God for His faithfulness to you. There should be an opportunity to boldly and joyfully proclaim the praises of God, perhaps with the ancient words of a biblical psalm or with a classic hymn of praise with four stanzas: one for the Father, another for the Son, still another for the Spirit, and a fourth for the Kingdom of God. You may be led in a contemporary song that extols the majesty and love of God or the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. However it is done, praise is the starting point.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Praise focuses our minds on God and not on us.
  • Thanksgiving humbles us before our God.
  • Exaltation of the Lord Jesus establishes His heavenly Kingdom here on earth.
  • The Lord responds to our praise with His presence and His sovereignty.
  • The praise of the Church is heard by the spiritual wickedness arrayed against us.
  • The greatness of God is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
  • If there is un-confessed sin in our hearts, humility leads to repentance.
  • Praise renews the mind and clears away any confusion we may have collected during the week.

Tempo is not the Issue.
Songs of praise do not have to be fast songs. Sometimes a slower song that really exalts the Lord can be an excellent starting place for a worship service. Many times, though, our bodies need a little help getting into a worship state of being. In times like these a little bit or rhythm can help us release our praise. A catchy tune can help us recall the words of scripture so we can enter into the service.

It is an act of obedience.
Praise has another strategic advantage: it is not a matter of feeling. Praising God is not an involuntary or emotional reflex, it is an act of obedience. The Bible says the Lord is pleased by the Sacrifice of Praise. King David set the example in a terrible, judgment-filled moment of crisis when he refused to offer a sacrifice to the Lord which costs him nothing.

Today, become a proactive praise-er.
Go ahead and praise God whether you like the music or not. Lift your heart, your mind, your hands, and your voice in praise as act of obedience. Don’t wait for a feeling. Let your praise be a costly sacrifice. It may cost your comfort, your position, your pride, your dignity, or even your embarrassment, but if you praise the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will find yourself through the gates and into the presence of the Lord.

Scriptures:
Psalm 22:3,
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. KJV … You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Psalm 147:1
Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
Psalm 103:1
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generation
James 5:13
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
2 Samuel 24:24
I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ephesians 3:10-13 10
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, 11 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.
Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, if I learn anything at all from the scriptures it is that You are worthy of praise. Your excellence is beyond our understanding so what we must do is celebrate it. Thank You for making praise and thanksgiving the gateway to Your presence. How fitting and pleasant it is for Your people to give thanks for all You have done and to praise You for Your excellent greatness. You found us in the darkness of our messed-up lives and brought sweet healing light to our souls. Now You have called us out of darkness for the purpose of proclaiming Your praise. This I will do today! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: Chester G. Allen

1. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory,
strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children;
in His arms He carries them all day long:

Refrain:
Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness!
Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!

2. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
For our sins, He suffered and bled and died;
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
love unbounded, wonderful, deep, and strong:

Refrain

3. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
crown Him! crown Him! prophet and priest and King!
Christ is coming, over the world victorious,
power and glory unto the Lord belong:

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 14, 2017 “Pleasures”

Pleasures

We are all pleasure seekers.
For some, the pursuit of pleasure is the announced purpose for living their lives. Others hide their pursuit of pleasure behind “loftier” goals but at the heart of their activities, they want to enjoy life as much as the above-board pleasure seekers. Still others find pleasure in service to others, subjugating their pleasure to the needs of those who cross their paths. The criminal mind finds pleasure in pain and the mentally ill apparently find pleasure in misery.

However we find it, pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure are primal human drives.

Often, Christians are conflicted about pleasure; we hide it behind holier words like joy, happiness, rejoicing, fulfillment, fullness, etc. But what we really are talking about is pleasure. We are afraid of pleasure because we live in a pleasure-mad world from which we must be separate.

The pleasures of sin are a constant temptation.
These pleasures are deadly and deceptive. To taste of these delights is addictive and destructive and, above all, displeasing to the Lord. We want with all our hearts to please Him, not just to gain heaven and shun hell, but because we love God and are so thankful for salvation.

We hear the words of Jesus and the apostles and we suspect that pleasure is just a trap.

  • “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matt 16:24)
  • If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away… (Matt 5:29)
  • The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but … they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. (Luke 8:14-15)
  • (in the last days people will be) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…(2 Tim 3:4)
  • … the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (1 Tim 5:6)
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. (Titus 3:3)
  • When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

Realistically, though, pleasure itself is not at all bad.
We are made in the image of God and the Bible clearly records that God takes pleasure in things:

  • He enjoyed the acts and results of creation.
  • He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day.
  • He was greatly pleased by the sacrifices of worship and thanksgiving of those who believed in Him.
  • In heaven He has surrounded Himself with beauty in architecture, music, and pageantry.
  • He pleased to forgive our sins when we turn away from them in repentance and turn toward Him in love.
  • Jesus joyfully received the praise of children, the gratitude of those He touched, the hospitality of Martha, and the amazing gift of Mary, the two sisters who made Him welcome in their home in Bethany.
  • Jesus surely enjoyed striking fire in the hearts of the two on the road to Emmaus.

Since this is the image by which we have been formed, take this day of rest to find the pleasures of righteousness:

  • in God’s creation,
  • in great music,
  • in meaningful narratives,
  • in the company of loved ones,
  • in the solitude of the sea or the deep woods,
  • in the astonishing white snowfall and the warmth of the fireside,
  • in the joy of being husband and wife,
  •  in family laughter and fun, and in the holy presence of Jesus.

Feel Him laughing and listening, watching and wondering with us. It is good that we find pleasure in God and His creation. These pleasures are not a trap—they are gifts to enjoy.

Scriptures:
Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.
Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you knew pain when You walked this earth and You also knew life’s pleasures. Like any other infant Your first human sensations were the pleasure of Mary’s touch, her voice, and her tender love. As a child You laughed and played; we can only imagine the sound of Your little-boy’s laugh when You were having fun. As a young man You enjoyed the tutelage of Joseph in the carpenter’s shop. You learned the pleasure of working with Your hands and of work well done. In the Gospels we see a man whom children sought out. You made them laugh and You laughed with them. As You walked closer and closer to Calvary, pleasure drew farther and farther from You. There was no pleasure there or in the hollow tomb. But I am sure that when You broke the bounds of death, there was a smile on Your face. Help me know the resurrection pleasures of new life in You today. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Song:
Feelin’ Mighty Fine
Words and Music: Mosie Lister

1. I woke up this morning feeling fine
I woke up with heaven on my mind
I woke up with joy in my soul cause
I knew my Lord has been raise
Well I knew i was walkin’ in the light
cause I’d been on my knees in the night
And I’d pray till the Lord gave a sign
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

Refrain:
Well I’m feeling mighty fine
I’ve got heaven on my mind
Don’t you know I want to go
where the milk and honey flow
There’s a light that always shines
down inside this heart of mine
I’ve got heaven on my mind
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

2. We’re walking with Jesus all the time
we’re walking and talking as we climb
We’re traveling a road to the sky
where I know I’ll live when I die
He’s been telling me all about that land
and he tells me that everything is grand
And he says that a home will be mine
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 13, “Paying”

Paying

Justice or Injustice?
Jesus was the only human being who understood what was really happening that dark Friday.  Throughout the night He had stood before the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities as they took turns abusing Him.  The religious authorities used words and fists.  The political leaders used false praise, fists, whips, a crown of thorns, and a mocking kingly robe.  They all knew exactly what they were doing.  Yet they could never have imagined what Jesus was doing.

He was no passive prisoner at the mercy of cruel men.  He was Prince of Heaven on an earthly mission fulfilling His part of the grand enterprise of redemption.

With the cross on His back, the crown pressed into His bleeding head, and with His back beaten raw by the Roman whip, Jesus walked the Way of Suffering, through the narrow city streets, crowded with uncaring onlookers.  The pitiless procession passed beneath the balconies of the well-to-do, living in finery and festive pride as well as second-story villains of all vices.  Windows closed at the sight of another execution underway; it was no concern of theirs.  They did not understand what Jesus was doing—for them—the price He was paying

The crowd grew as the parade passed through the city gates toward the Place of the Skull.  More and more people came to enjoy the ghastly spectacle.  They could never have known what was really happening before their eyes.

About fifty days hence, praise in countless languages would capture their attention and Peter would stand among them to explain what Jesus had done. Three thousand would remember this day on that Day of Pentecost and they would believe.

On that Friday, they did not believe.  There was nothing to believe.  That nice man who spoke so well and helped so many people must have done something wrong to be given the sentence of death. Surely this was justice. They were sure this was another tragedy of a young man defeated by the entrenched leaders of the nation. Perhaps it was injustice.

Soldiers, horses with ropes, hammers, nails, curses, and crosses were lifted against a darkening sky.  Rain, thunder, and wind made the work harder and the soldiers angrier and more brutal.

Jesus spoke but only a few heard what He said.  They didn’t know what He was doing, the price He was paying.  Their confusion rang out in abusive taunting shouts:

“He saved others but he cannot save himself!”
“Come down from that cross, if you are the Son of God!”
“Healer!  Heal yourself!”

In the rain, soldiers gambled for the robe He had worn.  As one last irony, they nailed Pilate’s sign into place, reading, “The King of the Jews.”

Pilate didn’t know the truth He spoke.
As the storm on Calvary reached the private chambers of the palace, the Roman Governor could not shake the feeling that he wasn’t in control of these events.  He pondered Jesus’ answer about his power to take Jesus’ life or give it back to Him.  “You would have no power all except what you have been given from above.”  Could a higher authority be at work in this bloody business?  It was true, Jesus was doing what He came to do.

Jesus was paying the price, the ransom, the debt.  He was paying for our redemption, laying down His humanity for the sake of all humanity.  The perfect sacrifice, He was making atonement for us. He was opening a “a new and living way” for us to enter into fellowship with God.

That terrible Friday, Jesus was paying the cost with all that He had—and it was enough!

Scriptures:
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 20:28
…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
John 19:9-11
Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
1 Timothy 2:4-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.
1 Cornthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Galatians 1:3-5
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 85:9-10 KJV
Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never was there such injustice than at Calvary. You were more than innocent, You were holy—with a holiness tried in the fire of life here on earth. You had no sins of Your own but You took the judgement for my sins, for all the sins of mankind. Justice and injustice mingled together in Your blood at the foot of the cross. Because You paid the price, I can face this day forgiven, a new creature, standing before God as if I had never sinned. I can pass through the new and living way You opened for me to dwell in peace at Your throne. Thank You, Lord, for paying the price. Amen.

Song:
Jesus Paid It All
Words: Elvina M. Hall; Music: John T. Grape

1. I hear the Savior say,”Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

Refrain:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,He washed it white as snow.

2. Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone.

Refrain

3 For nothing good have I Where-by Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Refrain

4 And when, before the throne, I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”My lips shall still repeat.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved