January 31


Today is a day for worship.
It is the day the Lord has made! Yesterday we discussed the call to rest to the refreshing of our bodies, minds, and hearts. We must garner our strength for what we have the honor to do today. We will worship. We will minister to the Lord! He has filled us to overflowing, so we will let our thanksgiving and adoration overflow. He has been faithful to us, so we will be faithful to Him on His day. He has ministered to us and now we will minister to Him.

What does it mean to minister to God?
It is very different from the common understanding of ministry. We have learned to think in terms of the strong ministering to the weak. If that were the only way ministry flowed—from the strong to the weak, the able to the unable, the rich to the poor, the well to the sick—it would make no sense to say that we can minister to the Lord. He is never weak or unable or poor or sick, and if He were, we would be powerless to help Him.

But worship is ministry to the Lord.
We who are weak respond to His strength. Because we are unable, we rejoice in His limitless ability. In our poverty, we extol his vast riches—not the paltry residue of earthly commerce, but the priceless resources of all creation. We press through our illness to touch the hem of His garment and as our worship flows to Him, His healing flows to us.

Just as a child can delight the heart of a loving parent, the Lord Jesus delights in our gratitude. He takes joy in our offerings of music and speech when they emanate from a sincere heart. He responds to our worship just as He did the alabaster jar Mary of Bethany lavished on Him. “Leave her alone! She has done a beautiful thing to me. She has done what she could.”

It is amazing to think that we can minister to the Lord. We can do this incredible thing because He has ministered to us. He has taken away our sins. He has given us His Spirit to dwell in sweet communion with our spirits. His loving-kindness has brought us to this day—a day to minster to the Lord, to give him the glory due His name and to worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

Psalm 29:1-2
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
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.

Lord Jesus, I hear much talk about worship these days, what people like and don’t like, what they want and don’t want. You know my heart. You know my list of what I like and want; there is no need to pretend you don’t know these things. What I like and what I want in today’s worship will be the very first thing I will sacrifice to you. Take my preferences and my expectations of men and burn them on Your altar of fire. Holy Spirit help me keep my focus on Jesus. Enable me to set my affections on Jesus. I want to open my heart to You and empty it of all it contains. Then, may You fill it with nothing but passion for You. All for You, Lord Jesus, Amen.

I Worship You, Almighty God

Words and Music: Sondra Corbett

I worship You, Almighty God, There is none like You.
I worship You, O Prince of peace, That is what I want to do.
I give You praise for You are my righteousness.
I worship You, Almighty God, There is none like You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 30


Just as we have been called to work for the Lord, we have been called to rest before Him, to rest and be refreshed in body, soul, and spirit. Refreshing the body requires a cessation of physical activity. To refresh the spirit is to drink deeply from the Word of God and to breathe deeply in the atmosphere of Heaven, the holy Presence of God.

How do we refresh the mind?
Often we do it with a pleasant diversion. A mental diversion is not the same as a distraction. A diversion is like a temporary detour on the road we are traveling. It will lead to pleasant or interesting surprises and will eventually bring us back to the road to our destination. A distraction is more like a wrong turn that takes us nowhere, shows us nothing, and leads us far from our destination. A diversion is time well spent. A distraction is time wasted.

Why? Because God made our minds to never stop running. Awake or asleep, our busy brains never stop processing information, (How else can an unfamiliar noise in the house wake us from a deep sleep?) dealing with our fears, and processing our plans. The only way to give the mind rest from all the heavy lifting it must constantly do is to divert it toward something that is equally fascinating but absolutely inconsequential.

Gone Fishing!
When someone goes fishing, the mind is diverted from crucial the daily tasks and is

  • occupied with the business of fishing,
  • absorbed in the beauty of the water and sky, and
  • fully engaged in the demands of landing the limit.

Whether we catch fish or not is not the point. The family will not starve if we return home empty handed. The same can be said for hunting, golf, tennis, hiking, camping, or vegging out in the recliner watching a sporting event or a great classic film. The mind is engaged so it is happy to

  • buzz along doing the math,
  • supervise the movement of hands and feet, legs and arms,
  • remember the lyrics of the songs,
  • measure and admire the ironies of the story,
  • hit that little white ball better than you did last time,
  • climb that next rise on the mountain path, or
  • contemplate the vastness of the sea stretching before us to the horizon.

This mental activity is untroubled by the life and death issues we face all week, so that part of the soul—the worry part, the obsessive part, the responsible part—gets a break, a much needed break.

Another Gift from God
Because we work hard all week, the Lord is pleased to give us interests that ease the emotional strain of the responsibility we carry while letting our ceaseless minds continue to chug along. In the process we are refreshed. When we follow this little detour back to the road God has given us, we bring our whole, refreshed humanity to the tasks before us. Rest is a part of the work He has called us to do. We pray for the anointing of His Spirit so that the work of the Kingdom, and our part in it, gets done.

1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
Isaiah 40:28-31
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Lord Jesus, Your lovingkindness is, indeed, better than life. Thank You for making rest such a noble and necessary thing. Let Your call to rest drown out the fleshly call to busy-ness. Protect us from any hint of a Messiah complex that would lead us to believe that if we leave the frontlines even for a day, the war is lost. What nonsense! You and You alone, Lord Jesus, are Messiah. We are simply Your servants, called to work passionately and thoroughly but not tirelessly. Weariness of the flesh is not sin; it is simply a part of the ordained rhythm of life: work-rest; work-rest. As we rest before You today, letting our active minds explore paths of fun and amusement, we know that You are renewing our strength and soon we will soar again on eagle’s wings. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Near to the Heart of God

Words and Music: Cleland B. McAfee

1. There is a place of quiet rest Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest, Neart to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee Near to the heart of God.

2. There is a place of comfort sweet, Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our Savior meet, Near to the heart of God.


3. There is a place of full release Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace, Near to the heart of God.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 29


The wrinkled face of the earth offers many hills, from smooth, worn, grassy mounds to rugged, sharp, barren crags. The most prominent hills are given names so references to them are clearly set forth. Mt. Calvary was such a hill—the Place of the Skull. It must have reminded onlookers of death—a wicked apparition possessing the broken rocks like a doomed soul tortured by demons.

Calvary was chosen for executions by the Roman authorities and thus it was the workplace of the Roman soldiers. Like flies drawn to a dung heap the scavenger birds circled above the Place of the Skull, riding the thermals that boiled upward from the sun-heated rocks at the pinnacle.

It was all so routine. There were so many crimes against the state; the people in this corner of the Empire were a rebellious lot. They returned any kindness offered by a professional soldier with sneers and curses.

But today the duty on the ugly mountain of death would prove anything but routine. Three criminals, three crosses, and a crowd of onlookers climbed the hill today. Some of the people mourned—unusual for rebels and thieves—and other jeered, hurling insults at one of the victims. They put Him, the object of both the grief and the derision, on the center cross.

None of the men put up any kind of resistance. They were exhausted from the ordeal of getting to and up the hill bound to the crosspiece upon which He would die. It was a nasty business, but the soldiers had seen all there was to see many times before. They made quick work of the hammers and the nails and the raising of the crosses.

The Man on the center cross said things—that was unusual—and the things He said were even more strange:

  • something about forgiveness,
  • a prayer to His father,
  • something about His mother, and strangest of all—
  • “It is finished!”

The last thing He said was a shout—how could a man that weak have the strength, even as He breathed His last?

Wind and clouds and lightning and crashing thunder followed as the day grew as dark as the watch in the middle of the night. The earth trembled in protest to this execution and even as the tremors ran like sea waves through the rocks and sands on the hill, Jesus slumped in death.

It was finished, at least for now.

Mark 15:25-26
Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.

Lord Jesus, on this day, I stop the contemplate Calvary. Before I rush into the day, I pause to remember. Oh, I wasn’t really there but, as the old song said, “I’ve been to Calvary. I can say I’ve seen the Lord. I’ve been to Calvary through the witness of His Word.” Thank You for going only where You could go. Thank You for doing what only You could do. Thank You loving people so much—for loving me so much. Thank You for finishing the work of redemption, for it is finished—salvation is here! Your Kingdom has come in our hearts! The sin barrier is down so people and God can talk again. Into Calvary-cleansed hearts the Holy Spirit has come to abide—to live in us! Today we remember that horrendous hill, the Place of the Skull, the domain of death as the place where live begins again. For the glory of the Father!

Calvary Isn’t just another Hill

Words and Music: J.D. and Steve Phifer

1. Oh how true the story told of Calvary,
Where with pain and blood Christ purchased you and me.
And no matter how the world at large may feel,
Calv’ry isn’t just another hill.

Calv’ry isn’t just another hill.
It’s the place of submission to God’s will.
Dying there Jesus stamped redemption’s seal.
Calv’ry isn’t just another hill.

2. Now each day I make my way to Calvary.
There a crimson stream is flowing full and free.
That can cleanse your soul, your mind and body heal.
Calv’ry isn’t just another hill.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 28


Young, angry people form a mob in the streets. They shout slogans and hold signs crystallizing the changes they want to make into a few memorable words.

A solitary figure lights a candle against the darkness he sees all around. He opens a Bible and perhaps a prayer book and in the dim and flaring lamp of the candle speaks ancient mysteries, unchanged from the time of Moses and David and Jesus.

Who will bring about real change, the protestor or the pray-er?

Both, we can be sure.

With violence one human system can bring down another and set itself up in its place to stand until a stronger group rises up with shouts and signs in the same streets.

Unseen by the human eye and certainly unrecorded by microphone or camera,

  • a heart turns from selfishness to servanthood.
  • A sinner turns around, repenting of his sin.
  • In a flash of grace seen only by spiritual eyes, forgiveness flows from the One who has been wronged to the wrongdoer and a new life begins.
  • Old ways pass away and new ways take their place.
  • A second birth on earth ignites a celebration in heaven. Angels dance and sing because another prodigal has started the long journey home.

These examples are not extreme as they may appear. Political protests affect change that may or may not be good, may or may not be lasting, and may or may not be legitimate. Wars are fought to change borders on a map, to free one people or to enslave another; only a few horrid things are certain in wars—death and destruction.

Prayer changes things in ways that are always good, though not always pleasant. God has chosen to work in league with mankind through spiritual things like, prayer, faith and obedience. These changes can be eternal and God has the legitimate right to make them. He is building a church and we are part of it.

The powers of hell will march against the church inflicting damage and wounding faithful soldiers, but there are things in the church which will remain unchanged by hell’s repeated assaults and the wounded warriors are healed while the battle still rages.

  • The Word of God is fixed and cannot be altered. It is written.
  • The Name of Jesus remains the hope of those who believe and the curse of those who do not. It is powerful.
  • The Father in Heaven remains secure on His throne of majesty. No power can unseat Him. He is unchanging.
  • The Spirit of God goes through the earth at the Father’s bidding, bearing the banner of Christ, convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. The Spirit is moving.
  • The empty cross stands against the moving clouds of a constantly changing cultural parade, unchanged in its message, untarnished in its purity, and undiminished in its power to save—to change hearts. It is finished.

In a time when the world is shaking with seismic change events and the ground beneath us trembles at the violence of the day, we stand on the unchanging Rock of Christ, impervious to the temporary storms of societies rising and falling around us.

We share with Him a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Hebrews 12:26-29

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
2 Corinthians 5:16-18 17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
James 1:16-18; 5:16
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Lord Jesus, You are my security. Changeless You remain in times of violent and constant change. At the same time, You have sent me into this world as an agent of change. I must preach Your peace into the constant conflict. I must sing Your praise over the noise of the lies wicked people tell. I must demonstrate Your compassion when I would rather shrink back from horrors of victimhood on every street corner. You have called me to shine a holy light into the back alleys where darkness goes unchallenged. You Holy Spirit goes deep into me to make the deep changes I need to be more like You. Change is present where it needs to be present—deep in my heart, and at my fingertips. Change is absent in Your great heart and to the glories of Your Kingdom. Amen.

Change My Heart, O God
Words and Music: Eddie Espinosa

Change my heart, O God, Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God, May I be like You.
You are the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, This is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God, Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God, May I be like You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 27


Circumstances; we all have them and we must sort them out every day. This sorting of circumstances is a type of prayer.

Definitions include:

  • A condition or fact attending an event and have some bearing on it;
  • A determining or modifying factor.
  • A condition or fact that determines or must be considered in the determining of a course of action.
  • The sum of determining factors beyond willful control.

The omnipresence of circumstances yields a bevy of clichés in our speech:

  • “Circumstances permitting,”
  • “Under the circumstances,”
  • “Pomp and circumstance,”
  • “A victim of circumstance,” and
  • “Face the circumstances.”

Things We Can Control
Our ability to live through each day with any degree of self-determination depends on our ability to sort out the conditions and facts we will face. As free will agents, there are many things we can control, enough of them to count and to count on to give us courage to get out of bed, cleanup and dress for the day, and even to go out the door and start the car. Free will is a gift from God and He enables those who worship Him to do this regularly and with great redeeming effect upon the world.

Things We Cannot Control
However, some of the circumstances we face are well beyond our ability to control. The person without Christ must file these things safely away from the conscious mind in order to function. If the unbeliever cannot do this, the burden of life becomes too great to bear. That person must find relief in an altered state of consciousness, using anything from alcohol to drugs to soul-numbing addictions, to suicide.

God Is in Control
The Christ-follower is never left alone to face the circumstances of his/her life. The worshiper of Jesus does not stand in awe at a distance, but is held close in a secure embrace. There are no circumstances beyond the Lord’s control.

In prayer this morning, sort out the circumstances you will face today. Renew your vows. Rely on discipline to fully engage the fruit of the Spirit called self-control. Look for opportunities throughout the day to change the circumstances others may face. Look squarely, fearlessly into the circumstances beyond your control and place them in the hands of your Lord.

He can handle anything.

Psalm 61 NKJV
Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name … So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.
Ephesians 1:21-23
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Romans 8:28-29
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
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.
Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for Your lovingkindness; it is better than life! Your Spirit enables me to prevail through this day regardless of the circumstances I will face. You were tempted in all points that I could ever be tempted yet you did not sin. Help me walk in Your victory today. By Your grace I can hear Your tender voice deep in my spirit, comforting me, challenging me, changing me. Let me say in every circumstance, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” Amen.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

Words and Music: Ira Stamphill

1. I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future, For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.

2. Ev’ry step is getting brighter, As the golden stairs I climb;
E’vry burdens’ getting lighter; Ev’ry cloud is silver lined.
There the sun is always shining. There no tear will dim the eye.
At the ending of the rainbow, Where the mountains touch the sky.


3. I don’t know about tomorrow, It may bring me poverty;
But the One who feeds the sparrow, Is the One who stands by me.
And the path that be my portion, May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me, And I’ve covered with His blood.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 26


Are we confused about work?

It is both noun and verb, art and craft, active and passive, finished and continuing, debilitating and renewing, and it is both labor and leisure. The law in physics (W=Fd) that says work happens when force moves a body in the direction of the force. Work is also the term for manual labor, a painting, poem, a production on a stage, and a white collar corner office This is an amazing noun!

The verb is equally diverse describing our actions from our motivations deep within, to the principles commanding our choices, to the simple actions of the day, to the business of leisure, to the reflection at the end of the day, and even to our restless subconscious minds while we sleep through the night. Human beings are working all the time.

When we have had our New Covenant Sabbaths—days of rest and worship— for most of us it is time to go back to work.

There is no way to summarize in this space how the noun and the verb affect each of us. Suffice it to say that we have jobs to go to and work to do. Until we consider the wisdom of God, work is one of our deepest needs and one of our least favorite things. This contradiction is easily observed. Listen to our declarations.

  • “If you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.”
  • “Thank God it’s Friday!”
  • “I hate Mondays!”
  • “Back to the salt mines!”
  • “I’m out of work. I need a job!”

Indeed, to be out of work is a terrible thing, yet so many spend their lives working at jobs they hate, living for retirement and the all-too-brief vacations between now and then.

So what wisdom can be found to combat these natural responses to work?

The will of God is something to be proved in our lives.
We are not meant to live randomly or to work pointlessly. God has a plan for each of us. If we discover it early in life, we have time to prepare for it and to do that chosen work throughout our lives. If we discover it later, this has not short circuited God’s plan. He can work all the circumstances to allow us to do the work of getting back to the work He made us to do. We prove God’s will for us by either doing the work He called us to do or preparing to do that work

The attitude we possess when we are at work changes everything. Paul tells three ways we are to do the work before us:

  1. With all our life force,
  2. As unto the Lord and not unto men, and
  3. In the name of the Lord Jesus.

Today we have the choice to do our work sullenly, resentfully, half-heartedly, and in our own name, or to work cheerfully, thankfully, with our whole heart, and in the name of Jesus.

  • We can choose to work for the boss, for the family, for the company, for ourselves, or for the money.
  • We can also choose to do the work before us for the Lord Himself. When this is our choice, our work, if it is honest and helpful, becomes worship.

And it is fit to be God’s habitation.

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
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Lord Jesus, You have a work for me. Thanks for including me in the building of Your Kingdom on earth and Your church in the world. Let me be inspired by others but not distracted by them. They have their work; I have mine. Show me how I can do my work in the way the Bible says I should: as unto You and not unto people, in Your Holy Name, and with my full life force. Then my work will be a witness of You and an offering of worship to You. Help my work to be a blessing to those to whom I am responsible and help me be a blessing to those for whom I am responsible. Help me hear the words David spoke to his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” In Your Lovely Name, Amen.

Take My Life and Let It Be

Words: Francis Ridley Havergal; Music: Henry A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days—Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing Always only for my King;
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold—Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it Thine—It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart—it is Thine own, It shall be Thy Royal Throne.

6. Take my love—my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself—and it will be Ever only, all for Thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 25


Life’s most amazing gift from the hand of the Father is life itself. As magnificent as any mountain may be, it does not have life. As dry as any desert may be, as overwhelming as any ocean may be, they support life but they are not alive.

We are.

The earth has spun around again so a new day begins. Our hearts faithfully beat through the night as our breathing was steady and deep in restful sleep. Some of us did not sleep well, our hearts beating faster than they should, our breathing shallow and rapid but angels stood guard and the morning came.


Because life is precious and must be guarded, protected. The business of God’s holy angels is to worship God and to guard the lives of those He has created. They have a life-gift as well, different from ours, but rooted in the same source.

  • The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and teeming creatures beneath the waves have their own kinds of life, also precious in the Lord’s sight, but lives lived for the benefit of mankind.
  • The flowers in the meadow or rustling on the hillside speak of the beauty of the Lord’s mind.
  • The furrowed fields of grain and the wild meadow and deep forest all sing silently of their life, also from God, but still different from the life of the animal or that of mankind.

We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness of God. We are not told how breath came to beasts, birds, and creatures of the sea, but we know that our first breath came from our Creator when God “breathed into Adam and he became a living soul.”

We know that we are counted by Him to be worth more than sparrows in frantic flight or flowers who labor not and neither do they spin nor store in barns. Still, they are carefully cared for by our Father. How much more then, will He guard and guide and garrison us?

All of human life is precious in God’s sight, but the innocent hold a privileged place to be cared for by those of us who are guilty but forgiven. When we share this passion with the Lord, we will do what must be done to save the innocent.

Life, God’s greatest gift, demands no less.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Genesis 2:7 KJV
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Psalm 145:15-16
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Matt 6:25-27
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Luke 12:14-15 NKJV
“And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of my life. I am so amazed to think of Your hidden processes that brought human life to me. Yet here I am—Your creation, Your servant. I am Yours—all of me, the good and the bad, the talents You supplied, the skills I humbly offer for Your use. As the old hymn says, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days—let them flow in ceaseless praise. Let them flow in ceaseless praise.” Amen.

I Live
Words and Music: Rich Cook

I live, I live because He is risen.
I live, I live with power over sin,
I live, I live because He is risen.
I live, I live to worship Him.

Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Jesus!
Because You’re alive—Because You’re alive—
Because You’re alive I live!

Take My Life and Let It Be
Words: Francis Ridley Havergal; Henry A. Cesar Malan

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days–Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 24


Like joy, fun is an essential.
The Sabbath principle calls for rest and worship. We define worship in a dazzling display of words, rich with meaning and employing vivid imagery. Rest can also be parsed into many words expressing its many sides. One of those words is fun.

Does it stretch things too far to say, “Fun is holy?”

Fun is an expression of joy, which of course, is our strength when we find our joy in the Lord. It follows then that fun in the Lord can be a source of strength as well. God created within us a capacity for enjoyment at every level of our humanity: body, soul, and spirit. There is no need to expound on the fun of the body: movement, rhythm, rhythmic movement, music, touching, seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling—the five senses can be fun.

Soul-ish fun is also known to us:

  • humor,
  • curiosity,
  • mysteries and puzzles solved,
  • riddles revealed,
  • ironies realized,
  • stories told,
  • precious memories lingering in our souls,
  • music—again the language of the emotions—the list could go on.

But what of spirit fun?
Is there such a thing? Of course and it brings us back to joy in the Lord, our strength. The joys of the soul and body are often used in Scripture as metaphors for the fun we can have in the spirit. The Bible commands to take joy in the Lord, to delight in Him, to rejoice in Him with constant rejoicing and even says that it is fitting to do so.

He was not the Hollywood Jesus!
Perhaps because fun has been captured by a sinful world, it has lost its holiness to some. This is unfortunate at best and debilitating at worst. One of the most remarkable things Jesus said of all the remarkable things He said was that He was bequeathing His joy to us. If He had been the dour, depressed character He is often purported to be in Hollywood films, His statement of intent to leave His joy to His disciples would have itself been funny.

  • He must have walked this earth in profound joy.
  • Surely it felt good to heal sick people, to set demon possessed people free, to raise the dead, and to answer the questioning minds all around Him.
  • One can see the enjoyment Jesus had in His public encounters with the religious leaders who opposed Him.
  • In the scriptural record, one can see Jesus having fun with His disciples and those who followed Him: walking and talking, dinning, fishing, and playing with children.

So, let us have our good, clean fun today. It is a day the Lord has made–have fun and enjoy it!

Psalm 118:24 NKJV
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 51:11-12
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Nehemiah 8:10
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Philippians 4:4 NKJV
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
John 15:9-12
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Lord Jesus, help me see the joy you displayed in Your short life on this earth. The Bible makes it clear that you have planned for us to enjoy things—people, situations, funny words, laughable sights and so on. Lord, don’t let the Devil steal these things from me. Let me pray with King David, “Restore my joy! Show me the funny things and give me the courage to laugh at them, especially when that requires laughing at myself! Today, I will have some fun in Your Name! Thank, You, Jesus!

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Words: Henry van Dyke; Music: Ludwig van Beethoven

1. Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day.

2. All the works with joy surround Thee, Earth and heaven reflect Thy ways,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, Call us to rejoice in Thee.

3. Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living, Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ, our Brother—All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the joy divine.

4. Mortals, join the happy chorus Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music lifts us sunward In the triumph song of life.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 23


When interest is lost, the loss is deep and lasting.

This is not in direct reference to money, the kind of interest that increases the amount of one’s wealth as it is measured by financial standards. There is information a plenty on that kind of interest.

The interest this writing concerns is a continuing fascination of the mind, a curiosity of the heart that is not easily satisfied, a taste for ideas of substance and a thirst to know more about a particular thing. It is the answer to the question, “And, what are your interests?”

This is important!
At first glance this may seem a frivolous thing but it is not at all inconsequential. The biblical term for our interests is “the desires of your heart.” Our interests are not passing fancies; they are born early in our lives and they stay, unless we lose them through neglect, to the end of our days if our minds keep serving us well that long.

Even when we were small children, the things that fascinated us were indications of the kind of mind and heart the Lord had given us. Many of us make a living at the very things we pretended to do when we were children. It is said that an infant is fascinated by swirling colors and shapes but is bored by still, drab images. This is a sign of our human gift of intelligence. Each of us also has a deep inward need to interpret what we see—to assign meaning to our observations.

Our interests have many sources and, as we grow up, our environment will feed some of our interests and starve others. It is not by accident that artistic parents raise artistic children when those children grow up in homes filled with stimuli and packed with rewards for creativity.

The Lord Shapes our Interests
As we follow the Lord, Jesus takes a direct hand in shaping our interests. “Every good and perfect gift” comes from the Lord. For some of us, a fascination with music fills our earliest memories and has never waned in all the years since. Music is one of those “good gifts” from the hand of God. If we exercise our interest in music within the context of God’s Kingdom, our natural interest blossoms into a source of God’s strength in our lives and, for many of us, a primary way of serving God and mankind.

The imminent danger comes from feeding ungodly interests. The enemy of our souls is ready to pounce on every evil thing we do and every wicked thing done to us by others. If we are obsessed with wickedness, these interests will only yield pain as the years pass. Jesus wants to deliver us from evil interests and replace them with fascination for His creation, delight in His Word, and power in His Spirit.

There are three processes at work:
1. God gives us natural interests.
2. We develop those interests into life skills.
3. As we follow Christ, He shapes our interests–the desires of our heart–throughout our lifetime.

As we follow Christ we are “delighting ourselves in Him” as we pursue our God-given interests. It is not tortuous—it is fun! So whether it is a job or a hobby, if it pleases God, we can enjoy what interests us. So have fun today. Delight yourself in the desires of your heart. They are a gift from the heart of God.

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Psalms 37:3-6
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Colossians 3:17; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 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
Ecclesiastes 11:9
Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

Lord Jesus, from my earliest memory certain things fascinated me. In childhood play those fascinations became games I made up. In the early grades my interests became skills I was learning: reading, writing, story-telling, singing and play acting. These interests stayed with me to adulthood, helping me know what classes to take and what activities to join. They also provided me with friends who shared them with me. Lord, this was no accident. The interests of my childhood became my calling from You. So today, if I should spend time having fun with these things, this is not time wasted but is a holy thing, a gift from Your hand. As I work, rest, or play today, renew my mind, refresh my spirit and rest me deeply in Your peace. I will give all my renewed strength to the honor You so richly deserve. In Your Name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Let the Peace of Christ Rule in Your Heart
Words: Colossians 3:15; Music: Denny Cagle

Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart,
Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart,
And whatever you do in word or deed
Do it all in the name of the Lord.

Giving thanks, giving thanks to God through Christ, the Lord.
Giving thanks, giving thanks to God through Christ, the Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 22


Some realities are beyond detection by the five senses; they cannot be seen, smelled, heard, felt, or tasted. Despite these sensual limitations, the realities of the spirit dimension of life are powerful in their effect on us every day. Realities of the senses will pass away as we do. Realities of the spirit will last forever.

A Spiritual Reality
Prayer, although it can be seen, heard, and even felt, is essentially a spiritual reality. The Book of Revelation suggests that the prayers of the saints of God are stored somewhere in heaven. We add to that supply each time we pray.

Think of it.

  • Our praise is collected before the Lord.
  • Our adoration accumulates in the presence of the Lord.
  • Our intercessions are invested with interest in the power of the Lord.

When the sensual reality of how we feel as we try to pray threatens to defeat us, we need to remember the heavenly container with our name on the label. Even when we don’t feel like praying and we pray anyway, those prayers add to the collection:

  • Our praise collection grows.
  • Our accumulated adoration of the Lord Jesus increases.
  • Our intercessions in behalf of those in need increase by the power of another day’s interest.

Daily prayer and Bible reading arm us in spiritual realities, preparing us to walk in the Spirit during the coming day.

The Sense of the Spirit
Like everyone else we live in the real world, the world of the five senses. Like everyone else we also live in the spiritual world. Most people are unaware of this dimension of reality, thinking that what they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is all there is. Not so. When the Lord Jesus reigns on the throne of our lives and with daily communion with Him through prayer and His Word, we are spiritually prepared. We can live with a very real sixth sense, the sense of the spirit.

  • We can see the spiritual realities beyond physical realities around us and engage the full truth of each moment.
  • We can hear the voice of the Lord in the sounds of nature and in the voices of those around us.
  • We can feel the embrace of the Lord deep in our hearts in quiet moments of peace.
  • We can sense the sweet aroma of the Peace of the Lord in the clamor stressful moments.
  • We can “taste and see” that the Lord is good.

The world delivered to us by our five natural senses can be anything from delightful to terrifying. The spirit world made real to us by the Holy Spirit, is more dependable. It is a secure realm, ruled by the Prince of Peace.

Revelation 5:6-9; 8:3-4

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders… Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
1 Corinthians 15:44-47
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
Ephesians 6:11-12
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.
Galatians 5:16; 25-26 NKJV
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Lord Jesus, You are the ultimate reality. You created me so I am real, too! My problems are real problems and so are my potentials. My joys are genuine, and so are my tears. You have provided us with powerful imaginations but life is not imaginary; it is very, very real. Our five senses tell us about realities, and, we have another sense, a spiritual one, to help us recognize realities beyond our physical world. Thank You, Lord, that You have sent the Holy Spirit to abide in our souls, to guide us, inform us, inspire us, embolden us, and fill us with spiritual power. Tune my ear to hear the voice of the Spirit. Quicken my mind to comprehend what the Spirit says. As Your Spirit bears witness with my spirit, I am assured that I am indeed a child of God. Father, I choose to walk in Your Spirit today, fully aware of seen and unseen worlds and the reality of Your nearness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Open My Eyes, that I May See

Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes that I may see glimpse of truth Thou has for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp, and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

2. Open my eyes that I may hear voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear, Everything false will disappear.


3. Open my eyes that I may bear gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare love with Thy children thus to share.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved