January 21

Diligence

Diligence doesn’t get the headlines. There will be no news crews camping in your front yard, no reporters pouncing on your every move. However, what diligence gets you is more important than celebrity; it is real success.

The Invisible Factor
The professional athlete and the professional musician seem to live in worlds widely separated by all the visible factors we may call to witness. Yet, there is an invisible factor behind the great catch at the goal line or the great throw from the superstar quarterback, and the great, difficult, nearly impossible passage flawlessly played by the French Horn player or the violinist sitting properly tuxedoed in the symphony orchestra. That invisible factor is diligence. Those flashes of public glory are made possible by hours and hours of diligent practice.

Nothing important happens without diligence; someone has to stick to the job when it would be easier to quit. Diligence demands consistent adherence to the fundamentals of the task, the craft, the art. To gain true excellence the fundamentals must be drilled and drilled until they become automatic, functioning without conscious thought. For the third baseman when the batter shoots a hot one his way, there is no time to think. Muscle memory takes over when the running back sees an opening in the line of scrimmage. Years of diligent practice, including several hours every day, are the source of the eloquence and beauty of a musical phrase that lasts only a few seconds.

Life demands diligence:

  • In the reading and processing of the Word of God,
  • In daily discipline of prayer,
  • In the sacrifice of praise that springs, not from our fleeting feelings, but from the unchanging but ever increasing worthiness of the Lord Jesus,
  • In the life-choices each day presents where we can follow the right path or turn away, and,
  • In the craft of listening to the voice of the Spirit each day, as He points out those He has placed in our path who need a word or touch from us.

A Gift from God
Diligence is not a matter of personality or natural giftings. It is a gift from God. After all, we are made in His image and likeness, Imago Dei, as the ancients called it. He is certainly diligent in his care for us. Because we are an earthly vessel filled with the treasure of His Holy Spirit, we can do well without becoming weary. We can be faithful in the few things He gives us here and someday rule with Him over many things in His Kingdom to come.

Still, diligence is a daily choice. In the words of King David to Solomon his son, we must “Do the Work.”

Scriptures:
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him
Hebrews 6:9-12
… God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your diligence in loving me. When I have been selfish, You were still giving. When I was weak You came to me in gentle strength. When I have been wrong, You have shown me my error as You pointed me to the right way. When I have withheld from You my praise and gratitude and adoration through inattention and prayerlessness, You never abandoned me. Grant to me this day the Gift of Diligence that I may be more like You. You have given me work to do today, help me be strong and do the work. All for You, Lord Jesus, All for You! Amen.

Song:
We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes

Words: Elizabeth Mills; Music: William Miller

1. O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come
When I shall lay my armor by and dwell in peace at home?

Refrain:
We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes,
We’ll work till Jesus comes, and we’ll be gathered home.

2. To Jesus Christ I fled for rest, He bade me cease to roam,
And lean for succor on His breast till He conducts me home.

Refrain

3. I sought at once my Savior’s side, no more my steps to roam,
With Him I’ll brave death’s chilling tide, and reach my heavenly home.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 20

Absence

Living, as we do, locked into the dimensions of time and space, we cannot imagine the life of our Lord who is everywhere all at once and all the time. We must deal in now-and-then and someday-will-be. Many people we would love to be here with us are absent. Some will return from wherever it is they have gone; others will wait for us to join them where they have gone.

Right now the result is the same—absence—a gaping hole in our hearts.

Tell It to Jesus
Morning prayer is a good time to deal with absences. We can pray for those who are away from us, and in a strange way, draw them nearer. It has been well said and often repeated that there is no distance in prayer. There is, however, distance in absence, a distance we want with all our hearts to close. As the years pile up, the list of those who were once close by but who are now absent grows longer. Affection and admiration still abide in our hearts for them, but miles and mountain ranges, rivers and rolling hills, and perhaps even oceans have come between us. Because the Lord is present with us and with them, lifting their names to Him closes those immense intervals and invokes God’s love, care, and provision on those we love who are absent from us.

Spiritual Absence
Some have left us in other ways—they have departed from the faith we once shared. Morning prayer is a good time to close that gap as well. Because there is no distance in prayer, we can intercede for them, inviting the Holy Spirit to send people their way to remind them of the wrong turn they have taken. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is more than a Comforter and Helper, He is One who convicts and convinces. The Spirit abiding with us also surrounds those who have left us spiritually. He can manipulate circumstances around them to melt their rebellious hearts and turn their deceived minds around. Remember, praying father or mother, prodigals do come home!

The Departed
We also know that there is another degree of absence—those who have graduated from this life to the next. The Bible refers to an ancient Christian belief theologians call “The Communion of the Saints.” In Hebrews chapter eleven we are inspired by the heroes of the faith gathered in a gallery of witnesses with the best seats in the house beholding the “One Who Sits upon the Throne.” The next chapter makes it clear that the Royal Grandstand isn’t reserved for the famous only—our departed loved ones are there as well! When we draw near to the Lord in praise and worship, we also draw near to them, “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

In prayer we effectively deal with the absences of our lives. Because the faithful ones are with the Lord, either here or there, and because the Lord is near the prodigals, we can face our day full of presence, not absence.

Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 5:3

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment … just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present…
Hebrews 12:1-3; 22-24 NKJV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. … you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, although You are eternal, You entered into time and space. You know how it feels to be in one place at one time, just as we are. Sometimes the people we love are close by—how we treasure those moments—while at other times the people with us are not the ones we want near and those preferred ones are away, even far away, from us. You understand our discomfort with such an unmanageable thing as time and space. Now, Lord, You have entered back into Your natural, supernatural state in glory. We have loved ones near You there, embrace them for us. You are also with those who are absent from us in so many ways. Hold them close for us, Lord Jesus. You watch over the prodigal, the wayward, the troubled and confused. Whisper in their hearts, reminding them that You are close by, close enough to hear them call on You. In Your sweet and very present name, Amen.

Song:
Never Alone
Traditional

1. I’ve seen the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll;
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul;
I’ve heard the voice of my Savior, Telling me still to fight on;
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

Refrain:
No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

3. When in affliction’s valley I’m treading the road of care;
My Savior helps me to carry my cross when heavy to bear;
My feet, entangled with briars ready to cast me down,
My Savior whispers His promise, “I never will leave you alone.”

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 18

Setbacks

We never can be sure what the day will hold.

Some days go as we planned them but most are filled with unplanned interruptions. It has been said that some of the most important teachings of Jesus came when someone interrupted him. It is good to look at unplanned interruptions as opportunities the Lord sends our way.

There. That was easy enough.

But what about those huge interruptions when we fail at something really important to us? Most of us don’t shoot from the hip in things that really matter. We take careful aim but still, sometimes, we miss the target. Our momentum is lost. Our rhythm gets off by a beat or more. We have to regroup, re-plan, reorganize, and somehow restore our enthusiasm. Talk about interruptions!

Sometimes things just don’t work out.
When, on the well-imagined, finely tuned, well-plotted journey of life, something just doesn’t work out, this setback must be carefully managed. The high hopes that sung us to sleep each night have stopped singing altogether. In their place is a mournful lament. As mature as we might like to think we are, the truth is our feelings are hurt. Setbacks are painful for they strike us in the heart with disappointment and in the mind with questions we thought we had answered correctly.

What is the old worn out saying? “The best laid plans of rodents and regents sometimes fail.”—something like that, anyway. Being neither rats nor rulers, this certainly applies to us. So how do we respond to setbacks, large and small?

Setbacks Small and Large
The small setbacks are managed easily with simple time management and coping skills. We know we cannot react to everything that happens. We must choose where our limited supply of energy will go.

Big setbacks—failures, shortfalls, crises, unfaithful people, wrong-headed ideas and plans—demand careful thinking and intentional examination.

  • Examine the plan. Was it from God? Did it work to fulfill the call on your life?
  • Examine the motivation behind the plan. Was this a godly thing to attempt? Were the hearts of the leaders pure?
  • Examine the presentation of the plan. Was there a mixed message that undermined the ministry? Was this sold to the people? Was there a consensus in the minds of the people or was this a top-down effort?

The Holy Spirit will lead you to the right questions to ask. Remember,

James 1:5
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault…”

Besides, you are certainly not alone:

  • An angel with a flaming sword posted at Eden’s Gate was a major setback for Adam and Eve.
  • Growing past the age of childbearing was certainly a setback to Abraham and Sarah.
  • Moses experienced setback after setback as Pharaoh continually hardened his heart.
  • King David’s heart broke when a young man lay dead by the Ark of the Covenant, but he recovered, consulted the Word of God, and called for the Priests and brought the Ark to Jerusalem.
  • John the Baptist became discouraged in prison and asked if Jesus was the One or should he look for another.
  • Jesus couldn’t heal in some towns because of unbelief so He just went on the next village.
  • Peter denied the Lord three times and all the disciples except John ran away. Later, they turned the world upside down.
  • Paul experienced too many setbacks to relate in this short space. His words to us are as powerful today as when he wrote them centuries ago.

Take heart. You will get another chance to get it right.

Scriptures:
Philippians 3:12-14
…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. … 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 4
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you lived on this wonderful, fallen planet. You ran a business and were part of family who didn’t quite know what to do with you. I am sure your hammer slipped a time or two and hit your thumb. You probably did quality work for someone who never paid you more than empty promises. You chose twelve men to follow you and one them didn’t. Lord, you knew the setbacks built into life. You had to think on your feet, dodge the sucker punches, and take the losses, so you know how it is done. Walk in me today so that if a setback should surprise me or a disappointment find me or a faithless friend should betray me with a kiss, it will be just the old routine of life on earth. Your experience and resilience will clothe me in peace. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
God Leads Us Along

Words and Music: G.A. Young
1. In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along;

Refrain:
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along;

Refrain

3. Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along;

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 17

Reflection

Reflection may not flash and shine like many activities that catch the human eye, but it is a demanding and rewarding part of worship.

Every day is a gift from God and is a day for reflection, for thinking deeply about life and the author of life and for fully engaging the imagination God gave us for just this purpose—the contemplation of the divine. Reflection in prayer does not happen by accident; it is a conscious choice involving specific exclusions and inclusions. The worshiper must close his/her mind to many things and open every window in his/her heart to everything God has.

Reflection is the process of intense study. Another word might by contemplation. Biblical words include meditate, consider, behold. Reflection begins and ends with Jesus. Just as He is the center-holder in heaven’s throne room, Jesus must be the center of our reflection. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in both private and public worship is to help us center our hearts on Jesus, moving other personalities and other considerations to the periphery.

  • If we wonder about the nature of God, we should think on Jesus; He has revealed God to us in terms we can understand.
  • If we are to contemplate the justice and judgment of God, we must reflect on what Jesus said and did in this life.
  • If we desire to really care for people, we should enter into the Love of Jesus so that we can experience it and pass it on others.
  • If we want to be wise, we must study the Master’s every word, parable, prophesy, and prayer. As the Old Covenant says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

As we read the scriptures, the contemplation of Jesus and the saving acts of God must be the lenses through which we read every account. We must hear the name Jesus every time we read the name “Lord.” When we read the gospels we must imagine ourselves in every scene:

  • We are standing in every crowd who hears Him speak. We can almost taste the fish and bread from the little boy’s lunch.
  • From the mountaintop we hear Him present the constitution of the New Covenant, the world’s most famous sermon.
  • We are in the shadows when Nicodemus conducts his nocturnal interview about the new birth.
  • We are seeking shade in the heat of the day at the well in Samaria where New Covenant worship was introduced to the world through the questions of a wicked woman.
  • In the book of Acts we can accompany the Apostles on every journey and we can consider every letter in the New Testament to be addressed to us.

Today, as you worship in the Secret Place, reflect on Who Jesus is. His presence will gently flow through every window in your heart that you open to Him.

Scriptures:
Psalm 119:15-16 NKJV
I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
Psalm 27:4-5 NKJV
…one thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Prayer:
From the Book of Common Prayer
Before Worship
O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to You, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship You in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Song:
Think about His Love

Words and Music: Walt Harrah

Think about His love, think about His goodness,
Think about His grace that’s brought us through.
For as high as the heavens above,
so great is the measure of our Father’s love.
Great is the measure of our Father’s love.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

For more on this topic go to http://stevephifer.com/thinking-carefully-about-jesus/

January 16

Stillness

If motion is a sign of life, we are really alive in this age of mankind. We put a premium on speed:

  • Faster cars,
  • Faster planes,
  • Faster trains,
  • Faster video screens,
  • Faster phones, and of course,
  • Faster computers.

What have we gained with all this rapid motion? Does our hurry bring us any closer to God? Is there some necessary thing that eludes us when we live at this pace? The command of the Lord is interesting, and arresting—“Be still and know that I am God.”

Stillness and prayer are natural companions.
The battle for daily prayer is half won when we decide to schedule stillness into our lives. To “know that God is God” is worth going to bed early so you can get up early to be still before the Lord. Stillness is not inactivity. It is a quiet and intense focusing of the mind on the Lord Himself. In stillness we listen for His voice from a position of openness free of presupposition and clear of random ideas. It is much like looking at a body of water or a stand of forest or a mountain vista without focusing our eyes on any particular detail. We end up seeing something that would have escaped our notice if we had zoomed in on something we already knew was there.

In stillness, strength builds within us, and with strength comes joy. We will need strength as the day progresses and joy will make the trying times bearable. The voice of the Lord is still and small as it was with the prophet. Before the whirlwinds and earthquakes of the coming day set in, it is good, joyful, and empowering to hear His still, small voice.

Angels and Saints
When we who live on earth are still, we can hear more clearly the worship of heaven. Angels and saints never cease worshiping before the Throne of God. The continuous sound is so great the doorpost of heaven shake in sympathetic vibration. When we engage stillness, as we are commanded, we can feel the rhythm and hear the song. No wonder the Scriptures require the silence of stillness from those who dwell on the earth.

A Demanding Discipline
We must not confuse stillness with inactivity, it is a demanding discipline. We must not mistake silence for that of a brass heaven. The heavens are not brass, neither are they silent, nor are they distant. The heavens are telling about the Glory of the Lord. The hosts around the Throne of God are singing of His Majesty, Grace, and Everlasting Love. Even our inmost hearts are whispering about comfort and courage if we are only still enough to hear.

And when we hear, we know that God is God.

Scriptures:
Luke 21:19 KJV
In your patience possess ye your souls.
Nehemiah 8:10-11
Nehemiah said, … This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”
Psalm 46:8-11
Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me be still. The gravity of the world is pulling me down. The pace of life is pushing me forward. The pain of the past beckons me backward. Your voice is an upward call drawing me higher. Even in this upward motion there is still a place of stillness. There are things about You, Lord, that I cannot know in a hurry. There is a place in You that settles my heart where the soft music of Your song soothes my spirit. Help me today to counter the inertia of life with the stillness of Your Spirit where You are more fully known. Amen.

Song:
Be Still, My Soul

Words and Music: Kim Noblitt

1. Be still my soul. Be still my soul
Cease from the labor and the toil
Refreshing springs of peace wait
To troubled minds and hearts that ache

Be still my soul God knows your way
And He will guide For His name’s sake
Plunge in the rivers of His grace
Rest in the arms of His embrace

2. Be still my soul Be still my soul
Though battles round you rage and roar
One thing you need and nothing more
To hear the whisper of your Lord

Be still my child I know your way
And I will guide For my name’s sake
Plunge in the rivers of My grace
Rest in the arms of My embrace.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 15

Pain

There is no escaping pain.
From annoying aches to agonizing ailments to the sharp arrows of antagonists, life hurts sometimes—often, in fact.

For many the morning requires an inventory of stiff muscles and joints, a rubbing of sore eyes, and a deep draw of air to resupply the blood with oxygen. All of this gaping and stretching and bending and flexing needs to be chased by a good cup of coffee to get us going.

It wasn’t that way in Eden.
Adam and Eve must have sprung from sleep to consciousness with ease. Surely there were no stiff joints, aching muscles, or wounded minds to hinder the beginning of their day. Then one day Adam and the Mrs. had the wrong breakfast and pain registered its enrollment in the human experience.

In the normal course of things, pain increases with age. We are blessed with pills and ointments to fight its effects as the years pile up. In other cases, the young suffer pain and it hurts us to watch them. We don’t understand why it must be so.

Sometimes

  • the strong are struck down to weakness,
  • the able are reduced to disability, and
  • the good are afflicted by evil in ways that defy logic.

Sometimes we can see the cause of the effect and other times there is no cause but the effect remains terrible.

As each day begins, we must do something about our pain.
Whether it is the pain of wear and weakness, the pain of disease and disability, or the pain of the human heart, we must deal with it.

  • Has Jehovah Jireh (“The Lord Who Provides”) provided a place for our pain?
  • Does Jehovah Rophe (“The Lord Who Heals”) send healing and help flowing in our direction?
  • Does the Great Physician still make house calls?

The Balm in Gilead
Better than pills or ointments—though God is not offended when use the healing power of His creation—is His lovingkindess. It is better than life, the Scripture says.

  • He entered this wounded world precisely to feel our pain.
  • Just as the suffering crowds moved Him when He walked this earth, He is compassionate toward us.
  • His wounded back, striped with the Roman whip, took our pain.

By those stripes we are healed. Oh, there is no doubt of this. The only details unknown to us are when and where.

  • Now and here? Many, many times—Praise the Lord!
  • In heaven for sure!

There is no cancer there, no festering wounds, no brokenness, no weakness, no debilitating disease of any sort. We leave the annoying aches and agonizing ailments behind when we cross that river.

But what of the sharp arrows of antagonists? Does he care about them?

It is most amazing to think that our undeserved pain is a point of relationship with Christ.

Completely innocent of all cause, He suffered the pain of the effects of all sin. If we follow Him, this will inevitably cause us pain. Unlike the affliction of the body, the pain of ministry is a strange privilege, a way of identifying with Christ.

So, stretch those sleepy muscles, sip that sumptuous air and swill that simmering coffee! Even with pain you will greet this day with the strength of Jesus. Remember those who suffer greater pain than yours. Pray for those who seek to hurt you and hide safe within the wounds of the Savior.

Scriptures:
Jeremiah 8:21-22 NKJV
For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning;
Astonishment has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?
1 Peter 4:12-17
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. … if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, because of fall of mankind into sin, life is a painful experience. Sometimes the reasons for pain are clear and sometimes suffering is a mystery, adding to the pain. Whether I know the reason for the pain of the day or it is beyond my comprehension, I know I am not alone. You do not know pain from a distance or in theory only. Like us, You were born in pain. As a child you hurt Yourself like any other child. You worked until Your muscles ached like ours do. You identify with my pain. Thank You, Lord. It is good to know that You are with me when I hurt. I know Your tender touch. Someday You will dry all our tears. Until that day, Your nearness is comfort in times of pleasure or pain.

Song:
There Is a Balm in Gilead

Traditional

Refrain:
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

1. Sometimes I feel discouraged, And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

Refrain

2. If you cannot preach like Peter, Ify you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus, and say, “He died for all.”
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 14

Mission

Each of us has a mission, a mission from God. Every day we make a list of “Things to do Today.” If we don’t write the list down, we try to keep it in our head. As a work week progresses, it is good to review the mission.

  • Do our plans for today flow from the call of God on our life?
  • Does today’s mission advance our life’s mission?

The God who created the vast and expanding universe is also the Creator of this day, this moment, and of our hearts. Just as “the heavens are telling” us the glories of God, the Spirit of God within each of us is telling us about God and what He plans for us today. He is not a random God; He has a plan and we are a part of it. He is the God of detail, large and small, from the movement of the planets to our actions between breakfast and lunchtime.

The grand scheme of things is His call on our lives. This is the central fact of our existence.

  • It is the guiding revelation for the choices we make—does this advance the call or hinder it?
  • It is the basis of our judgment when we stand before the Lord and give an account.
  • It is the source of joy and strength, tenacity and determination, faithfulness and effectiveness, for the lives we live.

God’s agenda for today is just as specific as his grand scheme for our lives. We face a choice.

  • We can charge into this day without listening to the Spirit, following our own agenda, or,
  • We can listen to the voice of God within us, tuning our spirit to His Spirit so that we live this day in holiness, love, and power beyond our natural abilities.

People will cross our path today. Questions will come our way. Our prayers will be sought by those in need. Deeds of creativity and mercy will be expected of us. There will be words of truth that we must whisper in the ears of some and other messages that we must shout from the rooftops.

We have a story to tell with details of our lives.  We have a mission that is ever with us–“Your Kingdom, come!  Your Will be done!”

Scriptures:
Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Colossians 3:16-17; 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.
Psalm 89:15 NKJV
Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichol

1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning and the dawning to noonday bright,
And Christ’s great Kingdom shall come to earth, the Kingdom of love and light.

2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations that shall lift hearts to the Lord.
A song that shall conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3.We’ve a message to give to the nations that the Lord who reigneth above
Hath sent us His Son to save us and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4. We’ve a Savior to show to the nations Who the path of sorrow has trod,
That all of the world’s great peoples might come to the truth of God.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 13

Victory

There are small victories like when the bathroom scales report one less pound than the day before, and large ones like those two in 1945—VE Day (Victory in Europe) and VJ Day (Victory in Japan)—which marked the end of the world’s greatest war. In between the small and large are daily victories we celebrate silently or call the one we love to give the good report.

Defeats, large and small, we absorb, either to study them and learn from them or to forget them and add them to the memories we would love to discard.

In large measure, victory is a choice.

  • We choose the right battles to fight.
  • We select the proper weapons to wield.
  • We join the army that has the strength and wherewithal to win.
  • We follow the General with both the will to take on the enemy and the might to defeat him.

Today, we choose to fight the good fight of faith.

  • That is, we choose to live right in a world gone wrong.
  • We select weapons for our warfare that are spiritual and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
  • We march in the Army of God who defeats the terrible foe with a song.
  • We follow Jesus who is the Victor, the complete Master of all time and space.

The battle today will not be easy. The enemy is strong and wily. Deceit and despair are his artillery and he has strewn the roadway with mines. But we tread carefully, placing each step in a nail scarred footprint. Jesus has gone this way before us. He has clearly marked the hazards. He knows the enemy’s secret schemes.

He has gone head-to-head with the enemy of our souls,

  • in the wilderness of temptation,
  • in the war of words with the religionists,
  • in the battles for the lives of those tormented by demons and disease,
  • in the Garden of prayer and unlawful arrest,
  • in the betrayal of a dear and trusted friend,
  • in the legal courts of men,
  • under the lash of man’s wrath,
  • under the cross on the Via Doloroso,
  • on the cross at Mt. Calvary,
  • in the regions of hell to wrest the keys of death, hell and the grave from Satan’s grip,
  • in the tomb where death reigned supreme over His body until the Holy Spirit, who had overshadowed Mary to give Jesus human life, invaded His burial chamber to give him resurrected life, and
  • in the Throne Room of Heaven to wear the Victor’s Crown for all eternity.

Victory is our choice today because Jesus is our choice. Temporary setbacks will occur but they do not have the final word. The final word is “Victory” and Jesus has spoken it.

Scripture:
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the absolute Victor. Hell falls silent when You open Your mouth to speak. Demons tremble at the sound of Your Name. Darkness flees away at Your entrance for You are absolute Light. My sins are gone because You sent them away. I sleep well because Your angels stand guard over my pillow. The path of life before me is clear because You walk ahead of me, Your footsteps blessing the earth with peace. You will never be defeated. But, Lord, when I feel I am at risk and that enemies rise up against me, You are a shield to me, my glory and the lifter of my head. I will walk in Your victory because You walk in me. I say to the day ahead, “Bring out your best, do your worst, I am not afraid. The Victor walks in me invincible!” Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen

Song:
Victory

Words and Music: B.E. Warren

1. Hallelujah, what a thought! Jesus full salvation brought, Victory, Victory!
Let the powers of sin assail, heaven’s grace can never fail, Victory, Victory!

Refrain:
Victory, yes victory; Hallelujah! I am free, Jesus gives me victory.
Glory, glory, Hallelujah! He is all in all to me.

2. I am trusting in the Lord, I am standing on His Word, Victory, Victory!
I have peace and joy within, Since my life is free from sin, Victory, Victory!

Refrain

3. Shout your freedom everywhere, His eternal peace declare, Victory, Victory!
Let us sing it here below in the face of every foe, Victory, Victory!

Refrain

4. We will sing it on that shore, when this fleeting life is o’er Victory, Victory!
Sing it here, ye ransomed throng, start the everlasting song: Victory, Victory!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 12

Dawn

Some nights pass swiftly. The eyes close and a moment later, it seems, they open again and a new day has arrived in the interval. Other nights seem to drag on and on as if the dawn were held hostage by some unseen force of evil.

Some nights are peaceful and full of rest. We scarcely move from the moment we fall asleep to the time we awaken. On other nights fear is our bedfellow as thoughts of what happened in the day and dread of what might happen tomorrow rob us of any rest even if there are periods of unconsciousness in the ordeal.

Each type of night, the swift and restful or the interminable and torturous, ends in the same way—the sun rises. The darkness has to flee and with it, the fear. Well rested eyes must be rubbed and dormant muscles must be stretched. Red-rimmed eyes that did not rest must be likewise be rubbed and muscles weak from tension throughout the night must likewise be stretched.

Regardless of how the night was spent, the morning light demands a mental reset. So, we cast aside the covers and rise to meet whatever the day will bring. As we do, we are not alone and neither are we helpless. In fact, throughout the night, whether a pleasant one that disappeared like a dream or long sleepless one that threatens to linger all day, we have never been alone.

In some spiritual corner of our bed chamber our angel kept guard through the night. Our guardian does not come and go with sleep but stays on duty throughout every single night. The stars remained on duty all through the night just in case we went outside to wonder about things. They were ready to tell us again of the glory of the Lord until the light of the sun overcame their light but not their message.

We were never alone, guarded in deep sleep or in fitful tossing, because we are His.

So now we arise to face this day. Whether strengthened by rest or weakened by sleeplessness, we step into the day knowing that we are still not alone. Along with the faithful sun which drove away the power of the night, the Sun of Righteousness has risen again this morning from His rest. He is our light. He is our Sabbath rest. He is our companion. He never sleeps or slumbers. He is the treasure, filling our earthen vessel with His strength and power.

Regardless of how the night was spent, this day will be ours because it is His.

Scriptures:
Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Isaiah 60:1-3
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Psalm 30:4-5 NKJV
Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Song:
Morning Has Broken

Words: Eleanor Farjeon; Music; Traditional

1. Morning has broken like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

2. Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the garden,
Sprung in completeness Where His feet pass.

3. Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 11

Stand

We can be sure of one thing this day will require of each of us—we must make a stand.

In an age of flexibility where almost anything goes, we will have to draw some lines in places that really matter, lines that we will not cross. We will have to determine the essentials of each task, and on a larger scale, of life itself, and hold to them.

The essentials of life are not negotiable. They are fixed in our hearts and they guide our thoughts.

The non-essentials are our flex points; we can

  • bend,
  • improvise,
  • learn from others,
  • even compromise for the good of the whole.

Not so with the essentials.

These are the points of unity with our fellows, our shared beliefs that bring us together and help us move forward together. Essential things mark the boundaries of the path we walk for within them we clearly see the footprints of Jesus.

Like a pilgrim on a long journey of faith, another morning on the trail demands another stand. Our destination does not draw near to us if we oversleep. We must stand to continue the journey,

  • check the map,
  • get our bearings,
  • sense the day’s conditions and
  • take the first step of a new day.

We do not stand alone, today. As the sun makes his pilgrimage across the sky, casting warmth and light upon the path before them, millions of fellow travelers take their stand as well. They draw their lines and check their maps. They stretch muscles stiff from sleep but strong and rested, ready for the trek.

Jesus, too, stands with us. He has our back. His Word is our guide, His blood our victory. He is our companion in the way.

The world doesn’t want us to make a stand. It wants to bend us this way and that, to distract us and break our concentration so, if we move at all, we will head the wrong way, a way so convoluted and confusing that we must sit down to catch our breath, another day wasted.

But the Spirit calls to us, “Arise! Take your stand! Your rest is complete. Take the first step of a new journey.”

In morning prayer, we renew the essentials as we rehearse the revelation of who God is and what He wants us to do. When the benediction sounds and the amen is spoken, we make our stand.

We stride into the day, confident of our Companion, with a lamp for our feet and a light for the path and victory ahead in the cause of Christ.

Scriptures:
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14; 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love

Prayer:
In Your strength I make my stand today. In Your wisdom, my mind is poised, ready and equipped to answer, to discover, to reason, and to refrain from evil as I embrace the good. In your love I will touch those who cross my path. Through Your overcoming grace, I will be a force for good in this World. If I should fail in this stand, Your Spirit will inform me and I will renew my stand. Nothing matters as much as this, that I should stand for You today. Amen.

Song
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

Words: George Duffield Jr.; Music: Adam Geibel

1. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

2. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, The trumpet call obey.
Forth to the mighty conflict In this His glorious day;
Ye that are true, now serve Him Against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, And strength to strength oppose.

3. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the gospel armor; Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger, Be never wanting there.

4. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, The strife will not be long.
This day the noise of battle; The next the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh, A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory Shall reign eternally

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved