July 15 “Justice”

Justice

The subject is wealth—wasted by the prodigal son and now, pursued by any means by the Unjust Steward.
Jesus dealt with the world the way it was—wracked with the wickedness of some and blessed by the benevolence of others. In the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the wicked ways of the world are explored. We must be sure to see that Jesus does not commend the wicked shrewdness of the steward. The “lord” in this parable is a worldly businessman, not a man of God.

The Unjust Steward
The man was a crook. He was caught red-handed cooking the books of his master’s business. He had grown rich in this under-the-table double dealing but it all came crashing down. He was fired but first he had to settle the accounts. It is said he was shrewd so he came up with a scheme to provide good wishes in the future so he could continue to enjoy his ill-gotten gains.

He still had his master’s books so he started calling on those who owed his master money and valuable goods. It is thought by some commenters that he used his own money in this scheme. He altered the books to lessen the debt owed by the creditor, perhaps making up the difference out of his own pocket. He was hoping to benefit the creditors now so they could benefit him later on. It was a clever scheme.

Except the master found out about it.

Now this “lord’ was a crooked as his steward. We can only imagine that much of his wealth was gained by nefarious means also. So the steward was caught a second time but this time the master had to admire the shrewdness of the scheme so he actually commended him.

The Sons of Light
At this point in the parable Jesus injected a comment.

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”

Far from commending dishonesty in business dealings, Jesus condemned these methods as worldly and based in darkness, not light. As children of the Light, we must never be dishonest in the first place. We can then use our cleverness to do great things rather than to get out of trouble. As “Children of the Light,” we, too should be clever and inventive but we must do so in the cause of righteousness, not evil.

The Divided Heart
In this strange story, Jesus calls us, at last, to righteous servanthood. He makes it plain that we cannot have life both ways. We cannot serve God and riches, too!

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The divided heart will always bleed trouble, one scheme upon another, until we are exposed for what we really are—an unjust steward.

Justice will be served.
We are all stewards of this life. Whether we follow Jesus or not, we will find ourselves carrying responsibilities for others. In these things we can deal honestly or dishonestly but we must recognized that either path will yield a harvest—trouble and more trouble or blessing and more blessing. How wise to have a heart undivided with its  methods and means in perfect unison. How wise to be a child of Light!

Scriptures:
Luke: 16:1-13

He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You took the punishment for my sins! Now I stand before the Father as if I had never sinned—how amazing is Your grace! Lord, give me an undivided heart. May I never be tempted by the love of money for that is a cruel master. I want to serve You with gladness and singleness of heart. Save me from the wicked ways of this world and help me be clever in righteousness! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
I’d Rather Have Jesus

Words: Rhea F. Miller; Music: George Beverly Shea

1. I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand

Refrain:
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

2. I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I’d rather be true to His holy name

Refrain

3. He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs.
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 14 “Found”

Found

Prodigal: “…wastefully or recklessly extravagant…”
Perhaps the most famous of all the stories Jesus told is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. No other story has as many highly developed characters and as much real family conflict. Some people call this the Parable of the Faithful Father because on closer inspection, the story is really about the Father and not about either of the man’s sons.

A Father and His Two Sons
Like a reflection of the first family on earth, Adam and Eve with Cain and Able, this is the story of painful strife within a family. Unfortunately, these types of conflicts are all too common still today. The same identical home can produce very different offspring leaving the parents with a puzzle to solve before it is too late—how do we love both of these children?

  • The older son was the model of what a son should be, at least on the outside. He worked hard at his father’s business, was faithful, dependable, respectful, all, it seems, in an effort to gain his father’s affirmation.
  • The father was a good provider, a successful businessman with wealth to share, and a careful planner, having already divided his sons’ inheritance ahead of time. There are hints that his love for his sons, while authentic, was not readily expressed. For some reason, the older son did not feel his father’s love.
  • The younger son was the wild child, living for the moment, caring little for the things his father provided and possessing a sense of entitlement that must have deeply grieved his father. Perhaps the father was unaware of the needs in his older son’s life because his younger son took so much of his time and energy.

The Runaway
With hormones raging, the younger son claimed his inheritance and left home, caring not for the grief this caused his parents. He ran away to a great city where “friends” were delighted to profit from his wealth in return for their attention. The appetites of the flesh controlled life in the big city and soon the money and the “friends” were gone. Gossip about their son reached the Father, breaking his heart even more.

The young man found work that was so disgusting he eventually realized what a fool he was and returned to his family willing to take the place of a servant. His father was in the habit of watching the road every day, praying for his son’s return. One day it happened but the older brother, working faithfully in the field, did not witness it.

A riotous celebration commenced immediately as the father fully reinstated his son in the family. When the older brother returned from work and learned of these events, he finally let his anger loose on the Father. He had been faithful and this virtue was never celebrated! It just wasn’t fair. He had a point. The father’s joy at the return of the younger son was tempered by the realization of his neglect of the older son.

When the Lost One Is Found
We can hope when the dust from all this settled that the three men could forgive each other and begin a new partnership of love expressed and received. Much had been lost but much more had been found.

Scriptures:
Luke: 15:11-31

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”‘ “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You found me! You heard my prayers of repentance. You received my confession of Your Lordship! You saved me! Thank You, Lord! You sent Your Spirit to abide in my heart and to empower me for service. You have called me with a holy calling and given me a job to do, an easy yoke to bear, easy because it fits me. You have given me light burdens to bear that I can manage with Your help. I long to hear You say on that great day, “Well done. Good and Faithful Servant!” Thank You for Your Amazing Grace! Amen.

Song:
Amazing Grace

Words: John Newton; Music: Traditional

1. Amazing grace – how sweet the sound –
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

3. The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

4. Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

5. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we’d first begun.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 13 “Lost”

Lost

To the human soul, being lost in the woods is a most terrifying experience.
Nothing is at it appears to be. Familiar things appear strange. The path out of the woods is full of uncertain turns and blind passages. There is no horizon to go by and strange noises assail your ears and distort all your senses of direction. With quickened breath you fight off a sense of panic.

One of the terms we use to describe the person without God is, “lost.” It is descriptive and revealing. Every turn you makes could be the wrong turn. Every voice you hear is a questionable one—who knows whom to trust? You do the best you can with the information you have but you cannot escape the feeling that you are just getting deeper into the woods.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
In a strange turn of events a group of tax collectors and other notorious sinners gathered to Jesus. We are not told why. It could be that the teaching of Jesus and His obvious power from God convinced them that they were lost and He could show them the way out of their woods. Perhaps in their world of dishonest dealings and routine wickedness they saw true virtue in Jesus and His men. This was a company of men who told and lived the truth. They were certainly not rich but they had something valuable, something the wicked men had lost or never even had.

For whatever reason, they came to Jesus and He responded, having dinner at one of their homes. Predictably, the Pharisees complained.

“This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

We are not told how this accusation was made so let’s imagine that a delegation of Pharisees invaded the home of their enemies. Jesus answered them with a Parable.

He placed each of the Pharisees into the lead role of man with 100 sheep safely grazing in the wilderness, no doubt in the care of professional shepherds. An emergency arises—one of the sheep is lost! A lamb has wandered away from its mother. The owner takes matters into his own hands, leaves the 99 with his shepherds, and begins a thorough search for the lost lamb.

Eventually it is found and there is great rejoicing, extending beyond the man and his hired shepherds to his neighbors.

A lovely story, but what did it mean? Jesus sprang His trap:

“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

Even the thick-skulled Pharisees got the point. Jesus went on.

The Parable of the Lost Coin
Jesus shifted genders to tell the story of a woman with 10 silver coins who had misplaced one of them. She did not count her losses and soldier on—she ransacked her house until the lost coin was found. She also called on her friends to celebrate with her!

‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’

Meaning? The focus of heaven is not simply on those safe within the fold—heaven searches for the lost lamb and scours the whole house until the lost coin is recovered.

A Party in Heaven
When a sinner comes home, there is a party in Heaven! When a lost treasure is found, Heaven pulls out all the stops! Why? The whole point of the Jesus Story is this: to find the lost ones and bring them home!

Scriptures:
Luke: 15:1-10

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for finding me when I was lost! I know You love the 99 but You also love those who are lost and You seek them out. Your love is amazing! Help those who are lost in the woods, confused by the terror of being lost. Speak clearly to their hearts, Lord. Help them to know Your voice, that still, small, voice of peace. Let them sense the wooing of Your Holy Spirit. Help them see that You are their only hope! Save them, Lord!

Song:
A New Name Written Down in Glory

Word and Music: C. Austin Miles

1. I was once a sinner, but I came
Pardon to receive from my Lord.
This was freely given, and I found
That He always kept His word.

Refrain:
There’s a new name Written down in glory,
And it’s mine, oh yes, it’s mine!
And the white-robed Angels sing the story,
“A sinner has come home.”
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, oh yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven,
Nevermore to roam.

2. I was humbly kneeling at the cross,
Fearing naught but God’s angry frown,
When the heavens opened and I saw
That my name was written down.

Refrain

3. In the Book ’tis written, “Saved by grace.”
Oh the joy that came to my soul!
Now I am forgiven, and I know
By the blood I am made whole.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 12 “Salt”

Salt

Salt is strong stuff. God has provided lots of it in this world because lots of it is needed.
Salt preserves the precious. The meat of animal can feed the family for months if it is preserved and salt does that. The body needs salt in order to make all its functions work. Jesus chose this image to illustrate how those who follow Him act as preservatives in a most sinful world.

Hate Your Parents?
I recommend a book called “Hard Sayings of the Bible.” (You can find it at Amazon.com: https://tinyurl.com/y7tkmtx8) This statement ranks a place of honor. Here’s what Jesus said:

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

Doesn’t this fly in the face of other things Jesus said? Looking up the original language doesn’t help, either, for we discover that the word used for “hate” really means, well,—hate. How can we square this with rest of Jesus’ teaching?

Scholars say that Jesus was setting up priorities. As important as family relationships are—and they are at the heart of things as the family is a primary image for the church—the priorities of the Kingdom of God must have a greater pull on the one who follows Jesus.

Parents Who Believe and Those Who Do Not
When we take up our cross to follow Jesus and our parents support us in this, there is no reason to “hate” them. We know it is important to build a heritage of faith in our families. When our parents stand against us following the will of God for our lives, we must act as though we hated them. It hurts because we really do not hate them—we love them and seeing them in rebellion to God breaks our heart. However, we know that when we stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives, we cannot offer the opposition of our parents as a reason to fail God. Such an excuse will never stand the fires of the judgment of God on our life’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:9-13)

Salt gives us courage when we must take such drastic measures. If we shrink back from the call of God because of parental opposition, it will do them no good. If we follow Christ at the cost of offending our parents, the Kingdom of God will advance and the Holy Spirit will have a tool to use to bring our parents around to a Kingdom view. What a victory that would be!

Salt in Action: The Cost of Discipleship
To follow Christ is to find God’s will and set about doing it. This is a costly, if blessed, way to live. As would an entrepreneur who builds a tower for greater business, we must count the cost of this life. When we begin serving God intending to finish our job on earth, we must count the cost. This avoids mockery of starting well but finishing poorly. To follow Jesus is to engage in spiritual warfare. This, too, involves counting the cost if one is to wage a victorious warfare.

Salt Is Good
Salt is good if it does its job of preservation and preparation. If we attempt the mission or go into battle with salt that has lost its power, we will fail. If we keep the salt supply in strength, we will save ourselves and those who hear us.

Scriptures:
Luke: 14:25-35

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it —lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as I pray this morning, the salt of Your Word is preserving my life and purifying my soul to serve You more excellently. Thank You for this gentle, thorough preservative. Cure my heart of sinful motives and base desires. Let spirit rise above soul and body in my life. Help my life be a strong preservative in this world as I stand for You, follow You, and love You in ways the world around me can clearly see. Help me wage a holy and effective warfare. Help me to finish the tower of my life so that all can see You in me! Amen and amen.

Song:
I Am Thine, O Lord

Words: Fanny J. Crosby; Music: H. Howard Doane

1. I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Refrain:
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

2. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the pow’r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

Refrain
3. Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!
Refrain
4. There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 11 “Supper”

Supper

In the teaching of Jesus, a great metaphor for inclusion in the Kingdom of God was a dinner with invitations.
A shared meal is an important means of fellowship in the Kingdom of God. Under the Old Covenant, the remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage was the Passover Meal. Each week the families of Israel kept their faith alive from generation to generation with the Seder meal on Friday evenings. In the New Covenant, the Lord’s Table, also called the “Eucharist,” meaning, “The Great Thanksgiving,” and “Holy Communion,” is a ceremonial shared meal that renews the Covenant.

A Sabbath Meal
It happened that one of the rulers of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a Sabbath dinner at his own home. This was done with a hidden purpose; to catch Jesus in some violation of Sabbath tradition. A man suffering from edema, a condition arising from congestive heart failure causing swelling in the soft body tissues, was also there. It is possible he was a plant to test Jesus. Seeing the set-up, Jesus asked,

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

The Pharisee did not answer. In short order, Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. He asked another question:

“Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

The Pharisees had no answer so Jesus told them the parable about dinner placement, warning His listeners not to take the place of honor until it is offered. The principle?

“…whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Kingdom Hospitality
Using the metaphor of an invited supper, Jesus turned polite society on its head. Do not invite those who are already your friends—reach out to those who are outside of your fellowship.

“…the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’

To invite those in great need who cannot repay pleases the Lord. God will bless you when you include the disadvantaged in your feast.

The Parable of the Great Feast
A minimalist at the dinner declared that what really counted was just getting to eat the bread of the Kingdom. In other words, “Let me get mine. I don’t care about anyone else.” This brought one of the great parables from the lips of Jesus.

An important man gave a huge, by-invitation-only-feast. Many people were invited so he sent a servant at the startup time to bring the people in. Instead of guests, he got excuses, lame excuses. So he sent his servant to the disadvantaged. This was the same list Jesus had already given.

“…the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’

These invited ones responded joyfully and there was still room for more. The next invitation provides us with a well-known description of the needy people of the world. The servant was told to go to “the highways hedges and compel them to come in.” There was no discrimination, no selection criteria, and no means-testing. It was pure grace. At last the house was filled and the great supper was served.

Life Lesson? People who are self-sufficient, self-satisfied, and self-centered will miss out on the good things of the Kingdom. Those who know they have need of God will be the ones who feast at His great supper.

Scriptures:
Luke: 14:1-24

Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” And they could not answer Him regarding these things. So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, rescue me from pride and position! Help me take the lower place in public, leaving the place of honor to others. Save me from hard-hearted assessments of my fellow human beings. May I never see others us unworthy and myself as deserving of honor. Lord Jesus, send me to the highways and hedges and help me compel the lost to come into the feast You have prepared. It is for them, prepared with love from Your skillful hand. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Come to the Feast

Words: Charles H. Gabriel; and Music: W.A. Ogden.

1. “All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come,
And thou shalt be richly fed.

Refrain:
Hear the invitation,
Come, “whosoever will”;
Praise God for full salvation
For “whosoever will.”

2. “All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, for the door is open wide;
A place of honor is reserved
For you at the Master’s side.

Refrain

3. “All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, while He waits to welcome thee;
Delay not while this day is thine,
Tomorrow may never be.

Refrain

4. “All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Leave ev’ry care and worldly strife;
Come, feast upon the love of God,
And drink everlasting life.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 8 “Discernment”

Discernment

It is said that wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.
Understanding requires discernment, defined as “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” It was important that Jesus teach discernment, spelling out the many facets of living for Him in a hostile world.

Keep Your Lamps Burning
Returning to the image of light, Jesus placed tending our personal lamps at the highest priority. If we are to rightly see this world, we need the inner light of His Word and Presence. He spoke not only of His presence then and there but of a distant day when He would return.

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

At Peter’s request, Jesus made it clear that this teaching was for all time. We are the servants and He is the Master of the House. Life should be about doing the Master’s will. We should not be put off balance because the Master seems long in returning. Our job is to be ready.

Division before Unity
The Lord was distressed by the warnings He had to give to His followers. Before the peace of His Kingdom could come there would be terrible division in families, in worship, in civic life, as people decided one way or the other about following Him.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”

And it is so. The joy of following Jesus often comes with the pain of seeing those we love choose not to follow Him. Because of our love for them and for Jesus, our hearts are broken. We must deliver these broken hearts to the Secret Place of Prayer, crying out to God with the names of our loved ones who refuse to follow Him. This is the work of the ministry. We do not badger them; we pray for them. We do not complain about this sinful world; we intercede for it. Discerning this need for unity in the church, we must worship as One Family. We must not blindly follow the cultures of division. Where else in this broken world will the truth be heard except in the lives, worship, and witness of the church?

Signs of the Times
In the natural world, people watch the skies for indications of approaching weather. If we can discern these signs, we should also discern the signs of the end times. The Bible is replete with these signs. We must lift them off the pages of the book and inscribe them in our hearts. They provide us with “keen insight and good judgment.”

Living among the Lost
Jesus concluded this teaching by instructing those who followed Him in wise living. There is no doubt we are engaged by adversaries. We all live within a system of laws which we must respect. Beyond being law abiding citizens, we must also be blameless in our dealings with everyone, our fellow citizens in the Kingdom as well as those outside the faith. If we can avoid the “law and order” establishment without compromising our faith, we should. We will not find mercy at the hands of an enemy in power.

As we follow the Lord, living for Him, we find our mercy there. We will also possess the discernment to know what to do and how to do it. Wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.

Scriptures:
Luke: 12:35-59

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”

Prayer:
Lord, give me the discernment required to see things as they really are today. I know from Your Word that two signs of the end times will happen at the same time: The Great Outpouring of Your Spirit on all flesh and the Great Falling Away, the terrible end time apostasy. Help me see the difference so I can join the Outpouring and shun the Apostasy. Teach me to intercede for those who are refusing You and for a country that spurns Your love. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Songs:
Signs Are Everywhere

Words and Music: Kittie Louise Suffield

1. The King is coming in glory To catch His bride away,
It may be in the morning It may be at midday,
At the even or midnight; The trump will sound so clear,
The dead in Christ, and we that live, His voice shall hear.

Refrain
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
The fig tree is budding, The signs are everywhere,
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

2. Behold! He cometh, and leaping, And skipping o’er the hills;
Like the young roe, like the young hart, My soul with rapture thrills;
Thru the window He’s looking, Thru the lattice work is seen,
The winter’s past, the rain is o’er, The figs are green.

Refrain

3. The King is coming, Be ready, To meet Him on that day;
With your heart right, with your robes white, And in this holy way;
Like the lightning that flashes In the twinkling of an eye,
Our Lord shall come to claim His own, He’s drawing nigh.

Refrain

4. The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.
The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 7 “Treasures”

Treasures

Jesus spoke of “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail.” How can we find this treasure?
A multitude beyond number pressed upon Jesus and the Twelve. This crowd contained the Lord’s treasure—those who heard His Word and chose to follow Him. His address is to them and, by extension to us. Reading His words, we see our value to Him. God’s extends love to all people but to those who love Him back, He promises a great life. We are His treasure and He is ours.

The Leaven of the Pharisees
This crowd contained enemies, friends, and those who had yet to decide whose side they were on. Jesus denounced the Pharisees among them, by pinpointing their basic sin—hypocrisy. It grew like cancer in their hearts corrupting everything they did. They were pretenders when the Kingdom of God demanded people of holiness.

Jesus instructs those He treasures.
Jesus told His followers how to live a true life of faith.

  • The first thing is to be real. Tell the truth without sugarcoating it. Live the life we preach in secret and in public. Secret things will not remain secret. Things whispered in the ear will be shouted from the housetops.
  • Fear God, not men! God’s commitment to us is shown in unfailing love.
  • Confess Christ before men.
  • Honor the Holy Spirit. He will supply the words when we are hauled before the courts of men.
  • Beware of covetousness. If our treasures are those of heaven, heaven will keep them safe. Covetousness is a besetting sin costing us everything.
  • Avoid the deceitfulness of riches. It can alter our vision of life causing us to treasure temporary things and ignore eternal things. The parable of the rich man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones illustrates this in detail. Taking his ease, he lost it all.

The True Treasures of Heaven
Jesus concluded the parable with these remarkable statements:

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” and
“… do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”

When we claim the Lord as our treasure, He claims us as His! Life is more than the quest for temporal things—it is an investment in eternal treasures. We must not live lives plagued with worry but enjoy lives propelled by faith. God considers us more valuable than all of creation beginning with birds of the air and extending all the way to lilies of the field.

Seek first the Kingdom
How do we treasure the things of God? By seeking first His Kingdom! Every day we have the choice to follow the Lord or to go on our way. Our own way may seem right but it leads to destruction. The Lord’s way is the Path of Life that leads to life now and in the endless future. Today, remember His words:

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Scriptures:
Luke: 12:1-34
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 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.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the greatest treasure! Today I will seek first Your Kingdom, knowing that as I do that You will meet all my needs. Your Words are like apples of gold on plates of silver; I will treasure Your truth and store it deep in my heart. My heart is amazed at the testimony of Your teaching, that I am more valuable to you than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. How can it be that I am Your treasure? And yet that is the truth I celebrate today! Amen and Amen.

Song:
More Precious than Silver
Words and Music: Lynn DeShazo

Lord, You are more precious than silver.
Lord, You are more costly than gold.
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds
And nothing I desire compares with You.

<em>Semper Reformanda!</em>
<em>Stephen Phifer</em>
</div>
<em> © 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved</em>

July 6 “Consequences”

Consequences

It is not exactly news that actions have consequences.
When we do foolish or sinful things, we are most likely tend to suffer the consequences. When the calamitous events unfold after our folly or indiscretion, we may cry out to God as if it was all His fault. It does no good. As the Bible warns and promises, we reap what we have sown.

Jesus calls out a wicked generation.
Formerly blind people walked unaided in public places, as recently dumb people sang as loudly as they could through their day. People once crippled danced to their music, and cleansed lepers walked freely among the population, all because of Jesus. Amazingly, skeptics still questioned the truth about Jesus.

At least one woman showed some gratitude by yelling a blessing on Jesus’ mother, Mary. It was something, at least, but not at all what Jesus was going for. He wanted people to hear the Word of God and obey it.

“More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

It was no more, Rabbi-nice-guy. Jesus rebuked the skeptics and critics for their refusal to see the signs in front of them while calling upon Jesus for a sign to prove His Messiahship. He called upon characters from their history to shame them for their unbelief. In the process, He claimed to be One greater than Solomon—wiser than the wisest man, a greater king than the greatest king, and ruler of a greater Kingdom.

Light and Dark
It was a matter of light and darkness. The purpose of light is to push back darkness. Jesus used simple logic to speak of the consequences of belief. If one believes in light, he or she will have light only if he/she walks in that light. To hear the truth and then to ignore it, is no light at all; the result of such a life is to walk in darkness.

The Darkness of the Pharisees
A hapless Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. Perhaps he was expecting the gentle Jesus he had heard about, one who minded His manners when sitting at an enemy’s table. Was he surprised! When the Pharisee complained that Jesus had failed to wash His hands before dinner, Jesus explained the facts of life to the man.

  • You Pharisees clean only the outside, leaving the inside filthy.
  • You are careful to tithe worthless things while leaving the important things undone.
  • You parade your false spirituality in the synagogues and in the streets seeking your own glory not God’s.
  • You are like graves, full of death and corruption.
  • You lawyers burden the people with burdens you yourselves cannot carry.
  • You walk in the wickedness of your forebears who killed the prophets. You share in their bloodguilt.

Point by point, Jesus continued to indict the leaders as their anger against Him mounted. This was the road to Jerusalem, to judgment, to Calvary. His summation was explicit.

“…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Indeed, they loved darkness rather than light, regardless of the consequences.

Dark against the Light
There was no turning back. The leaders accepted the challenge of Jesus and cross-examined Him assailing Him with questions and accusations. They made records of His answers hoping to catch Him in some transgression worthy of death. As they brought their darkness to bear on the Light, they had no idea they were playing into His hands.

Scriptures:
Luke: 11:27-54

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Light of the World. You are the Light of my life. To see Your Light and walk in it is to fear no consequences. There is such darkness in this world, such deep darkness in the hearts of people. I want to be a Light-bearer! I want to carry Your Light with me today! May the shadows of shame flee before You. May the darkness of deceit retreat before the Light of Your truth. As Isaiah promised, deep darkness will cover the people but the Lord will shine upon His own! As I walk in the Light today, the consequences will be glory and blessing to those in my path! Amen.

Song:
Walking in the Light

Words and Music: Barney E. Warren

1. “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness,
But shall have the light, the light of life”;
Walking in His footsteps, pure and spotless,
We are fully saved from sinful strife.

Refrain:
Walking in the light, walking in the light,
Walking in the light, the light of God;
Walking in the light, walking in the light,
Walking in the light, the precious light of God.

2. “He that followeth Me shall have full assurance
That his sins are pardoned, every one”;
He shall have the knowledge of acceptance
In the Father’s well-beloved Son.

Refrain

3. “He that followeth Me shall conquer forever,
For I’ll interpose My grace and pow’r;
From My hand of strength there’s naught can sever,
If you will obey and trust each hour.”

Refrain

4. “He that followeth Me shall have peace and pleasure,
He that will reject My word shall fall;
I will freely give My hidden treasure
Unto those who hear and heed My call.”

Refrain

5. “He that followeth Me shall dwell safe in heaven,
And forever wear a starry crown;
But if you should die in sin’s dominion,
Awful fears of night will press you down.”
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 5 “Undivided”

Undivided

Jesus’ message was this: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
What was the nature of this Kingdom? Was it a fractured organization, like the kingdoms of men? Or, was there an undivided unity, unbreakable, insoluble, a living organism of power?

Jesus on Prayer
Dr. Luke describes a private session with the Twelve where Jesus repeated His instructions on prayer first given in the Sermon on the Mount. He again prescribes what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In this setting, Jesus went on to teach the necessity of unity of mind and purpose when we pray.

An undivided purpose will help us continue in prayer, even when answers are delayed. This purposeful repetition is based on the sterling character of God. Persistence in prayer will get the answer. Three steps unite the one praying in this persistence:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Great promises are given to those whose unity of purpose causes them to persist in prayer.

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

If even flawed earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children,

“…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Effective prayer comes from a unified, undivided heart full of confidence in the power and grace of God.

An old accusation returns.
The default position of the religious leaders who opposed Jesus to explain the power of Jesus over evil spirits was that He was secretly allied with them. Jesus and Satan were on the same side. Nonsense! But it was all they had.

Jesus cast a demon from a man who lost his powers of speech to the hellish invader. When suddenly the man could speak, the multitude marveled at the miracle. Then the powerless leaders accused Jesus of being in league with the devil. Jesus answered the tired charge:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

There was no answer to this, of course. So Jesus elaborated, unmasking a tactic of demonic activity—once expelled, a demon will return to their former host. If that soul is clean but empty, he and some friends move back in with even greater force.

The divided kingdom of priests, Levites, Pharisees, and Sadducees was no match for the undivided Kingdom of God.

“…if I cast out demons with the finger of God,
surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

When the Kingdom of God comes upon us, prayers are answered in response to our undivided, persistent prayers of faith. The Lord’s brother, James, who would pastor the Jerusalem church in the years to come, echoed the emphasis of Jesus on praying with an undivided heart. The man who prays from a divided mind will not see answers to his prayers. (James 1:5-8)

Beware of the Empty Heart
When we have been cleansed by Calvary’s stream, we must welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts to take up residence there. If we let our hearts run on empty, this is Satan’s opportunity. If we continually fill our hearts with the truth and presence of the Almighty, Satan will have no access to them.

Scriptures:
Luke: 11:1-26

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me an undivided heart! You are the Stronger Man! You guard my heart, keeping me from evil. With an undivided heart, I will pray. “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever! Amen.

Song:
We Are One in the Spirit

Traditional

We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity will this day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christian by our love.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 4 “Ministry”

Ministry

It would seem that something so simple as ministry would be easy to understand.
Really, ministry isn’t simple at all. It has many expressions, some of them obvious and some of them hidden. Jesus came to minister, to be sure, but He also came to receive ministry.

A Question from a Lawyer
In light of the amazing, multiplied success of the 70 disciples sent out to minister at the command of Jesus and in His name, a lawyer brought a question to Jesus.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus entertained his question, answering him with another question.

“What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

It was an exercise in the familiar. Everyone knew the answer. It was part of the morning prayer of every faithful Jew, the Shema: “Love God and love your neighbor.”

Jesus gave him an “A,” adding,

“…do this and you will live.”

The lawyer wouldn’t leave it there, and probably with a smirk, asked who his neighbor might be. Instead of answering directly, Jesus told a story, one of His best-known stories.

The Good Samaritan
Jesus invented the tale of a traveler who fell victim to robbers on a public highway. Bleeding on the side of the road, he was ignored by a priest and then by a Levite. The poor man was near to death when a Samaritan stopped to minister to him, dressing his wounds, providing new clothes, and even taking him to an inn for recovery. The Samaritan covered all the expenses and even left provision for the days to come. Then Jesus sprang the question: which one was the true neighbor? The answer was obvious. Before the lawyer could revise and extend his remarks, Jesus told him to live that kind of life.

“Go and do likewise.”

Mary and Martha
Near Jerusalem is the town of Bethany, the home of sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. This family regularly ministered to the needs of Jesus and His men. Dr. Luke tells of the beginning of this relationship. Martha welcomed Jesus into their home. She immediately set to work preparing a meal for this large group of hungry men. Hospitality was her gift but this assignment was beyond her normal responsibilities. Her sister, Mary, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and take in His every word.

Both Mary and Martha loved Jesus but in different ways. Both of them ministered to Jesus but in different ways. There was so much to do, Martha needed her sister’s help. When it was not forthcoming, she complained to Jesus and asked Him to command Mary to get up and get to the kitchen. Jesus’ answer to Martha’s complaint has mystified readers for centuries. He gently rebuked Martha and greatly commended Mary. In this answer, Jesus elevated worship above works. Yes, there was a dinner to prepare, but it could never be as nourishing as time spent with Jesus.

Worship before Works
May we never forget that time spent in the presence of Jesus is never time wasted. Yes, we must serve the Lord by ministering to the needs of others as the Good Samaritan did in the story. We must also learn to minister to the Lord with our praise and adoration. He does not need our worship but He certainly deserves it. It is also the key to our ministry to others for with His touch, we can really touch others in His name. We must, “Go and do likewise.”

Scriptures:
Luke: 10:25-42

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to walk this earth in Your compassion. May I never pass a hurting soul by when You have called me to be his neighbor. I want to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. May I learn to sit at Your feet, like Mary of Bethany so that my time in life’s kitchen, like Martha of Bethany, will count the most to ease the pain in this world. I want to minister to You and to minister to others in Your holy Name. Amen.

Song:
We Are Called

Words and Music: Steve Fry

1. We are called to be a royal priesthood That will minister to God
Declare the wisdom of His ways Exalt His character in praise
We are called to yield unto the Spirit That He may form in us
The beauty of the life of Jesus
We’re called to bear His presence And manifest His glory
Called to feel His heart And know authority

Refrain:
And give to Him undying devotion Our full adoration
That He may be pleased To set our hearts
On this one endeavor To worship forever His majesty

2. We are called to keep the Father’s word And meditate upon
The loveliness of Jesus Christ And offer praise our sacrifice
Our worship is responding To the revelations of His name
Bringing pleasure unto Him Whose heart is broken over sin
We’re called to yield our minds Our body soul and spirit
Worship Him the way He wants to hear it

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved