July 31, 2017 “Released!”

Released!

In the Synagogue
On a hot day in Nazareth, Jesus rose in the synagogue to read from Isaiah that the Messiah would do wonderful things. Among them, He would set at liberty those who are bruised, bound head, foot, and brain by sin. They would be released from this bondage.

Right hand—free! Left hand—free! Right foot—free! Left foot—free! Right brain—free! Left brain—free!

We were designed for independent movement in the complimentary spheres of our human bodies. When we are shackled in any of these ways:

  • Hands bound by cutting ropes,
  • Feet bound together in iron chains, or
  • The Brain frozen in place by icy lies and frigid philosophies,

the bondage seems not only wrong but unnecessary.

God did not give us two hands to have them tied. He did not equip us with two feet to see them chained together as one. He did not give us a mind that is both logical and creative for us to settle for truths that freeze the brain in place.

Contrary to Creation
To match these matching dual implements, He created within us a deep desire to touch things with both hands—to leave our unique fingerprints on the objects life presents us. He gave a desire to move, guiding our two feet in the paths we choose, those of righteousness or of iniquity. God gave us our two-phased brains—creative and logical—so that when reason is needed we can do that and when imagination is needed we can do that, too.

To be fully human is

  • To touch meaningfully,
  • To go purposefully, and
  • To think deeply.

The dangers that threaten the hands, the feet, and the mind are many and they lie in the path of iniquity.

  • We grasp and hold on to things that are destructive.
  • We go places where evil is celebrated and goodness is mocked.
  • We hold ideas—false logic and corrupt creativity—in our minds that take us down.

Bondage is the result:

  • Hands tied.
  • Feet shackled.
  • Mind frozen.

Jesus is the only Liberator.

  • His is the only one who can cut the ropes that tie us up.
  • He is the only Chain-breaker.
  • And only He has the warmth in His hot, healing blood to thaw the frozen brain gripped by lies so that His Passion and Reason can find residence there.

Salvation is the temporal restoration of the humanity sin has robbed from us. It is a foretaste of the New Creation to come. Through Jesus our hands are free to serve God and man. In Him our feet have been released to follow Him wherever he leads us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the Muse of Heaven, we can create. Through the Mind of Christ in us, we can see and understand the love, law, and logic of the Kingdom of God.

On a hot day in Nazareth, Jesus rose in the synagogue to read from Isaiah that the Messiah would do wonderful things. Among them, He would set at liberty those who are bruised, bound head, foot, and brain. They would be released from this bondage. He told His hometown worshipers, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

We are free to worship God!

Scriptures:
Psalm 142
I cry to the Lord with my voice; to the Lord I make loud supplication. I pour out my complaint before him and tell him all my trouble. When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me. I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me. I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; save me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; when you have dealt bountifully with me, the righteous will gather around me.
Luke 4:16-21
He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Psalm 102:18-22 NIV
Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my Deliverer! You snapped the shackles that bound and bruised my hands. You broke the irons that bound my feet. You cleansed my confused mind, releasing my reason and creativity. Your Spirit is a liberating force setting me free to love and serve You all my days—including this one! “My chains are gone!” Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
Words and Music: John Newton / Chris Tomlin

1. Amazing grace How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m 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

Refrain:
My chains are gone. I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

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

Refrain

4. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine. Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 30, 2017 “Adorned”

Adorned

The Poet combines two words that do not, in our modern thinking, belong together.
They form a paradox:

“Holiness” and “Adorn.”

We think of adornments as decorations, surface improvements intended to enhance the appearance of something. Holiness is something deep and unseen.

  • Does holiness shine?
  • Does it sparkle?
  • What is its bling factor?

If the subject is your house or mine these terms do not go together.

  • What can we add to a home to tell the world that a husband and wife, still deeply in love and continuously faithful to each other, live inside?
  • Do the glittering ornaments on an artificial Christmas tree make it real?
  • Do the bright green plastic leaves give it life?
  • Beautiful jewels may highlight a beautiful face, but does that mean the heart is beautiful as well?

The Beauty of the House
How different is the House of God!

“…holiness adorns your house, O Lord…”

The beauty of the Kingdom of God is the beauty of the King Himself—the beauty of holiness! This is gold tried in the fire. This is the beautiful Rose of Sharon shining in the sun. This is the Day Star from on High, the Bright and Morning Star. This is the constant dawning of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.

It is in the beauty of this Holiness that we are commanded to worship.
This is not a decoration. It is a deep condition of the soul—our whole being. When the world hears the church singing the praises of God, there is more to hear than music. There is a note that only sounds in the redeemed human heart. The world can sense this spiritual adornment but cannot understand it or its source—the absolute purity of the heart of God! Untouched by sin, there is no dissonance without resolution in the music of the holy. The dissonance of Calvary was resolved at the Empty Tomb.

The Beauty of the Dove
The strength of God is seen as the dove—a primary symbol of the Holy Spirit. The two covenantal shifts between the Old and the New Covenants are the true forgiveness of sins and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer.

The Bible explains to us that the Spirit of God speaks to the human spirit. This is the source of the universal longing for beauty—for adornment that is more than outward decoration. We long to observe beauty through our five senses and also to sense that authentic, inner beauty of holiness.

Worship is all about this sixth sense of the holy.

The Brooding Dove of the Spirit
So as the Dove broods over our hearts, those who can sing and make music must sing and make holy music. Those who can write must find pen and paper, their hearts “stirred by a noble theme.” Artists and art lovers must bring the inner beauty of Christ inside out into the open to be seen, heard, and felt by others.

The Beauty of Holiness is no veneer, pretty on the outside but cheap on the inside. It is no shiny decoration that glitters but is not gold. It is the splendor of a God who is good and whose mercy endures to our generation expressed in the works of the hands and hearts of those who worship Him.

The arts of True Worship, adorn the Father’s House with the beauty of Holiness.

Scriptures:
Psalm 93
The Lord is King; he has put on splendid apparel; the Lord has put on his apparel
and girded himself with strength. He has made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved; Ever since the world began, your throne has been established; you are from everlasting. The waters have lifted up, O Lord, the waters have lifted up their voice; the waters have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the sound of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, mightier is the Lord who dwells on high. Your testimonies are very sure, and holiness adorns your house, O Lord, forever and for evermore.
2 Chronicles 20:21 NKJV
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord , and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 29:1-2 NKJV
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 45:1 NIV
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
1 Peter 3:3-5 NKJV
Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, what a wonder You are! You are the object of our worship today, the content of our liturgy, the passion of our souls. I will lift my voice with the People of God in the Sanctuary of God for it is our chief purpose in life. One day all the work of the ministry to mankind will be done—no more sermons to preach, to more hurting souls to touch—but in that golden day we will still be occupied with the ministry of worship. Eternity must expand forever because we, the church and the hosts of heaven have so much worship to bring to Your Holy Name—Jesus! This is the holiness that adorns Your house. Amen and forever Amen!

Song:
O Lord, You’re Beautiful
Words and Music: Keith Green

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful.
Your face is all I seek.
For when Your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.

I want to take Your word and shine it all around.
But first help me to just, live it Lord.
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown,
For my reward is giving glory to You.

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear.
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear.

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek.
For when Your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 29, 2017 “Until”

Until

We’ve all been there. A question lingers without an answer.
It is an important issue as yet unresolved. Every clock we see tells us the same time—until. Not yet. Someday, but probably not today. The question will be answered, sometime. The issue will be settled, perhaps soon. Until then…Wait. Be patient. Have faith.

The Poet faces a common question—

why do the heathen prosper while the righteous suffer?

We’ve all been there, too, if we are honest.

Life isn’t fair.
It is a strange irony that we have been given an inborn sense of fairness and yet we must learn early on that life isn’t fair. As children we were shocked by this. After all we were the center of the universe so why shouldn’t things go our way? We spend the rest of our lives sorting out the details of what we deserve, of what we expect compared to what we actually get. Scorekeepers we are until—until we learn not to keep score.

Keeping Score
Hear the words of the Poet:

“I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked…”

Words written so long ago ring with resonance today because life isn’t fair. To be sure each way of life has a trajectory—an ultimate destination.

  • The Bible predicts and careful observation reveals that the selfish, self-centered, self-actualized life of the one who doesn’t follow Jesus is a downward spiral leading to death no matter how well one lives and to emptiness no matter how much one accumulates.
  • Also, the Bible predicts and careful observation reveals that the faithful life of the Christ-follower leads to life everlasting and fullness no matter how sparse the life here and now may be.

The score cannot be kept by human standards of momentary measures. Only eternity will balance the scales. The Kingdom that is coming will be one that is fair to behold and fair in all things else.

Like the ancient Poet, we must deal with the “until…”

“When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me…
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.”

The Worship Lifestyle
Life is not only unfair, it can be confusing if we fail to worship God every day and every week. Paul recommends a lifestyle of worship—the presentation of our whole lives to God as a “service of spiritual worship.” The Apostle makes an astounding promise—to worship God renews the mind!

  • Until we know the answers, we will worship.
  • Until we see the resolution, we resolve to worship.
  • Until we have peace over the conflict, we will do warfare in worship.
  • Until we reach the end of our time on this earth, we will prioritize the Presence of God.
  • Until Jesus returns for His Church, we will make sure His House remains a house of worship.
    Until then we can agree with the Poet:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
and having you I desire nothing upon earth.
Though my flesh and my heart should waste away,
God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Scriptures:
Psalm 73
Truly, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; Because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: For they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; In the misfortunes of others they have no share; they are not afflicted as others are; Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak. Their iniquity comes from gross minds, and their hearts overflow with wicked thoughts. They scoff and speak maliciously; out of their haughtiness they plan oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their evil speech runs through the world. And so the people turn to them and find in them no fault. They say, “How should God know? is there knowledge in the Most High?” So then, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase their wealth. In vain have I kept my heart clean, and washed my hands in innocence. I have been afflicted all day long, and punished every morning. Had I gone on speaking this way, I should have betrayed the generation of your children. When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; Until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked. Surely, you set them in slippery places; you cast them down in ruin. Oh, how suddenly do they come to destruction, come to an end, and perish from terror! Like a dream when one awakens, O Lord, when you arise you will make their image vanish. When my mind became embittered, I was sorely wounded in my heart. I was stupid and had no understanding; I was like a brute beast in your presence. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You will guide me by your counsel, and afterwards receive me with glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? and having you I desire nothing upon earth. Though my flesh and my heart should waste away, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Truly, those who forsake you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful. But it is good for me to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge. I will speak of all your works in the gates of the city of Zion.
Romans 12:1-2 AMP
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my Hope and my Friend! It is true that some things in my life are stored in the container labeled “Until.” I will leave these things undisturbed for now. Today I will walk in the path I see, one illumined by Your light, my steps made clear by the lamp of Your truth. These occupations are enough to keep me occupied—until—You return for me! If the grave is my destiny, only my body will enter there; my hope will be Your presence, Your peace, Your mansion made to my specifications. Until then with joy I’ll carry on! Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
Until Then
Words and Music: Stuart Hamlin

1. My heart can sing when I pause to remember
A heartache here is but a stepping stone
Along a trail that’s winding always upward,
This troubled world is not my final home.

Refrain:
But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.

2. The things of earth will dim and lose their value
If we recall they’re borrowed for a while;
And things of earth that cause the heart to tremble,
Remembered there will only bring a smile.

Refrain

3. This weary world with all its toil and struggle
May take its toll of misery and strife;
The soul of man is like a waiting falcon;
When it’s released, it’s destined for the skies.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 28, 2017 “Dragons”

Dragons

Poets are known to exaggerate for effect.
They even have a word for their exaggeration that seems to legitimize it a little bit, “hyperbole.” Definition:

Hyperbole is a figure of speech…in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect;
an extravagant statement…”

Dragons are a prime example of the vivid imaginations of people through the centuries. All of the common fears of society were rolled into the idea of an evil creature out there in the dark. The dragon was neither reptile, bird, nor lion but seemed to be all of them at once. The dragon lived on the land, in the water, and it flew through the air. Its breath contained two deadly elements: fire and disease. The flight of the dragon through the night could blight the land and contaminate the rivers and lakes.

Poets took up the tale and sang songs of terror to entertain their audiences in lamp-lit inns and around campfires in the dark, disturbing woods.

St. George and the Dragon
The most famous of these tales is “St. George and the Dragon,” an ancient legend brought to England by Medieval Crusaders. The pagan king in a far-off land and his people were terrified by a plague-breathing dragon in a lake. The dragon demanded sacrifices to refrain from destroying the kingdom. At first it was sheep and then the demanded sacrifice was the children of the Kingdom, chosen by lot. When the lot fell on the King’s daughter, she was taken to the lake. St. George was passing by. He made the sign of the Cross and struck the dragon, taming it and putting a leash on it the girl used to lead the dragon to the King. Before the King, St. George advised the people to convert to Christianity. They did and he killed the dragon. At the site of the slaying a spring started flowing. It was a healing stream.

Message: We have a Champion who has killed the beast.
St. George is the Patron Saint of England; his sword was called “Ascalon.” Winston Churchill used this name for his personal aircraft in WW2.

The biblical Poet engaged in this same hyperbole:

“You divided the sea by your might and shattered the heads of the dragons upon the waters.”

The Bible is not promoting a belief in dragons; the Poet is extoling the victories of God.

Dragons are a metaphor for our fears—those undetected beasts of the night and those predators lying in wait in tomorrow’s high grasses. Our enemies fly in the skies, swim in the seas, and lurk in the shadows. We need a champion—a brave knight who is more than a match for any dragon. We need a God who commands the seas and the skies and the rivers and the mountains, plains, hills and deserts.

We still need a Champion.
Like St. George, we make the sign of the Cross—that is—we commit our lives to Christ! When we do, he tames any dragon who would dare oppose us and he lends us His mighty sword. He is the One who met the dangers we face and disarmed them. The darkness holds no terrors. The high weeds shield no predator. The skies are clear to be enjoyed. The water supply is rich in its healing flow and the breath we breathe is the breath of God.

Poets are known to exaggerate for effect. St. George and his dragon is not history—it is hyperbole. The victory of Christ over Satan is not hyperbole—it is accomplished fact.

Scriptures:
Psalm 74
… God is my King from ancient times, victorious in the midst of the earth. You divided the sea by your might and shattered the heads of the dragons upon the waters; You crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him to the people of the desert for food. You split open spring and torrent; you dried up ever-flowing rivers. Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun. You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. … Arise, O God, maintain your cause…
Colossians 2:13-15 NIV
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NIV
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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.
1 John 5:1-5 NIV
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my Champion, I will fear no dragon, no hyperbolic imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of You. Your sword is mighty and unblemished by combat. Your shield shines with use against the fiery darts of the enemy. Your breastplate keeps my heart safe in me while danger dances around me in the dark. The helmet of Your Salvation guards my mind; no concussion of confusion will rattle my brain. Your righteousness is my belt and Your Spirit is my preparation. Lead on, O King eternal! No dragons will I fear today! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Victor’s Crown
Words and Music: Rob Packer

You have won the Victor’s Crown.
You have triumphed over sin and death.
Your name is lifted high and rings through all the earth.
Ev’ry demon spirit of hell trembles when your mighty name is heard.
And we, Your church proclaim Your vict’ry in the world.

O, the glory of Your name, the splendor of Your name,
And none can compare with the power of that name!
You are Jesus! You are Lord! You are God!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 27, 2017 “Hills”

Hills

We build castles and forts on mountains. On hills, we build farm houses and barns.
This is the relationship the Poet describes in reference to the nation’s King:

That he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice.
and the little hills bring righteousness.

Metaphorically, mountains represent big ideas while hills represent the daily truths that occupy the details of our lives. It is said that we cannot live on the mountaintop and to a great extent it is true. Mountaintops are for pilgrimage and recreation and are useful when elevation is needed to see what is in the distance.

We come home from the mountaintop to dwell among the hills. Keeping the mountain in view through the bedroom window, we can rest in our hilltop home, secure and safe with all we own within easy reach.

The rule of our King is equally strong on the mountains as on the hills.

The Mountains
The righteousness of God is a mighty mountain, eternal—He has never been anything except righteous—and impervious to the erosive effects of time. It is the theme of worship in both the Old and the New Covenants—God is good and His mercy endures to all generations!

God’s love and His mercy form a mountain range of protection around those in Covenant with Him. No enemy can cross these mountains at any point. Out hilltop dwellings are safe in the shadow of the Almighty.

The truth of God is the highest peak of all. From the lofty heights of the Word of God we can clearly see to each horizon. We gain a perspective on the smaller issues somewhere down the mountainside that we could never see from the trails going up or down.

The Hills
Justice is the joy of the hills—truth, love, mercy, and righteousness at work in our homes and businesses.

It takes all the mountains to produce justice on the hills. Justice without mercy would not be loving. Mercy without truth would not be just. If these things are not all in order all at once the hills would not be safe for houses and barns.

Here is the redeeming order:

  • It is true that we have sinned.
  • It is also true that God made us and loves us.
  • In His mercy He sent His Son to bear our sins far away.
  • The righteousness of Christ has been credited to our record and the case is closed.
  • We have been justified by the Love of God in Christ Jesus!

We are free to build our lives on the gentle hills of daily discipline and obedience, praise and prayer, and with skillful hands and hearts.

In the shadow of the King’s Castle on the friendly mountain, we can till the fields on the hills, tend our flocks in the broad pastures, and rest each night in perfect peace in our hilltop homes.

Scriptures:
Psalm 72
Give the King your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the King’s Son; That he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice. That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, and the little hills bring righteousness. He shall defend the needy among the people; he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor. He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another. He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth. In his time shall the righteous flourish; there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. His foes shall bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts. All kings shall bow down before him, and all the nations do him service. For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper. He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy. He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight. Long may he live! and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; may prayer be made for him always, and may they bless him all the day long. May there be abundance of grain on the earth, growing thick even on the hilltops; may its fruit flourish like Lebanon, and its grain like grass upon the earth. May his Name remain forever and be established as long as the sun endures; may all the nations bless themselves in him and call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous deeds! And blessed be his glorious Name forever! and may all the earth be filled with his glory. Amen. Amen.
Psalm 72:1-4;16 NIV
Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor. …Let grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway.
Isaiah 55:12-13 NIV
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord ‘s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”
Amos 5:24 NIV
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the mountains, the towering truths that do not change. Thank You for four horizons lined with these comforting peaks. Thank You also, the hills, these present blessings that make up my life: home, family, work, prayer, health, and hope among so many others. Because You are the author of it, my life is multi-dimensional, mountains and hills and streams in the valleys, constant health from Your hand. Thank You, Jesus.

Song:
Peace in the Valley
Words and Music: Thomas A. Dorsey

1. Well, I’m tired and so weary
But I must go along
Till the Lord comes and calls me away
Where the morning’s so bright
And the Lamb is the light
And the night, night is as fair as the day.

Refrain:
There will be peace in the valley For me some day
There will be peace in the valley
For me, Oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness
No sorrow, no trouble I see
There will be peace In the valley for me.

2. Well, the flowers will be blooming
And the grass will be green
And the skies will be clear and serene
Where the sun ever beams
In this valley of dreams
And no cloud will be seen.

Refrain

3. Well, the bear will be gentle
And the wolf will be tame
And the lion shall lay down By the lamb, oh yes.
And the beasts from the wild Shall be led by a child
And I’ll be changed,
Changed from this creature that I am.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 26, 2017 “Sinai”

Sinai

When God visits the earth, creation responds. It was so at Mt. Sinai.
One hundred fifty miles and three months out of Egypt, through the Sea and into a wilderness called Sinai, which some scholars think means the “Wilderness of Sin,” or perhaps the “shining moon god,” the Israelites camped for a year at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

It was a year of adjustment.

  • They were people who had been ruled faced now with learning to rule themselves in covenant with God.
  • They were slaves learning to breathe free.
  • They were household servants now living in tents, homeless, but free.
  • They were normal human beings who had witnessed the acts of their supernatural God.
  • They were people whose status quo was gone and whatever was next was not yet revealed, and
  • they were travelers sitting still with a homeland none had ever seen shining like a mirage on the horizon.

It was a year of God’s faithfulness:

  • When they needed food it rained from heaven or flew in belt-high.
  • When they needed water it flowed from a rock, stricken at the Lord’s command.
  • When they were attacked by the Amalekites, God gave them victory through Joshua, a foretaste of their covenantal future.
  • When they murmured in their tents, God gave them Moses, a leader who was also an intercessor.

The Shadow of Sinai
They saw the seasons of the year march onto and off of the huge mountain of Sinai. As the sun ran its course each day changing the seasons, the shadow of Sinai passed over them. Soon it was all routine, the new normal, and the people began to complain—Egypt was better than this.

Moses was the most anxious of all the Israelites. He was the one to handle the complainers and to answer the question, “Now what?” His only answer was to wait.

Then God touched the mountain.
There was lightning, thunder, smoke, and a roar from the mountain. This was no natural storm, stuck on the heights of Sinai; this was the same presence of God that had ruined Egypt. This was the force that split the Red Sea. It was the source of their daily manna and the refreshing water from the rock. Their God was back and He wanted something.

What did Jehovah want? He wanted them. He wanted them to love Him, depend on Him, listen to Him, learn His ways but their hearts were as hard as Pharaoh’s heart had been. The sin that dwelt there separated them from their God.

God came to Sinai with a plan, a plan of redemption through which the people could commune with Him daily. It was an earthly copy of His Heavenly Throne room, His dwelling and ruling place. He would take up residence with them, not just with them, but in them, in the very center of them. They would be His People and He would be their God. They would be a Kingdom of Priests to the rest of the world.

The Blueprint
God knew what no one else knew—this plan of worship, this blood covenant would be a blueprint for a better covenant to come, a covenant in the Holy Blood of Jesus. No wonder the mountain trembled and smoked. No wonder lightning walked the heights and thunder rolled down the mountain into the plain below.

When God visits the earth, creation responds. It was so at Mt. Sinai—and at Mt. Calvary.

Scriptures:
Psalm 68
Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him. … God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom; but the rebels shall live in dry places. O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, and the skies poured down rain, at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel. … the Lord will dwell there forever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; the Lord comes in holiness from Sinai. …They see your procession, O God, your procession into the sanctuary, my God and my King. The singers go before, musicians follow after, in the midst of maidens playing upon the hand-drums. Bless God in the congregation; bless the Lord, you that are of the fountain of Israel. … Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord. He rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God; his majesty is over Israel; his strength is in the skies. How wonderful is God in his holy places! the God of Israel giving strength and power to his people! Blessed be God! your praise from age to age.
Exodus 19:1-19 NIV
In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt — on the very day — they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ … On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
Exodus24:15-18 NIV
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Hebrews 8:5; 12:18-22 NIV
They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never let me stray from the mountain! You touched Mt. Sinai and it trembled, just as I did when You touched me. You gave Your life on Mt. Calvary and that is where I found new life. You dwell at the summit of Mt. Zion, Your ruling place; my destination when I worship You in Spirit and in Truth. In truth, though different locations on earth and in heaven, these mountains are really one in the same: the Mountain of Your Great Love. Lord, do not let me stray from the mountain! Amen.

Song:
See His Glory
Words and Music: Rich Cook

See His glory; see His glory.
See His glory come down.
Praise His name. Heaven Reigns!
See His glory come down.
See His glory come down.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 25, 2017 “Satisfied”

Satisfied

Hunger drove the multitude to wilderness and there, in the presence of Jesus, they were satisfied. In the beginning, food was not the object of their quest—they wanted more of what this man Jesus seemed to have. They were the children of Abraham in covenant with Jehovah God yet the lives they led were markedly different from the lives their religious heroes had led. God’s record was wonderful—He:

  • freed their forefathers from Egyptian bondage and opened the sea for them with Moses,
  • made the Jordan pile up in a heap for the people with Joshua, and He
  • made the walls of a hostile city crumble at the sound of trumpets.

Why weren’t these Romans added to this list of nations subdued by the hand of God?

It is true the fathers had failed to live up to the covenant, chasing the nasty little gods of the nations and neglecting the True Worship of the One True God. It is also true that God had punished them with captivity. But He had then restored them to the land. Things were different now. Unbroken worship in the second Temple and now in this new one Herod had built was their record now—so why were they still in bondage?

God had promised a Messiah to be their deliverer—was this man Jesus, the One? He worked miracles and taught of a higher Kingdom, just beyond the reach of their minds. This deep, spiritual hunger preceded their need for food and sent them deep into the wilderness and late into the day.

As if descending from a mountain of hope to a valley of hunger the multitude (by count, five thousand men along with women and children) realized that they were in trouble. To me, they were a metaphor for the nation of Israel—hungry for God yet surrounded by a hostile wilderness populated by enemies and corrupt in the heart.

Jesus is the master of the crisis; feeding a multitude was no challenge for Him. He did not need help or advice but he asked His disciples what to do. The best they could produce was a little 1st Century Boy Scout who came prepared with lunch for one. Five lumps of bread and two fresh(?) fish were enough for Jesus.

When all was done,

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls
broken pieces that were left over.”

Today this miracle still feeds our hopes, as if those baskets of leftover bread and fish were still being passed among us. Life does not have to be an endless hunger. Satisfaction eludes us only when we follow the wrong crowds to the wrong meetings to the wrong source. When we follow Jesus, our hunger can be assuaged and our thirst can be slaked—He is the One who satisfies.

The Poet provides us with two items on the menu:

“The beauty of Your house,” and, “the holiness of Your Temple.”

The human heart hungers for beauty as much as for meat and drink.

  • When we see the world as God’s Creation, His “House,” we have a constant source of context for the beauty around us.
  • The human spirit hungers for holiness—the nearness of God, the purity of His character, the safety of His name.

Hunger drives the multitudes today and of wildernesses there are many. Those who follow Jesus and linger in His presence—where beauty and holiness abound—are those who are satisfied.

Scriptures:
Psalm 65
You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem. To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, because of their transgressions. Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away. You make fast the mountains by your power; they are girded about with might. You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples. Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy. You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; the river of God is full of water. You prepare the grain, for so you provide for the earth. You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase. You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty. May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, and the hills be clothed with joy. May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; let them shout for joy and sing.
Matthew 14:15-21 NIV
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 5:6 NIV
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is a hollowness in me, a void so large only You can fill it. Forgive me for all the times when I have turned away from the table You have spread for me in the presence of my enemies. Sometimes a little taste of Your provision is so sweet that I fail to take in all that You are giving out. The little boy’s lunch is multiplied in Your hands and under the power of Your blessing to become all that I need today. But this day will consume all of this day’s repast so that tonight, and certainly tomorrow, I will be empty again. Only when I turn to you with my hand outstretched will I be satisfied on this wilderness journey. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Come and Dine
Words and Music C.B. Widmeyer and S.H. Bolton

1. Jesus has a table spread where the saints of God is fed,
He invites His chosen people, “Come and dine;”
With His manna He doth feed, And supplies our every need:
O ‘tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!

Refrain:
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine;”
You may feast at Jesus’s table all the time;
He who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine!”

2. The disciples came to land, thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called to them, “Come and dine;”
There they found their hearts’ desire, bread and fish upon the fire,
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time.

Refrain

3. Soon the Lamb will take His bride to be ever at His side;
All the hosts of heaven will assembled be;
O, ‘Twill be a glorious sight, all the saints in spotless white;
And with Jesus they will feast eternally.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 24, 2017 “Press”

Press

Divine guidance brings with it certain sensations.
An unseen but tangible hand presses the small of our back to keep us going. Two unseen hands equally tangible throw us a “stop sign,” like a third base coach to a runner who wants to score, and stops us in our tracks.

Divine guidance: Sometimes a hand from the back pressing us forward and at other times a hand in the front telling us to slow down or even to stop.

The Poet says it this way:

“You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.”

The NIV translates the verse like this:

You hem me in — behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Psalm 139:5-6

These hands that hem us in are gentle hands, the hands of our best best Friend. There is wisdom here that sees beyond the obvious and knows what lies around the next curve in the road.

A Hand on Our Back
All of us need a push from time to time. Like a parachutist on his/her first jump we freeze in the door of the plane. Our Instructor pushes out into the freefall of faith, a sensation we could never feel in the safety of the aircraft and an on-rushing vision of creation we could never have seen through any window.

When the Lord tells us to do something, there is a natural hesitation to obey. This is good. We are warned in the Scripture to count the cost before beginning a new enterprise. It is proper to think things through, to plan, to gather resources and information and to build a team. Sometimes such careful analysis can lead to careless paralysis. At this point we feel that welcomed push in the small of our back, the gentle hand of a Savior leading us to greatness—and not just any greatness—but greatness in His eyes.

A Hand before Us
There is this thing in life called momentum and it must be accounted for. It is closely related to its cousin, inertia—the resistance to a change in motion. These things are of this world, a part of God’s creation. As hard as it is to get something rolling, if gravity and inertia get hold of it, it can be even more difficult to stop or even slow down. Just as that beginning parachutist needs the nudge from the back, he/she also needs the braking power of the chute itself!

Too many well-intentioned souls have crashed to the ground when momentum carried them through a stop sign. When that runner in baseball rounds third base to head for home plate, if he runs through the two-handed stop sign of the third base coach and he is called out at the plate, not only has he made an out, he is in big trouble with the team. The coach and the whole team can see the whole play in the field the runner cannot see. And so it is with the Christ-follower who does not slow down or stop when the hands in front give the sign. He knows when it is time to score and when it is time to slide safely into third base, 90 feet away from home.

We can rejoice with the touch of the Master’s hands on our backs to get us going and keep us on track and in front of us to slow us down when disaster looms. Loving hands are these and wise, hands to be trusted to guide us safely home.

Scriptures:
Psalm 139
Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them. How deep I find your thoughts, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.… Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, that You for Your guiding hand. When I drift off course, even when I don’t know it, I feel Your hand edging me back to the proper coordinates. If during the course of this day, I wander to the left or the right, I know I can count on your guiding hand. If I get ahead of myself or of Your plan, hold me back! Your hands are gentle and firm and loving. I am so grateful that You have “hemmed me in behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” Thank You, Lord!

Song:
I’ll Go where You Want Me to Go
Words and Music: Mary Brown

1. It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Yours,
I’ll go where You want me to go.

Refrain:
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

2. Perhaps today there are loving words which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin, some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if You will be my Guide, though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.

Refrain

3. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide,
Where I may labor through life’s short day for Jesus, the Crucified.
So, trusting my all unto Your care, I know You always love me!
I’ll do Your will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 23, 2017 “Gates”

Gates

Ancient Gates
Ancient cities crumbled into ruins with their ancient gates still standing guard, the only remaining testament to the greatness of the city. It requires little imagination to stand under the naked arch of an ancient gateway and visualize the traffic that once crowded through the fortified entrance to the city. With the sunrise the gates were opened to commerce and soon after dark they were closed to danger. High walls protected against the enemies, real and imagined, out there somewhere in the dark who wanted the city and all it contained for themselves.

Gates, themselves, were keepers. They kept people and things out and they kept them in. Important zones were protected by gates. They opened for the right people and closed to the wrong people. Gates were strong points made even stronger by the gatekeepers stationed near them to man the mechanisms that made the gates operate. Armed soldiers patrolled the approaches to the gates, inside and out, ever on the alert for the saboteur or the spy. Lookouts manned the heights above the gates to scan the horizon for enemies who might try to violate the security of the city.

Contemporary Gates
There are real gates, still today. Adjacent countries have borders with armed guards at the check points. These are the gates—of entrance and exit points for the neighboring citizens.

As metaphors, gates are even more numerous. There are behaviors, compromises, substances, and seeming innocent images or presentations that can all act as gateways to sin, disease, and addiction. As we walk the Path of Life, the Spirit warns us where to step, which fork in the path to take, and with whom we should choose to walk.

Ancient Gates Still in Power
The good news is that there are still Ancient Gates guarding significant places. The Poet reveals them to us:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Ps 100:4 NIV

“His gates” means that God has gates. There is a way to approach Him and a way not to approach Him. Three words describe “His Gates:”

  • Gratitude,
  • Praise, and
  • Humility.

We should approach the Gates of His presence with thanksgiving and praise springing from a humble heart. Pride and self-centeredness will close the Gates to us.

When we gather to worship, our greatest desire should be to see these Holy, ancient doors open in response to our thanksgiving and praise. Why? Because above all other considerations, we need for the King of Glory to come in! He is the answer to all the world’s problems from the most private pain to the most public pandemic. If we are faithful to tend His Gates, if we guard the City of God from lesser, frivolous pursuits in public worship, if we lift up our heads, these organs of speech designed in Eden for the praise of Heaven, The Lord Will Come In!

And He will make all the difference.

Scriptures:
Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein. For it is he who founded it upon the seas and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep. “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? and who can stand in his holy place?” “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who have not pledged themselves to falsehood, nor sworn by what is a fraud. They shall receive a blessing from the Lord and a just reward from the God of their salvation.” Such is the generation of those who seek him, of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, O gates; lift them high, O everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. “Who is this King of glory?” “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.” Lift up your heads, O gates; lift them high, O everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. “Who is he, this King of glory?” “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”
1 Peter 5:5-7 NIV
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Psalm 51:17 NIV
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Isaiah 57:14-15; 66:1-2
And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Psalm 84:10 AMP
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I would rather be a doorkeeper and stand at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell [at ease] in the tents of wickedness.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Today I will process with the People of God through the ancient Gates of Thanksgiving. I will lift my voice in the Courts of Praise. I will bow at the Altar of Repentance in deep humility. In the midst of the congregation I will enter the Most Holy Place to pray and hear Your Word in the light and power of the Holy Spirit. Then we, the saints and I, will pass through the Riven Veil to wait before Your Holiness. You will meet my every need, here at the summit of Mt. Zion. How is all this my destiny? Because when we, the church, lift up the ancient Gates of Praise, You, the King of Glory, came in! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Jesus, We Crown You King
Words and Music: Stephen Phifer

1. Jesus, we crown You the King of all kings.
Jesus, we crown You the King of all kings.
You’re the joy of all Creation, make the morning stars to sing!
Jesus, we crown You, Lord, We exalt You.
Jesus, we crown You the King of kings.

2. Jesus, we crown You the Lord of all lords.
Jesus, we crown You the Lord of all lords.
On a thrown of greatest splendor You are worshiped and adored!
Jesus, we crown You, Lord, We exalt You.
Jesus, we crown You the Lord of Lords.

3. Jesus we crown you the Prince of all Peace.
Jesus we crown you the Prince of all Peace.
For You ride on every tempest, make the wildest storm to cease!
Jesus, we crown You, Lord, We exalt You.
Jesus, we crown You the Prince of Peace.

King of kings, Lord of lords. Prince of Peace, Mighty God
We crown now, as we sing. Jesus we crown You King of kings!

You’re the joy of all Creation, make the morning stars to sing!
Jesus, we crown You, Lord, We exalt You.
Jesus, we crown You the King of kings.
King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of Pease,
Mighty God! King of kings!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 22, 2017 “Muzzled”

Muzzled

The Holy Ghost muzzle is a grace, not a punishment.
We all need it from time to time. No exceptions. The Poet says,

“I will put a muzzle on my mouth while the wicked are in my presence.”

I had a beagle named Bailey.
He was my pal. Every night when we let him out before bedtime, he would station himself in the backyard to warn the neighborhood of some danger only he could sense. A full moon really set him off. I am sure the neighbors would have gladly supplied us with a muzzle for Him.

There isn’t another reason I can think of to muzzle a beagle; they are such gentle and playful dogs. They were, however, designed to make noise, to bay and howl on the trail of a rabbit and to warn of the approach of an intruder. He was a little dog but his “big dog bark” was impressive.

We also may be gentle souls; dutifully saved by grace and full of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. We can also, however, be noisy. Not everything that runs through our minds need to flow out of our mouths.

Edit yourself!
In simple words we need to watch what we say and sometimes shouldn’t say anything at all.
The metaphor for speech often used in the Bible is the tongue. James, the Lord’s brother, has the most to say on the subject

  •  “Keep a tight rein” on the tongue
  • “It makes great boasts,”
  • “Is also a fire,” and finally,
  • “No man can tame” it.

So, how do we know what to say? The answer is simple—edit yourself! Think before your speak. Ask questions like:

  • Is this true or false?
  • Is this helpful or hurtful?
  • Is this private or public?
  • Is this any of my business?
  • Where will this lead the conversation?

Another question is: when do we speak and when do we keep silent?

  • When saying something is kind, we should speak.
  • When saying nothing is kind, we should not speak.
  • When something must be said, we should speak.
  • When nothing needs to be said, we should not speak.

King Solomon proved this wisdom:

Eccl 3:1-8 NIV
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…
a time to be silent and a time to speak…

When it is time to speak we need the boldness of the Holy Spirit and when it is time to be silent we need the Holy Spirit’s muzzle.

The Holy Ghost muzzle is a grace, not a punishment. We all need it from time to time.

No exceptions.

Scriptures:
Psalm 39
I said, “I will keep watch upon my ways, so that I do not offend with my tongue. I will put a muzzle on my mouth while the wicked are in my presence.” So I held my tongue and said nothing; I refrained from rash words; but my pain became unbearable. My heart was hot within me; while I pondered, the fire burst into flame; I spoke out with my tongue: Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days, so that I may know how short my life is. You have given me a mere handful of days, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight; truly, even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind. We walk about like a shadow, and in vain we are in turmoil; we heap up riches and cannot tell who will gather them. And now, what is my hope? O Lord, my hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions and do not make me the taunt of the fool. I fell silent and did not open my mouth, for surely it was you that did it. Take your affliction from me; I am worn down by the blows of your hand. With rebukes for sin you punish us; like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us; truly, everyone is but a puff of wind. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears. For I am but a sojourner with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were. Turn your gaze from me, that I may be glad again, before I go my way and am no more.
James 1:26-27; 3:3-12
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
1 Peter 3:8-12 NIV
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 2:15-16 NIV
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me speak when it is time to speak and give me the words to say. Help me to hold my tongue when there is nothing right to say. Let my words be measured in grace. Help be speak the truth in love and never in hate or prejudice or petty nonsense. Somehow, may others hear Your voice in the sound of my voice. Let me speak peace and healing, comfort and challenge—just the things that need to be said! And, Lord, help me to really listen to others! Amen.

Song:
Be Still My Soul
Words and Music: Don Moen

Be still my soul. Be still my soul.
Cease from the labor and the toil.
Refreshing springs of peace await
The 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.

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.

Be still, be still my soul

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved