May 31, 2018 “Risen!”

Risen!

Usually burial gardens were peaceful, uneventful places. Not that night.
The scribes and Pharisees remembered Jesus’ promise to rise again on the third day. At their insistence, Pilate ordered a Roman seal for the stone and a squad of soldiers to stand watch. No one expected a resurrection; they were worried that the disciples might steal the body.

Two Women Named Mary
As dawn approached and Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary went to the tomb to continue burial preparations. Perhaps they expected the soldiers to give them access. As they approached in the predawn darkness the ground began to shake and smoke escaped along the edges of the stone. A powerful angel descended from heaven, broke the Roman seal, rolled the stone away and sat on it. The squad of Roman soldiers fainted as they had learned to march, all in perfect rhythm.

This was their second earthquake in the last 3 days but despite experience in such things, the two Mary’s were afraid. Over the sound of the sleeping soldiers, the angel addressed the women,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.”

How does a human mortal process such news:

  • Roman soldiers prostrate on the garden floor,
  • A mighty angel in shining raiment, sitting on the stone,
  • An open tomb with light and smoke dancing inside?

They were speechless and afraid. The angel went on,

“Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead…”

Though they wanted with all their hearts to look inside the tomb—was Jesus in there?—they obeyed and ran to find His disciples.

Alive Again!
As they hurried away, Jesus met them on the road. They fell at His feet and worshiped Him. He repeated the command of the angel and sent them on their way. How difficult it must have been to obey that command!

Back at the tomb, the soldiers began to wake up, each afraid to tell what had happened. A broken Roman seal was punishable by death. When they realized they shared the same experience, they appealed to the Jewish leaders for safety from their superiors. The Pharisees bribed them to change their story and offered to intercede for them if their officers questioned them.

With Jesus in Galilee
Jesus had instructed His men to assemble on a certain mountain in Galilee. With them, a host of followers gathered there. Jesus appeared to them and most of them believed. No one knows all the things He said to them there, but Matthew records these final words:

  • He claimed all authority in heaven and earth.
  • He commanded them to go into all the world, tell His story.
  • He instituted water baptism as a sign of the New Covenant.
  • He insisted that they study and remember His teachings.
  • He promised to be with them all the way to the end of the age.
  • They obeyed, and those who believed in Jesus obeyed and so on to this day.

He Is With Us
The Jesus Story lives on. No lies could taint its truth. No cross could kill it. No tomb could hold it. When people of all cultures hear it, it somehow makes sense to them and they believe it. Why? The Jesus Story lives on because Jesus lives on, in heaven, in the earth, and in our hearts.

Scriptures:
Matthew 27:22-66; 28:1-20
On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Chapter 28
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the absolute Victor! You have conquered all my enemies and opened up a new and living way for me to draw near to the heart of my Creator, my Father. Every day, I celebrate Your resurrection! The same Spirit that raised You from the dead, quickens my mortal life every moment of every day. I believe! I believe! I believe in You as my Savior, my Healer, my Baptizer with the Spirit and my Soon-coming King! I want to walk in love as You did, touching people in Your name! I will keep Your story in my heart and on my lips! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

Song:
I Love to Tell the Story
Words: Kate Hankey and William F. Fischer; Music William H. Doane

1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

Refrain:
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

2. I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word.

Refrain

3. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest.
And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 31, 2018: “Forgiven”

Forgiven

Unbelievably, when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, we are actually forgiven!
It seems too simple, too good to be true, but it is the truth—the Gospel truth. Jesus was always a step ahead of His critics; they were no match for Him in the brains department.

Back to Nazareth
He and the disciples crossed back across Galilee and journeyed south to Nazareth. As so often happened, friends of a paralyzed man brought the poor guy to Jesus. The crowd got ready to see another healing miracle, including the scribes who were trying figure out what to do next. If He were simply a healer through some mystical connection with God, that was no threat to them. If they could enlist Him as an ally, He might even be useful to them.

When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s companions, His commendation was a surprise:

“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

The watchful scribes all took the same deep breath and had the same silent thought,

“This Man blasphemes!”

Though not a word was spoken, Jesus knew their hearts so He conversed with their thoughts.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?
For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?

The the logic left no room for a reply. Sicknesses were individualized problems so healings were nice and could easily be attributed to God. Sin was a different thing altogether. Not everyone was sick but everyone had sinned! Healings were wonderful but the forgiveness of sins was for God alone. To their silence, Jesus replied that a healing here would prove His point:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Like all the other times, it happened. The man’s frozen legs began to limber. Bones started popping so loud the people heard them. With a few stretches of newly loosened limbs the man stood up to the amazement of the crowd. He flexed new muscles and picked up the bed they carried him on and went home. There was nothing to do but marvel at the power of Jesus and believe that God was the source of it. As they man journeyed home in his newfound strength, there was also a new feeling in his heart—the joy of being forgiven.

Matthew’s Call
Passing from the scene, Jesus saw a tax collector named Matthew. He called him to join His men with the same words used before:

“Follow Me.”

Matthew obeyed and as he committed to Jesus and believed in Him, his sins were forgiven. He invited Jesus and the others to a dinner to meet his friends. Jesus was happy to attend. When critics arose to challenge this behavior, Jesus set them straight. Those who are well have no need of a physician as do those who are sick. He challenged them to go and learn what they should already have known: that deeds of mercy were the coinage of the Kingdom of God,

“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

He had the power to heal and to forgive sins.

Scriptures:
Matthew 9:1–13
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your power is great both to heal and forgive sins. Where would I be if You hadn’t both healed and delivered me from sin? Like Matthew, You have also called me to serve You and I am happy to do so. Keep me free from sin by the power of Your Spirit. Keep me well by the stripes the put on Your back. Keep me in the traces where You put me by the power of Your blood and the might of Your name. Amen and amen.

Song:
My Sins Are Gone
Words and Music: N. B. Vandall

1. You ask why I am happy
So I’ll just tell you why,
Because my sins are gone.
And when I meet the scoffers
Who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.

Refrain:
They’re underneath the Blood
On the Cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn.
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness,
That’s good enough for me.
Praise God my sins are gone

2. ‘Twas at the old time altar
Where God came in my heart
And now my sins are gone.
The Lord took full possession
The devil did depart.
I’m glad my sins are gone.

Refrain

3. When Satan comes to tempt me
And tries to make me doubt.
I say my sins are gone.
You got me into trouble.
But Jesus got me out.
I’m glad my sins are gone

Refrain

4. I’m living now for Jesus
I’m happy night and day
Because my sins are gone
My soul is filled with music
With all my heart I say
I know my sins are gone

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 30, 2018: “Possession”

Possession

Sometimes evil lies buried deep in the hearts of people. Sometimes it doesn’t.
We don’t know for how many years the quiet Galilean village knew a deep municipal peace. At some point it ended in noise and violence. Two demon-possessed men took up residence in the town cemetery. Evidently they would run from the tombs without warning, screaming as they blocked the passage of passersby. The violence of their madness disturbed the peace of this formerly quiet village. No one could control them. Funerals were a nightmare as mourners were never sure when the demonized duet would attack. Like a pair of hunting lions they would attack from two directions at once, cutting off any hope of escape. These poor men are described by Mathew as “exceedingly fierce.” At night there was no relief for the midnight hours hosted evil concerts of their screams and laments. Beneath it all, these two men were as miserable as the villagers they tormented.

Then came Jesus
When Jesus came to the village, everything changed. The tormented, possessed men turned their attention to Him. Here was someone they could not intimidate. The demons possessing these men did not need to be informed of who  Jesus really was. Hell knows heaven when it visits. Mean and tough? The demons cried for mercy. One man gave hell a voice:

“What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God?

The other man elaborated:

“Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

To all appearances, it was a standoff, a showdown of good against evil. Really, it was not contest at all.

Convenient Swine
Fortunately for everyone, except the owner of the hogs, a herd of swine was feeding on a precipice that over looked the Sea of Galilee. Knowing they were outmatched, the demons seized the opportunity to escape.

“If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.”

A smile from Jesus and a single word granted the demons their wish.

“Go.”

They went. The two men collapsed as the demons departed, screaming with their own voices for a change. Nothing was visible to the gathering crowd during this transfer but the unsuspecting pigs took up the screaming as a flood of demons invaded their porcine frames. They forgot about feeding and began to run amok spreading onlookers in all directions. Like a flock of birds mysteriously all turning at once, the herd turned away from the crowd toward the sea. One by one they dove from the precipice into the sea. Although swine can swim, these pigs chose not to. They would rather die than host demonic spirits. Their keepers fled from Jesus into the town and told everyone what happened.

A Grateful Village?
The two men lay quietly on the ground. Carefully some compassionate person brought them clothes and some water. One would think that townspeople would come to Jesus expressing their appreciation for this miracle. This was not the case. The town leaders, with an approving crowd behind them approached Jesus with their own strange request: Go away!

How many of them in the days ahead, as the fame of Jesus and the tales of His miracles continued to spread throughout Galilee, would be kept awake at night by the eerie silence from the cemetery? Possessed as they were by such short-sightedness, did they realize their moment of deliverance had passed?

Sometimes evil lies buried deep in the hearts of people.

Scriptures:
Matthew 8:28-34
When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have dominion over the powers of hell. In Your name, I have mastery over them. Reach down into my life and break any connections the enemy has forged in me and set me free from demonic influence. Keep me from the attitude of those village leaders who sent You away. Stay with me Lord! Continue the works You have begun in me! You are my hope, my defense, my promise of life here and now and life in the hereafter. All of this in the power of Your Name! Amen.

Song:
Jesus, Your Name Is Power
Words and Music: Morris Chapman

Jesus, Your name is power.
Jesus, your name is might.
Jesus, Your name will break ev’ry stronghold.
Jesus, your name is life.

Jesus, Your name is healing.
Jesus, Your name gives sight.
Jesus, Your name will free ev’ry captive.
Jesus, Your name is life.

Jesus, Your name is holy.
Jesus, Your name brings light .
Jesus, Your name above ev’ry other.
Jesus, Your name is life .

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 29, 2018: “Obedience”

Obedience

Obedience to the commands of God is a great power, so often overlooked
The scribe who came to Jesus announcing his intention to follow Jesus wherever He might lead was a brave man. Most of this tribe of leaders were violently opposed to Jesus so this man was breaking ranks; that takes courage. Matthew’s designation of “a certain scribe” indicates that he was a leader of some note. What gave him such courage?

  • It could be that he could not deny what his eyes had seen: miracles, signs, wonders.
  • Perhaps the scriptures he had memorized since childhood came alive in his heart when Jesus spoke.
  • He may have been a man of deep prayer, longing for Messiah to come.

We are told only that he came to Jesus as a turning point in his life.

“Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus and the men were about to cross the Sea of Galilee; this conversation halted their preparations to sail. Jesus looked deep into the man’s eyes and into his spirit to see the sincerity behind the courage. This was no time to go easy on a potential follower.

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

We are not told how the man responded but it is likely that he obeyed the call of Jesus. In a rapid inventory of his life he counted everything as worthless except to follow this healer/teacher.

  • Perhaps later he followed Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem as He strode toward Calvary.
  • It could be that he believe the news that Jesus was alive again and he was among the witnesses of His glory.
  • He may have seen the Lord ascend into heaven leaving a Great Commission and promising to return in the same way.
  • He could have been counted among the 120 on the Day of Pentecost who received fire from heaven and ran into the streets to proclaim the Jesus story.

There is no way to tell but we know that to obey the Lord is a powerful thing indeed.

No Time for Funerals
Another follower of Jesus needed to attend to some family business before He could follow Jesus; a father needed to be buried. We are not told if the man’s father was old and about to die, or in poor health, or had already passed. Jesus’s answer to this objection seems harsh:

“Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Sometimes obeying the Lord demands swift and sacrificial action. All things considered, it is better to follow now regardless of the cost.

The Winds and the Seas
When the voyage across the lake finally began, a violent storm set in, threatening the boat itself. The disciples were distraught while Jesus was asleep. They called to him and He stood up in the boat and rebuked the storm. It was replaced by a great calm. Even the winds and sea obeyed the voice of Jesus.

Obedience to the commands of God is a great power, so often overlooked

Scriptures:
Matthew 8:18-34
And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me see today the power of obedience to Your command. You will command any storms I may face. You will help me sort out my duties each day as I prioritize obedience to Your Word. Lord, I long to follow You wherever You lead, whatever the cost. Help me to trust and obey! Amen and amen.

Song:
Trust and Obey
Words: John H. Sammis; Music: D.B. Towner

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

2. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay; not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

Refrain

3. But we never can prove the delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay; for the favor he shows,
For the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

Refrain

4. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 28, 2018 “Willing”

Willing

If we had any idea of what the Lord is willing to do for us, we would be living different lives today.
Of course, he was a leper, an outcast. He knew had no rights to the right-of-way anywhere. He was expected to announce his approach by shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!”  If he was cynical and suspicious of those in power, it is understandable. His words to Jesus reveal all of this uncertainty,

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Everything stopped. The multitude following Jesus retreated as one man to a safe distance. Lepers must never be touched. What did Jesus do? He put out His hand and touched the leper, saying.

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Immediately the leprosy was gone but the rotting bandages remained. Feeling returned to extremities and toes of the man and fingers sprouted where only stumps had been. He stripped away the rags of his life and danced in the sun as whole as a new born baby. People around him gave praise to God and cloths to the man as great rejoicing rose from the crowd. Finally, the former leper knelt at the feet of his Healer. Jesus  spoke to him tenderly, instructing him not report this to others before telling the priests and offering the Law required.

Capernaum
Jesus was ministering in His home region of Galilee and entered the town of Capernaum when a Roman officer came to Him pleading with Him to heal his servant who was paralyzed and in great pain. When Jesus offered to come and heal him, the officer protested out of profound humility. He thought himself unworthy of a visit from Jesus but he understood the authority of Jesus over afflictions. How did he understand this? Because he was a man of authority over hardened soldiers who obeyed his commands without question. If this were true of him, surely it was also true of Jesus.

“But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was impressed with the faith of this Roman officer, a man who was not a part of the covenant people of God, he was expressing more faith than those who were.

“Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”
And his servant was healed that same hour.

Soon after this Jesus and the Disciples visited the home of Peter and found his wife’s mother sick with a high fever. Jesus touched her and the fever left her. Her strength returned and she went about joyfully serving them all. That evening many people who were sick and others who were tormented by demons came to them and He had the touch each of them required whether a healing touch or a command to demon spirits to depart from them.

The Words of Isaiah
Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah that Messiah would bear or sicknesses and heal our infirmities. He fulfilled prophesy and it was more than that. He was answering the words of the leper—He was willing! The Bible makes it clear that Jesus is still the same today—He is still willing! We need to understand the power of His authority the way the Roman Centurion did. If we had any idea of what the Lord is willing to do for us, we would be living different lives today.

Scriptures:
Matthew 8:1-17
When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them. When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”
Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have all authority! You rule all of nature and stand ready and willing to do for me more than I can imagine, more than I can ask or think. Help me to depend on You more. When I am sick, You are my Healer. When I am in trouble You are my Deliverer. When I don’t know what to do You are my teacher. Help me to never forget that You are willing to help me and able to bring me through any test or trial. Amen and amen.

Song:
He Is Able to Deliver Thee
Words and Music: W. A. Ogden

1. ‘Tis the grandest theme thro’ the ages rung;
‘Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
‘Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung:
Our God is able to deliver thee.

Refrain:
He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Tho’ by sin opprest, Go to Him for rest;
Our God is able to deliver thee.

2. ‘Tis the grandest them in the earth or main;
‘Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
‘Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again:
Our God is able to deliever thee.

Refrain.

3. ‘Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole:
Our God is able to deliver thee.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 27, 2018: “Building”

Building

We are all builders, trying to build something—a life, a business, a career, a ministry.
The conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount connects all these topics and instructions into one powerful promise. To hear these words and do them, is to build one’s house on a rock—on Jesus Himself, the Rock of Ages. For those who hear these words and simply file them away with all the other things they have read, the end is not so wonderful. It is tragic. The one who hears and obeys is called wise and the one who hears and does not obey is called foolish.

There will be storms.
To follow Christ and live in relationship with Him is not to live a life without storms. Storms come to everyone. Rains descend on everyone. Winds beat against and flood waters rise on everyone. The difference is in the foundation. The house built on Jesus will stand while the one built on lesser stuff will fall and will fall with terrible destruction. What is this lesser stuff?

It is the wisdom from this fallen creation. James, the Lord’s half brother, tells about two kinds of wisdom:

  1. wisdom from below: “earthly, sensual, demonic,” and
  2. wisdom from above: “pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

This is the catalog! This is the choice. What wisdom will you use to build your life? The limited, discredited, phony, and deceptive wisdom from below may have the appearance of solid rock but it is only sand. Build on it and your house will not stand the storm. The wisdom from above is tried, true, solid, proven, genuine, and always applicable. It not only has the appearance of Rock—it is Solid Rock! All hell came against it in the greatest storm of evil ever known at Calvary. The rains of wrath pounded Him. The winds of hate beat upon Him and an overwhelming flood of sins—yours and mine—covered Him to the point that even His father could not look upon Him. The storm took His physical life for three days and then He came roaring back and angels danced on the empty tomb. Hell had done its worst and the Rock still stood, mightier than ever, tested by time and eternity. He is your foundation! Storms don’t have a chance.

Now that you have heard these things—do them!
Start building on the Rock today! There is no time to waste. Storms are on the horizon. The forecast has gone out. Why build on sand when Rock is available? You can be “blessed” even when the circumstances of life turn against you. Your light can shine in the darkness lighting someone the way. You can turn enemies into friends with “coals” of kindness. You can be a tree that bears good fruit. You can spend time every day in the Secret Place with your loving Heavenly Father who already knows everything you need. If you seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, hungering and thirsting for life itself, you can be filled. When the storms come, you will stand.

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:24-29
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
1 Corinthians 3:9-17
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
James 3:13-18
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Solid Rock! Built upon You, my life is safe from the worst of storms. Help me to carefully hear Your words and to consistently obey them. Help me, as Paul says, to build carefully on the True Foundation so that my life’s work, like my life itself, shall stand forever. Help me to carefully attend to the wisdom from above and completely avoid the “wisdom” from below. There is no reason that I should fail at living for You when I am building on the Solid Rock! Thank You, Jesus! Amen and amen.

Song:
The Solid Rock
Words: Edward Mote; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
In ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the ‘whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 26, 2018: “Fruit”

Fruit

We have seen that knocking enlists the help of others. How do we know who is worthy of our trust?
Jesus gives us the unfailing test of the life of a potential teammate—examine the fruit they produce. The facts are these:

  • A good tree will bear good fruit.
  • A bad tree will bear bad fruit.

This means a careful look at the results of someone’s work or lack of work will reveal the contents of that person’s character. When we see someone whose life consistently blesses the people around them, we can be confident there is goodness there. On the contrary, when we see someone who is constantly tearing down rather than building up, sowing discord rather than making peace, and promoting untruth as if it were truth, we can be sure that person is evil inside. Jesus gives us the acid test:

“You will know them by their fruits.”

“All of life is a stage.”
So said Shakespeare and it is true. People present themselves to the world as if they occupied a permanent proscenium. For so many this is empty theatrics, a carefully choreographed illusion with no substance beyond self, no message except ”me” and no content but conceit. If the act is so well rehearsed and the performance so relentless, many people will take it as fact when it is really fiction. How can we tell a fine performance from a fine life? Examine the fruit of that life. Compare that person and his/her fruit with our great example–Jesus.

  • Does the person seek power or welcome responsibility?
  • Is there a consistency between words and deeds?
  • Does the life of the person point to higher things?
  • Is there a genuine interest in other people?

Comparing people with Jesus is sure to make anyone come up short, but that is what a Christ-follower does in his/her own heart. We should expect no less of others.

The Critical Difference
There is a difference between coming up short in a comparison to Jesus and being a bad person. In the most direct sense, all of us have, as Paul told the Romans, “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Failure does not a person and bad tree; if it did there would be no good trees in the orchard. The four questions listed above are not about human perfection; they are about human aspiration. We all fail but we can all be caring, consistent, committed to higher goals, and considerate of others. These are the fruits of a good tree.

Pruning the Orchard
The Lord wants us all to be good trees bearing good fruit. At some point a useless tree has only one use—firewood. How much better to resign from the theatre of the fake and become a real follower of Christ! For some, a horrible day will come. After a lifetime of faking it, they will hear the most terrible words I can imagine,

“I never knew you; depart from Me…”

How much better to know Him! To enter by the narrow gate, to live this strange turn-the-other-cheek life, to find the Father each day in the Secret Place of Prayer, to keep your candle lit and shining bright, and, as we shall see next, to build your house on the Rock!

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:15-23
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, make me a good tree! Help me be rooted deep in Your Word. Water me often with the Waters of Life. Let me breathe the air of Your freedom in the winds each day. In my season, may the fruit of my life bless the world around me. Even, out of season, as Your Word commands, let the fruit of my obedience to You be sweet to those who know me. When the day comes when You examine my life, I pray You find good fruit, evidence that I followed You. All for You, Lord Jesus. All for You! Amen.

Song:
If I Can Help Somebody
Words and Music: A.B. Androzzo

1. If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

Refrain:
My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

2. If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 25, 2018: “Golden”

Golden

Gold, the precious metal that can make fortunes or destroy lives, is also a metaphor for “priceless.”
When we esteem something of the highest value, we call it “golden.” Strangely enough, a paraphrase of the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount has been dubbed, ”The Golden Rule.” We often quote it this way: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What Jesus actually said was:

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,
for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The meaning is clear in either version. When He elaborated on the rule with the words, “this is the Law and the Prophets,” He elevated this rule beyond the level of platitudes and embroidered doilies. He said that all the rules and regulations for living that came down from the stormy heights of Mt. Sinai can be summed up with this one rule. He went on to say that all the corrective prophesies from men of God sent to bring revival to a backslidden land also added up to this one rule. The holy Covenant of old was summarized as far as practical living was concerned with these simple words. It is true enough that were this rule to take effect today, strife would cease like a forgotten rainstorm, violence would strike its last blow, and poverty would vanish like a morning fog.

Of course, none of that will happen, at least not until Jesus binds Satan and casts him into the pit and then reigns on this earth. “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Until then, this remains an ideal, a precious metal of promise, a golden rule.

The Narrow Way
This is also the Narrow Way, undiscovered by most people but a blessing to those who find it and enter there. The Sermon on the Mount points us to the Narrow Way. This is a supernatural life, not one that springs naturally from our inmost impulses or even our surface inclinations. If we choose to follow Jesus, we will find this a narrow path indeed. Most people will not join us. They will seek more popular roads, broad, well-paved roads clearly marked but the signs often tell lies. When following our unredeemed hearts, the miles are always longer than the signs promise. The curves are more drastic than indicated. The climbs are steeper and the plunges more dangerous than advertised. The Broad Road promises fun but the thrills soon become frightful hazards that threaten our lives. We find that the promised light is darkness instead and the destination is a mirage of shining nothingness. The word Jesus used is “destruction.”

The Narrow Way seems difficult and it is not an easy road. The differences are several and significant:

  • This road is well marked and the road signs are true.
  • The guardrails are strong and well-placed, helping us stay on course.
  • When darkness falls, the traveler has his/her own inner light to light the way.
  • When the climb is steep, we have power assistance from heaven and from the Spirit within.
  • When the road takes a plunge into a deep valley, which it will sometimes do, we have a breaking system called Sabbath rest that slows us down and keeps us safe.
  • And best of all, we have a travelling Companion who has driven this road before us and who is with us every mile of the way.

We have a golden rule to keep and a golden highway to follow.

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:10-14
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Isaiah 30:18-21
Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. And though the Lord gives you The bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.
John 14:6
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
1 John 1:6-7
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Galatians 5:25-26
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the Narrow Way. Thank You that I can trust all the road signs You place alongside this road. Though not many travel this road, the ones who do are priceless companions. They, too, try to live by the Golden Rule. They can be trusted. Help me always to treat them as they deserve. The most wonderful thing about the Narrow Way is this: as the song says, “I see Your footprints all the way!” Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
He Keeps Me Singing
Words and Music: Luther B. Bridgers
1. There’s within my heart a melody;
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with you, peace, be still,”
in all of life’s ebb and flow.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know,
fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.

2. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
stirred the slumbering chords again.

Refrain

3. Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
trials fall across the way;
though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
see His footprints all the way.

Refrain

4. Feasting on the riches of His grace,
resting ‘neath His sheltering wing,
always looking on His smiling face,
that is why I shout and sing.

Refrain

5. Soon He’s coming back to welcome me
far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 24, 2018: “Seeking”

Seeking

We come into the world seeking. It never lets up as long as we live.
The objects of our search change from age to age, but the seeking goes on. Perhaps when our feet rest on streets of gold in the great beyond, our search will be finally be over, but perhaps not. Might we spend eternity seeking out new wonders in the New Heaven and the New Earth? Could it be that we will occupy ourselves after “we’ve been there ten thousand years” with seeking out new things about our God so that we can give Him the praise He deserves? I think so.

Whatever happens then, we live a seeker’s life today. Jesus promises us, not a reprieve from seeking, but the surety of finding what we need. His promise is threefold:

  • Ask and it shall be given.
  • Seek and you shall find.
  • Knock and it shall be opened.

This the life He promises when we put His Kingdom first; He will meet our needs. Now He gives us detailed instructions on how to appropriate what we need.

Asking
Asking is done from a place of humility. If we understand Calvary, we will never look to God and demand things. It is proper to remind God of His covenantal promises but this, too, is done in humility. When we ask of God, we are not dealing with what we deserve (Heaven help us!) but with His astounding grace. It is said that the Greek verb here is one of a continuous tense: “Ask and keep on asking.” This is not presumption. Jesus instructs us to do exactly this with the parable of the persistent friend (Luke 11:5-8) Persistent asking for what we need is a precious thing birthed in humility and bathed in faith.

Seeking
While asking borders on being passive, seeking requires action. We must turn over rocks to see what might be under them. We must explore new territories to see what manner of life grows there. We must sail new seas, travel new roads, and make new alliances to find the things for which we are seeking. God guides these processes and life becomes an adventure. Remember those fishermen from Galilee whose lives were transformed from routine to romance by the Lord’s call, “Follow me.” It is so with us. The Lord installs into our heart a vision of what we might become or what we might do for Him. This vision becomes a quest and we are off on our life-long search for what He has in store for us. He has promised that we will find it.

Knocking
Sometimes in our adventure we hit a wall and it seems our progress is stopped. We must not despair—we must ask! The Lord knows what to do. We must seek; there will be a door in the wall. Now the third method comes into play—we must knock. Knocking is different from asking and seeking because knocking enlists the help of others. Asking comes from deep within us. Seeking is our personal quest. Knocking enrolls us on a team roster. We engage with others who are likewise asking and seeking. They can open doors for us and we can do the same for them. The Lord is good at building teams; think of Jesus and the Twelve. He still does that. We can find the right team by this adventurous lifestyle of asking, seeking and knocking. Watching and guiding our seeking is a loving Heavenly Father who is good to the core. He has set us on the quest and aligned us with traveling companions.

We come into the world seeking. It never lets up as long as we live.

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:7-9
“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. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Luke 11:5-8
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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the quest! Thank You for this life of adventure in following You. Sometimes I have been uneasy in the quest but I have seldom been bored. When I have asked, You have answered. When I have sought, You have shown me what I need. When I have knocked on doors that were shut tight, You have sent someone to open them for me. Still there are needs today so I continue to ask. Still there are mysteries so I continue to seek. Some doors remain closed so, as You direct me, I keep on knocking. Send me the partners in ministry I need to accomplish the things You have birthed in my heart. All for Your Glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Words and Music: Karen Lafferty

1. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu Alleluia

2. Man shall not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu Alleluia

3. Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 23, 2018: “Judging”

Judging

The difference between “judging” and “judgment” is more than the difference between a gerund and a noun.
A gerund is defined as a verb functioning as a noun as in, “Judging solos and ensembles is something I love to do.” Judgment is the ability to tell the good solos from the not-so-good ones. Jesus warns us about our judging, our critical assessment of people and things in our lives. His warning? Be careful how you exercise your judgment. When you are called upon to judge, that is, duly deputized to give an informed opinion, do so gently with care not to offend but to inform and perhaps even to inspire.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
This is one of most often quoted statements of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. It is usually used as a preemptive defense against someone who is about to be critical of us. We choose less dangerous words: assessment, evaluation, critique, etc. Even these kinder, gentler terms amount to the same thing: judging. We all get our turns both at being judged and being the judge. Jesus is warning us not to let the position of judging go to our heads, feeding the ego and making us brutal in our assessment. We must remember that our turn at being judged is coming.

The Judgmental Person
Jesus warns us against being a judgmental person, one who has a critical spirit. The critical spirit is rooted in shame, in deep feelings of personal inadequacy.  We all know someone like this.

  • Nothing is ever good enough for them (though it is likely they could make no improvement.)
  • They are quick to point out the shortcomings they see (though they really have no better ideas.)
  • They criticize successful people behind their backs (though they smile and flatter them otherwise.)
  • They frown a lot as if they are looking down on lesser beings than themselves (though in truth they have little to contribute that is positive.)
  • They don’t hang around success if they cannot cut it to their size (though they attract the discontented and take some of them with them when they leave.)
  • They are bitter (though their bitterness may be cleverly disguised as sarcastic humor.)

This is no way to live yet many choose this pathway.  They get in return what they have given: Criticism, bitterness, and public failure.

“…with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use,
it will be measured back to you.”

What is the proper way to exercise judgement?
The first lesson about giving one’s opinion is simple: don’t. Nothing is more unwelcomed than advice which has not been sought. On those occasions when experience or expertise we possess is called for, we must remember the warnings of Jesus to judge as gently and thoroughly as we would want to be judged. It is best to begin with positive assessments before suggest areas for improvement. One of the most important things is this: be an encouragement! When we are called upon to assess something or someone in the service of the Lord, we must remember that doing anything for God requires courage. Do not drain courage from the one you judge. On the contrary, pour courage into them!

Judgement and Humility
Jesus links these two things when He talks about the speck in our brother’s eye which we would like to haughtily remove when we can’t see to do it because of the plank in our own eye. What is His point? Be humble when called upon to give a critique. We may be blind to something others can clearly see.

Scriptures:
Matthew 7:1-6

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, make me bold to speak up for You when the moment calls for it and make me wise to keep my mouth shut when my opinion has not been sought. When I am called upon to issue my judgement, give me grace to be gentle and encouraging. Lord, save me from a critical spirit. When I see things that are wrong and my judgment has not been requested, help me turn that judgment into a prayer. You can do more than I could ever do. Help me deal with others the way You deal with me, with grace, always with grace. Amen.

Song:
Grace Greater than Our Sin
Words

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

2. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
What can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
Whiter than snow you may be today.

Refrain

3. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe;
you that are longing to see his face,
Will you this moment his grace receive?

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved