May 31, 2017


A citadel is a fortified fortress.
It is a strong and high tower at a strategic point on a fortress or city wall. These watchtowers provided a higher vantage point for those charged with sighting potential dangers and warning the city. Every night someone had to leave the comforts of the streets and dwellings the city provided to help keep the precious peace of all involved. The height and strength of the citadel provided cover and safety for men with a dangerous job.

Walk about Zion
The Psalmist is like an ancient tour guide, inviting us to journey across the centuries to tour the Holy City, the City David, Jerusalem. The Temple is magnificent, built to King David’s specifications by his son. King Solomon. The city walls, with regularly spaced citadels, were impressive and effective, keeping enemies out and citizens in. When the gates closed at night, the safety of the whole city was in the hands of the soldiers in the citadels. Their eyes were the radar of the day; their ears the antennae to detect the sounds of danger.

That desert debate (“turn stones into bread”) wasn’t the only temptation of Jesus—He was tempted in every way we are tempted but never did He disobey. It is this record of purity that enabled Him to take our impurity upon Himself on the cross.

Citadels of Truth
The days of walled cities and castles on mountains are long gone, but the danger and the diligence remain. There are strong towers today that guard the peace of the church. These citadels are truths that guide us and define us. These citadels are the things that we agree on.

  • The Bible is the Word of God.
  • God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three in One and One in three.
  • Jesus is the only Savior and we are saved through faith in Him.
  • The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide.
  • God is our Heavenly Father.
  • The church is the Body of Christ on this earth.
  • The church should strive to be one, as Jesus prayed.
  • Jesus will come again.
  • We are commanded to Love God.
  • We are commissioned to tell our world the Jesus Story.

I counted ten Citadels of the faith. From these exalted vantage points we can see a great distance.

  • We can detect the dust of an approaching enemy who tells of a different God.
  • We can hear the music of hell wafting on the wind, even at great distance, so that distance can be kept. We must not dance to the devils tune.
  • From these fortified fortifications we can keep our families safe and secure through the long night until the Great Dawn when our King shall return with everlasting light.

Keeping Watch
We must see the signs of war before the attack. We need to hear the noise of their gathering armies. We cannot see and hear these things from ground level, if we think and act like the world. We need elevation. We must live on a higher level of morality and truth. We need a tower, a tower of strength—Jesus is our Citadel, our tower of Hope. He will not be surprised. He will not be defeated.

We can sleep tonight safe within the walls of His grace and under the watchful eye of His Spirit.

Psalm 48 NIV
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw [her] and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
Psalm 61:1-4 NIV
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Proverbs 18:10 NIV
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Psalm 18:2-3 NIV
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 28:8 NIV
The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Psalm 46:4-7 NIV
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 62:5-8 NIV
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 91:1-2 NIV
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Lord Jesus, You are my Tower of Strength! When evening comes I will rest in the safety of this citadel. But this morning the day is before me, not the night. I will take my battle station. I will scan the horizon signs of the enemy. I will listen with depth to the sounds on the winds of culture and media that blow without ceasing. The enemy seeks entrance into city; he wants to breach the walls. I will not be blind to him or deaf to him. I will sound the alarm to my fellow citizens. Your walls will stand secure; the citadel of truth will not fall to deception. Lord Jesus, You are my Tower of Strength! Amen.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Words: Martin Luther; Music: Traditional

1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 30, 2017


Armies are known to be armed.
They carry weapons into battle. It would be foolish not to. From ancient times until today there have been two kinds of weapons: offensive and defensive—symbolized for all times by the images of the sword and shield.

The Scriptures carry on this imagery:

  • The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
  • The Shield is the Shield of Faith.

There is no need to modernize these ancient images or to update them to the digital age for they have no metaphorical counterparts. All the weapons of modern warfare are conceived as either swords or shields.

Spiritual Warfare
Spiritual warfare is not a metaphor; it is a reality; we are in a battle! In Scripture, the church is seen as the Army of the Lord and He does not send us into battle without weapons.

Evil is not some impersonal force, like an airborne plague that sickens individuals and society itself. Evil has a face, and a mind, and a plan. If we believe the Bible record, Jesus went toe-to-toe with Satan in the wilderness and defeated him two fantastic weapons: The Truth of God and Obedience to God.

Satan was beaten in the first round. His only counter-punch for Truth is a lie and the better we know the Truth the easier it is to spot a lie. As for Obedience to God, the enemy is outnumbered because he isn’t fighting just us and our will power but the Holy Spirit and a squad of warrior angels sent to help us inside and out.

That desert debate (“turn stones into bread”) wasn’t the only temptation of Jesus—He was tempted in every way we are tempted but never did He disobey. It is this record of purity that enabled Him to take our impurity upon Himself on the cross.

Evil is in this world because it dwells in the hearts of people.
The forces of darkness latch on to a person through thoughts and behavior. Until the Blood of Christ cleanses the heart and the Holy Spirit takes up residence there the evil will only be a matter of degree.

The Blood Bought Church is the Army of the Lord.
We have weapons of warfare that are of the spirit not the flesh. Our faith in Christ is our sure and certain shield. The Word of God is our double sharp sword. One more weapon do we need, it is both a defensive and an offensive one—Obedience. Hell has no defense against our obedience!

Armies are known to be armed—they carry weapons into battle. It would be foolish not to.

Psalm 44:1-8 NIV
We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.
Psalm 76:1-3 NIV
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10 NIV
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Ephesians 6:16-18 NIV
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Psalms 149:6-9 NIV
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints.
Romans 12:21 NIV
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Lord Jesus, Captain of the Hosts of the Lord, call me to attention today. I will put on the Gospel Armor; each piece put on with faith. I will sharpen the Sword of Truth and wield the Shield of Faith. I will walk securely in the security of my preparation of the Gospel. With my head covered with salvation and my heart secured with Your righteousness, I will march forth wearing the belt of Truth. I will wage a good warfare today, with spiritual weapons not those of the flesh. And You will triumph through me! Lord Jesus, Captain of the Hosts of the Lord, call me to attention today. Amen.

For the Lord Is Marching On
Words and Music by Bonnie Low

1.For the Lord is marching on
And His army is ever strong
And His glory shall be seen upon our land
Raise the anthem, sing the victor’s song
Praise the Lord for the battle’s won
No weapon formed against us shall stand!

For the Captain of the host is Jesus
We’re following in His footsteps
No foe can stand against us in the fray!
No foe can stand against us in the fray!

2. We are marching in Messiah’s band
The keys of vict’ry in His mighty hand
Let us march on to take our promised land
For the Lord is marching on And His army is ever strong
And His glory shall be seen upon our land.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 29, 2017


Remembering and Forgetting
Forgetting what we should always remember and remembering what is better forgotten are the twin plagues that can rob us of our heritage, our joy in each moment, and our legacy.  For this reason, the Bible instructs us both to remember and to forget.

  • We should always remember who God is in Christ Jesus, what He has done for us, and what He has promised to do.  We must never forget the darkness out of which He called us and we must always remember to choose to walk in His light.
  • At the same time we must forget the guilt of our sin for these things have been cleansed from our record in heaven. We must let the Lord heal us from the wounds of our history. God can heal our memories so thoroughly that  there is no reason to cling to hurtful things.

In other words, the Lord can help us adjust our time consciousness to remember what we should remember and forget what we should forget.

There are memories and then, there are memorials. 
A memorial is a more formal reminder of something of high importance.  We celebrate the remembrance of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays with memorial rituals.  Some of us remember other milestones like the day we gave our heart to the Lord, the home-going of someone we love, or some other life-altering event.

In the USA, we celebrate a certain day in honor of the people who fought and died to preserve our political freedom.  We simply call it Memorial Day.  Throughout the country special ceremonies are held in remembrance.  Prayers of thanksgiving are offered to God.  People are encouraged to take the day off from work to enjoy the freedom won for us by those we honor.  This memorial activity has many effects:

  • We decorate the graves of the fallen.
  • We are reminded of the cost of our freedom.
  • We are humbled to remember those who gave all to preserve it.
  • We are grateful to live in such a land.
  • We renew our personal commitments to do our part to make their sacrifices count.

In the same way, each time of morning prayer is a memorial.
God not only hears our prayers, He collects them.  They are the record of our service.  In Acts chapter 10, we find an intriguing insight into this. An angel tells a Gentile believer named Cornelius that his deeds of mercy and his prayers had come before the Lord as a memorial—a remembrance.  He was about to be involved in the spreading of the New Covenant into all the world, not just the Jewish people.

When we take time to pray each day, the effect on us is similar to the effect of Memorial Day.

  • When we humble ourselves before our victorious Hero we do not bow at a graveside, for His tomb is empty.
  • We kneel before an empty cross, the symbol of death and of resurrection.
  • We honor the Lord Jesus who gave His life for us.
  • We remember those who brought Jesus to us, so that we might know Him.
  • We are thankful to live in this Promised Land of Grace.
  • We renew our commitment to live for Jesus in this, our time of service and sacrifice.

Prayer maintains the brain.
Faithfulness to prayer keeps us from forgetting what we must forever remember while it heals the wounds of memories best forgotten.   It is one thing when we remember—it is something else when God remembers!  In prayer today and in the way we live, let us give Him something to remember!

Joshua 4:4-7
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Acts 10:4-5
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Psalm 103:2-5
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, help me to never forget! My freedom to worship You is mine because of those who gave all to secure it. The lovely sanctuary in which I worship You was by built by others. Generations before me handed down the Word of God to me, leaving their loving fingerprints on the Holy Book. Help me move out today in full remembrance of such blessings and thus fulfill my heritage. Other things are not helpful to remember. Help me, Lord, to forget these things. Remembering the right things and forgetting the rest, I walk forward into this day to serve You with joy! In Your name, Amen!

America, the Beautiful
Words: Katherine Lee Bates; Music: Samuel A. Word

1. O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain;
for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

2.  O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine.

3. O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 28, 2017


Some things are so beautiful they have to be seen to really know them.
The Northern Lights are like that. My father saw them in Alaska in WW2 and he told me about them. I was fascinated. Over the years film and pictures failed to help me see them. A few years ago on a teaching trip to Alaska I stood on a hillside in Kotzebue, inside the Arctic Circle. While the heavens danced over my head, a verse of Scripture repeated in my heart: “The heavens are telling the glory of God.”

Now I can say I have seen the Northern Lights—I have experienced them for myself.

When something has been “seen,” this often means more than a visual recognition of it. We use the word to also mean “understanding,” as in “I have seen the light!

How many eyes do we have?

  • the mind’s eye,
  • the eyes of the heart,
  • the eye for beauty, and
  • the eyes of our understanding.

In a biblical sense, all three parts of our humanity have their own kind of vision:

  • the eyes of the body see the reality of creation,
  • the eyes of soul see patterns of human behavior, the intricacies of mathematics and logic, and wide-screen technicolor movies of our imagination, and
  • the eyes of the spirit, the God-conscious part of us, see the throne of God.

With these eyes we perceive the world, we understand what is observable in life, and we obtain by the Holy Spirit an inner vision of the world beyond our senses and our minds.

This wonderful impartation of inner sight is the work of the Holy Spirit.
It happens when we worship God.

  • As we give God the glory due His name, He enables the eyes of our spirit to see Jesus.
  • To see Jesus is to be changed. To behold Him, to contemplate Him. is to be changed from glory to glory.
  • This is a Bible promise and it really does happen.

Seeing is knowing.
On this Lord’s Day when it is time to sing to the Lord, let’s give it all we’ve got! There is no greater enterprise for the expenditure of our energy. What other activity can open the eyes of our heart? Is there another One we can behold and be changed into His likeness?

When we have seen with the eyes of our own spirit, then we will know as never before because, like those dancing streams of light in the Arctic sky we will have gone beyond the testimony of others or even the high definition photos others have taken. We will have seen for ourselves that God is good and His mercy endures forever, even to our generation.

Psalm 63 NIV
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
Psalm 34:8 NKJV
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Isaiah 6:5 NIV
“…my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Isaiah 9:2 NIV
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 14:9 NIV
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
John 20:18 NIV
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Prayer Songs:
Exalted Lord
Words and Music: Steve Phifer

I came into Your holy presence loaded down with care and fear,
Just one hope that something good might happen for me here.
As I hear Your people singing songs of worship, songs of love,
Something stirs within my heart; by faith I’m looking up.

I lift the eyes of my heart toward Your Holy Temple.
I lift my heart with heaven’s songs of love.
I lift my soul to see a throne of majesty and then
I see You, Lord, high and lifted up!

Exalted Lord, I hear Your angels singing,
“Holy, Holy! Holy, Holy!”
I join their song for You alone are worthy.
Exalted Lord, You’ve come and lifted me!

Open My Eyes that I May See
Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

2. Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wave notes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 27, 2017


We live with unanswered questions.
Things we wonder about but never understand sing an unending drone tone in the back of our minds. Little things almost unrelated to the question will bring the unanswered question to the front of the mind and, turn it over how we might, no answer is found. Something distracts us and we go to whatever is next hoping that we will understand it. We don’t want to think of things without answers, problems with no solution, dilemmas that defy our wisdom, and life-riddles that we cannot seem to solve.

Believers in the Lord Jesus also live with unanswered prayers.
It is not a secret nor is it a shame that we have prayed for things and not received them. It is just a fact of life—of Christian life.

This fact itself is an unanswered question. The Scripture, even the words of Jesus, could not be clearer or less ambiguous. In Matthew, Mark and several times in John, Jesus said something to the effect that all we have to do is ask and we shall receive. Later James and John qualified this promise by adding the provision that you must ask according to God’s will.

But “God’s will” is really not an answer to the problem of unanswered prayer.
When we have prayed for something that clearly is the will of God and there is no answer, does that impugn the character of God?

The enemy, who is the accuser of the brethren, will certainly seize the unanswered question with an accusation that God is not really to be trusted. He does not deal evenhandedly with people: some people get answers to prayer and others do not.

This accusation that God is not really good and doesn’t necessarily tell the truth goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was a lie then and it is still a lie. Perhaps that is why the highest moments of glory in the Old Testament seemed always to feature a song about the eternal goodness of God—“The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”

Come to think of it, this is still the theme of worship.

It is Satan’s business to falsely accuse God as well as us. But Satan is and always will be liar.

So what do we do about unanswered prayer?
When Jesus said “Ask!” He was really saying, “Ask and keep on asking.” In other words:

  • Don’t give up on prayer!
  • Have faith in the Character of God the Father, “He knows our needs!”
  • We are in God’s hands and He is not all perplexed at what to do next.
  • Examine the unanswered request to see if it is consistent with the Word of God.
  • Search your heart and place your motives before the Lord for His approval. You may be surprised at what the Spirit reveals.

The reasons for unanswered prayers may be many:

  • It is out of God’s will for us.
  • It is delayed waiting on God’s time.
  • It is denied because of danger God sees that we do not see, or perhaps
  • It is denied because God has something better for us.

Meanwhile, remember all the answered prayers, recount the faithfulness of God, and recite the promises of God.
These things build your faith while you are waiting for the answer to come.
You’ll find your answered prayers far outnumber the unanswered ones.

Psalm 35 NIV
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. … Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. … I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. …O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. …. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
John 14:13-14 NIV
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
James 4:2-4 NKJV
Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
1 John 5:14-15 NIV
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.

Lord Jesus, the Bible says Your ways are higher than mine and that they are past my capacity to understand. You do not administrate the universe within the limits of my mental powers. I will trust You with the things I do not understand. There is so much that I do understand; these things will sustain me when I am tempted to doubt You. When prayers go unanswered, I will fill those days remembering the many, many prayers that have been answered. Trusting and waiting will be my acts of faith. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

We’ll Talk It Over
Words and Music: Ira Stanphill

1. Tho’ shadows deepen, and my heart bleeds,
I will not question the way He leads;
This side of Heaven we know in part,
I will not question a broken heart.

We’ll talk it over in the bye and bye.
We’ll talk it over, my Lord and I.
I’ll ask the reasons – He’ll tell me why,
When we talk it over in the bye and bye.

2. I’ll trust His leading, He’ll never fail,
Thru darkest tunnels or misty vales.
Obey his bidding and faithful be,
Tho’ only one step ahead I see.


3. I’ll hide my heartache behind a smile
And wait for reasons ’til after while.
And tho’ He try me, I know I’ll find
That all my burdens are silver lined.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 26, 2017


Future: Each of us has a future, two futures, in fact—one here and one in the hereafter.
The questions remain, “What will those two futures hold?” God only knows, of course, but in the amazing grace of God, we have considerable control over each of them. The choices we make today produce results now and forever.

There isn’t any reason to go through life like a billiard ball bouncing from cue to rail in helpless reaction to what hits us at the moment. What an amazing opportunity we have to be proactive instead of reactive—to be purposeful and obedient to the principles of Creation:

  • sowing and reaping,
  • cause and effect,
  • praying and believing,
  • reading and obeying and
  • all the other elements of an ironclad Covenant with Almighty God!

Jesus told me so.
And it is this opportunity that so many squander, letting sure riches slip through their idle fingers like so much sand at the beach. It’s true the riches may not pile up for us on this side of our memorial service, but on the other side?—riches untold! How do I know? Jesus told me so. He warned us not to lay up for ourselves treasures here on earth. The place is just too unstable. There are moths, and thieves, and rust, and all sorts of bad people in this world, and way too many destructive processes. No earthly accounts are safe. He said we could lay up treasures in the security vaults of heaven, a place completely void of villains and varmints, rust and rot.

Such a deal!
What are these treasures that are accruing interest and increasing in worth in the celestial safes? The things that really count:

  • forever-love,
  • family, friends,
  • fellowship, and
  • freedom from death—
  • all the things life tries to steal from us.

Until then, we walk in this dangerous, decaying world, hoping to hold on to what we have.
We don’t know about tomorrow but we know Who holds tomorrow. He has promised that even when terrible things happen to us or worse, when terrible things are done to us, all things will work together for our good—eventually. We do not live at the mercy of forces and people and time. Our Covenant-keeping God has the final word. We may lose everything and everyone here, but our real treasure is safe in the heart of God, out of reach of wars and famine and natural disasters and human treachery and even what some call “bad luck.”

So let’s be smart.
When faced with the daily choice to spend precious time and energy on frivolous things that quickly fade like grass in a dry field, let’s make a better choice.

  • In reading the Word there are riches or truth to discover and live by.
  • By spending time with the Father in the Secret Place of prayer we can uncover a plan for our life that He wants to bless.

The Lord keeps watching over us and our stuff as our earthly future unfolds and multiplies our reward in heaven to come. Seems like a no-brainer to me. The choices we make today produce results now and forever.

Such a deal, indeed!

Psalm 37
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. … If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip. … Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart
Romans 8:28 NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Lord Jesus, this moment is filled with distractions. Like shiny objects to a child, frivolous things capture my attention causing me to waste the precious moments you give me every day. At the same time, the past sings a siren song that sometimes catches my ear, causing me to waste time in fruitless ruminations on things I cannot change. Lord, give me this moment today! What a gift!—a day to serve You–opportunities to make a true difference in this world. These precious moments are not to be wasted for they contain the power of the future: treasures, secure in heaven. Thank You, Lord!

Until Then
Words and Music: Stuart Hamblin

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.

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.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 25, 2017


When the back hurts, we might as well just hurt all over.
If we carry too much weight we pay for it with our aching backs. Relax. This is not about weight. This is about much more than pounds. This is about responsibilities, guilt, debt, ambition, regret, fear—all sorts of invisible things that bear no material weight at all but register heavy on internal scales for they are invisible too.

The biblical word for this kind of weight is “burden.”
This is also a metaphor for heavy loads that people had to carry around before God blessed the world with pickup trucks, handcarts, furniture dollies and such mechanical beasts of burden. (Can I get an “Amen!)

There is a lot in the Bible about burdens:

  • Heavy burdens and light ones
  • Impossible burdens,
  • Burdens of sin and guilt, and
  • taxing responsibilities weighing heavy on us.

We may “shoulder” the load but our backs carry the weight in tension and strain and pain.

Are we stuck?

If we are faithful people we accept responsibility, people count on us, and the pressure to perform lies heavy on us. These are unavoidable facets of being a good person. Good things become the weight, the burden we carry. And, as well-intended and godly we may be, our backs hurt.

Jesus is our burden-bearer.
One of the best parts of the Good News is this: Jesus is not only our Sin-bearer, He is our Burden-bearer. When He shouldered the cross, He also shouldered our daily burdens. It is not news to Him that we have been given impossible things to do in His name. We need to realize that “in His name” means “in His strength.”

In my first pastoral position, I was “Youth Pastor and Minister of Music.” I had just spent four years as a high school band director so it was easy for me to love the teens in that church. I had a dream one night. The kids in the youth group were all asleep in various positions all over the sanctuary like of sheep. Jesus stood on the church platform with a tall shepherd’s staff watching the little “flock.” In the dream I walked up to Jesus, tapped Him on the shoulder and said, “OK, Lord, I’ll take it from here.”

I woke up in a sweat of realization that I had just been rebuked. I had taken too much on myself.

Backaches come from such over-reaching.
We have to learn how to let Jesus shoulder the load He has given us to carry. There is no use trying to serve God with a sore back.

Because, when the back hurts, we might as well just hurt all over.

Psalm 38
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. …I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.” … O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.
Psalm 55:21 NKJV
Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV
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.
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Psalm 68:19 NIV
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Burden Casting Confession
From Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:6-7 (adapted SRP)
Today, I cast my burden upon You, Lord. You will sustain me. As I stand in the righteousness of Jesus, You will never permit me, to be shaken, to slip or to fall. Therefore I humble myself under Your mighty hand, O God. Exalt me in due time. I cast all my care upon You, for You care for me.
(From “The Book of Daily Worship: Seven Days of Prayer”)

Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary
Words and Music: John H. Moore

1. Days are filled with sorrow and care, Hearts are lonely and drear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.

Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.

2. Cast your care on Jesus today, Leave your worry and fear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.


3. Troubled soul, the Savior can feel Every heartache and tear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 24, 2017


Hypocrites are handy to have around.
If your goal is to discredit the church, hypocrites-in-the-church is a plea that seems always to work for you. Who can deny that there are people who say they are Christ-followers who are faking it—putting on a front? Their outward appearance is a mask hiding an inner reality that bears no relation to the Man from Galilee.

For critics, no matter how much paint there is around, there is still only one brush so we all get painted with it.

  • “Christians” are Bible-thumping bigots, gun-toting morons trafficking in hate and self-interest.
  • All “preachers” are fakes—snake oil salesmen, charlatans, money-grubbing showmen or slick, sick imposters one jump ahead of the law.
  • Small churches are little covens of ignorance singing silly songs and teaching who knows what.
  • Mega Churches are empires of opulence providing members with luxuries while the hungry go without on their doorsteps, collecting buckets of cash each week to buy their preacher another airplane.

Yeah, yeah—hypocrites are handy to have around if what you want to do is feel superior and un-holier than thou.

Forego the Mask
But, if you want to really follow Christ, no mask is needed for there is nothing to hide. You wear your heart on your face.

  • You don’t thump your Bible, you read it. More than that, you let the Bible read you—changing you from the inside out.
  • You may or may not have a gun somewhere, but if you do, you are far from stupid with it.
  • You traffic in love, not hate with a documented record of giving and compassion to prove it if need be.

Real preachers are called of God to learn the truth and how to tell it, no matter where that takes them.

  • They have no interest in career ladders or the applause of an audience.
  • They have a story to tell, a Kingdom to represent—one of love in the midst of hate, of light shining out of darkness, of integrity in the face of corruption, and of peace from strife.
  • They aren’t interested in publicity but in the public ministry of Jesus in a hurting world.

The Real Thing
Real men and women of God have a single, shining moment in mind—the one that counts—the one in which they kneel before Jesus and wait to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” They measure all career choices against this moment.

Churches, large, small, or somewhere in between, are collections of people:

  • the true and the false,
  • the hypocrites and the real,
  •  the strugglers and stragglers,
  • the untested and the proven,
  • the fallen and the restored,
  • the rich, the poor, and that all-powerful middle class that wins elections.

Churches collect money and spend it; most of the time they spend it well. No one can calculate the good done by the least of these churches in the communities they serve. No government could afford to step in and cover for the works of believers if they were suddenly absent from the scene—which someday soon they will be!

So, Christ-followers! Be real—Jesus is! Be present—Jesus is! Be true—Jesus is!

Come to think of it—Christ-followers are handy to have around!

Psalm 26 NIV
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O Lord, proclaiming aloud your praiseand telling of all your wonderful deeds. I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells. Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes. But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me. My feet stand on level ground;in the great assembly I will praise the Lord.
1 John 4:1-3 NIV
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 NIV
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.
Matthew 15:6-9 NIV
Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”
Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lord Jesus, this world doesn’t need another pretender, another poser, checking the mirror in mind to make sure his appearance is just right. The world needs another genuine person, one of truth not fakery, peace not strife, humility not pride. You were that person when You walked this earth. Walk this earth again today in me. May Your reality shine through my humanity. This is what the world needs. It is what I need, too. Amen and Amen.

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

1. I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

Refrain: Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be dear Lord, let it be

2. When my feeble life is over
Time for me will be no more
Guide me gently, safely over
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore


Keep Me True

Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Give me power every hour to be true.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 23, 2017


“…a cup of cold water…”
Jesus encouraged us to live a considerate life; He said even a cup of cold water given in His name would be rewarded. What is the considerate life?

A considerate person is one who is thoughtful in many things.
He/she considers:

  • The needs of others,
  • The issues of the day,
  • The principles that guide our daily choices, and,
  • The long term effect of decisions made today.

An inconsiderate person is the opposite of this.


  • Thinks primarily of personal needs,
  • Only considers the issues of the day in light of the effect on him/her,
  • Is highly pragmatic, considering only what works in each moment, and
  • Rarely gives a thought to the future harvest today’s seed may bring.

Obviously, the more considerate we choose to be, the more we will be welcomed into the company of others.  There will be some who feel entitled to our consideration so it probably will not be returned or appreciated.  Their failure, however, should not affect our determination to live considerate lives.

The Consideration of God and His Word
The first direction in which we should focus our consideration is toward the Lord Himself.  Such consideration of God is a vital form of worship.  When we think about God, deeply, personally, and regularly, He reveals Himself to us.  Reading the Bible with an open heart is a powerful way to consider God.  When we read the story of Jesus, we should put ourselves into the narrative so that when we read His words, He is speaking to us.

The Consideration of Creation
To pay close attention to the sky, the land, the waters, the animals, and the people God has made with His own hands, is a wonderful way to draw close to Him.  Considering the cosmos and the earth within it to be God’s handiwork provides a perspective on our place in things that is essential.

The Consideration of Culture
The thoughtful person seeks to understand the unseen forces at work in the world by closely considering what is broadcast, published, printed, and presented by the surrounding culture.  Jesus said that people speak from the contents of the heart. If artists and entertainers have wickedness in their hearts, it will surface in their work. Entertainers will make us laugh at things that aren’t funny at all.

  • They will celebrate and promote shameful things that should be denounced and suppressed.
  • They will present a seductive beauty that will tempt us to lust after the things of the flesh rather than the spirit.
  • They will propagate the themes of the moment rather than the wisdom of the ages.  Their passion is for the here-and-now and they show a callous disregard for the future.

If we do not listen critically and watch thoughtfully, the lies the culture tells will erode the force of the truth we hold inside that came from God.

  • The pressing present moment will supplant the silent but impending future that will surely come.
  • The trembling vibrations of pleasure today will all too quickly give way to the violent shaking of judgment tomorrow.

If we carefully consider the culture around us in the light of the Word of God, we will be warned to flee from the wrath to come.

The Consideration of Others
We do not live in a vacuum.  Our lives affect the lives of others and they affect us.  The Bible makes it clear that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is no easy or natural thing to do; it is a gift from God, an enablement from the Holy Spirit.

  • Some of our neighbors worship with us and still others worship the same Lord in other churches.  They are what the Bible calls the household of faith.  We should consider them to be family: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers.
  • Most of our neighbors are not members of the household of faith, but they, like us, were created to have a relationship with God.  When we are considerate of them, it is a witness, not to our character, but to the character of Christ.  Our thoughtful consideration of them, leads toward their Creator, not away from Him.

In prayer today, stop and consider: God and His Word, His marvelous creation, the fallen culture around us, and the people we know.  Look for “cups of cold water” within in your power to share. Such consideration makes us a force for good in the world.

Psalm 8:3-5
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 77:12-15
I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Hebrews 12:2-3
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Matthew 10:40-42 NKJV
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

Lord Jesus, Again today I am inspired by the life You lived on this earth. Your kindness to those in pain, to the oppressed, and to those bound in poverty stands out on every page. When you talked about “cups of cold water,” people knew what You meant. Today I will live a life of consideration. I will ponder the meaning of things. I will judge the culture by the eternal Word of God and I will keep my eyes open for the thirsty soul within my reach. You have blessed me with living water to spare so I will share it today, not just in words but in deeds of mercy. All for You, Lord Jesus. All for You. Amen.

Let Me Touch Him
Words and Music: Vep Ellis

There’s a river, a river flowing,
From within and to cleanse my soul;
And the flow sets my life to glowing,
Holy Spirit, more than silver or gold.

Oh to be His hand extended,
Reaching out to the oppressed.
Let me touch Him, let me touch Jesus,
So that others may know and be blest.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 22, 2017


Truth be told, we are all afraid of the dark.
It varies of course from person or person, but if the darkness is thick enough, cold enough, menacing enough, it will get to us. Jesus said evil people preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. And that’s why we fear the dark—someone evil is out there in the dark lying in wait for the innocent—for people like us!

Who can say how much of our country’s economy is spent on keeping back the darkness—not just in streets and buildings and alleyways and sidewalks, but also the darkness of ignorance and injustice, of addiction and avarice, of crime and corruption?

Whatever it costs, it is worth it. The contrast between light and dark is so readily seen that we use the words as metaphors for righteousness and wickedness, for truth and deception.

Taking imagery a step further we speak of hope as light and despair as darkness. Hope, like a beam of light, splits the thick darkness of the moment. It illumines the steps we must take today and tomorrow showing clearly the hazards choking the dark path before us. Hope is the brightening sky in the east that signals then end of a long and dangerous night.

Jesus, the Light of the World
Of course this ever-present Hope has a name—Jesus, the Light of the World, the Hope of the world. My favorite biblical poet, Isaiah, describes the Hope Messiah brings: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light.” Not some flickering glimmer, but a steady beam that breaks through the fog of confusion, melts the clouds of gloom and sadness and fills us with the light of Day.

Breaking this personal light out of any basket we may have put it in, we can be fearless—“Arise! Shine! For Your Light has come! Darkness covers the Earth and deep gloom engulfs the peoples but the Lord will rise upon you.”

The psalmist trumpets the character of God with these words, “The hope of the poor will not be taken away.”

To say there is no darkness is itself darkness.
Darkness is real. Darkness is dangerous. But the Christ-follower has light within and without, a heart-light to illumine the soul and a lamp and lantern for the steps ahead. Every window of the soul we open to the Lord will be filled with light. He is not stingy with it. It is His nature—Truth, Power, Love—all in motion through the window into our darkened space. More sure than the sunrise that chases shadows across the face of the earth, His light streams to us in mercy and peace.

1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Titus 2:11-14 NIV
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem u s from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Isaiah 9:2 NIV
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
1 John 3:2-3 NIV
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Lord Jesus, Just as clouds may hide the sun but not remove it from the sky, circumstances may darken the day before me. But circumstances, no matter how dark, can never remove Your presence from my life. Just as the sun is fixed as the center of our planetary system, You are fixed at the center of my life; everything I have, everything I am, revolves around You. You give me light and life and, above all, hope. Like the obedient earth, tilted somewhat but spinning on its axis and unceasing it its journey around the sun, I will spin out my dreams today and run my course as You have laid it out for me. Thank You Lord, for this hope secure! Amen.

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;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.


3. His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.


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!


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved