November 30, 2017: “Messiah”


No one saw it coming.
They all knew Him—Jesus, the son of the carpenter Joseph of blessed memory. The young man had earned the respect of the community because of his cheerful disposition, his obvious adoration and care for His mother, Mary, the loveliest widow in the village whom no man dare approach. The quality of His carpentry was without peer. His character was beyond question. He had never lost His temper, or cheated anyone, or showed disrespect to the elders. There was not the slightest shadow of scandal, unlike Mary and Joseph when they were young.

Now He was home and the Sabbath found Him just where He should be—in the Synagogue.
The Rabbi asked Him to read the scriptures for the day and handed Him the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. In the shadows, his brother James wondered if they were now to hear of the exploits of Jesus’ latest foray into the regions around Galilee. Rumors of miracles at His hand and strange new teachings had preceded His return to Nazareth.

Jesus stood to read and with steady hands Jesus turned through the scroll until He reached the place marked for today. He began to read without looking at the text. These were words He memorized as a child long before. He had taken them to the highest hill in the village where he liked to go and think. He had meditated on them as he lay quietly at night waiting for sleep to visit. They had often been the first thoughts of the morning after He prayed the Shema, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ He began reading.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me…”

There was still some restlessness in the congregation but the slight pause in Jesus’ reading stifled the extraneous noise. This had to be heard by those who knew Him best.

“to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted…”

The thoughts of the sharpest thinkers among them began to race ahead of Jesus’ words. Surely he means Messiah—everyone knows this prophecy concerns the Messiah! When He comes He will do these things. We must wait for Him…

“…He has anointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind…”

Rumors say that such things had happened in the crowd that came to hear him preach out in Galilee. God must be praised for such miracles!

“ set at liberty those who are bruised and oppressed by evil…”

Surely Jesus isn’t taking credit for what God has done! He needs to let God be God and not interfere with Romans or the Elders. It is not wise to speak of oppression. Finally we have peace, such as it is—but this is not the time of rebellion…

“…to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

That wasn’t the end of the passage but it was where Jesus stopped. He closed the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

In the silence, hearts beat so loud you could almost hear them. Breathing did not stop but it slowed to a deep stillness. This was the carpenter’s son, a tradesman himself! He was a fine young man to be sure but he always was a little strange. Had his mind snapped? Had the acclaim of the crowd shaken his good sense? Awakened his long-suppressed pride? Tradition called for Him to comment on the passage…

“…Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Riot
The silence did not immediately relent. Heads began to turn as hometown worshipers looked at each other. They began to whisper.

“Is this not Joseph the carpenter’s son?”

No one knows what Jesus expected of His friends, patrons, and fellow citizens of Nazareth. Quickly He sensed their unbelief, their skepticism, their suspicion. His whole life He had ignored their snubs and their whispered abuse of Joseph and Mary. He wanted them to understand what He had read and prophesied—the time was now! Messiah had come! Things were about to change forever and they could be witnesses to it all. They could testify to the world of the life He had lived before them. They could finally reinterpret the rumors and believe the truth about Joseph and Mary as prophecies fulfilled. But they would not listen. They would not believe.

Every face He looked at represented a story about Him.

  • Things He made were in their homes, tables, chairs, cabinets, all crafted with care by His hands.
  • Some of the men plowed their fields with plows He built or them.
  • He saw men with whom He had played as children.
  • A few still owed Him money for His work.

There was not a stranger in the synagogue that day.

“ You say to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself—do the same things here that you did Capernaum.’ The saying is true that a prophet never finds honor in His own country.”

Using Bible stories of people who missed their opportunities He scolded them from a broken heart, not an angry one.

Like lightning, the crowd turned violent. They rose as one and seized Jesus, dragging Him out of the synagogue smashing pots and jars, spilling their contents into the streets and smashing the ancient laws of behavior on the Sabbath. Though He did not resist them they wrestled Jesus through the narrows streets, out the town gates, and to the brow of that same contemplative hill. The time had come, but not for this.

Somehow Jesus stopped and silenced the mob. Those who held Him simply let Him go. Perhaps it was His eyes, so gentle to them day by day, now shining with wrath—like the wrath the Temple merchants would see in a short while—but whatever it was, something disarmed the mob.

Jesus stood there, staring deep into each set of familiar eyes. No one could return His stare for long. Gradually a lane cleared before Him. Quietly, peacefully, Jesus walked through the mob. No one tried to stop Him but no one could take their eyes from Him either. The Bible closes the incident like this:

“Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

An Opportunity Missed
The people of Nazareth missed their opportunity. Unbelief settled into the village, even into the home of Mary, His mother. Jesus moved His residence to Capernaum. From this point Nazareth could be called the Capitol of Irony. In Nazareth:

  • Gabriel announced the coming of Messiah to the virgin Mary.
  • Joseph and Mary established their home and business upon their return from Egypt.
  • Jesus grew from childhood to manhood, learning a trade as He learned about the Kingdom of God at the local Rabbinical school.
  • Jesus was violently rejected by the people who thought they knew Him.

When we gather to worship Him, Jesus walks among us—an opportunity to be seized.

Luke 4:16-30 NKJV
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way..

Lord Jesus, may I never underestimate You! You are the Lord, Messiah, Redeemer, Revealer of God’s Heart. May I always treasure every opportunity to be with You in morning prayer and weekly worship. May I hear Your voice and Your message. May I ever experience Your anointing to be all I will ever need. May Your miraculous provision be mine each day and may I always be sensitive to Your Holy Presence. You are Emmanuel, God with Us, with ME! May I live and move and have my being in You! Thank You, Lord!

Pass Me Not
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: W. Howard Doane

1. Pass me not, O gentle Savior, hear my humble cry;
while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry;
while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

2. Let me at thy throne of mercy find a sweet relief;
kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief.


3. Trusting only in thy merit, would I seek thy face;
heal my wounded, broken spirit, save me by thy grace.


4. Thou the spring of all my comfort, more than life to me,
whom have I on earth beside thee? Whom in heaven but thee?


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 29, 2017: “Justice”


A two-way street, justice is.
We all need justice but are often neglectful of the needs of others. The power of any government to administer justice will always been mixed with the power of people to neglect or even to corrupt it. Justice is the result of true worship—the flow of redemption from the heart of God to the repentant hearts of people.

The Psalmist presents the impending judgement of God in terms of joy:

Psalm 96:10-13
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.” Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.

Joy in judgement—what a surprise! Joy in justice—what a delight!
In Jesus’ hands the scales of justice are filled with healing balm.

  • He is like the Good Samaritan who finds us beside the ruin of the road we have chosen and tends to our wounds while the self-righteous seek another lane to travel.
  • His medicine is grace ground from the dregs of the bitter cup he drank in the garden.
  • His innocence did little to dilute the rancid wine of our sin yet he drained that cup.
  • He stood before the courts of this world, innocent yet condemned to die.
  • He wore the thorny crown, bowed beneath the whip, carried the cross, and took the nails and the spear.
  • His Light split the darkness of the night before the third day for no tomb that man could ever build could ever hold Him.

This is the One Good Man who found us wounded and robbed by the side of the road. This is the One Good Man who treated our wounds and carried us to safety. He paid our expenses and promised to return.

This is the One Good Man who will come to judge the earth.

Justice and Mercy
Justice has a companion in the heart of God. He warns His people not to seek revenge and reserves any rights to vengeance to Himself alone. When we have been wronged, it is not for us to strike back, attempting in our own strength to makes things right through payback. We must follow the example of Jesus from the cross, forgiving those who have wronged us. It isn’t easy; it goes against human nature, but it is the Jesus way. We who have received mercy must also grant mercy to those who have wronged us. This is justice rooted in Calvary.

Today, let us walk the roads of this world with an eye toward the wounded and a heart that beats for justice.

Psalm 98: 9
Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.
Amos 5:24 NKJV
But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Luke 10:29-37 NKJV
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Lord Jesus, thank You for accepting the penalty for my sins and those of the whole world. Through Your amazing grace I stand before God as if I had never sinned! Like the Good Samaritan, You found me and dressed my wounds. You cared for my wounded soul until I was well and fully recovered. Now You are with me every day in mercy and grace. Help me see the wounded ones on the roads I walk today so that I can show mercy and be a healer. This is justice, too. For Your Kingdom, Lord! Amen.

Let Me Touch Him
Words and Music: Vep Ellis

1. Let me touch Him, let me touch Jesus;
Let me touch Him as He passes by
So when I shall reach out to others
They shall know him They shall live and not die

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 blessed.

2. I was straying so far from Jesus
I was lonely, had no peace within
Then the hand of my savior touched me
Now I’m reaching to others in sin


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 28, 2017: “Pretense”


Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.
Jesus walked in truth through a world of deception.

  • Once, the world was “good” in the eyes and judgment of the Creator.
  • Now, it was bad, corrupted by the contents of the human heart.
  • Once, the True Religion of the Covenant with Jehovah was pure and powerful, running like a well-tuned clock ticking off the hours of prayer through the day and the night, the seasons of the year, and the generations to come.
  • Now, it was putrid and pitiful, reeking of the power-grabbing machinations of Herod and Caiaphas. They had turned the Covenant with God into a power structure for sinful leaders, smart in the ways of men but ignorant of the ways of God.

A World of Pretense
They misjudged Jesus, thinking of Him as unlearned and unsophisticated, an opponent scarcely worthy of their superior skill. So they pretended.

Luke 20:19-20
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.

They were defeated before the game even began.
Jesus saw through their pretense like a clean window made of the clearest of glasses. Their wicked hearts were laid open to His perusal. He found hate, ambition, deceit, violence, and duplicity coursing through their veins, sourced in and pumped by those wicked hearts.

They thought they had Him this time; they would ask a question that had no correct answer.

Should faithful Jews living under Roman occupation serve God or Caeser?

With the simple toss of a Roman coin, He answered the unanswerable question:

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Stunned, there was only one course left to them, something that had never tried before; “they kept silent.”

We laugh at them, but we should also learn from them.
Let us keep silent in prayer so that the holy light of the Holy Spirit can search our hearts. Because we are human, pretense may lurk in our hearts, too. The world doesn’t need any of our preening pretense; the world needs to see real followers of Christ—people who walk in His steps, people with a different vocabulary, a cleaner sense of humor, a higher sense of honor and a genuine sense of purpose. Life isn’t a show; it is a real life drama. We do not “present” ourselves to this world, we occupy it. We do not “strut and fret our hour upon the stage,” as Shakespeare said that actors must do. We live a larger life than a play within a proscenium, a theatrical stage. Our story is one of eternity, a grand narrative of good conquering evil, light destroying darkness, and life defeating death.

Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.

Only the foolish think they can fool God.

Luke 20:19-26 NKJV
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 19:7-14 NKJV
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Help me be real as I walk through the events of this day. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O God my strength and my Redeemer. May my choices reflect the values of Your Kingdom. May my actions spring from Your love in my heart. May my story be yet another chapter in Your grand narrative, the story of God’s love come to earth, God’s compassion reaching to the wounded hearts of men. Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Amen and Amen!

Cleanse Me
Text: J. Edwin Orr; Music: Maori Melody

1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.

2. I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, when once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
3. Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride;
I now surrender; Lord in me abide.

4. O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival—start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply the need;
For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 27, 2017: “Foundations”


Sometimes how things seem to be is not how things really are.
Our daily perspective is earthbound and wrapped in time—swiftly passing ticks on a clock hidden somewhere beyond our reach. We grasp for the good moments but often they pass away before we can safely lock them into our hearts.

Our memories, good and bad, represent a tiny fraction of the days we have lived and the moments through which we have passed.

  • The beautiful moments we capture are like jewels in our mind, shining, sparkling, with only the slightest amount of light.
  • The horrid moments of our history lurk in the shadows of memory, obstacles we trip over in the dreams of the night.

Memories of People
Along the way, we have been opposed by some and assisted by many. Calling these two rolls brings both praise and repentance.

  • “Lord thank you for____________.”
  • “Lord help me forgive__________.”

Our story continues, a new chapter with the rising of every sun and the going down of the same. Each day is just a partial collection of memories, never the whole story, a chapter, not the complete narrative.

When Foundations Begin to Shake
Sometimes from this earthbound perspective, it seems the very foundations of life are trembling and about to fall. It isn’t true but the feeling is very real. Hear the words of the Psalmist:

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

In such a moment, the poet wants to flee like a bird to the mountain and so do we. No longer earthbound, we seek a higher place of safety, a truer perspective far from the trembling foundations that threaten to collapse beneath us. What is the Lord’s answer to this heart-cry?

What should we remember? Not the little library of stories that have happened to us, the bright jewels that cheer us and dark obstacles that hinder us. No we must call to mind a much bigger story—the Story of God!

  • He is the Creator of all things!
  • He is the lover of all His Creation!
  • He rules in Heaven and bends all the hosts of Heaven to our rescue and to our safety.

The foundations are safe. No one can pull down what God has ordained to stand and that includes us.

When it seems the foundations are shaking, remember Who God Is!

Psalm 11
In the Lord have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me, “Fly away like a bird to the hilltop; For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from ambush at the true of heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold the inhabited world; his piercing eye weighs our worth. The Lord weighs the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence he abhors. Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; a scorching wind shall be their lot. For the Lord is righteous; he delights in righteous deeds; and the just shall see his face.
2 Timothy 2:14-19 NKJV
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 NKJV
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.
Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
“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.”

Lord Jesus, You are my Rock. I have heard Your words and I am building my house upon them. When the storm arises, as it is sure to do, You and I will stand strong. When the winds and rains and waves crash against us, we will not crumble, we will not fall. You have already taken the worst blast Hell can offer and it did not move You an inch. Thank You for Your proven strength in the storms I have to face. Lord, by Your Spirit, corral my memories, monitor my thoughts, and when my perspective slips toward despair, remind me of Who You are! –The God Who Keeps Covenant, unshakable, eternal, fixed in purpose and power, loving and true. You are my security, my foundation, and my mighty fortress. Amen and Amen.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Words and Music: Martin Luther

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 Through 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

November 25, 2017 “Retreating”


Retreat is not always a sign of defeat.
To avoid the appearance of a defeat, military commanders sometimes order a “strategic withdrawal” instead of a retreat. It is more than a trick of words; there is a real difference.  In terms of war, a retreat could mean the abandonment of territory gained in battle or previously possessed. A strategic withdrawal is a delaying action, saving the army to fight again another day.

In spiritual terms a retreat is usually considered a positive thing. It is much more like a strategic withdrawal. We are not surrendering to the forces arrayed against us. We are withdrawing from the front lines for a time of rest and recreation. In modern warfare this necessity has been so recognized as to need only its initials—“R&R.”

Sometimes it didn’t turn out so well.
In the American Civil War the regiment from the state of Maine commanded by Col. Joshua Chamberlin was placed in the center of the line on Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg because they had been severely reduced by their heroic rout of Confederate troops at Little Round Top. The center of the line was considered the safest place for them to rest. The next day General Robert E. Lee order one of the largest infantry charges on the whole war, led by General Pickett, on that very spot, the center of the Union line. The was no rest for the boys from Maine.

In World War II the same thing happened with the First Infantry Division. After months of continuous combat, they were sent to the center of the line in the Ardennes, thought to be safe from German assault. That is where the Battle of the Bulge began.

Retreating in the Bible
The Old Testament required equal parts of rest and worship for the Sabbath Day and for all the feast days prescribed for Old Covenant worship.  Perhaps the reason mankind has been ordered to rest by our Creator is our internal drive that some of us have to work.  This impulse needs moderation.  In others, the impulse to work seems to missing and they attempt to make life one long Sabbath.  In other words while some of us need for someone to built a fire under us, most of us need to let the fires within us become campfires warming us while we sit beside them and dream.  The fires within the believer, when they burn with the oil of the Holy Spirit, will provide warm and safety while we rest awhile by their light.

Jesus Himself knew how to retreat for a time during His earthly ministry.
There were times when He dismissed the crowds and went away alone to pray.  At other times, He left the disciples to find a place of solitude.  In the book of Acts, the apostles followed His example of the prayer retreat—a strategic withdrawal.  These prayer retreats preceded important decisions or discoveries:

  • Jesus spent the night in prayer before He chose the twelve disciples.
  • Jesus retreated to pray alone before He walked on water.
  • The transfiguration happened on a prayer retreat with Jesus, James, John, and Peter.
  • The Garden of Gethsemane was the last of their prayer retreats.
  • Peter went alone to the rooftop to pray and saw a vision that changed everything in his life and expressed the inclusive nature of the New Covenant.

In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus located daily prayer in a place of seclusion, free from distractions and interference.  That place of prayer is called different things in different versions: the closet, the secret place, your room, your inner room, your most private room and the point is obvious.

When we find that place of retreat, we yield no ground to the enemy, we acknowledge no permanent defeat, we put out no fires within us, and we fear no enemy out there in the dark.  In the Secret Place of prayer we stoke our fires, polish our weapons, nourish our inner selves, and we rest in the assurance of tomorrow’s victory.  This retreat is not defeat; it is a strategic withdrawal.

Mark 6:45-46
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
Luke 6:12-13
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:
Matthew 14:22-24
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Luke 9:28-30
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
Matthew 26:36-38
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Acts 10:9-10
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
Matthew 6:6-7  NKJV
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Lord Jesus, Just as I find my calling and vocation in You, I also find my rest in You. Help me avoid the “Messiah Complex” that says to rest from my labors is a sin, or at least an act of neglect. Lord, I know, that I am just a part of Your Kingdom and that things will go well as I rest–of course they will. Let my mind rest today. Send me interesting things to think about that will enrich and refresh me. Help me find activities that are wholesome and restorative. I know that Your great heart includes times of retreat and renewal–all in the heart of God! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Near to the Heart of God
Words and Music: Cleland Boyd McAfee

1. There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God,
a place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God,
hold us, who wait before thee, near to the heart of God.

2. There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God,
a place where we our Savior meet, near to the heart of God.


3. There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God,
a place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 24, 2017: “Vision”


The Holy Spirit enables us to see with the eyes of our spirit. 
We “see” things undetectable by the natural eye, things that are more real than vision and more substantive than solids, things existing in a place unhindered by time, wear, decay, or corruption.

This is how the believer in Jesus becomes a witness to the cross.  Years ago, the great gospel songwriter, Bill Gaither, penned these words:

I’ve been to Calvary.  I can say I’ve seen the Lord.
I’ve been to Calvary, through the witness of His Word.
Each day at Calvary, what a thrill of love divine,
Just to know that the Savior is mine.

Believers since the 1960’s have embraced this song because it is a shared experience that produces an inner vision of the cross and our resurrected Savior.  The Holy Spirit can easily bridge the span of centuries, oceans, and continents between the worshiper and the actual hill called Calvary.

The Gift of Imagination
How is this possible? The Lord has equipped us with a marvelous gift—imagination.  As children, we drift in and out of the real world available to our developing senses and our inner world available to our imagination.  Child’s play is a rehearsal for adult creativity.

The gift of imagination is really the gift on internal vision.  Imagination enables us to open our hearts and minds to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  This is much different from childhood play.  The cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the Day of Pentecost, the Throne of God and of the Lamb, the River of Life flowing from it to the healing of the nations are not figments of our imagination—they are spiritual realities.  When we envision spiritual realities we do not create them, we open our spirits to revelation from God.  Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would have such a “spirit of revelation.”  We should turn on the movie screen of our minds when we worship, read the Bible, and certainly when we intercede.

The Terrible Cost of a Missing Vision
The Book of Proverbs states that lack of vision (the NIV word is “revelation”) causes death on a large scale.  Our society is rushing toward disaster because so few people have “been to Calvary.”

Today as we meditate on the cross, let us lift our inner eyes beyond that terrible day, to  the resurrection, and to the ascension of Jesus to His Throne in Heaven.  A vision of the victorious One is the message of the church.  Peter preached it  for the first time at Pentecost.  The early church occupied a world filled with frightening, confusing visual images  They reached that world because of a shared vision of Jesus the Victor.

Proverbs 29:18 KJV; NIV
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Ephesians 1:16-17
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Acts 2:22-25; 32-34
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…. and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Psalm 85:10 NKJV
Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

From The Book of Common Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You stretched out Your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace: So clothe us in Your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of You; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary. I know this is more than the tragic tale of a young man misunderstood and struck down too soon. This is not a tragedy; it is a triumph! Open my eyes that I may see the congruence of Your great love and justice in these painful events: the perfect sacrifice that makes it possible for sins to be forgiven, bodies to be healed from disease, and tortured minds to be restored. In one sweeping vision, let me see Your great love to send Jesus to us as our Redeemer and Your great wrath against evil. Help this vision propel me forward to do Your will so that more people may come to know You. Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary.

Open My Eyes that I Might 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

November 23, 2017: “Thanksgiving”


They found each other, these ten lepers. 
They had no one else. Their families had turned them out; they had to. It was only right. Their villages had sent them away; they had to. And now they had found each other; they had to, as well. They drifted from garbage heap to garbage heap finding only rags to wear and scraps to eat. When the wind was right, their collective odor announced their approach and people scattered before them. When the wind blew the other way, they would often catch people unaware. Then, when their presence was discovered, the people would flee before them, like a beaten army before a conquering foe and always with the cry,

“Unclean! Unclean!”

The sight of healthy people running in such terror from this rag-tag mob, was ironic. The ten lepers had no strength; they were practically starving. There weren’t even enough fingers and toes, and hands and feet to go around. This was no conquering foe. It was the disease, of course, leprosy. There was no cure, no prevention except to keep it away and pity the poor ones who had it.

It was only right.

So, they had each other and that was it. This was the life they lived: human refuse, a moving trash heap.

“…He saw them…”

But, somewhere along the way they heard about a man who did not run from lepers. He was a teacher and a healer and He was coming their way. As He approached their village, they met Him but stood at the appropriate distance.

Luke 17:13 KJV
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

Jesus looked at the ten. He saw them, not their disease.

  • He saw wives without husbands, homes without fathers, and important work that was not being done.
  • He saw men whose dreams had crumbled within them as their bodies crumbled on the outside.
  • He saw helplessness and absolute despair.

Luke 17:14 KJV
And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

This man who did not run told them what to do–go, not to another dump, but to the Temple, to the priests. There was a ritual, a Word from God for them. God had not forgotten them. He had a plan. Something in His words, something in His eyes, something in Him told them to obey. They ran as well as rags and bandages and makeshift crutches would allow.

And as they went, something new began to happen.

Crippled feet began to tingle and burn, not with pain but with new growth as toes sprouted where stumps had been.

  • Fingers and hands and whole arms began to swing in the wind as strength, long forgotten, returned to limbs no longer wasted by the disease.
  • Their ragged, rhythm-less running became smooth and effortless like Greek athletes in a race.
  • Ten men began to strip away rags they no longer needed or deserved.

Nine of them ran on to the village but, one stopped and looked on at his former colleagues as they disappeared around corners and into streets that led them back to life. This one turned and looked back to Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t met them on the road, if He hadn’t fearlessly spoken to them, their lives would never have changed.

“If it hadn’t been for You, he must have thought, I would still be sick and an outcast.”

Slowly, this man who was one in ten, realized that before he ran to meet his future, there was something else he had to do.

It was only right.

Jesus was touched with the thanksgiving of this one. But He wondered about the others.

“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

The man did not know where they had gone; home most likely. Jesus looked deep into the eyes of this Samaritan, one who would be routinely despised by the Jews. He was sure there were Jews among the other nine. Ironically, their disease had made them a community. Healing of the disease restored the prejudice of the routine.

Jesus smiled at the thankful one, seeing in him those who would someday return to give thanks when the other great disease of mankind was cured.

It is only right.

Luke 17:11-19 NKJV
Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Psalm 100 NKJV
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Phil 4:6-7 NKJV
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank You. Thank You for all the blessings of this life and promises of the life to come. Thank You for the wonderful people in my life, those here with me and those who are there with You. Thank You for work to do in Your Kingdom and blessed co-workers to join me in the following of Your will and the advancing of Your Kingdom. Thank You for a vanquished foe whose devices and designs were defeated at the Cross. Thank You for weapons of Spiritual Warfare that are not fleshly but are mighty through You to the pulling down of strongholds. Thank You for the blessed past which brought me to You, for the bright future You are preparing for me, and for this bountiful present moment. Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Now Thank We All Our God
Words: Martin Rinckart (Trans. Catherine Winkworth) Music: Johann Cruger

1. Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

2. O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills of this world in the next.

3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 22, 2017: “Rank”


In the military, rank really counts. 
A soldier, sailor, airman, or marine has to know where he or she stands in the chain of command.  Over the years a cliché has been used to describe warriors of the lowest degree, “the rank and file.”  In the modern versions of the military in the USA there is a clear difference between “enlisted personnel” and the officers’ corps.

Among each group there are progressive strata of authority available to the individual with each rank adding a stripe to the uniform and another level of responsibility to the duties of that individual.  Likewise, the officers’ corps features a progression through ranks with appropriate insignia and increasing responsibilities.

How does this apply to spiritual combat in the Army of the Lord? 
Of course rank is not as formalized in the church as in the military but it certainly is a reality.  Each of us needs to understand where we function in the “chain of command,” from Jesus down to us, and on to those we lead.  Ideally, leaders in the church rise to that position of responsibility because of the call of God on their lives.  This ideal should be present at every level of leadership and follow-ship in the church—each one should be serving in the area of his/her calling.

This may be all too rare, but is the way that Jesus taught. He turned the seeking of rank on its head, proclaiming that leadership in the Kingdom of God was really servant hood. It is interesting to note that in their letters, the Apostles claimed to be servants not masters, private soldiers not generals.

Rank and Privilege
With the calling of God on each person as the central factor, the effects of rank in the Army of God are quite different from the effects of rank in the military organizations today.  In the world, “rank has its privileges.”  The general or the admiral is considered more important than the private soldier or able bodied seaman.

Not so in the Kingdom of God! Every warrior in the Army of the Lord is equal in importance, if not in rank!  We do not have equal responsibility but we are of equal worth.  This is a significant difference!

  • Some of us have the responsibilities of officers, that is, we are leaders, planners, and evaluators.
  • Others have the responsibility level of enlisted personnel, that is, we carry out the plans of the officers.
  • Each of us, leader or follower, planner, or implementer, holds an equal place in the heart of our Commander, the Lord Jesus.

Paul used the soldier-commander model to encourage young Timothy to a life of faithful spiritual warfare, warning him not to become entangled with “civilian” activities that would take his mind and heart away from the war at hand.  He gave Timothy a lofty but entirely manageable life’s goal: “to please your commanding officer.”

To do this, Timothy had to live a specific life:

  • He had to live life “by the Book,” that means, according to the Word of God.
  • He must seek to please the Lord and not men.
  • He must wage warfare with spiritual weapons, not those of men.

Today for a warrior of any rank, this remains a good three-fold set of life principles:

  1. Live by the Book;
  2. Please the Lord; and
  3. Depend on the Holy Spirit.

In the Army of the Lord, this, not rank, is what really counts.

Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ
James 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
Jude 1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
Mark 10:42-45
… Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 1:27-28
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus’ Teaching: Matt 9:38; 11:25; 12:8; 20:16; Luke 13:29-30

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
  • Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth
  • For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath
  • So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.

Revelation 22:9
Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
1 John 5:1-5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
2 Timothy 2:3-5
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer.

Lord Jesus, You are my commanding officer. At the same time, You have given me responsibilities that put others under my leadership. I want to shoulder these responsibilities and succeed in every mission. Help me lead as Your words command, not in forced power but in shared responsibilities. Give me spiritual vision to see the field of battle. Give me strategic wisdom to know what should be done. Help me prepare the spiritual weapons in Your arsenal and use them well. You are Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Our Banner, Our Victory. I will raise Your name high for all my soldiers to see. In Your victory, Amen.

Onward, Christian Soldiers
Words: S. Baring-Gould; Music: Arthur Sullivan

1. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banner go!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!

2. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise!


3. Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.


4. Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor, unto Christ the King;
This thro’ countless ages men and angels sing.


Semper Reformanda!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 21, 2017: “Success”


Success is always a measurement. 
It is not always as simple as the winning team scoring more points than the losing team.  In the movie Rocky, the hero is a tremendous success even though he lost the boxing match.  How can that be?  Because we are skillfully led to understand his life and dreams, we judge Rocky to be a success, and more than that, an inspiration.

Success breeds success, so the saying goes, and there is truth here.  We don’t like to fail.  We don’t study the lives of failures unless they ultimately succeed.  We read books and attend seminars to learn how others have succeeded because we desire success.

Success and Jesus
It is all well and good, but it is not really that simple.  For the Christ-follower success is measured in more ways than in the world’s judgment.  We forget this sometimes and become enamored with Christian leaders or artists or athletes who become famous.  It is natural for us to assume that money, fame, and excellence are surefire indications of success.  They are not, though, and we have to face it.  Our success begins and ends with the Lord Jesus.

The measurement we make is in our heart of hearts.

  • “Did we find the Lord’s plan?”
  • “Did we operate by His principles?”
  • “Did our work please Him?”

Our success is not measured in numbers or in profit; these are judgments of our effectiveness.  The measure of our success is our faithfulness to God.

  • Are we working at what He wants us to do?
  • Are we working in the place He wants with the people He wants?
  • Are we building upon the work of those who have gone before us?
  • Are we doing our absolute best to accomplish the job?
  • Do we cherish the people and respect the things God has provided for the work?
  • Are we loyal to those over us and respectful of those we lead?
  • Can the church count on us in the commitments we have made?

To be faithful is to succeed.
If we can answer yes to all of these questions, we have succeeded. If the numbers do not show increase, we will keep going.  We will not give up because we are trusting God for the increase—that’s His job!  Our job is to be faithful.

The Bible talks about three kinds of ministry:

  1. Sowing the seed,
  2. Watering the seed and the seedling, and
  3. Reaping the harvest.

The one who sows the seed is successful when the sowing is done.  The one who waters the seed and tends the plant is successful when the plant bears fruit.  The one reaps the harvest succeeds when the storehouse is full.  Each one has succeeded because he did what God asked him to do.

Because God is a Covenant Keeper, our success is guaranteed!  To feel the joy of our success, we have to measure our work by the proper standard.  Our story, too, will be an inspiration.

Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 John 3:21
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Nehemiah 2:20
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
James 3:18
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 4:2-3
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Matthew 25:23
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
2 Corinthians 9:10-11
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Galatians 6:8-9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Lord Jesus, I want to succeed in this life, therefore, I want to be used by You to the fullest extent. You created me and placed me in these circumstances for specific purposes. Sometimes my assignment is one of sowing the precious seed. At other times You ask me to water the seeds others have sown. In the best of times I get to be a harvester, bringing in my sheaves with rejoicing. Help me to sow good seed and to sow it in tears. Help be faithful even when weariness would tempt me to ease up a bit. I know success will be mine. You told me that You have chosen me to bear much fruit and that it will be fruit that abides. Now, by faith in Your promises and with confidence in Your faithfulness, I will succeed today, or if there is some delay, tomorrow! In Your Name, Lord Jesus!

To Be Used of God
Words and Music: Audrey Mieir

1. I’ve a yearning in my heart That cannot be denied.
It’s a longing that has Never yet been satisfied.
I want the world to know The One who loves them so
Like a flame it’s burning deep inside.

To be used of God, To sing to speak to pray,
To be used of God, To show someone the way,
Oh how I long so much to feel The touch of His consuming fire,
To be used of God is my desire

2. When I think about the shortness Of my earthly years,
I remember all the wasted days The wasted tears.
I long to preach the Word To those who’ve never heard
Of the One who can dispel all fears.


Semper Reformanda!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 20, 2017: “Utility”


u·til·i·ty noun 1. the state or quality of being useful; usefulness: 2. something useful; a useful thing. 3.  a public service

The Kingdom of God is a practical place.

Each of us is highly esteemed by the Lord; He has deemed us worthy of Calvary.  Yet, not one of us is simply an ornament on the Tree of Life or a decoration on the face of the earth.  Each of us has purpose.  We are here for a reason.  We have a utility to provide to the Lord and to our fellow human beings.  We are called to be useful.

As an infant we simply existed, cooing and crying, smiling and grimacing at the pleasures and pains that came our way.  We did not make the world go round.  We made no significant contribution to society, added nothing to the wealth of the family or the nation, and provided no profit or product demanded by anyone—except those who loved us!  As a beloved child we made our parent’s world go round, made precious contributions to their lives, held great potential for society’s benefit, were an asset to the home and the country and produced joy in the hearts of those who held us dear.  Even as infants, each of us possessed utility.

As we grew to become kids, teens, and young adults, we added skills and personality to our preciousness and started being useful to those beyond our family.  The early teen years pulled us away from our parents to the passing parade of people our age who might be friends.  One of the ways to make friends is to possess utility.  We make them laugh.  We are good listeners.  We help them in many ways.  In turn, we share interests and activities, problems and fun.  Friends are friends because they are useful to each other.  The pattern for life is set.

For the believer, the spiritual element of usefulness becomes a determining factor. 
We sense that we can be useful to God.  We suspect deep in our hearts that God has a plan for our lives, something He wants us to do, a specific way He wants us to serve Him and our fellow human beings.  If our progress from child to adult is a proper one, this sense of calling will become the ruling sentiment—the controlling idea—behind our choices, from friends to fun, and from ambitions to amusements.

All is not lost.
What if those early teen years were misspent?  What if the opportunities of youth were wasted, stolen by the temptations of a shallow, live-for-the-moment culture?  All is not lost.  Redemption is the most amazing part of amazing grace.  Today, we can be useful to the Lord.  Our words can speak His truth.  Our lives can demonstrate His Kingdom.  Our skills can be anointed by His Spirit to extend His Kingdom wherever we go.

You are not an ornament on the Tree of Life; you are a branch in the Vine, useful for producing fruit.  You are not a decoration on the face of the earth; you are a vessel of honor in the Master’s house, “useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

2 Timothy 3:15-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
Philemon 8-11
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul-an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus- I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
2 Timothy 2:20-21
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work
1 Peter 4:9-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Romans 12:4-8
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
John 15:1-8 NKJV
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Lord Jesus, a great source of beauty in Your creation is the beauty of usefulness, of practical utility. What is more efficient and productive than a healthy branch in a thriving vine? Thank You for drafting me into the Vine! Thank You for Your calling on my life, a call to be useful and productive . This, indeed, is a beautiful life. You spoke the words and John recorded them; let me hear them again today, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you to go and bring forth much fruit and that your fruit should remain.” Help it continue to be so today and all this week! For Your Glory! Amen.

Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved