December 1 “Incarnation”

Incarnation

Mystery of mysteries! Wonder of wonders! God in human form; how can it be?
Greater than any natural wonder found anywhere on this earth or in the cosmos is the wonder of the Christchild!—The Creator God, Himself confined to swaddling clothes and lying in a manger! Theologians call this mystery, the Incarnation.

The Apostles marveled at this truth:

  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His glory as the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John
  • “…He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…” Paul

The Incarnation—“The Word Made Flesh”
What does it mean? The implications are staggering:

  • The eternal One entered into time.
  • The One who existed everywhere all at once, now existed only there and only then.
  • The One whose life was impervious to all destructive forces took on a human body that was subject to hunger, weariness, temptation, age, and death.
  • The One who knew everything limited Himself to only what a human can know. We who know so little cannot begin to imagine what it was like for the Son to lay aside omniscience to know only what an infant knows, to understand only what a child understands, to realize only what a teenager realizes, to operate only on the knowledge of a typical young man of the village.

The Apostle Paul calls this humility but there is no word strong enough to express such condescension. He is our example of humility, a goal so high we can never reach it on our own.

The Indwelling Spirit
With the Incarnation, Jesus knew only what people of His day knew except—and it is a colossal exception—that He was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knew all, just as He knows all today. Jesus walked through this life as a human being filled with the Holy Spirit—the perfect example of the life He would provide New Covenant believers to come.

The Incarnation Continues
As we begin our journey through the Christmas story we must remember that, unlike Calvary, the Incarnation is not a “once and for all” truth. It is meant to be repeated in each of us every day. In our humble, holy lives, we too must empty our hearts of pride, rid our methods of power that corrupts, and look for ways to serve not rule.

  • May the artist incarnate eternal truths into works of his/her imagination.
  • May the craftsman invest the presence of the Divine into functional works of his/her skillful hands.
  • May the ultimate reward of both artist and craftsman be the smile of the Lord Jesus felt deep in the heart.

How is this done? Through our humility and the Spirit’s ministry! “Let this same mind that was in Christ Jesus be in You!” Paul demands. We have the Spirit abiding within to help us and we have the “Word made flesh” to guide us.

These December devotions are exercises in incarnation.  I will attempt to lift the characters from the printed page and breath ordinary life into them.  Join me every morning in December!

Scriptures:
Philippians 2:5-11 Amplified Bible
Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 NASB
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
John’s Testimony of Christ
John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-3; John 1:10-14
From 7 Days of Prayer and the Book of Common Prayer
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 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. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I marvel at Your condescension! You left heaven to come rescue the likes of me. Forgive me for ever counting Your love and grace as worthless. Holy Spirit, focus my heart on the manger! Help me sing with the angels, praise with the shepherds, worship with the kings and wonder with all creation at the mystery in the manger! Be born in my heart, O Holy One, as You were in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. Help me incarnate Your eternal truth into my time-locked life. Walk in my footsteps. Speak through my voice. Humble me, humble me, humble me, so that Your life and love may be all that is seen and heard in me. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Down from His Glory
Words: William E. Booth-Clibborn; Music: Eduardo Di Capua

1. Down from His glory, Ever living story,
My God and Savior came, And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger, To His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony.

Refrain:
O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all.
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him.

2. What condescension, Bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night, Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender, Laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.

Refrain

3. Without reluctance, Flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man, Revealed the hidden plan,
O glorious mystery Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great I Am.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 29, 2018 “Restoration”

Restoration

Jesus served all the disciples a fine breakfast that morning by the sea.
He had something special prepared to serve Simon Peter. Like Simon Peter, all of us have regrets. We all have something we feel we should “live down.” We have all failed God, those who were counting on us, and we have failed ourselves, our own great expectations.

Tender Questions
Jesus asked Simon Peter the most fundamental question of all.

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

“More than these” is not very specific.

  • Did Jesus mean for Peter to rank his love for Him in comparison with the other disciples? In one sense this could be. Peter had always been quick to take the lead over the others. Did this mean he considered himself superior to them? If so, this ran counter to the teachings of Jesus.
  • Was this a love to be measured in contrast to Peter’s old life, his love for the sea, for fishing, for a normal life? For some reason he decided, in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus, to go fishing.

Either way, it was an important question leading to the Lord’s explanation of how we should measure our love for Him.

Did Peter’s denial mean an insufficient love? Peter’s answer was quick. He appealed to the mind and heart of Jesus.

“Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

The sun was midway up the eastern sky and the wind from the sea was beginning to warm. Peter looked down at his feet, hoping Jesus agreed. Jesus waited for him to lift his head and see that his Lord was smiling that wonderful smile—encouragement, not judgement. When He had Peter’s attention, He began to teach the lesson.

The Test
There was a way to love Him that was undeniable.

“Feed My lambs.”

Peter relaxed. It sounded simple enough. Jesus continued…

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

This time the emphasis fell on the word “Me.” There were so many passions for a man to pursue. Does your passion for “Me” rule your life? The question shook Peter’s whole frame. What did the Lord mean? He could think of no other answer.

“Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

Peter turned away to look out at the sea. Was it a picture of life, a horizon that ever retreats before you? Jesus again replied,

“Tend My sheep.”

So there was more than nourishment; there was care to be taken for the sheep. A third time, Jesus asked,

“Do you love Me?”

Peter turned back to look at Jesus, this time with tears welling in his eyes. How else could he answer?

“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

The third time, the answer remained,

“Feed My sheep.

Jesus placed His nail-scarred hands on Peter’s strong shoulders as if to say, “You can do this.” For all time, the test of our love for Jesus is our love for and care for His church—His sheep.

The Impending Future

Jesus spoke to Peter about the life that lay ahead of him. He had been given prophecies of events to come. The boasts made at the supper would eventually be his lot. He would follow Jesus in crucifixion. All of it, the pain, the travel, the loneliness, the joy, the peace, and the fellowship would be for the glory of the Lord.

Scriptures:
John 21:15-19

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, some people seem to try to love You without loving Your People. Just as with Peter, our love for You measured by our love for Your church. Your are at work in this world through Your Spirit moving through Your People, the ekclesia –the”Called-out ones. You have called us to in the world but not of it, to be a holy counter-culture speaking truth into the surrounding pagan cultures. Our leaders are pastors—under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd—whose calling is to feed and care for the sheep. Let us show Your love in this way. Amen and amen.

Song:
We Are One in the Spirit

Words and Music: Peter Scholte

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

We will work with each other, we will work side by side.
We will work with each other, we will work side by side.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand.
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 17, 2018 “Offenses”

Offenses

Just as Jesus was not immune to the pain of the whip, the thorns, and the nails, personal offenses hurt him, too.
He was not a whiner, easily upset by every little thing that happened, but the rejection of the religious leaders hurt Him. The ingratitude of those who received His miracles but refused to follow His teaching offended Him. In the days ahead of Him as He turned toward the cross, the betrayal of Judas will hurt Him. The denials of Simon Peter will offend Him. The taunts of the crowd around the cross will be an emotional storm of offense as hurtful as the Roman soldiers working at their horrid craft of crucifixion.

Offenses will come.
The road to Calvary was not an easy one. The Kingdom of God Jesus brought was a radical departure from the established Old Covenant religion. As such, it sparked violent opposition from the religious establishment. Leaders understood immediately that the “Good News” Jesus preached was not good news for them. He threatened their power structures and jeopardized all their control mechanisms.

The freedom Jesus brought was dangerous on many counts:

  1. They could not match the flow of God’s power through Jesus to heal and deliver.
  2. They could not refute the truth He taught—He knew the Law and the Prophets better than they did.
  3. His message of the love of God for the individual threatened to bypass the leaders altogether.
  4. His friendliness toward sinners, tax collectors, the sick, and the poor upset the carefully balanced stratified society threatening chaos at every level.
  5. His radical teachings and the accompanying signs and wonders could not be ignored by Rome. When the people called Him, “Messiah,” this was an insurrection in the making, something the leaders did not need.

In fairness to the leaders, they were trying in their own way to be true to the Covenant with Jehovah and keep the peace with the Romans at the same time—no easy set of tasks. Their lives were tough enough without Jesus; with Jesus in the picture, they seemed impossible.

So they fought back. The schemed against Jesus, spied on Him and His men, attacked Him in public, and finally conspired against Him. Jesus saw their tactics and these things broke His heart. The Bible is sparse in its descriptions of Jesus’ pain, reporting only His times of solitude and His tears over the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. We know Jesus loved His enemies, these same Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and scribes. He came to save them, not antagonize them, to relieve their suffering, not add to it. Thus His sad commentary:

“It is impossible that no offenses should come…”

The Cost of Offending
Offense causes more than just the pain of the one who is offended. Jesus completed the sentence:

“…but woe to him through whom they do come!”

Everyone has the power to offend and to strike back when offended. This is how cycles of violence get started and continue from generation to generation: attacks followed by reprisals, ad infinitum.

In Jesus, every believer has the power to forgive—the Sermon on the Mount in action!  Violence and counter violence can only be stopped by a new and living way—the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!–Repentance and forgiveness, grace received and extended. If your brother offends you, forgive him, no matter how many times it happens!

Life Lesson: Do not offend your brother and when offended, forgive.

Scriptures:
Luke: 17:1-4
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is so much violence in this world! May I never contribute to any of it! Give me the courage to break the pattern of strike and reprisal with forgiveness. Help me turn the other cheek when necessary. Lord, may I never offend my brother or sister and help me be quick to forgive others. Most of all, may I never offend the Holy Spirit! May I never break Your heart! Keep me true, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Freely, Freely

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.

God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name.
I’ve been born again in Jesus’s name.
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to. He said,

“Freely, freely, you have received.
Freely, freely give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 16, 2018 “Crumbs”

Crumbs

The story of the rich man and poor Lazarus is not presented as a parable.
“There was a certain rich man…” These are the words of Jesus. It may be that the Pharisees at whom this story was directed knew the man and the beggar as well. The only connection between the wealthy diner and the wretched beggar was the harvest of crumbs that fell from his table. On these, perhaps gathered by compassionate servants and delivered to Lazarus at the gate, the beggar subsisted.

It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between lifestyles than a rich man who “fared sumptuously” and Lazarus, emaciated and bleeding in the street by the city gates. Dogs were his medical team.

A Further Separation
Just as life separated these two men, death drove them farther apart. When Lazarus died, angels bore him into the bosom of his father in the faith, Abraham. When the rich man died, he plunged into the depths of hell. If this story is indeed a true history and not a parable, we have a vivid glance into the afterlife: bliss in the presence of the Lord and His saints in heaven, and torment in a hell designed for rebellious demons.

Action in the Afterlife
Almost like a science fiction tale, the tormented rich man could see into the bliss of faithful. He called out to Father Abraham for mercy. Seeing the former beggar, Lazarus, at peace and in perfect health, the familiar face gave him an idea—Send Lazarus with a drop of water to ease the burning pain enveloping the formerly rich man. Abraham answered:

“’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

Not good news. There was no passage from heaven to hell and back again. Why? There was a great span of nothingness between heaven and hell that no mortal could cross. Each man was now reaping what had sown in life.

“…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “

Not accustomed to having his requests denied, the “rich” man thought, finally, of others.

‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

With no need for further thought, Abraham explained that his brothers were adequately warned by the Word so present among them. He speculated that even if someone did return from the dead, he would not be believed by them.

Back from the Dead
The story/history ends at this point. In the light of the Jesus Story we can take it deeper. One has returned from the dead! The Apostles Creed proclaims that Jesus, “descended to the dead” and scripture claims that He “led captivity captive” and rescued the souls waiting for Calvary in Abraham’s bosom. The Good News is, the “great gulf” was spanned by a Cross. Hell still exists and awaits those who refuse the Gospel, but this is an unnecessary outcome. Jesus has opened a “new and living way” to heaven for those who believe wherever they lie on the social scale.

Sumptuous fare at the Table of the Lord, not stale crumbs from those who have sold their souls to riches, awaits those who believe.

Scriptures:
Luke: 16:14-31

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe! You have spanned the great gulf that could not be crossed! You did it with Your holy, sinless life. Now there is a new and living way from the hell we create for ourselves in this life to the joy and satisfaction of serving You. By the time the “rich man” came to his senses, it was too late for him. I pray for my friends and family who still do not know You—Send someone to them (could it be me?) to give them the Good News. There is a path to eternal life and You are the Way! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Jesus Opened Up the Way

Words and Music: E. M. Bartlett

1. Jesus Christ the Lord opened up the way to glory
When He died to save us from our ruined state,
And He asks that we shall go tell the world the story,
How His blood will save them from their awful fate.

Refrain:
Jesus opened up the way to Heaven’s gate
When He died on the cross,
To redeem all the lost;
He prepared the road that leads To His abode,
’Tis a road marked by blood
But it leads us home to God.

2. And the way is marked by the footprints of the Savior,
With His blood he made it, made it plain and straight;
If you walk that way, it will lead you into Heaven,
Lead you safely into glory’s golden gate.

Refrain

3. Sinner, will you come and join in this heav’nly journey,
Walk the bloody pathway that the Savior trod;
Then when life is over and all the sheaves are garnered,
You will meet the Savior and be not afraid.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 15, 2018 “Justice”

Justice

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

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

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

Except the master found out about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Luke: 16:1-13

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

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

Song:
I’d Rather Have Jesus

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 14, 2018 “Found”

Found

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Luke: 15:11-31

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

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

Song:
Amazing Grace

Words: John Newton; Music: Traditional

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 13, 2018 “Lost”

Lost

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

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

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

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

“This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Luke: 15:1-10

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

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

Song:
A New Name Written Down in Glory

Word and Music: C. Austin Miles

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 12, 2018 “Salt”

Salt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Luke: 14:25-35

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

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

Song:
I Am Thine, O Lord

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 11, 2018 “Supper”

Supper

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

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

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Luke: 14:1-24

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

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

Song:
Come to the Feast

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 10, 2018 “Analogies”

Analogies

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality.
Jesus employed analogies, comparisons to material things, to help us “see” the Kingdom. Sometimes these were elaborate short stories, parables illustrating a life lesson. At other times, the analogy was a single image and it is up to us to make the application.

The Mustard Seed
The Kingdom of God is like this tiny seed, easily overlooked but full of life and potential. When we take in the Word of God, the seed of the Kingdom, and tend it carefully in our hearts, it takes root. Like a huge tree growing from a small source, the truth of the Kingdom grows deep in the heart, drawing nutrients from roots deep in God’s presence. In time and with careful care—discipleship—the Kingdom matures in the believer and he/she becomes a whole, healthy, productive tree.

The Leaven of the Gospel
Jesus mentioned leaven. What is that? Here is the second definition from Webster’s: “something that modifies or lightens.” Jesus was talking about a chemical reaction in bread, making it lighter and more palatable. The gospel is like that change agent. A test of whether a person is truly a follower of Jesus is the presence of change, not just change but improvement. Like yeast in bread, the gospel of Christ changes us.

  • The believer is modified by the Gospel when it is obeyed. We are altered by what we believe for believing in Jesus demands a new lifestyle. Old things begin to pass away and all things begin a process of becoming new. This is not reform; this is transformation! The words spoken over those who are baptized in water as an outward sign of this transformation express this: “Buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life.”
  • To use the definition from Webster, the believer is made lighter by the entrance of Jesus. In what way? The guilt of sin is taken away. We no longer bear the burden of our mistakes or evil deeds. In their place, is the “easy yoke” and the “light burden” promised to those who follow Jesus.

More than the chemical reaction in bread when it rises, the leaven of the Gospel transforms the believer from the inside out.

The Narrow Gate
How does one enter into this transformational life? Although the way has been opened by Jesus to all, most people will not use the gate. Why? Because, the Gate, indeed, is a narrow one. It requires the denial of self, the voluntary taking up of a cross (God’s plan for one’s life) and the restructuring life around God’s will. The prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane becomes the daily confession: “Not my will but Thine, O Lord.”

Most people just aren’t going to do this. Many will get the outward routines right without the tending of the mustard seed or submission to the work of the leaven. When judgment comes, they will discover that they were fakes, never yielding to the inner work of the Spirit and settling instead for the wide, wide gate of the masses—human nature.

Jesus predicted that King Herod and Jerusalem would find themselves excluded while the unknown, unheralded, true believers, those of mustard seed faith and the leaven of the Gospel, will go in to enjoy the Goodness of Heaven.

In the words of Isaiah, “Go through the Gate!” The leaven of positive change is waiting and the Good Seed of the Word is yours to enjoy when you believe the Gospel.

Scriptures:
Luke: 13:18-35

Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’ Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I believe in Your Story—the Gospel of Christ. I am not ashamed of it. I embrace the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Help me to carefully tend the seed of the Word You have deposited in my Heart. I open my life to the wonderful working of Your Holy Spirit, the leaven of heaven. Change me, Lord! Lighten my life! Alter my thinking and the deeds of this day! I love the Narrow Gate for I know I will find You there! Amen.

Song:
Into My Heart

Words and Music: Harry D. Clarke

Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today. Come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus,

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved