February 28, 2017



The Infant’s Lament
Born in blood and pain, stretching and breathing air for the first time, each newborn sent up a cry. The delivery room responded to the infantile desperation with smiles all around. The father squeezed the hand of his wife and they shared a smile born in vows, songs, and flowers on their wedding day. Two became One and now they are Three. Nothing will remain unchanged by the baby’s shrill cry.

What is behind this primal utterance? What needs propel the infant’s lament? When pain or discomfort visit his/her little life, all a child can do is cry. It is up to the adults in the room to interpret the message. God supplies the mother with an internal system that somehow breaks the code. Fathers stand by, amazed and grateful.

In the wisdom of creation, God connected need with voice.
We cry, laugh, ponder aloud, sing, and mumble to ourselves. Why? because something deserves note and comment. At the worst this is whining; at best this is prayer.

What is the deep need that is so unrelenting? What do we want?

Whatever it is, it is the source of the blues, of jazz, or gospel—both Southern and Urban—of classical music, of story, of theatre, of film, of poetry, prose, and prayer.

In many ways the heart of man is like that newborn, breathing, hurting, crying out. Why?

I believe the Psalms give us the answer—we need the splendor of God.

“…worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness…”

Without the splendor of God we are left with the wasteland of a fallen creation.

  • Life is random without the Order of Creation.
  • Life is disturbing without the Peace of God.
  • Life is confusing without His Word.

We sense His splendor in

  • the rhythm of day and night,
  • the revolving wheel of the seasons,
  • the storm and its subsequent quiet, and in the
  • the rain and the rainbow.

God is in the details.
To read His Word is to examine the small print of the Covenant of Life He has made with us—God is in the details. To pray is to have an audience with the King of kings. To worship with the saints, is to imbibe our fill of the nectar of His grace, the splendor of His mercy.

In splendor He frames our days and guards our nights. In majesty, He surrounds us with angels in bivouac, swords drawn and eyes scanning every horizon.

In the continuing Jesus Story, we find blank pages whereupon we are to write our chapter. Like Jesus, born in blood and pain, we are destined for splendor.

Psalm 29:1-2 NIV
Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 96 NIV
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
Revelation 4:2-11 NKJV
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

The Highest Name
Eph. 1:17-23 (Adapted SRP, from The Book of Daily Worship)
Father, I ask that You may give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know Jesus better. I pray also that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that You may know the hope to which You have called me, the riches of my glorious inheritance in the saints, and Your incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of Your mighty strength, which You exerted in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Father, You placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. 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.

Victor’s Crown
Words and Music: Robert Gay

O the glory of Your Name, The splendor of Your Name
None can compare with the power of that Name
You are Jesus. You are Lord. You are God

You have won the victor’s crown.
You have triumphed over sin and death.
Your Name is lifted high and rings Through all the earth.
Every demon spirit in hell trembles when Your name is heard.
And we Your church proclaim Your victory in the world.

O the glory of Your Name, The splendor of Your Name
None can compare with the power of that Name
You are Jesus. You are Lord. You are God

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 28

February 27, 2017


Child of God, you are never alone.
Christian spirituality is more than an individual faith, it is a corporate reality as well—a fellowship.

2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

You are never alone. Even if all your friends and loved ones were taken from you, you would still not be alone. Our Christian fellowship is rooted in the fellowship within the Trinity:

  • The Father with the Son,
  • The Son with Father,
  • The Father with the Spirit,
  • The Spirit with the Father,
  • The Son with the Spirit, and
  • The Spirit with the Son.

We came from God.
The most amazing truth is that our very existence is rooted in the existence of the Triune God—we came from God. When Adam and Eve sinned and passed on their sinful nature to us, a barrier fell to earth and barred us from fellowship with God, just as the angel with the flaming sword barred re-entry into Eden. For centuries the sin barrier remained. The Old Covenant provided forgiveness in the innocent blood of animals. Fellowship with God was based in symbolic worship and the common bond of the Word of God.

It took a Roman cross on a Judean hill to break this barrier of sin—Jesus came as the final, innocent Lamb. Just as the veil in the Temple gave way to the mercy of God for all of mankind, the sin barrier between each of us and our Creator was destroyed by the death of the Lamb of God. When we repent of our sins and confess the Lordship of Christ, we are welcomed back into fellowship with Almighty God.

Fellowship, not isolation
As personal as our reception of communion with God may be, it is not done in isolation. Communion with God initiates communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how alone you may feel, you cannot know who among your faith family is praying for you at any moment. The same Holy Spirit who abides in your heart, abides in their hearts, leading and empowering them. Their effectual, fervent prayers avail much—in your behalf.

The New Covenant disciple should enjoy close fellowship with a group of intimate friends from the church. These companions share our faith, our passions, our interests, and even our sense of humor. Some call this an accountability group and certainly our friends should function as that, but this fellowship goes deeper than that. Miles may separate these friends but distance does not break this fellowship. Words of affirmation and admonition as well as humorous comment and heartfelt confession sustain these relationships without reference to passing time or diminishing ability.

“In the midst of the congregation”
On the Lord’s Day we gather with the local expression of the whole family of God as our fellowship with God and His Covenant people draws us another step closer to heaven. One of the most important prepositional phrase in the Scripture is, “In the midst of the congregation.” If we are to feel the presence of God in our quiet, lonely moments when we are tempted to feel alone, we must be well schooled in the fellowship of Grace at all levels: Our fellowship with the church, with our closest friends, and our fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Psalm 68:24-26
Your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. In front are the singers, after them the musicians, with them are the maidens playing tambourines. Praise God in the great congregation; praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel.
Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Psalm 26:12
My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.
Psalm 52:9
I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
1 John 1:7 7;3:14
…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Matthew 28:20 NKJV
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Lord Jesus, Even when I cannot feel Your presence I know You are still with me. You have promised to never leave me and You haven’t. Expand my heart, O Lord, that I might learn from You how to love and have fellowship with others. Help me pay closer attention to people around me, to hear a note in their voice that may be a call for help, to see a look that signals trouble within. Help me be an encourager of others, helping them to walk more closely with You. For when others do this, they are also closer to me, and as promised, walking together in the Light, we have fellowship with one another. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

The Family of God
Words and Music: Bill Gaither

1. You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,
It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, The Family of God..

2. From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 26, 2017


42 Bridges
On US Highway 1 travelers cross 42 bridges to get all the way from Miami to Key West, Florida—113 miles. The highway follows a 1912 railroad plan and was completed in 1938 with recent modern replacements on most of the bridges. It is called the Overseas Highway. For an impressive stretch of this highway, motorists can see the Atlantic Ocean on south side of the car and the Gulf of Mexico on the north side. Nothing separates the two except these small islands and bridges. The traveler is literally poised between two immense bodies of water every moment. The Florida Straits are the meeting place of great ocean currents from the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Public worship is much like this amazing, beautiful drive.
The worshiper is traveling between time and eternity. Out one window a vast ocean shimmers and out the other a huge gulf glistens. The ocean of eternity and the gulf of time touch beneath this road.

And so it is with worship.

We who are bound by time and space, travel in spirit to a timeless destination of spiritual coordinates—the Throne Room of God Almighty. Here the gulf and the ocean merge. Just as deep currents battle each other in these waters, human tendencies and cultural mores conspire against worship.

This isn’t just fanciful language; this is descriptive. The Book of Hebrews says that when the church comes before God in worship, we are transported spiritually to Mt. Zion, “…to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…” (Heb 12:22)

What does this mean?

  • Worshipers who are locked into time, get a taste of eternity.
  • The gravity-like pull of time is countered by the upward winds of the Spirit.
  • The fog of earthly confusion is shredded by the warming, clearing light of truth.
  • The homeless ones of earth rest for a while in mansions made for them.
  • The solitary ones, the neglected and forgotten here on earth, fellowship in God-redeemed families.

Today when the hour for worship comes, we must realize that we live our lives between two great forces, time and eternity.

  • Through one window the tide of the gulf may draw us away from worship. The pull of time is heavy and the conflicting currents of human weakness are difficult to fight.
  • Out the other window, the ocean is calling with strength to pull us homeward–deeper tides than those of time and mightier currents than those of the soul.

Eternity is stronger than time and in worship we can enter the eternal—for a moment. There we can touch God and be touched by Him.

Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
…you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-12 NIV
… He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 NIV
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Lord Jesus, I thank You for my life today. Made in Your image, I can enjoy the warmth of the beautiful gulf of time and the prospect of the ocean of eternity, gleaming beyond my imagination. In this life I travel a road between time and eternity. As I worship today, lift me beyond the sensational to the spiritual. Open my eyes to heavenly things. Tune my hearing to the music of Your Throne Room. Help me empty my heart of pride so that Your Spirit can fill me with Your love. Take us to Mt. Zion, today! The in-between-road we must travel will be straighter and safer and more meaningful tomorrow, because today, for a while, we worshiped before Your Throne frolicking with angels and singing with saints to the music of eternity. Joyfully in Your Name, Amen!

Launch Out
Words: A.B. Simpson; Music: Russell Carter

1. The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood;
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shore line,
And be lost in the fullness of God.

Launch out, into the deep,
Oh, let the shore line go;
Launch out, launch out in the ocean divine,
Out where the full tides flow.

2. But many, alas! only stand on the shore,
And gaze on the ocean so wide;
They never have ventured its depths to explore,
Or to launch on the fathomless tide.


3. And others just venture away from the land,
And linger so near to the shore
That the surf and the slime that beat over the strand
Dash over them in floods evermore.


4. Oh, let us launch out on this ocean so broad,
Where floods of salvation o’erflow;
Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God,
Till the depths of His fullness we know.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 25, 2017


Delay has more to do with life than with death.
Death stops the clock; delay winds it. Death and delay are not even casual acquaintances, much less intimate friends.

However, delay can feel like death and disaster, calamity and crisis. When the answer to prayer is delayed in its arrival, we feel the need to pace, to panic, and to pursue “Plan B.” We must fill the deep hole delay digs in our schedule—we have to do something!

Something, but not just anything.

A great temptation is to worry.
Worry requires the same mental skills as faith:

  • Constant rehearsal of the problem, in words with wringing hands during the day and in coded imagery in the night,
  • Relentless planning for contingencies that might occur, and
  • Repeated visualizations of the disaster looming before us.

While the answer is on the way, we can employ these imaginations in a positive way:

  • Constant rehearsals of the promises of God, in prayer during the day and in safety through the night,
  • Relentless rest, listening for the still, small voice of the Spirit giving comfort and direction for what will occur, and,
  • Joyous visualizations of the moment of release, of victory, of the moment when we realize the pain is gone.

Delay can make us stronger if we let it.

Meanwhile, a different drama is playing out on a stage we cannot see.
In the spirit world things beyond our imagination are happening while we are waiting out the delay. The Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of those who are part of the answer. When they are ready, the answer will come. Angels are on assignment to guard us and restrain the opposition to our progress. We can’t see them but we know they are stationed nearby with flaming swords and binding chains.

With unseen hearts prepared and opposing forces restrained and rebuked, soon the waiting will be over. Delay will become delight. Disaster itself will be destroyed. Provisions will arrive in packages of grace.

Until then we will sing with the Psalmist, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God.”

Psalm 42:11 NIV
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 70:1-72:1
Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.
Psalm 71 NIV
In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you….Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. .. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. … My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you — whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.

Lord Jesus, hope rises in me even as the clock keeps ticking and Your answer to the cry of my heart lingers just out of reach. I will hope in You. I will confess Your promises. I will rehearse the revelation of Your faithfulness. Your very name, Lord Jesus, is “Faithful and True.” I will not fear what man can do to me. Use this time of delay, O Lord, to make me stronger. When the answer comes, I will rejoice even if it is not the answer I hope for. That is simply another way to trust You. I will say to my soul, “Why be downcast? Put your hope in God. Amen.

Who So Downcast, O My Soul
Words and Music: Marty Nystrom

Why so downcast, oh my soul?
Put your hope in God Put your hope in God
Put your hope in God
Oh, why so downcast, oh my soul?
Put your hope in God
And bless the Lord, oh my soul.

Bless the Lord–He’s the lifer of my countenance.
Bless the Lord–He’s the lifter of my head;
Bless the Lord–He’s the lifter of my countenance
I will never be ashamed.

Why so downcast, oh my soul?
Put your hope in God Put your hope in God
Put your hope in God
Oh, why so downcast, oh my soul?
Put your hope in God
And bless the Lord, oh my soul.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 24, 2017


Kings and Judgment
In King David’s final prayer in the Book of Psalms, (Psalm 72) he prays for the kings who would come after him to occupy the throne of David. It is sure that David was thinking of his son, Solomon, but it is also likely that he had some inkling of the Great King to come, Messiah.“Endow the king with Your justice, O God, the royal Son with Your righteousness,” was the cry of David’s heart.

We are familiar with the way King Solomon chose wisdom over riches when given that choice. Judgment became the fame of Solomon’s court—justice—wisdom put to work in a useful cause.

A Foolish, False Hope
It is difficult to think of a word that is more distasteful to the public taste than “judgment.” No one wants to be judged by anyone. A judgmental attitude is universally detested. People do not want to be held responsible for their deeds or words or tastes or values.

  • All of these public things are really private—nobody’s business but the individual.
  • As long as one doesn’t hurt someone else, anything goes.—Right?

A necessary corollary to this belief is the hope that there is no such thing as a Final Judgment:

  • When we are dead, it is all over. We fall into nothingness, the oblivion of non-existence.
  • All the words we have spoken, all the deeds we have done, the sins committed, the hatred harbored in our hearts, the prejudice and ignorance we chose to live with, all of these things and more will plunge into oblivion with us.
  • So, live for the moment; it is all we really have.—Right?

Such nonsense! Such a false hope!

There is a judgment to come.
Everyone who walks this earth leaves footprints. Every person who holds to someone else for a moment or for years of time leaves finger prints. Every word spoken into the heart of another person is inscribed there for good or for evil. These pain-prints remain after we are gone. In this way the sins of the fathers and mothers are visited upon their children to the third and fourth generations.

Enter Jesus…
But there is One who volunteered to take the judgment we deserve upon Himself. We famously say that Grace is amazing because by His Grace we can stand before God as if we had never sinned. By His blood we are declared “not guilty” and through His Spirit we are made holy in a life-long process of being conformed to His image—our sinful rags stripped away and gleaming robes of righteousness provided in their place.

Yet injustices remain.
Believers do not always win. I don’t understand it, but we are told in the Bible that part of following Jesus involves something called “the fellowship of His sufferings.” I don’t know how it can be true since Jesus declared, “It is finished!” from the cross. Yet, sometimes it seems the enemy triumphs over us, that sin defeats righteousness, that destiny denies grace. But these chapters end only to have a new page added to the narrative.

The story isn’t over at times like these.

  • We simply rest in faith, trusting Jesus to do the necessary repairs and get us going again.
  • He will defend the afflicted and save the children of the needy.
  • He will crush the oppressor.
  • He is like a gentle rain refreshing the earth.
  • One day righteousness will flourish.

All is not lost. On the contrary, we are safe in the cradle of His Judgement.

Psalm 72:1; 17-200 NIV
Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice….May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
Philippians 3:7-11 NKJV
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 NIV
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

For Social Justice
(from The Book of Common Prayer)
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our 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

February 23, 2017



We have all seen the heartbreaking video of a tsunami looming over a beach and then sweeping away everything in its path. Such a sight is the very definition of “overwhelming.” There is no escape and no place to hide from the rolling destruction. When the wave passed unbelievable destruction was in its wake:

  • Homes and neighborhoods turned to rubbish,
  • Families torn apart as the water seemed to select children to strip from their parent’s arms to sweep them away,
  • Amazing stories of miraculous survival scattered among the bodies taken by the waves.

Life can be something like that.
The Psalmist felt it, the terrifying approach of destruction, a rising flood of misfortune, a pending disaster with no escape in sight.  What to do? Cry out to God! There is a Rock, a safe place to hide, a place the overwhelming food can never reach.

His name is Jesus.
No one has broken through His security system.

  • He sends his angels with weapons, sharpened with grace and wielded in supremacy.
  • No spiritual foe can withstand those who guard us.
  • When our house is built on this Rock, the storms will rage, the rain will drum the walls around us and the winds will attack and retreat to attack again.

But all of this will be to no use for the Rock we build upon is a proven fortress.

  • Hell has thrown its greatest rage against Him and He stood in His goodness, unmoved by evil.
  • He remained in His grief, steady in His faith.
  • In spite of the weakness of his flesh, His spirit was willing.
  • In the midst of such a bloody triumph, He bowed His head and died.
  • Neither man nor Satan took his life; He gave it and in this way He broke the tidal wave of death.

Indeed, Jesus initiated a counter wave of grace.
This was the flooding River of Life, the ceaseless, unstoppable flow of the love of God from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. On the heights of the Place of the Skull, another storm broke, a storm of justice. Eventually all wrongs will be righted and all diseases destroyed as justice rolls down like a river. Safe in the cleft of the Rock we will see the rule of truth, the tide of evil beaten back by a torrent of goodness. As the waters of this flood recede, a new heaven and a new earth will emerge.

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”

In that safe place, I cannot be overwhelmed for this Rock will never be broken.

What is today’s forecast? Are there clouds on the horizon? Do lightning bolts walk the land in our direction? If so, run to the Rock.

Psalm 61:1-4
O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Matthew 7:25 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.
Mark 4:36-41 NKJV
Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. …And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Amos 5:24 NIV
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Lord Jesus, you are my protection from the whelming floods of evil today. I rest in the shadow of Your wings. That settled, let me be a riverbed where your rolling River of Justice flows to the righting of the wrongs before me, the healing of the wounds around me, and the securing of Your peace which follows me. Thank You for rescuing me from the flood; lengthen my arm as I reach to those about to be overwhelmed and strengthen my grip on those who reach out to me. In Your Name, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Love Lifted Me
Words and Music: James Rowe

1. I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry
From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love lifted me.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love lifted me.

2. All my heart to Him I give, Ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live, Ever His praises sing.
Love so mighty and so true Merits my soul’s best songs;
Faithful, loving service, too, To Him belongs.


3. Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves;
He will lift you by His love Out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, Billows His will obey;
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 22, 2017


Our Permanent Record
When we were children in school we were told of an object of great fear—our Permanent Record. Anything bad that was ever inscribed on that dreaded document would haunt us forever. The most imaginative among us could envision a large safe with an incomprehensible combination lock guarded by big silent men with the Popeye-the-Sailorman arms folded with menacing dogs loosely tethered nearby—all just to keep unauthorized eyes from even a glimpse of our Permanent Records.

I still don’t know what my 7th grade IQ was; I only know it was an issue. But by the grace of God I got into college in spite of the shameful rap sheet that was my Permanent Record—and I seemed to have turned out OK.

Heaven Keeps Records
In one of the Psalms that helps us identify with the sufferings of Christ or our sakes, the poet speaks of keeping records. His enemies may have chronicled their assaults on him keeping careful records of their treachery but, if so, there are lost to history. The records that remain are those kept in the Heavenly books. The Psalmist speaks of laments and tears as the recorded items in the files of the Kingdom of God.

King David and King Jesus
The endangered King David was sure that every blow struck against him was seen by His God and recorded there and somehow there was comfort to be found in this spiritual bookkeeping.

As in so many cases, the life of David forecast the sufferings of Christ, the Son of David. There were no anonymous fists in the courts of Pilate, no nameless hecklers in the crowds, and no lashes unaccounted under the Roman whips. Just as the tears of those who loved Him, the blows of those who hated Him were faithfully added to the record. His was an account that compounded interest with amazing speed, growing in severity and quantity until the record was full when Jesus was hammered to the cross.

The indictment?

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

No prayer of Jesus ever went without an answer.

  • For every lie that was ever told, Jesus spoke overpowering truth.
  • For every foray into lust, Jesus brought purity.
  • For every hateful word that landed like a hammer blow against the innocent, the One Innocent Man took the repeated blows of evil until the record was expunged.
  • For every child of God ground to dust beneath the feet of the proud, Jesus humbled Himself, suffering the weight of Satan’s own feet until the Savior’s heel was bruised.

In a matter of hours, the record was clear.

“It is finished!” Jesus cried from the cross.

For those who will repent of their sinful record and iniquitous hearts and who will believe in what Jesus has done, the record, the indictment, against them has been nailed to His cross.

Now, new records are kept in heaven:

  • Deeds of mercy done in Jesus’ name,
  • Acts of service/worship presented in the power of the Spirit, and
  • The prayers of the saints, collected in holy vessels before the Throne of God and of the Lamb.

This Permanent Record brings a smile to the Savior’s face.

Psalm 56:1-59:1
Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me.
They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life. On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations. Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?
Psalm 130:1-4 NIV
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
Colossians 2:13-15
Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Revelation 5:7-8 NIV
He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

(Adapted from the Pronouncement of Absolution from the Book of Common Prayer)
Almighty God has mercy on me. He forgives me all my sins through our Lord Jesus Christ. He strengthens me in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keeps me in eternal life. Amen.

It Is Well with My Soul
Words: Horatio Spafford Music: Philip Bliss

1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, it is well,
it is well with my soul

2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.


3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 21, 2017


Ah Sweet Youth!
Youth–we anticipate it as children, spend it lavishly as young adults, and mourn its loss when we are old. The Path of Life offers a fourth alternative—we can renew our youth in prayer. The Psalmist makes this promise:

Psalm 103:1-5 NKJV
Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits…Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Youth is the premium in most cultures of the 21st Century.

  • Age and experience have become career liabilities where once they were advantages.
  • Children play at being young adults.
  • Some adolescents delay adulthood until the last possible moment in a futile attempt to squeeze every ounce of life from the wine-skins of youth.
  • Other teens strain at the leash, doing all they can to prepare for adulthood, their young adulthood.
  • For a brief time lasting just a few decades, training and experience combine with energy and stamina to produce our maximum output as professionals or craftsmen, thieves or robbers, and workers or players of games.

With little warning, youth begins to wane, strength gradually flees, aches and pains replace flexibility and ease and poof!—youth is gone.

Or is it?
At any stage in this process, the Spirit of God can come to rest upon us as we praise and worship the Lord, pouring our hearts out before Him in prayer.

  • Prayer is the green pasture in which He feeds us.
  • Worship is the still water by which He leads us.
  • The Scriptures are the table He has prepared for us in the face of our enemies.
  • In prayer the Lord anoints us with oil, filling us to overflowing with the strength of the Spirit and empowering us to handle the goodness and mercy He sends in pursuit of us each day.

He restores our soul when we spend time with Him—and our youth is renewed like that of the eagle.

The New Testament command is:

Ephesians 6:10 NKJV
…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

This is not a psychological trick. It isn’t mind over matter. It is the Covenantal Promise of God! God knit each of us together in our mother’s womb. He carefully guarded us in our infancy, childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, the prime of our productive lives, the years of declining strength, and all the way through to our translation to His presence beyond this life.

Remember the Eagle!
Along the way, a daily miracle is promised us—the renewal of strength in His presence as we wait on Him. We must not despair over any stage of life; each passage can have a youthful spark, a fresh joy, and a surprising strength.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Isaiah 40:28-31 NKJV
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Psalm 25:4-7
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
Ecclesiastes 12:1
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”-
1 Timothy 4:12-13 NKJV; 2 Timothy 2:22-23 NIV
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Lord Jesus, you entered into time out of a comfortable eternity. You knew growing pains and a child and you experience the sore muscles of a tradesman after a long day’s work. Human weakness is not a theory to you; it is a memory. Help me today to be young spiritually: excited, enthusiastic, optimistic and ready to enjoy serving you. I’ m not there yet, Lord, so I will wait here in Your presence. I know that the strength of youth will return to me in some measure, this time mixed with experience and faith. I shall run or walk or soar like an eagle as the day demands of me—a living demonstration of Your faithfulness and Your mastery of time itself! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

They that Wait upon the Lord
Traditional Chorus

They that wait upon shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and not be faint.
Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 20, 2017


Everyone loves a winner.
So the old saying goes and the truth remains with us to this day. Then, consider the losers—competition demands that those who do not win, lose. It doesn’t matter how well the players played, if the team comes up on the short end of the score, they are all losers. At the same time, some players on the other side never got into the game and they are all winners. Competition, like life, isn’t fair. The game, any game, always has rules everybody knows and subtleties known only to the coaches and students of the game.

“The Breaks”
In addition to rules and subtleties, the game also has luck—the “breaks:”

  • The undisciplined bounce of the ball or the unpredictable player who was suddenly great
  • the foul that wasn’t called or the no-foul that was,
  • The mistake that became a miracle or the miracle that almost happened, and
  • The game plan that worked like a dream or the game plan set aside because of an injury.

There is more than offence and defense to winning and losing; there is chance. Still when the final gun/buzzer/bell sounds one team wins and the other one doesn’t.

The Bible often refers to the spiritual life as an athletic competition.
Most often it is called a race where only one person can win. The race is to be run with patience, a seemingly oxymoronic suggestion: run indicates haste while patience speaks of more deliberate pace—two contrasting speeds.

Clearly, the race of life is not a sprint—it is a long distance race, one that must be run with patience. There is no luck involved; there is only faith and faithfulness. In faith we run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on the finish line! Faithfulness reminds us that running this race is a matter of discipline, holy habits that empower us daily and careful pacing that keeps us in the race to finish.

Against whom does the Christian compete?
In the race analogy there will be only one winner. How does this apply to God’s team? Will only a few of us break the tape at the finish line?

Of course not.

This is a race that each of us can win. It is not about finishing first. It is about finishing well.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Lord Jesus, I want to win my race! I want to hear You say, “Well done!” I want to wear the victor’s crown at the end of my race. Lord help me cast aside every weight and sin that would slow me to a stop. Clear my vision of all hindrances to the right or to the left. Holy Spirit, keep my eyes fixed on Jesus! Lord, You ran Your race to the finish, proving sin does not win. Holiness and righteousness triumph at the end. Today Your old, defeated foes will endeavor to distract me as I run, to discourage me as I tire, and to defeat me, throwing me to the ground in pain. But You, Lord Jesus have defeated them, casting them down in shame. You clear the lane in front of me and make each step secure. I may not see the finish line today, but I will see You all the way until today’s race is done. You are the Victor, Lord Jesus, and in you I am a winner. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Victory Ahead
Words and Music: William Grum

1. When the hosts of Israel, led by God,
Round the walls of Jericho softly trod;
Trusting in the Lord, They felt the conquo’ror’s tread,
By faith they saw the victory ahead.

Victory ahead! Victory ahead!
Through the blood of Jesus, Victory ahead!
Trusting in the Lord I hear the sonqu’ror’s tread,
By faith they saw the victory ahead.

2. David with a shepherd’s sling and five stones,
Met the giant on the field all alone;
Trusting in the Lord, He knew what God had saidm
By faith he saw the victory ahead.


3. Daniel prayed unto the Lord thrice each day,
Then into the lion’s den led the way;
Trusting in the Lord, he did not fear or dread.
By faith he saw the victory ahead.


5. When like those who’ve gone before to that land,
By death’s river cold and dark I shall stand.
Trusting in the Lord, I will not fear or dread.
By faith I see the victory ahead.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 19, 2017


Never think that a balanced life is a boring life.
Imagine holding fire in one hand while carrying ice in the other. A supernatural ability is needed or we will either burn or freeze or drop them both. This is the challenge of the balanced yet passionate life. This spiritual truth is illustrated in nature.

Our Sense of Balance
If we try to walk a straight line without a sense of balance, the easiest of exercises becomes an Olympian feat. Through the mysterious mechanisms of the inner ear, we stride the earth confidently with little thought of losing control and tumbling to the ground. The balance required by standing and sitting, walking and running, or ascending or descending steps is natural and taken thoroughly for granted.

Balance in internal things takes more effort on our part.
It does not come naturally to any of us. Spiritual balance is the center set point between powerful opposite forces:

  • Work and rest,
  • Worship and service,
  • Passion and patience,
  • Love for God and love for people,
  • Impulse and strategy,
  • Thought and feeling,
  • Logic and instinct,
  • Reason and intuition,
  • Spirit and truth,
  • Improvisation and planning,
  • Jumping in and holding back,
  • Spending and saving, and so on ad infinitum

We need an inner spiritual ear to keep us from tumbling in our spiritual walk before God and mankind.

The Lord has promised just such a thing for us in the New Covenant.
In fact the four promises of the New Covenant, converge in our hearts to give us this supernatural balance.

Hebrews 8:10-12
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. (1) I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. (2) I will be their God, and they will be my people. (3) No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (4) For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

How do these promises function as a mysterious mechanism providing spiritual balance? Take them in reverse order:

  1. Our sins are really, completely, forever forgiven, clearing the way for the Spirit of God to do His promised work in our hearts.
  2. The abiding Spirit supplies us with an intuition that comes directly from the Lord and goes beyond any human instruction we may receive. In other words we have an internal capacity to know spiritual things.
  3. Through the ministry of the Spirit, we are in intimate, round the clock, personal relationship with the Lord. We have God’s undivided attention.
  4. His Word is being written in our hearts by the fiery fingers of the Spirit much like the divine inscription Moses saw in Sinai. Really, this writing of the Word in our hearts is better than the Law written in stone; this is Grace written in love.

Caution: We should never think that our every thought amounts to the Word of God.
If we think that, we have lost our balance already. God writes His Word into our hearts when we read it, study it, reflect on it, meditate on it, memorize it, quote it, and, above all, obey it!

With His Word written in our hearts we can walk confidently in the Spirit today. We have an inner ear deep in our spirit keeping us upright, on mission, on schedule, and ready for every opportunity the day will bring.

This life is balanced and anything but boring!

1 John 1:5-7

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 NKJV
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Galatians 5:16-18; 25 NKJV
…Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Lord Jesus, Keep me upright today! Help me keep my eyes on You. Help me remember the light You have shone on my path in your Word. Help step carefully in the lamp You provide for my feet—that same Word. I do not intend to walk in the council of the wicked today, or to make my stand with those who sin, or take my seat among those who berate Your Holy Name. I will listen for your voice in the sounds of creation as well as in the voices of those around me. I will ignore the siren call of the world although it calls from every corner it seems. With your help I will walk in the light and not fall. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Each Step I Take
Words and Music: Elmo Mercer

1. Each step I take my Savior goes before me,
And with His loving hand He leads the way.
And with each breath I whisper, “I adore Thee;”
Oh, what joy to walk with Him each day.

Each step I take I know that He will guide me;
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until some day the last step will be taken.
Each step I take just leads me closer home.

2. At times I feel my faith begin to waver,
When up ahead I see a chasm wide.
It’s then I turn and look up at my Savior,
I am strong when He is at my side.


3.I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal is in His hand.
He holds the key that opens up the way,
That will lead me to the promised Land.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved