June 10, 2017 “Zeal”

Zeal

A conflagration contained; a fire focused; a torch in transit, a fervent flame—Zeal is all these things.
When Jesus, whip in hand, disturbed the peace of an ordinary morning in the Temple, His disciples were reminded of the psalm that said, “The zeal of Your house will consume me.”

Zeal. Jesus demonstrated it that day. He was a conflagration barely contained, a fire totally focused on the profanity before Him in the sacred space dedicated to praise. He was a burning torch of righteous indignation moving through the crowd, a fervent flame of wrath spreading justice with every step and every crack of the whip.

The zeal of His Father’s house was burning, but it was not consuming Him.
The fires of the Spirit of God do not consume the good, only the bad and there was nothing bad in Jesus, no rotting fuel of iniquities hidden or strange substance of sin. The fire of the Spirit burned with a pure, white heat from the depths of His pure heart out to the end of the whip in His hand. And the work of the Spirit was done—reform of His Father’s House, at least for that morning. He was the Refiner’s Fire incarnate, purifying the House of God, consuming the bad and refining the good.

The last prophet in the Old Testament predicted this. “Suddenly the Lord you seek will come to His temple! He will be a Refiner’s Fire to purify the sons of Levi.” The merchants of cheap grace were not suited up for His zeal and they got burned. Instead of profit, they found a prophet, the Messenger of a New Covenant of a holy fire that cleanses the soul.

There is no need to fear the Zeal of the Lord.
We all have a natural fear of fire and well we should. Fire out of control is a devastating force. The Zeal of the Father’s House is a cleansing force, a purifying process of revolutionized thinking and corrected behavior. It is like the fire Moses saw in the burning bush—bright enough to light an already sunlit day, hot enough to bend the air in a desert wasteland at noonday—but still a fire that left the bush intact.

This is a powerful picture of the work of the Spirit in our lives. The Lord wants to strike fire in our hearts, the way He did Cleopas and his friend on the road from Emmaus to Jerusalem. The fire is in The Book. Sparks jump when we read it in faith. A focused flame leaps from the page to our heart as the Holy Spirit inscribes the Word of God into our hearts just as the finger of God did on the stone tablets Moses carried down the slopes of Zion.

Then we can be a conflagration contained; a fire focused; a torch in transit, and a fervent flame in this world.

Scriptures:
Psalm 69
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. … For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. … O God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad — you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.
Malachi 3:1-4 NIV
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord , as in days gone by, as in former years.
John 2:13-17 NIV
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Romans 12:9-13 NIV
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, set my soul on fire! Ignite my mind with Your burning truth. Make my spirit a torch blazing in this dark hour. Like those two of my forebears on the road to Emmaus, flame my heart and fuel my steps with the fires of Your grace. I will not fear the “zeal of Your house” for I know it to be a fire that burns but does not destroy me. Let me hear Your words from the burning tree of Your Book as it lights my path. I will not fear the darkness of the hour for Your illuminating fire burns eternal. Amen.

Song:
Send the Fire
Composer: William Booth

1. Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Thy blood-bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost;
We want another Pentecost,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

2. God of Elijah, hear our cry:
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
To make us fit to live or die,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The revolution now begin,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

3. ’Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
The fire will meet our every need,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
For strength to ever do the right,
For grace to conquer in the fight,
For pow’r to walk the world in white,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

4. To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
To live a dying world to save,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Oh, see us on Thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the off’ring now we pray,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

What can you do when the fire within seems to be dying?  Read “Dim and Flaring Lamps” at: http://stevephifer.com/dim-and-flaring-lamps/

June 9, 2017 “Ruins”

Ruins

Some say the worship of the church today is in ruins.
The old ways, the tried and proven ways, are gone and in their place are experiments of dubious origin and doubtful outcome.

Others say the church is in ruins. The world has passed her by. She clings to outdated thinking and methods. It is time to rethink, redefine, and retool. We must become all things to all people to win some.

Still others say the world is in ruins. Man’s worship of Himself as the measure of all things has proven to be the most destructive of all idolatries. Despair has become the highest hope of the best people.

Anything that people built will eventually fall into ruin.
The world is littered with the ruins of great civilizations whose crumbling temples, palaces, castles, and monuments testify silently of the temporary nature of the most ancient of things. Tourists climb over them and take pictures, trying their best to recapture the past when real people occupied these old structures and the silent crumbling walls were sturdy and reflected the sounds of real life.

Societies of concerned citizens organize to protect the falling down houses and restore the neglected historical sights before time can destroy them completely. Why? Ruins of the past seem to somehow speak to us of the future. We are in the middle of a journey others have started and still others will finish. We need a connection to the past that gives meaning to today and a promise of tomorrow.

Ruin is the way of the world; time and gravity win eventually. All that is left are the hollowed out walls and arches of cathedrals hundreds of years old and the dry-rotted clapboard and collapsing roofs of humble country churches only a hundred or so years old.

But ruin is not the way of the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ!
Restoration is the business of King Jesus. Just as He was a builder in His shop in Nazareth for 30 years, He is now the rebuilder of broken lives. In this He does the work of His Father. It is practically routine that biblical heroes were reduced to ruins at some point and when they turned to God, he restored them.

If this is not your story yet, it probably will be someday. The enemy deals in ruin and few escape it completely in this life. Satan tells us the story is over. The curtain has fallen and there is no reason to go on.

But, as the old-time preachers used to say about the Devil, “He is a liar and the father of it.”

There is no ruin that Jesus cannot renovate, no relic that He cannot restore, and no derelict beyond His re-design. Impervious to time and untouched by gravity, the Lord’s work is quality work, work that stands the storm and resists the ravages of time.

But ruin is not the way of the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ!
Restoration is the business of King Jesus. Just as He was a builder in His shop in Nazareth for 30 years, He is now the rebuilder of broken lives. In this He does the work of His Father. It is practically routine that biblical heroes were reduced to ruins at some point and when they turned to God, he restored them.

If this is not your story yet, it probably will be someday. The enemy deals in ruin and few escape it completely in this life. Satan tells us the story is over. The curtain has fallen and there is no reason to go on.

But, as the old-time preachers used to say about the Devil, “He is a liar and the father of it.”

Look at people through the eyes of Christ.

  • When we see the homeless one leaning against the wall of a building in the center of the city,
  • when we hear of the recluse locked away in a fog of regret and pain, and
  • when we see young people speeding down the many roads to ruin, we should pray,

“Lord, speak to them somehow! Let some human hand be Your hand, some human voice tell them of Your love.” They are ruins waiting for someone to restore them before time and circumstance have finished their work.

There is no ruin that Jesus cannot renovate, no relic that He cannot restore, and no derelict beyond His re-design. Impervious to time and untouched by gravity, the Lord’s work is quality work, work that stands the storm and resists the ravages of time.

Scriptures:
Psalm 74 
O God, why have you utterly cast us off? Why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture? Remember your congregation that you purchased long ago, the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance, and Mount Zion where you dwell. Turn your steps toward the endless ruins; the enemy has laid waste everything in your sanctuary. Your adversaries roared in your holy place; they set up their banners as tokens of victory…They burned down all the meeting-places of God in the land. There are no signs for us to see; there is no prophet left; there is not one among us who knows how long. How long, O God, will the adversary scoff? will the enemy blaspheme your Name for ever? Why do you draw back your hand? why is your right hand hidden in your bosom? Yet God is my King from ancient times, victorious in the midst of the earth…Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun. You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. …Arise, O God, maintain your cause; remember how fools revile you all day long. Forget not the clamor of your adversaries, the unending tumult of those who rise up against you.
Isaiah 58:11-12 NKJV
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
Isaiah 51:3 NKJV
For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me see people with Your eyes! Each one is a creation in Your image, though that visage may be horribly marred by things done to him/her or the things his/she has done. I divest myself of any pretense of superiority on my part. Ruin has touched my life, too. But when I called to You, You answered with a healing, restoring touch. Your carpenter’s hands are skillful and willing to touch anyone I can see as I walk this earth. Restore us, again, O Lord! Amen.

Song:
The Healing Waters
Words: H.H. Heimar; Music: L. L. Pickett

1. Oh, the joy of sins forgiv’n,
Oh, the bliss the blood-washed know,
Oh, the peace akin to Heav’n,
Where the healing waters flow.

Refrain
Where the healing waters flow,
Where the joys celestial glow,
Oh, there’s peace and rest and love,
Where the healing waters flow!

2.Now with Jesus crucified,
At His feet I’m resting low;
Let me evermore abide
Where the healing waters flow.

Refrain

3.O, this precious, perfect love!
How it keeps the heart aglow,
Streaming from the fount above,
Where the healing waters flow.

Refrain

4.Oh, to lean on Jesus’ breast,
While the tempests come and go!
Here is blessèd peace and rest,
Where the healing waters flow.

Refrain

5.Cleansed from every sin and stain,
Whiter than the driven snow,
Now I sing my sweet refrain,
Where the healing waters flow.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

For an article on the restorative ministry of the Holy Spirit go to: “Turning Hearts” http://stevephifer.com/renewal-4/

June 8, 2017 “Rain”

Rain

It is hard to imagine this earth without rain.
We get all technical and refer to something called “the water cycle,” but what we mean is rain—clouds of vapor building until they are too heavy to stay aloft so they wring themselves out. Winds may push the clouds along in a different direction from the earth spinning below but somewhere the dry land gets wet. With enough rain the shallow creeks think they are rivers while rivers act like tidal waves spreading out in all directions at once.

When it is cold enough, the clouds dress in their gray winter clothes and sprinkle snow down from their high places to the earth below. We should not be fooled by these gossamer robes. When the weather warms, the costumes come off and we see that snow is only water after all. In the spring, swollen rivers care not whether their cargo fell as ice or rain.

No one can dance to the rhythm of the rain; it is too broad and irregular. It can rain for days at a time or not rain for even more. Drought conditions can give way to flood conditions in a matter of hours if the rain is heavy and hard enough. The earth and its people need the rain and depend on it to till the soil and make flowers and food stuffs grow.

Rain is a biblical image for the blessings of God to His people.
The parched earth is a picture of a people whose life rhythms have been disrupted by drought, a long time without rain. Crops are in trouble which means the people are in trouble, their flocks and herds in peril as their pastures bake in the sun. The people call on God for relief that only rain can bring.

Over the horizon water evaporates from the surface of the sea and rises to form clouds. The warm air ascends carrying the moisture with it as winds begin to push the thickening clouds toward the drought-stricken land. Soon the clouds turn from a bright white to a deep blue as they walk on lightning legs to cast their shadow over the thirsty earth rumbling a booming prophesy of what is to come—rain. When there has been no rain and then comes the storm, there is rejoicing not fear. The land, the animals, the people welcome the drenching.

Today our lands are dry.
White clouds tease us but they are clouds without rain. Arid winds, hot in our faces, fail to refresh us. It is time to turn to the Lord and seek His blessings. He will send rain. He has promised an outpouring of His Spirit in these last days. Even now the sea of His mercy is building up the cloud base as the prayers of the saints ascend to the Throne of God. Not a water cycle but a blessing cycle is at work: praise and prayer ascending; blessings descending.

There shall be showers of blessings!
God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh! The air we breathe is growing thicker with the waters of life as the Word of God is proclaimed. Signs and wonders follow the Word like bolts of grace striking here and there. The thunder of praise from the church is shaking the earth, preparing the way of the Lord.

He is coming! He is coming now in our worship and in our obedience. He is coming soon in clouds of glory—clouds full of the rain of His goodness and justice. Look to the horizon and expect to see the forming clouds, the coming rain. Our fields will not always be dry, our riverbeds will not always be shallow, but our prayers must always be humble. He has promised rain but we must be prepared for the deluge, ready to rejoice in the drenching.

Scriptures:
Psalm 72
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. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor. He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. In his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more. He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him. For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. … Let grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon; let it thrive like the grass of the field. 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.
Isaiah 45:8 NIV
“You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it.
Joel 2:23-24 NIV
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

Prayer Song:
Send Your Rain
Words and Music: Kelly Carpenter

Send Your rain, Oh Lord! Send Your rain, Oh Lord!
Send Your rain, Oh Lord, to Your People.

Soften our hearts and pour out Your Spirit,
Fill us anew. Let Your rains come!
Soften our hearts and pour out Your Spirit,
Fill us anew. Let Your rains come!

May Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done
On the earth as it is in heaven.

Send Your rain, Oh Lord! Send Your rain, Oh Lord!
Send Your rain, Oh Lord, to Your People

Song:
There Shall Be Showers of Blessing
Words: Daniel Whittle; Music: James McGranahan

1. There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love.
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops ‘round us are falling.
But for the showers we plead.

2. There shall be showers of blessing:
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

Refrain

3 There shall be showers of blessing:
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing;
Come and now honor Thy word.

Refrain

4. There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 7, 2017 “Heritage”

Heritage

Seeing the Invisible
Imagine for a moment that cameras capture everything in a photograph instead of only what is visible. There would be no such thing as an individual picture for behind each person would stand a multitude of

  • inventors and manufacturers ,
  • thinkers and writers,
  • tinkerers and mechanics,
  • teachers and scholars,
  • patriots and warriors,
  • parents and siblings,

who have formed the heritage of that person.

We simply do not stand where we stand alone.
Someone who lived before our time stands behind us—a heritage of people stretching back in time beyond our ability to see. We frame our thoughts in ideas they developed. We live our lives by laws they constructed. Our greatest treasures bear the fingerprints of this multitude. These invisible people in our portrait are the authors of our story, the architects of our civilization, and the builders of our society.

They are both our helpers and our hinderers.
Much of our heritage is a gift from God, given to us by faithful people of previous generations. There are also portions of our heritage that flow from evil hearts in this throng.

  • They have convinced us of lies.
  • They have sold us building materials that do not stand the stress of investigation.

It is our duty to test the substance of our heritage to see if some details are worthy of our use. When we find something that is wrong, it is our human right and our moral obligation is to resist that thing, to remove it from our storehouses, to replace the weak and beggarly materials with the true, the tested, the tempered, the stuff that lives, not dreams, are made of.

This is never more true than when worship is the subject of the photograph.

  • Every humble country church has a cathedral in the background where the glory of God is frozen in stone and colored sunlight.
  • Every cathedral stands before a long line of village chapels and house churches and synagogues, temples and tabernacles.

The worship of God did not spring into existence when we discovered it. We blend our voices with the unseen choir of our heritage every time we sing to the Lord.

Ours is a heritage in motion.
To be true to this invisible host we must learn from them, true enough. They have delivered us to this moment for the cause of the future not for the sake of nostalgia. The cameras of our souls must see the past in an unforgiving light, the good and the bad, the important and the inconsequential so that our time here can be what God intends. For soon we will be the invisible ones in the picture.

Scriptures:
Psalm 61
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.
1 Peter 1:3-6 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Colossians 1:10-14 NIV
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You dwell in eternity, a concept beyond my ability to understand. Once You entered into time, leaving the eternal behind. As a child You learned of Your heritage as a Jewish boy and man. You sensed the invisible heritage that stood behind the visible elements of life. The record we have of Your teaching reveals how You tested those invisible things. Where wickedness had crept into the customs, you spoke against it. Where righteousness shone in those practices, You preached the truth in Your generation. Lord, help me do the same. Amen.

Song:
A Charge to Keep Have I
Words: Charles Wesley

1. A charge to keep have I, a God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

2. To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage, to do my Master’s will.

3. Arm me with watchful care as in Thy sight to live,
And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give.

4. Help me to watch and pray, and still on Thee rely,
O let me not my trust betray, but press to realms on high.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 6, 2017: “Recorded”

Recorded

Recorders are everywhere today:
audio recorders, video recorders, and phone recorders that capture every live moment someone may want to keep for future reference. I am told that all our internet doings are recorded on a cloud somewhere or even deep in the caverns of our own computers.

All this technology is new, up-to-the-minute, state-of-the-art stuff that will be obsolete next week.

But the idea isn’t new. The Bible indicates that our dealings with God are recorded also:

  • The prayers we have prayed,
  • The praises we have offered,
  • The worship we have given,
  • The deeds of mercy we have done,
  • The kindnesses we have shown,
  • The burdens we have borne,
  • The tears we have we have shed,
  • The encouragement we have shared, and
  • The promises we have made.

A Body of Work
When an artist has reached a certain point in his/her life when much has been created, it is said that they now have a “body of work” that can be explored and cataloged by scholars as well as enjoyed by patrons.

In the same way, each Christ-follower is compiling a record, a body of works, we might say. It is a much more glorious file than any done on us before,

  • not the permanent record we accumulated in school,
  • not our college transcripts,
  • not the personnel files where we have worked or even
  • the book the IRS has on us!

Those records tend to remember everything, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, as well as the skills and the ineptitudes.

Be Warned!
The recording in heaven has some really serious omissions:

  • The stupid things we did,
  • The bone-headed decisions we made,
  • The sins we committed and ours sins of omission,
  • The wounds we caused,
  • The ugly spirit we showed, and
  • More terrible things than we need to enumerate now.

All of these true facts and actual deeds are missing from the recording.

How can this be?

There is no scandal but there is a cover-up. For when we confessed all these sins to Jesus, He forgave us. He blotted them out of the book, the file, the recording and even His memory.—Amazing Grace how sweet the sound!

Makes me want to live for Jesus today. How about you?

Scriptures:
Psalm 56
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? Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise — in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before Godin the light of life.
Psalm 32:1-2 NIV
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 51:9-10 NIV
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 103:2-5; 11-12 NIV
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. …For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 130:3-4 NIV
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
Micah 7:19 NIV
You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Revelation 5:8 NIV
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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the records Your angels keep in heaven are authoritative; their veracity is beyond question. Our thoughts and deeds are recorded faithfully there. These same angels break out into a celebration of joy when a sinner repents. They get to witness the power of the Blood of Christ to blot out the record of sins and inscribe in their place, “The righteousness of Christ.” “There’s new name written down in glory,” inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life as a new record begins—the record of faithful prayers and service. Help me be faithful in prayer and service today. For Your Glory! Amen.

Song:
It Is Well with My Soul
Words: Horatio G. Spafford; Music: Philip P. 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.

Refrain:
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 hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

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!

Refrain

5. And Lord, haste the day when the 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.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 5, 2017: “Pressure”

Pressure

That we don’t just explode is amazing. It also astonishing that we do not implode.
We all live with tremendous pressure in us and on us.

  • These spaces suits our souls wear—these human bodies—have to exert pressure from inside to counter the weight of the atmosphere. Our hearts create blood pressure and our lungs produce pulmonary pressures that keep the brain going. Inside us also are the forces of the feelings and fears, affections and ambitions that pressure our souls.
  • From outside of us there is more than the atmosphere pressing down. The culture pressures us to compare and perhaps even to conform. Debts to complete strangers and responsibilities to those we love or work with or work for, press upon without letup. Time itself is like gravity on steroids pressing us to either take a nap or get busy.
  • The world we live in is filled with pressure: terrorism, wicked countries with nuclear weapons, chaos in the city streets and random crime in the towns and in the country. The weather gets stranger every year and they tell us we are past due for the “Big One” earthquake.
    Well, that’s enough of that!

There is a solid foundation of rock beneath the squishy, porous pressure pressing down on us.
Beneath the fear of what might happen, we have the solace of what happened:

  • Jesus has come to earth, bearing the Good News that God loves us and demonstrating the strength to push back against the pressures of life and of this world.
  • Jesus has come to us, bearing forgiveness for our sins and a precious infilling of His Spirit. He us our Rock, our security, and our counter-pressure, giving us inner strength that is more than a match for the forces pressing up on us from within.
  • Jesus makes all the difference for us. He sends an umbrella of angels to cover us, an army of them to watch fore and aft.

Deep inside us Jesus is like the core of the earth:

  • heated white hot with love, ever moving yet solid,
  • shaking anything that we think might shake us, and
  • boiling through the surface like a mountain on fire when it seems the atmosphere itself will press us into the earth.

With His personal strength he pushes back against the pressures we face from outside.

With His pulsing heart he calms our fears and comforts our minds, reminding us that He has us. That makes us strong enough to press through the pressure no matter where it comes from our how strong it is.

We will neither explode or implode.

Scriptures:
Psalm 55 BCP
Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition. Listen to me and answer me; I have no peace, because of my cares. I am shaken by the noise of the enemy and by the pressure of the wicked; For they have cast an evil spell upon me and are set against me in fury. My heart quakes within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling have come over me, and horror overwhelms me. And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee to a far-off place and make my lodging in the wilderness. I would hasten to escape from the stormy wind and tempest. …But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me. In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice. He will bring me safely back from the battle waged against me; for there are many who fight me. God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me and bring them down; they never change; they do not fear God. … Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble. For you will bring the bloodthirsty and deceitful down to the pit of destruction, O God. They shall not live out half their days, but I will put my trust in you.
Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Romans 8:28-29 NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 KJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
Isaiah 59:19 KJV
So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am strong in You today. The forces pressing down on me are great, but Your power pressing up in me is greater. You said You had overcome the world and it is still the truth. Like an old-fashioned big game hunter in a photograph, You have defeated the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” and Your foot is still on him. In Your name I will walk in victory today. I will do the things You have called me to do and be the person You have called me to be. I will be “strong in the Lord and in the power of Your Might!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
Words and Music: Jamie Owens-Collins

In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land.
The battle belongs to the Lord!
No weapon that’s formed against us will stand.
The battle belongs to the Lord!

We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.

When the power of darkness comes in like a flood.
The battle belongs to the Lord!
He’s raised up a standard, the power of His blood.
The battle belongs to the Lord!

We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 4, 2017: “Sparrows”

Sparrows

Each day there are gatherings of sparrows over all the earth.
No exaggeration. Sparrows are found in every climate from snowy plains to deep jungles to desert wastelands to mountain peaks. The experts at Wikipedia say,

“Sparrows may be the most familiar of all wild birds worldwide.”

They are social little birds who love to gather together.  The Lord chose these little brown birds to illustrate the extraordinary care He provides to those who follow Him.

Like sparrows, God’s people are everywhere: from snowy plains to deep jungles—even those of steel and concrete—to wilderness wastelands to mountain villages. The church is everywhere and each worshiper is like a sparrow in the eyes of the Lord—cared for tenderly, faithfully by a Covenant Keeping God.

Wild Birds in the Church House
In Psalm 84, the poet reported that sparrows and a swallow had built nests next to the altars in the House of God. This sounds like a scandal to me—some maintenance man was sure to get in trouble for neglecting the altars! I am sure the poet, not King David but a member of a group called the Sons of Korah, is just caught up in the irony of the beauty of the carefully planned Temple and the rustic improvisation of the feral birds. He didn’t mean to get anyone in trouble!

The point is the birds found a home in the house of God and so should we! This lovely Temple was the House of God where all were welcomed if they were in the covenant and they came to worship.

It was also the house where altars were not be neglected.
They had to carefully tended. They had to be ready at any time for the penitent sinner or the troubled soul or the earnest seeker of the face of God. Neglect was not only a failure of the one charged with maintenance, it was a lost opportunity for the advancement of someone’s spiritual life.

On this Lord’s Day, we can each, like a healthy little sparrow and the enterprising swallow, find a home in the House of God—if we are in the covenant and if we have come to seek the face of God.

Our time will come to tend the altar—to pray and seek the Lord. When the praise music starts, let’s tend the altar. When the shift is made to worship music, let’s tend the altar. When it is time to pray let’s tend the altar.

He cares for us more than He loves the sparrows. Let us be faithful to His house and to His altars of grace today.

Scriptures:
Psalm 84
How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are they who dwell in your house! they will always be praising you. Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way. Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, for the early rains have covered it with pools of water. They will climb from height to height, and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion. Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; hearken, O God of Jacob. Behold our defender, O God; and look upon the face of your Anointed. For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is both sun and shield; he will give grace and glory; No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity. O Lord of hosts, happy are they who put their trust in you!

Matthew 6:26-27 NIV
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:6-7 NIV
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Prayer:
Before Worship
BCP (adapted SRP)
O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver me as I draw near to You, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections I may worship You in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Songs of the Father’s Care:
His Eye Is on the Sparrow
Words and Music: Civilla D. Martin 1905

1. Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.

2. Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear;
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Refrain

3. Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise;
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies;
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Refrain

The Sparrow Song
Words and Music by J.D. Phifer

1. When you are sad downhearted and blue,
Think of how He cares for you.
When things look bad your courage you lose,
Think of how He cares for you.

Refrain:
Think of the sparrow He feeds with such care,
The flower He waters with dew.
Dwell on the things He’s promised to do;
Think of how He cares for you.

2. When you are lost in realms of despair,
Think of how He cares for you.
When there’s a cross you know you must bear,
Think of how He cares for you.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

See also: “A Prayer for the Sanctuary”

June 3, 2017: “Congregation”

Congregation

The congregation is not an audience.
To confuse the two requires a cultural understanding of public worship instead of a biblical one. The two words are based on different words:

  • “Audience” is based on “audio” which refers to hearing.
  • “Congregation” is based on the verb, “to congregate.”

An audience is there to hear. A congregation is an intentional gathering of people.
To put it plainly:

  • An audience is a gathering of people to intent on hearing something.
  • A congregation is a group of people who have come together for more than just to hear.

Why does a congregation congregate?

A biblical name for the church is “the called out ones.” We congregate because the Lord has called us together. The Bible is clear: “Do not stop congregating!”

Important Differences
By observation we can see important differences between an audience and a congregation:

  • People in an audience have no inherent relationship to each other. They are just in the same room at the same time for the same event—to “hear” the same thing.
  • Members of a congregation are in relationship with each other. They are brothers and sisters in Jesus, parents and children in the faith, and grandparents and grandchildren in the Family of God.
  • Audience members are observers; they have come to watch the goings on. They expect to receive something from the presenters.
  • Congregation members are participants; they have come with work to do. They intend to give something to the Lord—worship!
  • Audience members have few responsibilities toward each other, just common decency.
  • Congregants have great responsibilities toward each other. These can be summed up in the biblical phrase “decently and in order.” We must worship with all our heart, soul, mind and strength while not taking the spotlight off the Lord Jesus.

A Powerful Prepositional Phrase
One of the most important phrases in the Bible is easy to overlook: “In the midst of the congregation…” Another version of is: “In the Assembly…” To me these words mean that I must always consider the “common good” of the whole congregation. I must not treat them as if they were an audience—that would be a terrible demotion.

They are the people of God!

Scriptures:
Psalm 40
I waited patiently upon the Lord; he stooped to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord. Happy are they who trust in the Lord! they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods. Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God! how great your wonders and your plans for us! there is none who can be compared with you…. Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required, and so I said, “Behold, I come. In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: ‘I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart.'” I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips; and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation. …. Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation continually say, “Great is the Lord!” Though I am poor and afflicted, the Lord will have regard for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God.
Hebrews 2:10-12 NIV
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
From the Psalms NIV
22:22; 25
I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
26:12
My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord.
35:18
I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.
68:26
Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
79:13
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
107:31-32
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
111:1
Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord ]with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
145:4-5
One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works
149:1
Praise the Lord .Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.
1 Peter 2:4-6; 9-10 NIV
As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Song:
Come Now, O Royal Priesthood
Words and Music: Stephen Phifer

1. Come now, O Royal Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Praise,
The fruit of lips that sing His Name, the song of ancient days.
Made holy by His Righteousness, made regal by His Grace,
Come now, O Roy-al Priesthood, bring the of Praise.

Refrain:
O sing! Sing unto the Lord Your King
And Praise! Lift your voice with thanksgiving.
Let the measure of your praises be “the glory due His Name.”
Come now, O Royal Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Praise!

2. Come now, O Holy Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Love;
The first commandment now obey, affections fixed above,
Where Jesus reigns in majesty on a Throne of Truth and Trust.
Come now, O Holy Priesthood bring the Sacrifice of Love.

Refrain

3. Come now, O Holy Nation, for the King is calling you
To stand for Him and live for Him, a people brave and true;
Ambassadors of Heaven with Heaven’s work to do.
Come now, O Holy Nation for the King is calling you!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

See also: “A Prayer for the Sanctuary” 

June 2, 2017: “Revealed”

Revealed

It’s like a curtain in your mind opening.
The teacher lives for what we call the “AH HA!” moment when he/she can see on the face the student that they get it! The curtain has opened for them.

There are several ways we learn things:

  • We reason things out.
  • We memorize words and repeat them until they become a concept.
  • We rehearse our lines in the play along with the cues the lines respond to.
  • We practice the hard parts until we can play them flawlessly, or at least better.
  • Baseball players drill the double play time and time again until it is a reflex requiring no thought to execute.
  • We read books and articles on subjects of interest and learn for fun.

And so many more ways are in our arsenal of weapons against ignorance.

Today were are considering a different way of learning something—revelation.
Through no process of our own doing, through no steps that we can recall, without the aid of any other person or source of information, we just suddenly know something. The curtain in our mind opens and there it is. We get it! Ah Ha!

This is the way the Holy Spirit works. The Bible says it this way: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit…” In other words the Holy Spirit works the curtain.

If we know anything about God, it isn’t because we have figured it out. The Bible makes it clear that His ways are beyond our capacity to figure out. It isn’t because we have memorized a bunch slogans and proverbs and formulas and incantations. It is because the Holy Spirit, just as promised, has written the Word of God into our hearts. The Lord’s brother, James, said this wisdom is from above not from below. James even tells how to get this revelation—it is a very involved process. He said. “Ask for it!” It really is that simple.

Don’t ask some celebrity or professor, ask God!
He is happy to reveal His truth to us. This marvelous grace makes the truth of God available to a child or to an adult with the mind of a child as well as the smartest person in the room.

How do we ask of God?

  • We come to Him humbly with thanksgiving.
  • We open our hearts to His instruction.
  • We open our Bibles and read prayerfully with a listening ear.
  • We listen all through the day for He often speaks through others in our lives.

The moment will come when the curtain in your heart will open and you will know. You will know with a knowledge deeper than logic or reason or intellect. Your spirit will come alive because His Spirit has borne witness to it. You will know in your spirit.

The word for this special “Ah Ha!” moment is an ancient one—Alleluia!

Scriptures:
Psalm 50: 1-2 BCP
The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken; he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV
… as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
Romans 8:15-17 NKJV
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
James 1:5-6; 3:17-18 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. …But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Hebrews 8:10 NIV
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Prayers for Illumination:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open our eyes that we may see the wonders of your Word; and give us grace that we may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.

God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.

Song:
Be Thou My Vision

Traditional Irish Hymn

1. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one

3. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

4. High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 1, 2017 “Unturned”

Unturned

Intersections demand decisions.
That’s why whoever invented traffic circles should be put away somewhere. It is not simple—turn right? Turn left? Go straight? Turn around? And that’s the dilemma at the intersection of just two roads.

I lived near the nation’s Capitol where I-95 crossed the Capitol Beltway. Our town of Springfield, VA was called the Mixing Bowl because of the twisting, turning exits and entrances that were supposed to get you where you wanted to go. Turning long turns made you feel like you had accomplished something when you finally straightened out, but it might be a mistake. You could be headed straight—in the wrong direction!

The psalmist declares that though evil people have treated him cruelly, he has not deviated from the path he was walking—a life of obedience to the Law of God.

That is quite a claim. I don’t know many who could make it. Life seldom presents us with simple crossroads. We often face cloverleaves of confusion. Sometimes turning away from what we know is right looks like the right thing to do; it certainly can feel like the easier thing to do. Staying on the straight and narrow path takes clarity of thought, concentration and determination. The road signs may be confusing, even demanding. A turn may seem like the right choice.

When the road the Lord has chosen for us stretches clearly before us, there is no need to consider turning onto some other road. Of course the road He chooses will do some twisting and turning that we might not expect, but those kinds of turns are proper for we turn with the Lord, not against Him.

The Voice behind Us
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to give us direction. The Prophet Isaiah makes a strange statement about Divine guidance. When faced with an intersection we can hear a voice behind us saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” The words “behind you” could also be translated, “pursuing you.” In contemporary language that means the Lord “has your back.”

That’s good news! At such intersections, we can listen for the voice of the Lord and know exactly what to do. Turning away from God is never the right thing to do.

Intersections demand decisions. It is comforting to know that He is with us on this journey.

Scriptures:
Psalm 119: 49-51 NIV
Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope. This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life. The proud have derided me cruelly, but I have not turned from your law.
1 Peter 3:10-12 NIV
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
2 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Galatians 1:6-9 NIV
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NIV
So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Isaiah 30:21 NIV
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Prayers:
For Direction
Psalm 25:4-5 NLT
Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (From The Book of Daily Worship)
For Guidance
(from the Book of Common Prayer)
O heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray thee so to guide and govern us by thy Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget thee, but may remember that we are ever walking in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Song:
Song God Leads Us Along
Words and Music: George A. Young

1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain:
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain

3. Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain

4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved