March 21, 2017

Watching

Big Brother or Guardian?
Nobody wants a “Big Brother” watching everything they do as depicted in George Orwell’s 1948 novel, “1984.” At the same time everyone wants a guardian, “Someone to Watch over Me,” as Ira Gershwin added lyrics to his brother George’s haunting tune.

So which is it for the Lord? Is He a hostile “Big Brother” or a loving, attentive, “Heavenly Father?”

“Big” he certainly is—“hostile” he definitely is not.

Children of Adam and Eve
We should not forget that we are the “apple of His eye,” meaning that God loves each of us supremely. We are the offspring of Adam and Eve who were fashioned in perfection and cared for in perfect love. They walked with the Lord in the cool of the day in a beautiful garden made for their delight.

In our fallen state, two things remain:

  1. We need fellowship with God.
  2. God desires fellowship with us.

This makes us different. All other creatures formed by His Word are free to frolic in the air, sea, and land God made for them. In His omniscience, God is certainly aware of all life and death processes on His earth.

I believe God is totally invested in us, in the human race.

  • Jesus, the Son, left the splendor of heaven choosing to dwell in the squalor of a sin-laden, violent earth because He possessed the greatest love.
  • He points the way to a Heavenly Father we should seek in the Secret Place of prayer because He already knows all of our needs.
  • The Father esteems each of us more than he does flowers in the field or birds in the air. We are the focus of His attention on this earth.
  • The Holy Spirit comes to abide in those who follow Jesus because of Calvary and the Empty Tomb.
  • He deals directly with the spirit in each of us, quickening our understanding of spiritual things and empowering our human efforts at ministry with the power of the Name of Jesus.
  • The Spirit of God gives the church miraculous gifts for worship and produces irresistible fruit in us so that we can actually live the life described in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • He lights a flame in each of us and makes all of us a shining City on a Hill.

God watches over us.
He never sleeps. He never slumbers. His eyes are always open toward us and His ears are always tuned to our hearts. We are secure because He is great. We have joy because His is strong. We have what need because He has the current list. Our lives are secure because we are the apple of His eye.

Scriptures:
Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Deuteronomy 32:9-10 NIV
For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel.

Prayers of Confession:
Confession of Faith in the Father’s Care
(from The Book of Daily Prayer)
Look at the Birds
Matt 6:25-33 NLT (Adapted SRP)
I do not worry about everyday life — whether I have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? I look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because You, my heavenly Father, feed them. And I am far more valuable to You than they are. Can all my worries add a single moment to my life? Of course not.
Look at the Lilies
And I do not worry about my clothes. I look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if You care so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t You more surely care for me? I have enough faith to receive your constant care!
Look at the Father
So I don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? My heavenly Father already knows all my needs, and You will give me all I need from day to day because I live for You and make the Kingdom of God my primary concern. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
God Will Take Care of You
Words and Music: Civilla D. Martin

1. Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

Refrain:
God will take care of you,
Through every day,
O’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

2. Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.

Refrain

3. No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one upon His breast,
God will take care of you.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 20, 2017

Fortress

Defense as Offence
In the ancient world, warfare was conducted only where men and animals could go. A mountain with a castle built on top was both an offensive weapon and a defensive stronghold. The army in the fortified position, then and now, has the advantage.

For the Psalmists this was a meaningful metaphor for the Lord Jehovah Himself. His name was a strong and mighty tower. He was the immense rock of safety and provision in a dry and dangerous land. He was their Fortress.

The Long View
Like a castle on a mountain, the Lord has the long view of life. There is no direction from which an enemy can attack that the Lord cannot see. His fortress-like presence is the essence of safety.

There are provisions in the Fortress for family and friends, troops and staff, adequate for any siege attempted. Expert lookouts are posted at every high point of every outcropping of the mountain and every possible crevasse where spies might seek to break the security of the fortress.

A Comforting Sight
It must have been comforting for the residents of some ancient or medieval city to see the Fortress, their Fortress, on the nearby mountain. Most of the time they took no conscious notice of it but in the peripheral of their vision and the peripheral of their minds, they knew it was there.

They knew also that over the horizon in certain directions enemies lived their lives, worshiping different gods in different ways—strange sounding, violent strangers—a constant threat in the backs of their minds. A measure of confidence could be found in the shadow of the Fortress:

  • There was a ruler in those elevated rooms who knew what needed to be known.
  • There was an army there, ready to defend or to attack.
  • There were spies in and out of the Fortress who knew all about the enemy over the horizon.

However, the Fortress only protected those inside it. Just looking at it may be comforting but being inside it was the real place of safety.

And so it is with us.
We have enemies on all sides who have already crossed the horizon. They have spies among us and assassins on assignment. We need more than a peripheral view of our Fortress. We need to be inside. No enemy can harm us there. We have quarters assigned to us there. We have a place of service as well as a place of safety. The King is there and all is well. He has what we need. He knows what needs to be known.

  • To read His Word is to run to the Fortress and find entrance.
  • To praise and worship Him is to find our residence within the walls.
  • To obey the Lord is to find our assignment in His army.

More than just safety, victory is ours because victory is His. Jesus is our fortress.

Scriptures:
Psalm 18:2; 28:8; Proverbs 18:10 NIV
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Psalm 31
In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth… Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief… But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave. … Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight! “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my stronghold and my defense. I will not fear what man can do to me. Neither will I fear what the forces of darkness may design against me. Since I follow You and since You are light, I walk in a light so bright the shadows of hell cannot hide the enemies of my soul. Your Holy Spirit warns me of evil as it approaches in so many disguises. Your name is on my lips and Your Word fills my heart. My hands are dedicated to Your will and my feet to following You. You are the Christus Victor, and I am safe and courageous in You my Fortress. Amen.

Song:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Words: Martin Luther; Music: Traditional

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 19, 2017

 

Plans

Plans are mental constructs.
We might write them down, chart them on a wall, or fill a handy notebook with them, but they are products of the mind with no real substance of their own until we put them in motion.

In The Gift of Asher Lev, the second of his two books about the divinely gifted young artist who comes up in a system that does not recognize his gift as one from God, the author, Chaim Potok, places a question in the mouth of Asher’s wife: “Is there a plan, Asher?”

It is a good question to ask. All too often we feel we have the right plan for our lives, the one the Lord has given us when circumstances seem to turn against us.

A Terribly White Christmas
I remember one Christmas when we worked for months on a beautiful musical celebration of the story by Carolina Christian Arts—our production ministry at the church I was serving. When the planned weekend came a snow storm came with it. We had to cancel opening night and opened instead on a Sunday afternoon when every other church in town was closed because of the storm.

This was disappointing to all of us but my theology was shaken. I planned for every contingency I could imagine but the weather was out of my control. Why would God let us go through the agony of creation without the ecstasy of presentation? All we wanted to do was tell His story.

I still don’t know the answer.

Sometimes we label and sort out our plans:

  • Plan A,
  • Plan B, and
  • Worst Case Scenario.

As we pray and think through this season of Lent, a question often comes to mind: “All this suffering of Jesus on our behalf, was it Plan A, or was it some sort of divine improvisation because of the unexpected entrance of sin into the world?”

It was so from before the beginning.
Be assured, the Plan of Salvation is Plan A. God’s motivations are lost in the blinding light of His divinity and are certainly “beyond finding out” by mortals like us.

We can, however, gain insight into a certain depth of the Creator’s reasons for this plan. Since we are made in His image and since we each have a deep need for fellowship, I believe it is safe to believe that God has a deep desire for fellowship as well.

In 1927, the Poet James Weldon Johnson put these words into the Creator’s mouth:

“And God stepped out on space, And he looked around and said: I’m lonely –I’ll make me a world.”

This is art not scripture but I suspect it is pretty close to the truth.
All that we think about in Lent and in the Holy Week comes from God’s plan from the beginning to create us, to give us free will to choose or reject Him, and to provide a way back to Him.

Is there a plan?—Yes.
Once the evil snake was loosed in the world, the heel of the Seed of Mary had to be bruised so that He could then crush Satan’s head.

We should not think of the Passion of the Christ as another sad tragedy—a brilliant young man of peace struck down by violence. This is the plan of God no longer hidden in clouds of majesty or promised in prophecies of old. This is the plan of God set in motion.

Scriptures:
Genesis 3:14-15 NKJV
So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Ephesians 1:3-10 The Message
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people — free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
Proverbs 16:9; 19:21 NKJV
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord ‘s counsel — that will stand.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your throne sits above the realm of time, founded upon eternity itself. Your wisdom is, as the prophet declared, “past finding out.” Though billions of individuals roam this planet, You know each of us by name. We each have a lodging place in Your heart and in Your great mind there is a plan for each one of us. Today, You will turn another page in Your plan for me. Help me see and obey. If I cannot see it, help me do what I know is right anyway. I trust in Your plan for me, seen or unseen, understood or a mystery. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Trust and Obey
Words and Music: John H. Sammis

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

2. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

Refrain

3. But we never can prove the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows, for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey.

Refrain

4. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 18, 2017

Redeemed

The opposite of redeemed is ruined.
For a creature that was designed to exist in a state of being “a little lower than the angels,” we have made an amazing mess of things. We can’t plead innocence, saying we didn’t ruin things; it was Adam and Eve. That is technically true but it is no acquittal. It is not even a verdict of “not guilty.” We come into this world filled with the potential for ruination which is quickly set in motion.

The home, intended as a safe haven, has been invaded by media and malice, anger and abuse, hunger and hatred, neglect and negativity and has for too many children become a danger zone. Even in the best of homes, children have to be taught to be truthful, unselfish, considerate, respectful, and thoughtful of others. These things do not come naturally to us. As Oscar Hammerstein said of prejudice in the musical play, “South Pacific,” these things have to be carefully taught.

A Slow Ruination
Though Adam and Eve were created whole, they failed to live in obedience to God, tempted by the one tree of which they must not partake. That tiny harvest of forbidden fruit ruined them. Like them, each child comes into this world with a clean slate, a record free from accounts of evils done. At some point, the child will find his or her one tree that is forbidden and with full knowledge that it is wrong, pluck its sweet fruit and consume it. From this point the ledger will begin to fill with deeds and attitudes right and wrong, good and bad. In supreme irony, as the child grows in stature and intellect, the list of sins grows as well—a slow ruination at work in the background of a fast-developing life.

Other, more blessed processes are also in motion.

  • Prayers from parents, relatives, pastors, and other Christian friends are at work.
  • The Holy Spirit is on the scene speaking to the child in quiet, surprising moments.
  • Christian music is on in the car and in the home—the words of the godly poets flying like arrows to the heart of the child.
  • Pastors and teachers get the child’s attention and tell them things the world will never tell them. They embrace each child and become the arms of Christ to them. They listen to the children and show them that God is there and He is concerned.

At some point many  who have been ruined will be redeemed.
When the work of the Spirit and the fallen nature of the child are both at work, they are on a collision course.

  • That collision may occur in a Sunday School room as it did for me at age five. It may happen during a worship service or in the quietness of a child’s room just before going to sleep.
  • Some children may live to be adults before the prayers of the saints, the words of the witnesses, and the pursuit of the Spirit collides with their ruination.
  • The result is the same—redemption. Sadly, many will never reach that moment.

The Verdict Is Innocent
Jesus came to redeem us, to clear our record of wrong and restore us a new verdict before God. The verdict goes beyond “not guilty” to “innocent.” How can this be? It is because to be redeemed is to not only be restored from ruination, but it is to stand before God as if we had never sinned. It is the sentence pronounced at the end of the Creation Week—“Good. Very Good.”

Scriptures:
Psalm 107:1-32 NIV
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say this — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. …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.
Colossians 2:13-15 NIV
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross
Ephesians 1:3-9 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the prayers of saints I have yet to meet who prayed my forbears and me into Your presence. Thank for the divine encounter I had with You as a child—knowing Your presence has been the central reality of my life. Thank You for my parents, pastors, teachers, and friends who instructed me with words and by example in the ways that would please You. Thank You, Lord for saving me from ruin and giving me, instead, a wonderful, on-going redemption.

Song of Testimony:
Redeemed
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music William J. Kirkpatrick

1. Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am.

Refrain:
Redeemed! Redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Redeemed! Redeemed! His child and forever I am.

2. Redeemed and so happy in Jesus, no language my rapture can tell;
I know that the Light of His presence with me doth continually dwell.

Refrain

3. I think of my blessed Redeemer, I think of Him all the day long;
I sing for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song.

Refrain

4. I know I shall see in His beauty the King in whose law I delight;
Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps and giveth me songs in the night.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 17, 2017

 

Brokenhearted

Broken bones will mend if properly set.
Broken promises can be renegotiated. Broken lives can be repaired in the office of the Great Physician; we see this all the time.

Broken hearts are harder to reach than broken bones.
What splint or caste is there to bind up the brokenhearted? People whose hearts have been betrayed, may never trust another negotiator. Wounded hearts may never press through the crowds to touch the hem of His garment.

The Wounded Healer
The story we tell the world is that of the wounded Healer. The One with His own broken heart who is able to bind up the broken hearts that come to Him.

In these weeks we contemplate the brokenhearted Jesus:

  • abandoned by most of His family,
  • forcefully taken to the brow of a hill in His hometown only to disarm the crowd simply by walking through them,
  • assaulted by the religious establishment,
  • weeping over Jerusalem,
  • receiving the kiss of His betrayer, and
  • hearing the footsteps of His followers fleeing from the Garden.

The taunts and blows of the soldiers bruised His mind and body, but His great heart was not broken by these injuries. Neither the whip nor the nails could wound His heart; they could only pierce the body His Father had provided Him.

His heart kept on beating.
Pain enough, these wounds, but His strong heart did not break—it had work to do. His precious blood must be pumped through these wounds and spill to the earth—a crimson stream of blood. The whole world would need this redeeming flow. His life must be poured out for all who will believe in the ages to come, so His heart kept on beating.

When the full price was paid, with His face ashen and drained of color, Jesus lifted His eyes to the Father. He had taken the full measure of wickedness into a sinless heart. It was done. “It is finished.” He was barely able to pronounce the completion of his task.

In a way that we cannot understand, His Father could not look anymore upon Him. For this Abraham and Isaac there would be no angel to block the thrust of the knife.

The heart of Jesus broke and He released His spirit to God, quoting a psalm He had learned as a child.

In that moment of brokenness all wounds were healed.
Until we are made like Him when we see Him as He is, we have the power to endure broken bones, promises, and lives. The Wounded Healer is our Physician. Jesus is the One who is anointed to preach this good news—He will bind up the broken hearted.

Scriptures:
Psalm 69 NIV
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. … You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. … 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.
Jeremiah 8:22 NIV
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?
Isaiah 61:1 KJV
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Matthew27:46 KJV
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
John 19:30 NIV
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
Luke 23:46
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my heart has been broken, but never like Yours was broken. I have felt Your warm hands holding my heart at those times, shielding me from further injury, sustaining me with Your strength. I thought I would die, but You kept me alive. You let my tears flow just as your tears did at the tomb of Lazarus and on that hill overlooking Jerusalem. When my tears stopped, Your healing hands cradled my broken heart in love. You warmed my wounded heart with the Balm of Gilead and the healing began. In this life some wounds never completely heal. They leave behind scar tissue to remind us of Your touch then, now, and someday, when we see You as You are, the touch that will finish the work. Amen

Song:
I Must Tell Jesus
Words and Music: Elisha A. Hoffman

1. I must tell Jesus all of my trials; I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me; He ever loves and cares for His own.

Refrain:
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

2. I must tell Jesus all of my troubles; He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver, Make of my troubles quickly an end.

Refrain

3. Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior, One who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus; He all my cares and sorrows will share.

Refrain

4. O how the world to evil allures me! O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me Over the world the vict’ry to win

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 16, 2017

 

Testimonies

A testimony is a story—a true story.
In court we have to swear that the testimony we are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. To tell a lie after such an oath is a crime called perjury.

A testimony is also a witness—a faithful witness.
The same oaths and principles apply to the words of witness as to the details of the narrative.

The Psalmists say things like this:

  • “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! (Ps 119:2 NKJV) and,
  • “Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever.” (Ps 93:5 NKJV)

In this season of the year we tell and tell again the story of a death that gives life—the Jesus Story.

All year we celebrate the thrilling parts of the story:

  • the trio of songs from angels, shepherds, and wise men as they praised Jesus as a child,
  • the new wine at the wedding that moments before was just water,
  • the healings and deliverances,
  • the debates with the Pharisees when they never had a chance against Jesus,
  • the incredible personal moments He shared with individuals—Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the adulterous woman, Mary of Bethany,
  • the crowds that followed Him, hungering for every word of life and getting a miraculous lunch in the bargain,
  • the amazing impenetrable words falling to the foot of the mountain about a new way of living, a way peace and love that deals with turning cheeks, burdens carried the extra mile, and love and prayers for our enemies,
  • the transfiguring moment on another mountain when the veil of flesh that hid His glory fell for a few minutes as He spoke with Moses and Elijah,
  • His resurrection power at the tomb of Lazarus, and on and on the testimonies from the witnesses go.

These days it is time to speak of other scenes in the story:

  • His last meal with friends before His passion,
  • the passion with all its pain and promise,
  • the cross, the cruel crown, the nails, the spear, the storm, the shaking earth, and the silence,
  • the weeping women, and the faithful men, and
  • the borrowed tomb.

We will never know such rejection, such pain, but we seek in these weeks to identify with Jesus.

How can we do this?

We tell the story again and again because it is true. It is our sworn testimony. Even all these centuries later we, too, are faithful witnesses to its truth.

Scripture:
Psalm 119:121-144 NKJV
I have done justice and righteousness; Do not leave me to my oppressors. Be surety for Your servant for good; Do not let the proud oppress me. My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation And Your righteous word. Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, And teach me Your statutes. I am Your servant; Give me understanding, That I may know Your testimonies. It is time for You to act, O Lord, For they have regarded Your law as void. Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul keeps them. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth and panted For I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me ,As Your custom is toward those who love Your name. Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me. Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Your precepts. Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes. Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law. Righteous are You, O Lord, And upright are Your judgments. Your testimonies, which You have commanded, Are righteous and very faithful. My zeal has consumed me, Because my enemies have forgotten Your words. Your word is very pure; Therefore Your servant loves it. I am small and despised, Yet I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth. Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, Yet Your commandments are my delights. The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding, and I shall live

Prayer of Confession:
The Apostles’ Creed
The Book of Common Prayer
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
I Love to Tell the Story
Words: Kate Hankey; Music: William G. Fischer

1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else could do.

Refrain:
I love to tell the story; ’twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

2. I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

Refrain

3. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 15, 2017

Rejected

A Pervasive Fear
How many great novels lie hidden on hard drives, never submitted to a publisher? How many fine actors find something else to do when auditions for a great play with a part just right for them is announced? How many wonderful songs are packed away in guitar cases under beds somewhere? Who can tell the number of really good singers with great hearts for God who sit in the congregation instead of joining the choir or worship team because to do so would require the risk of an audition or interview?

The cause of all these wasted treasures is the fear of rejection.

Nothing hurts the sensitive person quite like being rejected. When the rejection seems unfair or unkind the hurt goes even deeper. I knew of a worship team of excellent singers and players who were taken off the church platform to make room for professionals. They went to a different ministry in the same church and called themselves, “The Rejects.”

It takes courage to put yourself out there for some expert to judge. At the very best is unpleasant for both the one auditioning and ones doing the judging. At the worst it can be a sickening ordeal for everyone involved. Talent must be found. Competent artists must have a pathway into a system that will need their abilities. The risk of being rejected is real and unavoidable.

Not for artists only
The fear of rejection is not limited to the arts; each one of us must take the risk of being rejected as we walk through life. Elementary schools try to manage the pain of the students who are not selected by giving everyone a trophy. OK. But the kids who did poorly know they did poorly. The teams that scored the fewest points somehow know they lost the game. Rejection, being listed among the losers, is a fact of life for just about everyone at some time.

The risk of not being chosen extends beyond school years to all of life:

  • Finding someone to date,
  • Applying for Jobs,
  • Interviewing for jobs,
  • Seeking promotion on the job,
  • Getting credit for a major purchase,
  • Sitting first chair in the community band, and so on.

The fearful among us will shrink to the background to avoid any risk of rejection that isn’t absolutely necessary.

“He was rejected.”
The pre-incarnate Jesus knew that when He laid aside His heavenly crown and came to live among us, He was entering the painful realm of inevitable rejection.

  • As a carpenter, I am sure some patrons rejected His shop for the one down the street.
  • As a family member Jesus was rejected by His brothers and sisters until after the resurrection. After the death of Joseph only His mother was true to Him.
  • He traveled among the people with healing in His touch, authority in His words, and the creative power in His prayer to feed a multitude a good lunch. The next day, most of them rejected Him.
  • He walked into the Temple of the Father and found rejection from the leaders—rejection—hostility—slander—and finally a death plot.
  • In the Garden of prayer His sleepy disciples were unable to watch with Him for even an hour and when the soldiers came Peter and the rest of them ran away.
  • No one spoke to His defense in the trials that night.
  • On the cross, when laden with the sin of all mankind, even the Father could not look upon Him.
  • He was totally alone.

The reality is that for all of us there will be

  • parts we actors don’t get,
  • ensembles we musicians cannot join,
  • jobs and the raises that we do not qualify for, and
  • a multitude of little rejections that make us tremble and hide from the potential pain.

Nothing we experience will ever come close the rejection Jesus knew.

Why? Because He loves us and because He came to share our pain so that, when we believe in Him, He can share with us His victory. We will be accepted by Him.

Scriptures:
Isaiah 53:3-5 NIV
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

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

Song:
Hallelujah, What a Savior!
Words and Music: P.P. Bliss

1. Man of sorrows what a name for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

3. Guilty, helpless, lost were we; blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

4. He was lifted up to die; “It is finished” was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

5. When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 14, 2017

 

Generations

The Inevitable Effects of Time
The passage of time is, for individuals, a slow and certain devastation. For creation the passage of time is a constant renewal. What makes the difference?

Generations.

Each of us walks the earth for a brief time and then we are gone. We leave footprints and finger prints in the form of the works we have done and the people we have touched. This second generation of prints will also fade and be replaced by those of the next generation. In this way, we live our lives and the world is replenished.

Two Life Spirals
This is the plan of God—a productive spiral of sowing and reaping: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.”

But we also see the fall of man—the entrance and effect of sin and rebellion. These evil things corrupt the system, creating a downward spiral: “…when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

It is imperative that we think generationally. No governments of kingdoms or empires have written any laws to countermand the laws of the spirals.

  • The Covenant with God produces life extending to all generations. The righteous ones continue for they are the overcomers in every generation—the Upward Spiral.
  • The Covenant with death produces corruption and violence to the third and fourth generations. These generational iniquities overlap and multiply—the Downward Spiral.
  • The Downward Spiral continues of its own momentum until something stops it.
  • The Upward Spiral is a matter of our obedience to God’s Word and His faithfulness to His Covenant.

The most important things must be hand delivered.
In this technological world we must realize that some things must be hand delivered from one generation to the next. These are the personal things, the real treasures of life—spirituality, creativity, craftsmanship, morality, faith, hope, and love.

We must worship together, pray together, serve together—BE together! The culture calls upon us to divide in order to transfer our faith. To divide is the first step toward being conquered.

Let us connect across generational lines. Let us allow our mutual love for Jesus bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.

The Upward Spiral is there waiting for us.

Scriptures:
Exodus 20:5-6
NKJV
For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
James 1: 15; 17-18 NKJV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
“…when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
2 Peter 1:5-9 NKJV
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:12,14 NKJV
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you know all the generations of life that have brought me to this day. Thank you for forgiving and redeeming my forebears of their sins. Thank you for grandparents whom I have yet to meet who served you sacrificially from their hearts. Their prayers still resonate around Your throne. Their deeds of mercy are recorded in Your book. Thank you for parents whom you rescued from destruction. You healed them and made them strong in Your goodness. Their prayers and deeds are likewise recorded above. These are the generations that produced me. Thank you for those who follow after me. Help me to be faithful in prayer and in good works so the upward spiral of godly living may continue in the generations to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Higher Ground
Words: Johnson Oatman, JR; Music Charles H. Gabrie

1. I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

2. My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Refrain

3. I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Refrain

4. I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 13, 2017

 

Forever

Time is God’s invention.
We cannot understand time. It is linked with existence itself. If something is—then it may not have always been and it may not always exist forever. I’m not sure about eternity—that particular time of “forever.” Will it be a single moment that simply never passes or will it be an endless passage of time that never wears on us? Either way it will be good for those who have heard and responded to the Lord’s call. For others? Not so much.

I lean toward the endless passage of some sort of measure of time because the book of The Revelation describes the worship of heavenly creatures as ceaseless: “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”’

Locked into Time
There is no doubt that we are locked into time, this thing that God created. We may not know what “day and night” means in heaven, but we are certain of what it means here on earth. It means we will each live a certain number of days and nights and then we will make our exit. For those of us who want to accomplish something in this life, it is a race between our skills and opportunities and the relentless calendar.

We deal with this truth with a number of sayings:

  • Time waits for no one.
  • All we have is today.
  • Tomorrow will take care of itself.
  • Let go of the past.
  • I won’t think about that right now; tomorrow is another day.

These platitudes are of little help to us. They neither speed up the clock nor slow down the calendar. They are also more easily spoken than accomplished.

Where can we go for some “forever” help?

A Timeless Book
The Creator who invented time also speaks to us from a supernatural—a timeless—book. God can speak with authority about forever—he is already there! The Bible tells us that before our personal clock started ticking, the Lord knew who we were and what He had planned for us. Our times are in His gentle hands.

The theme song of the Old Covenant was “For the Lord is good and His love (mercy) endures to all generations.” This is the chosen anthem of the great moments in Old Testament history from the giving of the Law to the dedication of Solomon’s Temple to the army of musicians King Jehoshaphat sent into victorious battle.

This central truth is fulfilled in Jesus.

“The Lord is good!”
We must not entertain theories from the culture which question the character of God saying that if He exists at all He must be either evil or indifferent.

“His mercy endures forever.”
The passage of time so destructive to us, never wears God down. A day will never dawn when His mercies aren’t fresh and new. God is the God of Covenant—binding promises to those in covenant with Him.

Today, just as in Psalm 136, let us make every statement end with a statement of faith—“The Lord is good and His love endures forever!”

Scriptures:
Psalm 90 NKJV
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.  You turn man to destruction, And say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. … The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. …Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, The years in which we have seen evil. Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.
1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 20:21 NIV

  • Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
  • The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in raise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.”
  • After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

Revelation 4:8 NIV
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Prayer:
Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
who made the great lights — His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
…to the One who remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies, His love endures forever.
and who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever. Amen.

Song:
Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand
Words: Jennie Wilson; Music: F.L. Eiland

1 Time is filled with swift transition.
Naught of earth unmoved can stand.
Build your hopes on things eternal.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Refrain:
Hold to His hand, to God’s unchanging hand.
Hold to His hand, to God’s unchanging hand.
Build your hopes on things eternal.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

2 Trust in Him who will not leave you.
Whatsoever years may bring.
If by earthly friends forsaken,
Still more closely to Him cling.

Refrain

3 Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay.
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures.
They will never pass away.

Refrain

4 When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in Glory
Your enraptured soul will view.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 12, 2017

Shadows

Shadows may seem like illusions but they are very real.
Something through which light cannot pass blocks the source of illumination and casts a shadow.

  • On a clear day, we trace the progress of the sun by the length and shape of the shadow of our house.
  • A cloudy day is a day of shadows from horizon to horizon, the sun is hidden behind the overcast skies and the whole world below turns in shadow.
  • Riding in a plane, high above the earth, we can sometimes see the shadow of the plane racing across the ground far below, wiggling wildly as it traces the topography of the earth, effortlessly climbing hills, exploring canyons, and running across lakes and streams.

Shadows tell us truths.
They may not carry much weight as they stretch longer and longer as the day draws to a close, but shadows carry important information:

  • The day begins in long shadows from the east, signally that we have a fresh set of mercies from the hand of the Lord.
  • Clouds pass between us and the noonday sun, gathering for an afternoon of rain by the barrel, bolts of lightning, and blasting breezes to make us run for cover.
  • As the storm passes, light streams through the retreating clouds casting colors, not shadows, as a rainbow circles part of the earth with a promise.

The Scriptures tell us of certain shadows:

  • There is a valley we must all walk through where death casts a long shadow. We do not fear for this shadow cannot harm us deeply, it can only signal that life itself is a shadow on the earth. Life is an earthly shadow cast by a heavenly light, a spiritual lighthouse, guiding us through dangerous waters and seeing us safely home.
  • There is a blessed shadow—the Shadow of His Wings! Here we are safe from all harms, covered by grace, cooled by hope against the heat of the day, and blanketed in peace, the peace of Christ.
  • There is also the shadow of Peter. The Bible says that sometimes in the streets of that ancient world, the shadow of Peter passed over the sick folks and they were healed. The influence of the Spirit-filled man of God had a healing impact on the world through which he walked.

And so it must be with us today.
Fearing no shadows in the valley of death, we live and move and have our being beneath the shadow of the wings of Almighty God. As we pass through streets and alleyways of this life, we cast a healing shadow on those in our path.

Sometimes shadows of circumstance may obscure our steps but, like the warmth of the sun, hidden by clouds but still emanating life to the earth below, the Spirit of God leads us through the shadows. We can be sure of our destination.

Shadows may seem like illusions but they are very real.

Scriptures:
Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the Lord, who is my refuge — then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 23 NIV
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.
Acts 5:12-16 NIV
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I stand today in the shadow of great men and women—family, preachers, teachers, craftsmen and artists, writers—good and/or godly people You have put in my path. Their shadows have provided me a safe place to learn from them, a place where I can look within my own heart to see any shadows lurking there that need to flee from the light of Your will for me. I realize that I, too, cast a shadow on others. Let my shadow be a healing shadow, a respite from the heat of the day. This is only possible because I rest beneath the shadow of Your wings. As my time runs across the ground like the shadow of a speeding jet, help it matter to someone. In Your lovely Name, Amen.

Song:
All the Way My Savior Leads Me
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: Robert Lowry

1. All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er betide me, Jesus doeth all things well.

2. All the way my Savior leads me; Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial, Feeds me with the living bread:
Though my weary steps may falter, And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see.

3. All the way my Savior leads me; Oh the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised In my Father’s house above:
When my spirit, clothed immortal, Wings its flight to realm of day,
This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved