July 8, 2018 “Discernment”

Discernment

It is said that wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.
Understanding requires discernment, defined as “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” It was important that Jesus teach discernment, spelling out the many facets of living for Him in a hostile world.

Keep Your Lamps Burning
Returning to the image of light, Jesus placed tending our personal lamps at the highest priority. If we are to rightly see this world, we need the inner light of His Word and Presence. He spoke not only of His presence then and there but of a distant day when He would return.

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

At Peter’s request, Jesus made it clear that this teaching was for all time. We are the servants and He is the Master of the House. Life should be about doing the Master’s will. We should not be put off balance because the Master seems long in returning. Our job is to be ready.

Division before Unity
The Lord was distressed by the warnings He had to give to His followers. Before the peace of His Kingdom could come there would be terrible division in families, in worship, in civic life, as people decided one way or the other about following Him.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”

And it is so. The joy of following Jesus often comes with the pain of seeing those we love choose not to follow Him. Because of our love for them and for Jesus, our hearts are broken. We must deliver these broken hearts to the Secret Place of Prayer, crying out to God with the names of our loved ones who refuse to follow Him. This is the work of the ministry. We do not badger them; we pray for them. We do not complain about this sinful world; we intercede for it. Discerning this need for unity in the church, we must worship as One Family. We must not blindly follow the cultures of division. Where else in this broken world will the truth be heard except in the lives, worship, and witness of the church?

Signs of the Times
In the natural world, people watch the skies for indications of approaching weather. If we can discern these signs, we should also discern the signs of the end times. The Bible is replete with these signs. We must lift them off the pages of the book and inscribe them in our hearts. They provide us with “keen insight and good judgment.”

Living among the Lost
Jesus concluded this teaching by instructing those who followed Him in wise living. There is no doubt we are engaged by adversaries. We all live within a system of laws which we must respect. Beyond being law abiding citizens, we must also be blameless in our dealings with everyone, our fellow citizens in the Kingdom as well as those outside the faith. If we can avoid the “law and order” establishment without compromising our faith, we should. We will not find mercy at the hands of an enemy in power.

As we follow the Lord, living for Him, we find our mercy there. We will also possess the discernment to know what to do and how to do it. Wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.

Scriptures:
Luke: 12:35-59

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”

Prayer:
Lord, give me the discernment required to see things as they really are today. I know from Your Word that two signs of the end times will happen at the same time: The Great Outpouring of Your Spirit on all flesh and the Great Falling Away, the terrible end time apostasy. Help me see the difference so I can join the Outpouring and shun the Apostasy. Teach me to intercede for those who are refusing You and for a country that spurns Your love. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Songs:
Signs Are Everywhere

Words and Music: Kittie Louise Suffield

1. The King is coming in glory To catch His bride away,
It may be in the morning It may be at midday,
At the even or midnight; The trump will sound so clear,
The dead in Christ, and we that live, His voice shall hear.

Refrain
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
The fig tree is budding, The signs are everywhere,
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

2. Behold! He cometh, and leaping, And skipping o’er the hills;
Like the young roe, like the young hart, My soul with rapture thrills;
Thru the window He’s looking, Thru the lattice work is seen,
The winter’s past, the rain is o’er, The figs are green.

Refrain

3. The King is coming, Be ready, To meet Him on that day;
With your heart right, with your robes white, And in this holy way;
Like the lightning that flashes In the twinkling of an eye,
Our Lord shall come to claim His own, He’s drawing nigh.

Refrain

4. The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.
The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 7, 2018 “Treasures”

Treasures

Jesus spoke of “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail.” How can we find this treasure?
A multitude beyond number pressed upon Jesus and the Twelve. This crowd contained the Lord’s treasure—those who heard His Word and chose to follow Him. His address is to them and, by extension to us. Reading His words, we see our value to Him. God’s extends love to all people but to those who love Him back, He promises a great life. We are His treasure and He is ours.

The Leaven of the Pharisees
This crowd contained enemies, friends, and those who had yet to decide whose side they were on. Jesus denounced the Pharisees among them, by pinpointing their basic sin—hypocrisy. It grew like cancer in their hearts corrupting everything they did. They were pretenders when the Kingdom of God demanded people of holiness.

Jesus instructs those He treasures.
Jesus told His followers how to live a true life of faith.

  • The first thing is to be real. Tell the truth without sugarcoating it. Live the life we preach in secret and in public. Secret things will not remain secret. Things whispered in the ear will be shouted from the housetops.
  • Fear God, not men! God’s commitment to us is shown in unfailing love.
  • Confess Christ before men.
  • Honor the Holy Spirit. He will supply the words when we are hauled before the courts of men.
  • Beware of covetousness. If our treasures are those of heaven, heaven will keep them safe. Covetousness is a besetting sin costing us everything.
  • Avoid the deceitfulness of riches. It can alter our vision of life causing us to treasure temporary things and ignore eternal things. The parable of the rich man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones illustrates this in detail. Taking his ease, he lost it all.

The True Treasures of Heaven
Jesus concluded the parable with these remarkable statements:

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” and
“… do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”

When we claim the Lord as our treasure, He claims us as His! Life is more than the quest for temporal things—it is an investment in eternal treasures. We must not live lives plagued with worry but enjoy lives propelled by faith. God considers us more valuable than all of creation beginning with birds of the air and extending all the way to lilies of the field.

Seek first the Kingdom
How do we treasure the things of God? By seeking first His Kingdom! Every day we have the choice to follow the Lord or to go on our way. Our own way may seem right but it leads to destruction. The Lord’s way is the Path of Life that leads to life now and in the endless future. Today, remember His words:

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Scriptures:
Luke: 12:1-34
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the greatest treasure! Today I will seek first Your Kingdom, knowing that as I do that You will meet all my needs. Your Words are like apples of gold on plates of silver; I will treasure Your truth and store it deep in my heart. My heart is amazed at the testimony of Your teaching, that I am more valuable to you than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. How can it be that I am Your treasure? And yet that is the truth I celebrate today! Amen and Amen.

Song:
More Precious than Silver
Words and Music: Lynn DeShazo

Lord, You are more precious than silver.
Lord, You are more costly than gold.
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds
And nothing I desire compares with You.

<em>Semper Reformanda!</em>
<em>Stephen Phifer</em>
</div>
<em> © 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved</em>

July 6, 2018 “Consequences”

Consequences

It is not exactly news that actions have consequences.
When we do foolish or sinful things, we are most likely tend to suffer the consequences. When the calamitous events unfold after our folly or indiscretion, we may cry out to God as if it was all His fault. It does no good. As the Bible warns and promises, we reap what we have sown.

Jesus calls out a wicked generation.
Formerly blind people walked unaided in public places, as recently dumb people sang as loudly as they could through their day. People once crippled danced to their music, and cleansed lepers walked freely among the population, all because of Jesus. Amazingly, skeptics still questioned the truth about Jesus.

At least one woman showed some gratitude by yelling a blessing on Jesus’ mother, Mary. It was something, at least, but not at all what Jesus was going for. He wanted people to hear the Word of God and obey it.

“More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

It was no more, Rabbi-nice-guy. Jesus rebuked the skeptics and critics for their refusal to see the signs in front of them while calling upon Jesus for a sign to prove His Messiahship. He called upon characters from their history to shame them for their unbelief. In the process, He claimed to be One greater than Solomon—wiser than the wisest man, a greater king than the greatest king, and ruler of a greater Kingdom.

Light and Dark
It was a matter of light and darkness. The purpose of light is to push back darkness. Jesus used simple logic to speak of the consequences of belief. If one believes in light, he or she will have light only if he/she walks in that light. To hear the truth and then to ignore it, is no light at all; the result of such a life is to walk in darkness.

The Darkness of the Pharisees
A hapless Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. Perhaps he was expecting the gentle Jesus he had heard about, one who minded His manners when sitting at an enemy’s table. Was he surprised! When the Pharisee complained that Jesus had failed to wash His hands before dinner, Jesus explained the facts of life to the man.

  • You Pharisees clean only the outside, leaving the inside filthy.
  • You are careful to tithe worthless things while leaving the important things undone.
  • You parade your false spirituality in the synagogues and in the streets seeking your own glory not God’s.
  • You are like graves, full of death and corruption.
  • You lawyers burden the people with burdens you yourselves cannot carry.
  • You walk in the wickedness of your forebears who killed the prophets. You share in their bloodguilt.

Point by point, Jesus continued to indict the leaders as their anger against Him mounted. This was the road to Jerusalem, to judgment, to Calvary. His summation was explicit.

“…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Indeed, they loved darkness rather than light, regardless of the consequences.

Dark against the Light
There was no turning back. The leaders accepted the challenge of Jesus and cross-examined Him assailing Him with questions and accusations. They made records of His answers hoping to catch Him in some transgression worthy of death. As they brought their darkness to bear on the Light, they had no idea they were playing into His hands.

Scriptures:
Luke: 11:27-54

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Light of the World. You are the Light of my life. To see Your Light and walk in it is to fear no consequences. There is such darkness in this world, such deep darkness in the hearts of people. I want to be a Light-bearer! I want to carry Your Light with me today! May the shadows of shame flee before You. May the darkness of deceit retreat before the Light of Your truth. As Isaiah promised, deep darkness will cover the people but the Lord will shine upon His own! As I walk in the Light today, the consequences will be glory and blessing to those in my path! Amen.

Song:
Walking in the Light

Words and Music: Barney E. Warren

1. “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness,
But shall have the light, the light of life”;
Walking in His footsteps, pure and spotless,
We are fully saved from sinful strife.

Refrain:
Walking in the light, walking in the light,
Walking in the light, the light of God;
Walking in the light, walking in the light,
Walking in the light, the precious light of God.

2. “He that followeth Me shall have full assurance
That his sins are pardoned, every one”;
He shall have the knowledge of acceptance
In the Father’s well-beloved Son.

Refrain

3. “He that followeth Me shall conquer forever,
For I’ll interpose My grace and pow’r;
From My hand of strength there’s naught can sever,
If you will obey and trust each hour.”

Refrain

4. “He that followeth Me shall have peace and pleasure,
He that will reject My word shall fall;
I will freely give My hidden treasure
Unto those who hear and heed My call.”

Refrain

5. “He that followeth Me shall dwell safe in heaven,
And forever wear a starry crown;
But if you should die in sin’s dominion,
Awful fears of night will press you down.”
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 5, 2018 “Undivided”

Undivided

Jesus’ message was this: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
What was the nature of this Kingdom? Was it a fractured organization, like the kingdoms of men? Or, was there an undivided unity, unbreakable, insoluble, a living organism of power?

Jesus on Prayer
Dr. Luke describes a private session with the Twelve where Jesus repeated His instructions on prayer first given in the Sermon on the Mount. He again prescribes what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In this setting, Jesus went on to teach the necessity of unity of mind and purpose when we pray.

An undivided purpose will help us continue in prayer, even when answers are delayed. This purposeful repetition is based on the sterling character of God. Persistence in prayer will get the answer. Three steps unite the one praying in this persistence:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Great promises are given to those whose unity of purpose causes them to persist in prayer.

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

If even flawed earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children,

“…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Effective prayer comes from a unified, undivided heart full of confidence in the power and grace of God.

An old accusation returns.
The default position of the religious leaders who opposed Jesus to explain the power of Jesus over evil spirits was that He was secretly allied with them. Jesus and Satan were on the same side. Nonsense! But it was all they had.

Jesus cast a demon from a man who lost his powers of speech to the hellish invader. When suddenly the man could speak, the multitude marveled at the miracle. Then the powerless leaders accused Jesus of being in league with the devil. Jesus answered the tired charge:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

There was no answer to this, of course. So Jesus elaborated, unmasking a tactic of demonic activity—once expelled, a demon will return to their former host. If that soul is clean but empty, he and some friends move back in with even greater force.

The divided kingdom of priests, Levites, Pharisees, and Sadducees was no match for the undivided Kingdom of God.

“…if I cast out demons with the finger of God,
surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

When the Kingdom of God comes upon us, prayers are answered in response to our undivided, persistent prayers of faith. The Lord’s brother, James, who would pastor the Jerusalem church in the years to come, echoed the emphasis of Jesus on praying with an undivided heart. The man who prays from a divided mind will not see answers to his prayers. (James 1:5-8)

Beware of the Empty Heart
When we have been cleansed by Calvary’s stream, we must welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts to take up residence there. If we let our hearts run on empty, this is Satan’s opportunity. If we continually fill our hearts with the truth and presence of the Almighty, Satan will have no access to them.

Scriptures:
Luke: 11:1-26

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me an undivided heart! You are the Stronger Man! You guard my heart, keeping me from evil. With an undivided heart, I will pray. “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever! Amen.

Song:
We Are One in the Spirit

Traditional

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 4, 2018 “Ministry”

Ministry

It would seem that something so simple as ministry would be easy to understand.
Really, ministry isn’t simple at all. It has many expressions, some of them obvious and some of them hidden. Jesus came to minister, to be sure, but He also came to receive ministry.

A Question from a Lawyer
In light of the amazing, multiplied success of the 70 disciples sent out to minister at the command of Jesus and in His name, a lawyer brought a question to Jesus.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus entertained his question, answering him with another question.

“What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

It was an exercise in the familiar. Everyone knew the answer. It was part of the morning prayer of every faithful Jew, the Shema: “Love God and love your neighbor.”

Jesus gave him an “A,” adding,

“…do this and you will live.”

The lawyer wouldn’t leave it there and probably with a smirk asked who his neighbor might be. Instead of answering directly, Jesus told a story, one of His best-known stories.

The Good Samaritan
Jesus invented the tale of a traveler who fell victim to robbers on a public highway. Bleeding on the side of the road, he was ignored by a priest and then a Levite. The poor man was near to death when a Samaritan stopped to minister to him, dressing his wounds, providing new clothes, and even taking him to an inn for recovery. The Samaritan covered all the expenses and even left provision for the days to come. Then Jesus sprang the question: which one was the true neighbor? The answer was obvious. Before the lawyer could revise and extend his remarks, Jesus told him to live that kind of life.

“Go and do likewise.”

Mary and Martha
Near Jerusalem is the town of Bethany, the home of sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. This family regularly ministered to the needs of Jesus and His men. Dr. Luke tells of the beginning of this relationship. Martha welcomed Jesus into their home. She immediately set to work preparing a meal for this large group of hungry men. Hospitality was her gift but this assignment was beyond her normal responsibilities. Her sister, Mary, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and take in His every word.

Both Mary and Martha loved Jesus but in different ways. Both of them ministered to Jesus but in different ways. There was so much to do, Martha needed her sister’s help. When it was not forthcoming, she complained to Jesus and asked Him to command Mary to get up and get to the kitchen. Jesus’ answer to Martha’s complaint has mystified readers for centuries. He gently rebuked Martha and greatly commended Mary. In this answer, Jesus elevated worship above works. Yes, there was a dinner to prepare, but it could never be as nourishing as time spent with Jesus.

Worship before Works
May we never forget that time spent in the presence of Jesus is never time wasted. Yes, we must serve the Lord by ministering to the needs of others as the Good Samaritan did in the story. We must also learn to minister to the Lord with our praise and adoration. He does not need our worship but He certainly deserves it. It is also the key to our ministry to others for with His touch, we can really touch others in His name. We must, “Go and do likewise.”

Scriptures:
Luke: 10:25-42

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to walk this earth in Your compassion. May I never pass a hurting soul by when You have called me to be his neighbor. I want to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. May I learn to sit at Your feet, like Mary of Bethany so that my time in life’s kitchen, like Martha of Bethany, will count the most to ease the pain in this world. I want to ministry to You and to others in Your holy Name. Amen.

Song:
We Are Called

Words and Music: Steve Fry

1. We are called to be a royal priesthood That will minister to God
Declare the wisdom of His ways Exalt His character in praise
We are called to yield unto the Spirit That He may form in us
The beauty of the life of Jesus
We’re called to bear His presence And manifest His glory
Called to feel His heart And know authority

Refrain:
And give to Him undying devotion Our full adoration
That He may be pleased To set our hearts
On this one endeavor To worship forever His majesty

2. We are called to keep the Father’s word And meditate upon
The loveliness of Jesus Christ And offer praise our sacrifice
Our worship is responding To the revelations of His name
Bringing pleasure unto Him Whose heart is broken over sin
We’re called to yield our minds Our body soul and spirit
Worship Him the way He wants to hear it

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 3, 2018 “Assignment”

Assignment

Things get simpler when one has an assignment from the Captain.
So it was with 70 of Jesus’ hand-picked disciples. They graduated from disciples to apostles because Jesus sent them out, two by two, with a mission. They were to be traveling men, traveling to the towns and villages targeted to receive the ministry of Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. They were sent out with the power of Jesus’s name, power over demons, which was a necessity. Hell marshaled armies of demons to oppose the 70 in their forerunner ministry of preparing people for the arrival of Jesus.

Special Instructions to the Seventy
Jesus was detailed in His instructions for how this mission was to be carried out.

  • The whole point was what He called “the harvest.” By that Jesus meant people. People needed Him—His Word, His touch, His presence. There was so much pain, so much injustice, so much confusion and so little hope. The harvest was great but the laborers were few. They should go on this mission prayerfully, in constant communication with “the Lord of the Harvest.”
  • They were going into harm’s way, as “lambs among wolves.” They should expect resistance, subterfuge, and organized opposition.
  • They should travel light, taking the minimum of provisions and entertaining no strangers.
  • To their potential hosts, they should grant the peace of God. If it was refused, they should take the peace back and move on.
  • They must look to people for support and receive it without question, settling into one home until the work was done.
  • They should heal the sick in Jesus’ name, proving their message:

‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

  • They should hit the streets with the same message and not be concerned with those who do not hear.

Jesus Pronounces Woe
Jesus knew that even with the impressive advance ministry of these 70 effective disciples, healing the sick and delivering people from demonic influence, most people would reject the good news of the Kingdom of God coming near. With sadness, He pronounced the results of their impending rejection of Him. Three cities and their surrounding regions received the prediction of calamity for their lack of faith: Chorazin, and Capernaum. Had the wicked historical cities of Tyre and Sidon received such demonstration of power, they would have repented. Specifically, the pride of Capernaum would drag that city to hell itself for their rejection of Messiah.

The Seventy Return
Returning from their mission with glowing reports of success, especially their power over demons, the seventy gathered to their Captain. He rejoiced with them and shared with them an ancient secret—Jesus had power over Satan because He had seen him fall from grace ages ago! He warned His men not to rejoice in spiritual power only, but to rejoice more that they have been made a part of the Kingdom. Remembering this would save them from the corruption of pride.

Jesus rejoiced over His successful soldiers with such sweet detail, it was almost a song of joy! To the men, this song was sweeter than their record of success. To bring joy to Jesus was the greatest joy of all.

Today, we should remember this secret: we bring joy to Jesus when we do what He asks us to do. Things get simpler when one has an assignment from the Captain.

Scriptures:
Luke: 10:1-24

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’ But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades. He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You give my life meaning. Your will gives me purpose. It is so amazing to think that You would want to use me in Your service, but this is plain in the Bible. It is also pounding in my heart. My days are not random 24 hour periods of meaninglessness; they are assignments from Your Throne of Grace! You have shown me the Path of Life where You have laid out work for me to do for You. May You always smile when You look my way because You find me busy with today’s assignment. Amen!

Song:
I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go

Words: Mary Brown; Music: Carrie E. Rounsefell

1. It may not be on the mountain’s height, Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front My Lord will have need of me.
But if by a still, small voice He calls To paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
“I’ll go where You want me to go.”

Refrain:
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain, or plain, or sea.
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord.
I’ll be what You want me to be.

2. Perhaps today there are loving words Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin, Some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if Thou wilt be my Guide, Tho’ dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what you want me to say.

Refrain

3. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place In earth’s harvest fields so wide
Where I may labor thro’ life’s short day For Jesus, the Crucified;
So, trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me, I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 2, 2018 “Sides”

Sides

Like children playing tag, we find ourselves on one side or the other.
In the innocent games of children, someone chooses who will be on whose side. In the games of life, we are free to choose the side we will join.

Jesus tried to tell them.
Things were about to change. With all His power to change people’s lives, Jesus felt unable to get through to His disciples that these good times were about to come to a violent end. So impressed were they with the demonstrated majesty of God, they went into a massive state of denial, busying themselves with other, more delicious games like this one: Who will be the greatest among them?

An Object Lesson
Jesus approached a young mother holding her child close to her heart. He asked if she would let Him hold the little one. She agreed, automatically trusting this man from God. Jesus set the toddler next to Him on a large boulder nearby. He let the image of the child next to the man sink into the minds of everyone watching. Eventually, He made the application.

“Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me;
and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Not rulers, not scholars, not kings, not prophets, not the rich and influential, but the child, the innocent, unspoiled, happy child will be the truly great in the Kingdom to come. Glances from all those thusly disqualified for greatness darted like so many angry hornets among the ambitious ones in the crowd. Before their questions and objections could be voiced, Jesus continued.

“For he who is least among you all will be great.”

Nonsense! Stuff and nonsense! This man was unhinged! No one with any intelligence at all who heard this philosophy will volunteer to be on His side in the game.

Those Other Disciples
A strange report came to John the disciple: People outside of their group were casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The disciples tried to shut the opposing group down.

“Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”

To be on the same side as Jesus was not a matter of “who you knew,” as the saying goes. The proof of following Jesus was, well, following Jesus!

The Road to Jerusalem
Dr. Luke designates this moment as the turning point in the public ministry of Jesus. No longer would He go from town to town preaching and working wonders. In the author’s words:

“He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

Jesus sent men ahead to prepare the way. Some places refused Him igniting fiery anger from the Twelve. Jesus corrected them, reminding them that their mission was to give life not take it. Along the way a man volunteered to join the group. Jesus answered him with the costs of such a commitment. He invited others to follow but they had family obligations that delayed them.

To follow Jesus and be on His side meant forsaking all. It is a decision that must not be revoked.

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back,
is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Scriptures:
Luke: 9:43-62

And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying. Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.” Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will follow You. I want to be on Your side. I have put my hand to the plow and I see no reason to turn back. Where would I go? Yours are the Words of eternal life! Yours is the side of victory! Your team is the winning team. Life isn’t a game but it is a competition. It is a contest of good vs. evil, a contest that can only be won through Your victory. I will take up my cross—it was made especially for me!—and I will follow You! How can I do anything less? All for You, Lord Jesus!

Song:
Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me

Words and Music: A. H. Ackley

1. I walked one day along a country road,
And there a stranger journeyed, too,
Bent low beneath the burden of His load:
It was a cross, a cross I knew.

Refrain:
“Take up thy cross and follow Me,”
I hear the blessed Savior call;
How can I make a lesser sacrifice,
When Jesus gave His all?

2. I cried, “Lord Jesus,” and He spoke my name;
I saw His hands all bruised and torn;
I stooped to kiss away the marks of shame,
The shame for me that He had borne.

Refrain

3. “Oh, let me bear Thy cross, dear Lord,” I cried,
And, lo, a cross for me appeared,
The one, forgotten, I had cast aside,
The one, so long, that I had feared.

Refrain

4. My cross I’ll carry till the crown appears—
The way I journey soon will end—
Where God Himself shall wipe away all tears,
And friend hold fellowship with friend.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 1, 2018 “Fathers”

Fathers

Two fathers; two sons.
One Father divine, His Son the embodiment of good, and the other father a man whose son was possessed by evil.

The Transfiguration
Peter, James, and John, never knew what to expect when Jesus took them to a solitary place for prayer. The men were weary and solitude brought them sleep, not supplication. As Jesus prayed, they drifted off. The sound of different voices awakened them. They made out the images of two men of strange appearance talking with Jesus. As other-worldly as the two men appeared, they did not compare with Jesus. His clothes were shining white. His countenance glowed, too, with a glory they had never seen. Somehow they realized the identity of the two men: Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets—represented by two heroes from heaven. This glorified trio was deep in a conversation—something about Messiah.

Peter had to say something. He suggested constructing a temporary memorial to each of the shinning visitors and one for Jesus, too. While these foolish words still sounded, a glory cloud came from everywhere and enveloped them all. From the cloud came a voice the men had never heard before. It was like the voice of Jesus, but deeper, richer, and somehow even more musical.

“This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

The Father had spoken. Jesus was greater than the Lawgiver, Moses. He was more truthful than all the prophets. He was the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. His was a voice to be heard in this singular way.

When the voice ceased, the men opened their eyes to see Jesus alone and returned to His very human appearance. They determined that this event could not be described to anyone so they agreed not to try.

A Grieving Father
The next day, when Jesus and the Inner Circle came down from the mountain, a crowd was waiting. In the crowd was a desperate father. His son was demon possessed. The evil spirit in him tried to destroy the child with bruising convulsions and seizures. While Jesus and the three were in the mountain, the man had brought his son to the remaining disciples for deliverance but they were not able to bring an end to this misery. Jesus lamented their lack of faith. They did not know how short the time was before the events discussed on the mountain would begin to unfold. Jesus instructed the father,

“Bring your son here.”

As the boy was delivered to Jesus, the demon in him threw him down in a violent seizure. Jesus was unimpressed by this desperate act of the demonic spirit, seemingly claiming the boy as his own. He was not the property of hell, but was a child of heaven, carefully made in the image of God. The boy had a place in the plan of God and his father was to be his guide, advisor, and inspiration for living. With a word, Jesus sent the demon back to hell. Gently, Jesus lifted the boy to his feet, healing every bruise and cut. He embraced the child and whispered something into his ear. The boy smiled, looking at his father. Astonished and relieved, the boy’s father took his son from Jesus’ arms and a deep silence fell on the crowd. The boy whispered something in his father’s ear and they both smiled, looking to Jesus.

Two fathers; two sons.

Scriptures:
Luke: 9:27-42

But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen. Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him. Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You told me to pray to my Father in heaven who already knows my needs. You said that He is in the Secret Place of Prayer waiting for me to join Him there. O how wonderful to be a child of heaven! To have a place in Your plan! To be cared for by such a gracious and loving Heavenly Father. More than all this, Your told Your men that when they had seen You, they had seen the Father! You are what God is like! Loving, kind, and forgiving even in Your holiness. Thank You, Jesus, for opening up the “new and living way” to the Father! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Children of the Heavenly Father

Words: Carolina Sandell; Music: Swedish Folk Melody

1. Children of the heav’nly Father, safely in His bosom gather;
nestling bird nor star in heaven  such a refuge e’er was given.

2. God His own doth tend and nourish; in His holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things He spares them; in His mighty arms He bears them.

3. Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord His children sever;
unto them His grace He showeth, and their sorrows all He knoweth.

4. Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 30, 2018 “Confession”

Confession

It was time to share His power and authority with the 12 men He had chosen.
Jesus did exactly that—He gave all 12 of them the power to preach the gospel and heal the sick. He put them under an order of strict discipline regarding provisions for the campaign and deportment among those who supported or refused to support them. We don’t know if they traveled in teams or alone, but they did exactly as Jesus commanded and His power indeed went with them and they saw the same results as they had seen with Jesus.

Herod
A campaign like that generates news. When the stories got to King Herod, the king didn’t know what to think. Theories were presented:

  • John was back.
  • Elijah or another long-dead prophet had risen from the grave.

Jesus alone was enough of a threat to peace and order; 12 men acting in His name and in His power was a crisis.

Time for a Rest
Although the flow of power is divine, ministry takes a toll on the human frame. Jesus took His men to a deserted place near Bethsaida, to hear the details of their ministry and to get some much-needed rest. It was not to be. Somehow news of their location got out and the multitude found Jesus. He let the disciples rest while He taught the people and healed them of their various diseases and impairments.

Time for a Meal
As the day was passing, the disciples suggested Jesus should close down the meeting send people back to town. This was not to be either. Jesus told His men,

“You give them something to eat.”

Jesus organized the people into groups of 50 and seated them on the ground. He took the meager menu items and blessed them, giving them to the disciples to distribute. As they did, they saw the blest food multiply in their hands as they gave it away! In a short while the crowd of 5000 men, not counting women and children, was filled as were 12 baskets of leftovers.

The Confession
When the people were gone, Jesus retreated from the men a little distance to be alone to pray. When they had caught their breath, the men gathered to Him quietly, not wishing to disturb Him. All of them, Jesus included, were thinking of the events of this remarkable day. Jesus asked the men what people were saying about Him—specifically, what theories existed as to His identity. When all the standard answers were offered a silence fell, each man thinking the unthinkable. Jesus asked them who they thought He might be.

A soft voice spoke from among the 12. It was unusual for Peter to speak so quietly but His words were so full of meaning, they did not need volume to have an impact. Dr. Luke gives us the most economical version of Peter’s confession.

“The Christ of God.”

Never have four words meant so much. This confession is the power behind the power and the truth behind the truth. Many will admit that if Jesus really existed, He was a great teacher or philosopher or humanitarian, but they shrink back from the truth. This confession is the dividing line between believers and unbelievers. To confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Suffering Savior, and Triumphant Lord is to worship and witness all at once. In its light all goodness is possible and all evil can be overcome.

Scriptures:
Luke: 9:1-26

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him. And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I confess with the ancient church: “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 Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Song:
Crown Him with Many Crowns

Words: Matthew Bridges; Music: George J. Elvey

1. Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless king through all eternity.

2. Crown him the Lord of life, who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

3. Crown him the Lord of love; behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty, glorified;
no angels in the sky can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye at mysteries so bright.

4. Crown him the Lord of years, the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 29, 2018 “Power”

Power

Power flowed from Jesus, unhindered by time and distance.
The only hindrance found in the scriptural record was the lack of faith. Unlike the cowards on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the multitude gathered in faith to welcome Jesus and the Twelve back to their side of the lake. For 12 years the daughter of Jairus had lived her life. Now she faced death. In those same 12 years, a woman of the town had suffered a terrible illness.

Jairus, a Ruler of the Synagogue
A few of the leaders of the people exercised faith in Jesus. One of them was a leader named Jairus. His name was prophetic, meaning, “He will arise.” This, Jairus did, arising above the cynicism and hostility of the ruling religious class to express faith in Jesus.

Coming directly to Jesus, Jairus fell at His feet, pleading his desperate case: His only daughter of only 12 years was dying. Immediately Jesus started for the home of Jairus, of necessity passing through the crowded streets. The multitude pressed Him on every side; it was not an easy trip.

A Woman, Gravely Ill
In the rough and tumble crowd, a weakened frame, wasted by the same 12 years of an uncontrolled flow of blood, tried her best to get to Jesus. Her strength, like her money, was nearly gone. Several times as she pressed through the crowd, bent in pain and stiffness, she would almost find herself within reach of Jesus only to be thrown back by the crowd. People took little notice of her and her quest seemed doomed to fail. When she was about to give up, a wave of people pushed her toward Jesus, depositing her at His feet. Realizing this position and opportunity, she stretched out her thin, skeletal hand and touched the hem of His robe.

With this touch came strength, itself a wave, flowing through her. She knew immediately that the flow of blood stopped. More than that, a surge of life and wellness coursed through her body. The years of suffering fled before this moment of healing. She felt strong enough to straighten up, rising carefully to her full height, small by the measure of men’s eyes, but towering in its truth. She was healed.

In the same moment, Jesus stopped. He asked who had touched Him. It seemed a ridiculous question in the midst of the jostling crowd. With new-found strength, the woman pleaded guilty and fell trembling before Him.

“Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Back to Jairus
At that moment, news came that Jairus’ daughter was dead. Jesus was not deterred. He instructed Jairus not to fear but to believe. Arriving at the house, Jesus was met by mourners who knew their business. Knowing the girl was dead, they laughed at Jesus words of hope. He sent everyone out except the inner circle of His men and the parents. With simple words, He lifted her out of death commanding that food be given to her, proving she was no ghost. The girl’s parents were rightfully amazed but Jesus told them to hold on to their story, their daughter, and their faith.

Power flowed from Jesus, unhindered by time and distance.

Scriptures:
Luke: 8:40-56

So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your power is unlimited, unhindered by time and distance. Your power is released by faith, also unlimited by time and distance. Just one touch of Your holy hand and Your power flows into my life, into my need. Like the poor sick woman, I must press through the crowds of those who would hinder me. I will reach to You with my praise and I know a wave of grace will put me into Your Holy Presence. Like Jairus, I will bring my issues to You and follow Your commands knowing that Your love will always meet my needs. Through faith, I will touch You and in love, You will touch me! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
One Touch

Words and Music: Bonnie Plunkett

There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His hand will lift you
Body mind and soul
Believe Him that His pow’r will Free you
Praise Him for His mercies t’ward you
Thank Him for His love
He longs to make you fully whole

Refrain:
Just one touch of the Master’s hand
Just one word He has full command
Have faith in what He wants to do
Is all He asks of you
There’s healing in the name of Jesus
Healing in the touch of Jesus
One touch of His Master’s hand will
Make you fully whole

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved