June 13, 2017 “Wilderness”

Wilderness

The journey of all journeys: from Egypt to the Promised Land, a journey through the wilderness.
This is the history of a people, a nation chosen by the Lord God because He loved them, chosen to be the people who would bring the Savior to a world that had itself become a wilderness. It was once a garden, a garden with a snake hiding in it. By stealth and untruth the serpent deceived the population of Eden by locating a hunger in the hearts of Adam and his wife, and feeding that hunger with poison. Cast out of the Garden, the perfect world became a wilderness for them and all their children.

Through God’s covenants with people the nation of Israel became the focus of heaven on earth. They journeyed from

  • slavery to freedom,
  • hopelessness to promise, and
  • from a pagan environment to the worship of Jehovah.

History for Israel is a metaphor for us.
We are on a journey

  • from inability as an infant to multiple abilities as an adult,
  • from  illiterate child to a reading and writing communicator,
  • from apprentice to craftsman,
  • from student to graduate, and
  • from novice to effective practitioner.

This journey isn’t easy and neither is it optional. It is in the wilderness that we “make something of ourselves.”

Or, do we?

Israel was not in the wilderness alone.
They had a tabernacle at the center of their camp. Over that tabernacle a cloud hovered, brilliant and reflective by day, never lost in the sun, and flaming at night, never even threatened by the darkness. The cloud was the manifest presence of God. When the cloud moved, they moved. When it rested, they rested.

For us, Jesus is our guiding friend, our bright hope by day and our flaming faith by night.
Today we continue the journey.

  • Our wilderness may be a desert, but we have a spring of Living Water bubbling inside.
  • It may be a mountainous trek, but we have someone breaking the trail for us.
  • If they dare confront us, seas will divide and rivers will roll back at the Word of the Lord.
  • Dangers abound in the wilderness, but angels, armed to their spiritual teeth, camp all around us.

He has extracted us from slavery, baptized us through the sea, fed us from heaven, and sweetened the bitter wilderness waters with a tree called Calvary.

Why? Because we are children of His promise, the holy nation camped in peace with Jesus at the center, the travelers from grief to grace with an unbreakable promise beckoning to us toward the wilderness horizon.

Scriptures:
Numbers 9:15-23
On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant; and from evening until morning it was over the tabernacle, having the appearance of fire. It was always so: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they would remain in camp. … Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, resting upon it, the Israelites would remain in camp and would not set out; but when it lifted they would set out. At the command of the Lord they would camp, and at the command of the Lord they would set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.
Isaiah 40:3-5 NIV
A voice of one calling:” In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Psalm 105:37-45 NIV
He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered. Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them. He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham. He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for — that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.
Hebrews 11:29-30 NIV
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
John 16:33 NKJV
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the journey continues today. Thank you for the lighted path and for the steady lamp that guides each step. Whatever awaits me this day in my trek through the wilderness of these moments, be it an enemy, a storm, a river, a trial, an ocean, or even shifting sand lurking in my path, You, Lord Jesus, are the master of it. Whatever it may be, it comes from this fallen world and You said You overcame the world. So, in You I have peace today, peace in the wilderness. Amen.

Song:
I’ll Go where You Want Me to Go
Words and Music: Mary Brown

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 that 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,
O’er 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,
Though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo Thy 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 white,
Where I may labor through 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

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

For more on thriving in the wilderness go to: “Candles in the Desert.” 

June 12, 2017 “Appointment”

Appointment

The great fear of a busy person is the possibility of an appointment missed.
We all know the feeling of standing in the door trying to leave while a mysterious sensation that we are forgetting something paralyzes us. We go through a silent inventory: Keys? Phone? Wallet? What? Was there someplace I was supposed to be now? An appointment…?

We invest in phones, computers, and notebooks to help us remember where we are supposed to be when, and most of the time we get it right. We asked for emails and internet messages to remind us. We might be late, but we make the appointment—almost every time.

Appointments are meant to be kept: the ones we make with others and those other make with us. It is common courtesy and a sign of personal effectiveness. It may not appear on our resume, but we don’t want to be late for the interview

God makes appointments with us.

  • The believer enjoys salvation because at some moment someone was appointed to lead us to Jesus. They made it to the appointment.
  • Jesus promised us a Baptism of Spiritual power and when we were ready He met us at the appointed time and place.
  • Each of us has a work to do for the Lord, a divine appointment.
  • Jesus said the Father was in the Secret Place each day; we have an on-going appointment with the God of the Universe!
  • He has appointed a pathway for us to follow, the Path of Life, and a certain way to walk in it—walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh!
  • He uses us to keep appointments with others who are seeking Him; that is why we must stay on the Path of Life.

We are appointed to grace! That is the Good News! It is good because there is another appointment we each will keep.

Hebrews 9:27
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

The world denies this, of course. There is only this moment, they say, live it to the max. There is no Judge, no judgment to come. But this isn’t true.

  • For the one who has yet to make it to the Grace Appointment with the Savior, this is a fearful thing to consider, and rightly so.
  • For the one who is walking the Grace-appointed Path of Life, the prospect is rightly sobering, but ultimately inspiring.

According to a parable Jesus taught, the faithful believer will hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

That is an appointment I want to keep.

Scriptures:
Psalm 75
We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds. “I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity. Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast. I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns; Do not toss your horns so high, nor speak with a proud neck.'” For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west, nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains. It is God who judges; he puts down one and lifts up another. For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup, full of spiced and foaming wine, which he pours out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and drain the dregs. But I will rejoice for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. He shall break off all the horns of the wicked; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
2 Timothy 1:11-12 NIV
And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
1 Corinthians 12:28
And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
Acts 1:4-5 NIV
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Galatians 5:25 NKJV
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Psalm 16:11 NIV
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Matthew 25:21 NIV
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Prayer:
Lord Jesus as this work week begins my calendar is not empty. I have a standing appointment with you every day—help me keep it, Lord! I know also that You have planned a week full of appointments for me: projects and people, work and rest, and surprises only You know about. Help me deal with pressures of some of these appointments and to take joy in the interruptions. Faithfulness is the coin of Your holy realm Lord; let me deal in it this week. Amen.

Song:
At Calvary
Words: William R. Newell; Music: Daniel B. Towner

1. Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

Refrain:
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.

2. By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
To Calvary.

Refrain

3. Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
Of Calvary!

Refrain

4. Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 11, 2017 “Holiness”

Holiness

A single flame from a singular source—holiness.
Undimmed by time, unmoved by winds, unfaltering in its light, undiluted in any way, the holiness of God is the anchor of time and space, the master of gravity itself, standing in its own strength, in all, over all, and for all time.

Angels sing of it. Saints long for it. Those who reason, inquire of it. Those who feel, reach for it. Those with eyes, look and those with ears, listen for it. The faithless doubt it while the faithful expect it. It is the substance of heaven and the desire of earth.

“…holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord.”

The presence of God is a holy presence.

  • There is joy here but not frivolity;
  • peace but not lethargy;
  • authority without abuse;
  • truth without confusion,
  • love without dissimulation.

In the Holiness of God there is deity clothed in humanity made alive by Spirit:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen.

There is narrative in this singular flame, a story older than age and truer than facts. A story begun before time and destined never to end, an eternal second act for its conclusion is always another beginning. It is also our story, wrapped in birth days and graduations and vows given and received and moving relentlessly to the ultimate graduation from this life to the one we have prepared.

Holiness now, God in us—

  • burning with a singular flame,
  • shining with a singular light,
  • steady when the world is shaking,
  • eloquent when the world is silent,
  • comforting when the world is at war—

will yield for us holiness then.

On the Lord’s day we do more than sing songs;

  • We process into the realms of the splendor of His Holiness.
  • We ascend the Hill of the Lord and stand in the Holy Place.
  • We pass through the torn veil of Jesus’ earthly life to enter the Most Holy Place.

It is a place of exchange:

  • Our guilt for His innocence,
  • Our weakness for His strength,
  • Our sickness for His health,
  • Our confusion for His truth,
  • Our fear for His promises,
  • Our tears for His joy,
  • Our apathy for His passion,
  • Our hate for His love.

There is no other flame, no other source for these things. Theses graces flow from heaven to earth through His Throne Room—the place we go when we worship.

If time has weakened our singular flame, if darkness threatens its light, if the shifting winds of culture are shaking it, we must come before the flame of the Holiness of God in repentance, praise, and worship. We will feel it, know it, see it, hear it—that singular flame of God’s presence.

We will sing with the angels and dance with the saints, for this is Zion, the dwelling and ruling place of God and healing holiness burns only here.

Scriptures:
Psalm 31
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea — the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord.
Psalm 24:3-6 NIV
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I come before You today, just as I am—a flawed human being under reconstruction. Any righteousness I might present to You would be woefully stained and useless—yet You have covered me with Your righteousness. The sorry story of my life recorded in Your books has been erased by Your blood and Your Holy Life inscribed in its place. All I can do is join the song of the angels…

Song:
Holy, Holy, Holy
Text: Reginald Heber; Music: John B. Dykes

1. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

4. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 10, 2017 “Zeal”

Zeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song:
Send the Fire
Composer: William Booth

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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

June 9, 2017 “Ruins”

Ruins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at people through the eyes of Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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

June 8, 2017 “Rain”

Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 7, 2017 “Heritage”

Heritage

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

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

who have formed the heritage of that person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 6, 2017: “Recorded”

Recorded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this be?

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

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

Scriptures:
Psalm 56
Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life. On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations. Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll— are they not in your record? Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise — in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before Godin the light of life.
Psalm 32:1-2 NIV
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 51:9-10 NIV
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 103:2-5; 11-12 NIV
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. …For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 130:3-4 NIV
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
Micah 7:19 NIV
You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Revelation 5:8 NIV
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

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

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

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

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 5, 2017: “Pressure”

Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will neither explode or implode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 4, 2017: “Sparrows”

Sparrows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

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

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

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

See also: “A Prayer for the Sanctuary”