November 10, 2017: “Shame”


The shame was ours not His.
The cross was a thing of shame, meant by ancient authorities to punish the evil doer with a slow and painful death and also to shame the guilty one and all who were his. Shame is a punishment all its own. It is as heavy as a cross and bites as deep as a Roman whip. The deeds at Calvary completed a three decade+ process of humiliation for the Son of God.

  • He emptied Himself of divine qualities to become a helpless infant.
  • He learned as child learns, this One Who at one time knew everything.
  • He worked with wood, doing business with the villagers, this One Who created everything.
  • He suffered the rejection of the children of Joseph and Mary, bitter preparation for a nation soon to reject Him, this second person of the Godhead.
  • Life flowed through Him so that the dead lived again, the crippled walked again, the deaf and dumb sang again, and all manner of sick and oppressed folk laughed again.
  • They crowned Him King crying “Hosanna!” and then cried “Crucify Him,” when public opinion changed.
  • His closest followers, except for the women, listened to Him but did not hear Him. They watched and prayed with Him in the Garden and then they slept.
  • The Soldiers came to begin the final act of this theatre of shame: trials, scourging, and a cross.

He deserved none of this, this deep, deep shame. Yet He bore it all. In the Garden while His friends slept, He drained the cup of shame to the dregs and called it God’s will. Our shame was laid upon Him to the full.

Why should we bear our shame still?
This divine obliteration of shame is a proven historical event. It is appropriated by faith by anyone who will simply repent, confess, and believe. Why then, do so many trudge through this life with a cross of shame on their shoulders? I see two types of shame; let’s call shame by other biblical terms like “sorrow.” Paul speaks of a “godly sorrow that leads to repentance” and of a worldly sorrow that leads to death.

  1. There is a godly shame that leads to repentance, forgiveness, and regeneration—a new life free from the record of the past.
  2. There is a pathological shame that grips the soul and never lets go until life is choked out completely.

The difference is Jesus and His cross and His empty tomb. He carried our well-deserved shame with Him into that tomb and he left it there! He came out in resurrection power holding in his nail-scarred hands the touch of healing and forgiveness and redemption for us. Today those strong carpenter’s hands can cut away our binding fetters of guilt and shame.

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it. Just as the shame He endured was ours, not His, the acceptance and innocence that replaces our shame is His not ours—but it is His gift to us.

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it

Proverbs 3:11-12 NKJV
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NKJV
For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Romans 9:33 NKJV
As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Isaiah 53
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Psalm 69:8-9; 17-21
Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my own kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me. Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; in your great compassion, turn to me.” “Hide not your face from your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress. Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me. You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in your sight.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Lord Jesus, help me to never forget the shame that You endured. It was mine, not Yours, yet You bared Your back to the soldiers and their whips, You shouldered the cross and carried it up the hill. You endured the violence of the words and nails of Golgotha. From the cross You quoted the psalms You learned as a child, yield Your abandoned spirit to the Father. Let me never forget the three-day silence of the Tomb as You raided hell’s headquarters, wresting the keys of death, hell and the grave from Satan’s grip. When You stepped from that tomb, you left my shame inside. Help me never to pick it up again. Thank You, Lord Jesus!

At the Cross
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Scottish Folk Tune

1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?

At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light
And the burdens of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day.

2. Was it for crimes that I have done, he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!


3. Well might the sun in darkness hide, and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker, died for his own creature’s sin.


4. Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.


5. But drops of tears can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away; ’tis all that I can do.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 7, 2017: “Silence”


Every silence means something.
There may be an absence of sound, but there is always a presence of meaning. Absolute silence is rare. It is the province of outer space. Here on earth there is always sound. I’ve heard it said that the universal pitch of creation is B Natural. I don’t know if that is true but what we usually mean by silence is a lack loud or unwanted sound—quiet. In music a measured period silence is called a rest. The old conductor’s joke is: “What do you do on a rest?” The student replies, “Nothing.” “Wrong,” says the leader. “You count.” Rests are not restful in music.

Selecting Silences
Many of us long to linger by the ocean and we call it silence when it is really quite noisy with wind, waves, and shore birds. It feels like silence to us because we don’t hear motors or crowds or loud speakers. Our silence is really the absence of manmade noise. It is the same with the country or the woods. There is plenty of sound but it is not the sound of the city, of civilization. It is the sound of rest and not work, of relaxation not tension.

The Psalmist claims silence as a form of prayer:

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

Silence and waiting are joined together in prayer.
A place of prayer should be place free from noise. We must find a solitary place where only the sounds of creation accompany our time with the Father. There is enough noise in our souls; we don’t need the clanking clamor of man’s devices. We need silence of the soul to hear the still, small voice of God. We don’t even need the ticking of the clock. Waiting on God in prayer is the suspension of time—there are no clocks in heaven. In this silence our strength is renewed like the eagle.

Silence and Faith
When there are no answers for a question facing us, silence is needed. Perhaps we have already written a “pros and cons” worksheet and we still can’t see the way forward. It is time to be still and know that God is God. It is enough to know that He knows and doesn’t need any information from us. Faith is sometimes expressed best when we close our mouths and just trust in what we know God has promised. Overwhelming circumstances shrink in this silence to a manageable size. This quiet faith reminds us that God knows and cares and is on the scene.

Silence and Hope
Silence simplifies life. One of the three greatest things in the world, according to the Apostle Paul, is hope. Hope does not shout, it whispers. When the noise of the moment subsides, we hear the beautiful drone of hope. It was there all along but it was drowned out by cacophony of life. Hope is like what is called the tonic in music. It is the note C in the Key of C. The song starts there and wanders far away through all the other pitches in the scale but in the end it returns to the tonic, to C, and we are at rest. Hope is always singing to us; silence helps us hear the song again.

Choose Silence Every Day
The Path of Life is the path of silence—choose to walk it every day. Today, turn off the speakers and machines and the other noise makers so you can hear the silence.

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

Ecclesiastes 3:7 NKJV
…A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
Exodus 14:13-14 NKJV
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Psalm 62  (BCP)
For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken. How long will you assail me to crush me, all of you together, as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall? They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor; lies are their chief delight. They bless with their lips, but in their hearts they curse. For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my safety and my honor; God is my strong rock and my refuge. Put your trust in him always, O people, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge. Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, even those of low estate cannot be trusted. On the scales they are lighter than a breath, all of them together. Put no trust in extortion; in robbery take no empty pride; though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, that power belongs to God. Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, for you repay everyone according to his deeds.
Luke 21:19 KJV
In your patience possess ye your souls.

Lord Jesus, quiet my soul today that I may hear Your voice within. I may face, like the prophet, a mighty wind today—let me weather the storm. My world may shake like the tremors of an earthquake today—help me stand steady until the shaking stops. A consuming fire may threaten to destroy what I have—keep me safe from its flames. After all these devastations have done their worse, I know in the silence that follows, I will hear Your still, small voice and know that it is well with my soul. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Be Still My Soul
Words: Katrina von Schlegel; Music: Jean Sibelius

1.  Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2.  Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3.  Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away.

4.  Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 28, 2017: “Contemplation”


Stillness–a Way to Pray
It may be a walk in the quiet woods or a season by the sea or a session on a secluded mountaintop or a stillness in the secret place of prayer, but contemplation is an important way to pray.

Contemplation, also known as meditation, observation, or deep consideration, takes us to places in the heart of God we cannot reach with speed. Stillness is the requirement, stillness and solitude. We do not contemplate aloud; it is not a conversation with other people. Contemplation is an inner dialogue with our own heart, the heart of God, the marvels of His creation, and the wonders of His Word. In contemplation mysteries are not solved. Instead they are adored in anticipation of revelation someday. The tension between two opposite truths is not relaxed as we contemplate them. On the contrary, as we listen to the dissonance we hear two stirring tunes instead of one.

“To Know”
Another synonym for contemplation is the verb, “to know.” The knowledge gained from spiritual contemplation goes far beyond cognition, merely adding new volumes to our internal library. To “know” something by the force of contemplation is to experience it in spiritual sense. This contemplation is a process of revelation through which the Word of God is written in our hearts. This spiritual inscription by the hand of God is the first promise of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 8:10
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.

How does this happen?

  • When we read the Bible, the hand of God writes it in our minds.
  • When we memorize verses, the hand of God writes them in our hearts.
  • When we contemplate scriptural themes and doctrines, the Holy Spirit writes them on the deepest pages in our book connecting verse with verse, truth with truth, and promise with expectation.

On this day of rest, take time to contemplate the

  • The sermons in the sky and sea,
  • The carols in all of creation,
  • The beauty of the Bright and Morning Star,
  • The calamity of the cross,
  • The reality of the resurrection, and
  • The King and His Kingdom.

Such time is time well spent, for when we are finally still, then we will finally know.

Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
… the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Psalm 46:8-10
Come and see the works of the LORD…”Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 119:8-16 NKJV
Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes … I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
Psalm 143:5-6
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding (contemplating) 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.

Lord Jesus, I pause at the beginning of this day to contemplate Your goodness, to think deeply about Your mercy, and to remember Your faithfulness to me. Help me find a place of stillness so that I can know the things that only stillness reveals. Send Your enabling Spirit to quicken my mind to understand more about You and about Your lovingkindness. People today say terrible things about You, Lord: You are dead; You don’t exist; You don’t love us and other terrible lies. As I walk and run through everyday, I know You are really there, that You are alive and that You love all of us. Now, as I attempt stillness in order to contemplate You, take me deeper still. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Be Still and Know
Words and Music: Stephen Phifer

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
And I will be exalted, exalted among the nations.
Yes, I will be exalted in all the earth!
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved