October 14, 2017 “Pleasures”

Pleasures

We are all pleasure seekers.
For some, the pursuit of pleasure is the announced purpose for living their lives. Others hide their pursuit of pleasure behind “loftier” goals but at the heart of their activities, they want to enjoy life as much as the above-board pleasure seekers. Still others find pleasure in service to others, subjugating their pleasure to the needs of those who cross their paths. The criminal mind finds pleasure in pain and the mentally ill apparently find pleasure in misery.

However we find it, pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure are primal human drives.

Often, Christians are conflicted about pleasure; we hide it behind holier words like joy, happiness, rejoicing, fulfillment, fullness, etc. But what we really are talking about is pleasure. We are afraid of pleasure because we live in a pleasure-mad world from which we must be separate.

The pleasures of sin are a constant temptation.
These pleasures are deadly and deceptive. To taste of these delights is addictive and destructive and, above all, displeasing to the Lord. We want with all our hearts to please Him, not just to gain heaven and shun hell, but because we love God and are so thankful for salvation.

We hear the words of Jesus and the apostles and we suspect that pleasure is just a trap.

  • “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matt 16:24)
  • If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away… (Matt 5:29)
  • The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but … they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. (Luke 8:14-15)
  • (in the last days people will be) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…(2 Tim 3:4)
  • … the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (1 Tim 5:6)
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. (Titus 3:3)
  • When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

Realistically, though, pleasure itself is not at all bad.
We are made in the image of God and the Bible clearly records that God takes pleasure in things:

  • He enjoyed the acts and results of creation.
  • He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day.
  • He was greatly pleased by the sacrifices of worship and thanksgiving of those who believed in Him.
  • In heaven He has surrounded Himself with beauty in architecture, music, and pageantry.
  • He pleased to forgive our sins when we turn away from them in repentance and turn toward Him in love.
  • Jesus joyfully received the praise of children, the gratitude of those He touched, the hospitality of Martha, and the amazing gift of Mary, the two sisters who made Him welcome in their home in Bethany.
  • Jesus surely enjoyed striking fire in the hearts of the two on the road to Emmaus.

Since this is the image by which we have been formed, take this day of rest to find the pleasures of righteousness:

  • in God’s creation,
  • in great music,
  • in meaningful narratives,
  • in the company of loved ones,
  • in the solitude of the sea or the deep woods,
  • in the astonishing white snowfall and the warmth of the fireside,
  • in the joy of being husband and wife,
  •  in family laughter and fun, and in the holy presence of Jesus.

Feel Him laughing and listening, watching and wondering with us. It is good that we find pleasure in God and His creation. These pleasures are not a trap—they are gifts to enjoy.

Scriptures:
Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.
Psalm 16:11
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.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you knew pain when You walked this earth and You also knew life’s pleasures. Like any other infant Your first human sensations were the pleasure of Mary’s touch, her voice, and her tender love. As a child You laughed and played; we can only imagine the sound of Your little-boy’s laugh when You were having fun. As a young man You enjoyed the tutelage of Joseph in the carpenter’s shop. You learned the pleasure of working with Your hands and of work well done. In the Gospels we see a man whom children sought out. You made them laugh and You laughed with them. As You walked closer and closer to Calvary, pleasure drew farther and farther from You. There was no pleasure there or in the hollow tomb. But I am sure that when You broke the bounds of death, there was a smile on Your face. Help me know the resurrection pleasures of new life in You today. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Song:
Feelin’ Mighty Fine
Words and Music: Mosie Lister

1. I woke up this morning feeling fine
I woke up with heaven on my mind
I woke up with joy in my soul cause
I knew my Lord has been raise
Well I knew i was walkin’ in the light
cause I’d been on my knees in the night
And I’d pray till the Lord gave a sign
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

Refrain:
Well I’m feeling mighty fine
I’ve got heaven on my mind
Don’t you know I want to go
where the milk and honey flow
There’s a light that always shines
down inside this heart of mine
I’ve got heaven on my mind
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

2. We’re walking with Jesus all the time
we’re walking and talking as we climb
We’re traveling a road to the sky
where I know I’ll live when I die
He’s been telling me all about that land
and he tells me that everything is grand
And he says that a home will be mine
and now I’m feeling mighty fine

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 11, 2017 “Joy!”

Joy!

The joy of the Lord is not so elusive as we might think.
So close to life itself, this joy rushes into us when we inhale and remains in us even as we exhale. It courses through our veins and arteries with our life’s blood, nourishing each cell of our being with the energy and oxygen of spiritual life.

Because He has sent us His Spirit to abide in the deepest part of us, His joy has come too. We don’t have to work it up. We don’t even have to feel it. This joy dwells in a place deeper than feelings, a place of covenant and constancy where the promises of God run round the clock, the machinery of God’s faithfulness, without vibration or hum or even blinking lights and whirling gages. His grace operates in the deep place where there is great strength and greater peace.

Joy in the center.
When the joy of the Lord seems far away, this is where it has gone—to the center of us, where Jesus abides, the Father watches, and the Spirit empowers. If there is no joy today, dive deeper into Him. He will meet you in the Secret Place. He said the Father is already there and the Spirit is ready to take you to Him.

How is this done? In these well-known ways:

  • Pray the prayer He gave us.
  • Honor Him.
  • Seek His Kingdom and His forgiveness.
  • Forgive those who have wronged you.
  • Trust Him with every detail of the day ahead.

He will guard you when the trials come and deliver you from any brand of evil or any class of evildoer this day may hold. Go so deep into Jesus that you see His throne towering above all other authorities and hear His voice more clearly in your heart than any other voice.

Jesus is Lord.
He rules. He reigns. Nothing confuses Him. No rebel has deposed Him. His saints still sing His glory and angels still attend Him. “Thousands at His bidding speed” as well as those others who also serve Him as they stand and wait.

Take your place among those who love Him. As you stand before Him, He dwells within you. And with Him, His joy—the strength you need for this day.

Scriptures:
Psalm 16:11
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.
Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
John 15:9-11
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete
Nehemiah 8:10
This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of joy. Thank You for joy that is deeper than happiness, finer than comfort, and more permanent that any pain I might experience. You said this amazing joy is Your joy, the joy You saw coming as You endured the whip and the chains and the curses and the shame. You saw the joy that awaited You when all the pain was past, when all Your blood spilt and all Your work completed. Clear in Your vision You saw the joy of the believer’s embrace, of broken fellowship restored, and of paradise reclaimed. This was the “joy set before You.” You endured the shame of the cross and found in this peculiar joy the strength to overpower death. Lord, I take joy in Your victory today and that joy, indeed, is just the strength I will need. By Your Spirit, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Song:
Joy of My Desire
Words and Music: Randy Rothwell

Joy of my desire, all consuming fire;
Lord of glory, Rose of Sharon, rare and sweet.
You are now my peace, Comforter and friend,
wonderful, so beautiful, You are to me.

I worship You in spirit and in truth.
Lord, I worship You in spirit and in truth.
There will never be a friend as dear to me,
there will never be a friend as dear to me,
there will never be a friend as dear to me,
as dear to me as You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved