November 23, 2017: “Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving

They found each other, these ten lepers. 
They had no one else. Their families had turned them out; they had to. It was only right. Their villages had sent them away; they had to. And now they had found each other; they had to, as well. They drifted from garbage heap to garbage heap finding only rags to wear and scraps to eat. When the wind was right, their collective odor announced their approach and people scattered before them. When the wind blew the other way, they would often catch people unaware. Then, when their presence was discovered, the people would flee before them, like a beaten army before a conquering foe and always with the cry,

“Unclean! Unclean!”

The sight of healthy people running in such terror from this rag-tag mob, was ironic. The ten lepers had no strength; they were practically starving. There weren’t even enough fingers and toes, and hands and feet to go around. This was no conquering foe. It was the disease, of course, leprosy. There was no cure, no prevention except to keep it away and pity the poor ones who had it.

It was only right.

So, they had each other and that was it. This was the life they lived: human refuse, a moving trash heap.

“…He saw them…”

But, somewhere along the way they heard about a man who did not run from lepers. He was a teacher and a healer and He was coming their way. As He approached their village, they met Him but stood at the appropriate distance.

Luke 17:13 KJV
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

Jesus looked at the ten. He saw them, not their disease.

  • He saw wives without husbands, homes without fathers, and important work that was not being done.
  • He saw men whose dreams had crumbled within them as their bodies crumbled on the outside.
  • He saw helplessness and absolute despair.

Luke 17:14 KJV
And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

This man who did not run told them what to do–go, not to another dump, but to the Temple, to the priests. There was a ritual, a Word from God for them. God had not forgotten them. He had a plan. Something in His words, something in His eyes, something in Him told them to obey. They ran as well as rags and bandages and makeshift crutches would allow.

And as they went, something new began to happen.

Crippled feet began to tingle and burn, not with pain but with new growth as toes sprouted where stumps had been.

  • Fingers and hands and whole arms began to swing in the wind as strength, long forgotten, returned to limbs no longer wasted by the disease.
  • Their ragged, rhythm-less running became smooth and effortless like Greek athletes in a race.
  • Ten men began to strip away rags they no longer needed or deserved.

Nine of them ran on to the village but, one stopped and looked on at his former colleagues as they disappeared around corners and into streets that led them back to life. This one turned and looked back to Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t met them on the road, if He hadn’t fearlessly spoken to them, their lives would never have changed.

“If it hadn’t been for You, he must have thought, I would still be sick and an outcast.”

Slowly, this man who was one in ten, realized that before he ran to meet his future, there was something else he had to do.

It was only right.

Jesus was touched with the thanksgiving of this one. But He wondered about the others.

“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

The man did not know where they had gone; home most likely. Jesus looked deep into the eyes of this Samaritan, one who would be routinely despised by the Jews. He was sure there were Jews among the other nine. Ironically, their disease had made them a community. Healing of the disease restored the prejudice of the routine.

Jesus smiled at the thankful one, seeing in him those who would someday return to give thanks when the other great disease of mankind was cured.

It is only right.

Scriptures:
Luke 17:11-19 NKJV
Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Psalm 100 NKJV
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Phil 4:6-7 NKJV
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You. Thank You for all the blessings of this life and promises of the life to come. Thank You for the wonderful people in my life, those here with me and those who are there with You. Thank You for work to do in Your Kingdom and blessed co-workers to join me in the following of Your will and the advancing of Your Kingdom. Thank You for a vanquished foe whose devices and designs were defeated at the Cross. Thank You for weapons of Spiritual Warfare that are not fleshly but are mighty through You to the pulling down of strongholds. Thank You for the blessed past which brought me to You, for the bright future You are preparing for me, and for this bountiful present moment. Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Song:
Now Thank We All Our God
Words: Martin Rinckart (Trans. Catherine Winkworth) Music: Johann Cruger

1. Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

2. O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills of this world in the next.

3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 21, 2017: “Success”

Success

Success is always a measurement. 
It is not always as simple as the winning team scoring more points than the losing team.  In the movie Rocky, the hero is a tremendous success even though he lost the boxing match.  How can that be?  Because we are skillfully led to understand his life and dreams, we judge Rocky to be a success, and more than that, an inspiration.

Success breeds success, so the saying goes, and there is truth here.  We don’t like to fail.  We don’t study the lives of failures unless they ultimately succeed.  We read books and attend seminars to learn how others have succeeded because we desire success.

Success and Jesus
It is all well and good, but it is not really that simple.  For the Christ-follower success is measured in more ways than in the world’s judgment.  We forget this sometimes and become enamored with Christian leaders or artists or athletes who become famous.  It is natural for us to assume that money, fame, and excellence are surefire indications of success.  They are not, though, and we have to face it.  Our success begins and ends with the Lord Jesus.

The measurement we make is in our heart of hearts.

  • “Did we find the Lord’s plan?”
  • “Did we operate by His principles?”
  • “Did our work please Him?”

Our success is not measured in numbers or in profit; these are judgments of our effectiveness.  The measure of our success is our faithfulness to God.

  • Are we working at what He wants us to do?
  • Are we working in the place He wants with the people He wants?
  • Are we building upon the work of those who have gone before us?
  • Are we doing our absolute best to accomplish the job?
  • Do we cherish the people and respect the things God has provided for the work?
  • Are we loyal to those over us and respectful of those we lead?
  • Can the church count on us in the commitments we have made?

To be faithful is to succeed.
If we can answer yes to all of these questions, we have succeeded. If the numbers do not show increase, we will keep going.  We will not give up because we are trusting God for the increase—that’s His job!  Our job is to be faithful.

The Bible talks about three kinds of ministry:

  1. Sowing the seed,
  2. Watering the seed and the seedling, and
  3. Reaping the harvest.

The one who sows the seed is successful when the sowing is done.  The one who waters the seed and tends the plant is successful when the plant bears fruit.  The one reaps the harvest succeeds when the storehouse is full.  Each one has succeeded because he did what God asked him to do.

Because God is a Covenant Keeper, our success is guaranteed!  To feel the joy of our success, we have to measure our work by the proper standard.  Our story, too, will be an inspiration.

Scriptures:
Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 John 3:21
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Nehemiah 2:20
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
James 3:18
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 4:2-3
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Matthew 25:23
“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!’
2 Corinthians 9:10-11
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Galatians 6:8-9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to succeed in this life, therefore, I want to be used by You to the fullest extent. You created me and placed me in these circumstances for specific purposes. Sometimes my assignment is one of sowing the precious seed. At other times You ask me to water the seeds others have sown. In the best of times I get to be a harvester, bringing in my sheaves with rejoicing. Help me to sow good seed and to sow it in tears. Help be faithful even when weariness would tempt me to ease up a bit. I know success will be mine. You told me that You have chosen me to bear much fruit and that it will be fruit that abides. Now, by faith in Your promises and with confidence in Your faithfulness, I will succeed today, or if there is some delay, tomorrow! In Your Name, Lord Jesus!

Song:
To Be Used of God
Words and Music: Audrey Mieir

1. I’ve a yearning in my heart That cannot be denied.
It’s a longing that has Never yet been satisfied.
I want the world to know The One who loves them so
Like a flame it’s burning deep inside.

Refrain:
To be used of God, To sing to speak to pray,
To be used of God, To show someone the way,
Oh how I long so much to feel The touch of His consuming fire,
To be used of God is my desire

2. When I think about the shortness Of my earthly years,
I remember all the wasted days The wasted tears.
I long to preach the Word To those who’ve never heard
Of the One who can dispel all fears.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 19, 2017: “Gathering”

Gathering

“I can feel just as close to God at the beach or at home as I can in church.”
We’ve all heard people say something like that. But, is it true? That depends on your church, I guess.

  • Let’s assume that the beach is the best it can be: white sands, soft breezes, warm sun and soothing surf.
  • Let’s imagine the home at its best: comfy chair, TV remote in hand, or perhaps the quiet comfort of your sun room.

Can you imagine church at its best?

  • The people are friendly as they welcome you in.
  • The music welcomes you in spiritually.
  • As you praise the Lord with your brothers and sisters, you begin to sense the very presence of God Himself.
  • Prayer goes forth, powerful prayer in the House of God and things are going to change for people. You just know it.
  • The offering plate comes by you and you contribute to the work of God in your community.
  • The Pastor preaches a message straight from the heart of God to your heart.
  • At the end of the service, the altar call is given and someone comes into the family of God for the first time.
  • Someone else renews his relationship with the Lord and is warmly embraced by the family of God.

You leave the House of God stronger than when you came. The King James word is “edified”. But, not only are you different, you have been a part of a process that helps others. Public worship edifies the believer and also redeems a lost humanity.

None of that happened at the beach or on your comfy couch.

What does the Bible say?
But, that’s enough of my imagination. The writer to the Hebrews writes a great passage on this subject. It amounts to this instruction—

“Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.”

The writer tells us that as the end-times approach, the habit of many believers will be to avoid public worship. We are warned not to forsake the gathering. When we gather together, we encourage one another and actually provoke each other to love and good deeds.

Public Worship is not optional!
I believe the word of the Lord to us is this: If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, you must gather together with other believers. Each of us has a place in the family of God each time the family gathers. God expects each of us to unite with a local body and support His work through that body. If you have fallen into the “habit” of not attending worship, you have cut yourself off from all that God has for you. Your church could be struggling needlessly without your financial support and the work of God for which you are responsible goes undone.

With each new year we make such towering promises to ourselves. There is no reason to wait for a new year. Today, let’s put this one at the top of the list. Say it with me, “I will be faithful to—The Gathering.”

Scriptures:
Hebrews 10:22-25
Therefore brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Psalm 82:1 NKJV
God stands in the congregation of the mighty…
Psalm 111:1 NKJV
Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Joel 2:15-17 NKJV
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord , And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
Psalm 22:25-26 NKJV
My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
Psalm 35:18 NKJV
I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.
Psalm 149:1 NKJV
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints.
Psalm 145:1-7 NKJV
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness.
Psalm 68:24-26 NKJV
They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; Among them were the maidens playing timbrels. Bless God in the congregations, The Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
Psalm 73:1-3; 16-17 NKJV
Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. …When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me — Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, on this, Your day, You will be my focus as a gather with the saints in the House of God. I will offer unto You the Sacrifices of Praise, Thanksgiving, Adoration, and Worship. I will lift my voice to sing with the saints as You have commanded. I will take joy in Your Presence and be stronger for it. I will listen to Your Word proclaimed in power and let it find a shelter in my heart. I will touch and be touched by the People of God for such fellowship is a hard-won privilege from Your nail-scarred hands. I will pray with Your people in faith and agreement so that Your Kingdom will advance. Let all things be done decently and in order so that the church will be edified and Your name be lifted high. Lord Jesus, on this, Your day, You will be my focus as a gather with the saints in the House of God. Amen and Amen.

Song:
O Worship the King
Words: Robert Grant; Music: Joseph Martin Kraus

1. O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

2. O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3. Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

4. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

5. O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2017: “Believing”

Believing

There is an exercise for the spirit, soul, and body. 
No heavy weights will clank behind us.  Our breathing will not be affected.  No muscles will be flexed or stretched.  No calculations will spin in our brains.  No emotions are required but joy in the aftermath of the workout is assured.  What is this marvelous exercise?

Believing.

Believing the Word of God, the words of Jesus, and the covenantal promises of our Father in heaven rejuvenates the body, refreshes the soul, and revives the spirit.  It is a daily discipline.  Yesterday’s believing will not get us through today.  Tomorrow’s believing will have to wait until this day turns from test to testimony and goes into the record books.

In daily prayer we review the things we believe and we believe them again.  Systematically we read the Book, pray the psalms, see the story of Jesus and the disciples on the movie screen of the mind, and we check our inbox for letters from the Apostles.  As we read and pray, we believe—again.

  • Jesus speaks to us.
  • We travel with Peter and Paul and Silas and Luke throughout the world tell people about Jesus.
  • We weep with the prophets over a backslidden people of God.
  • We wonder with them at the bright Kingdom soon to come.
  • We are charged with the job of living the productive life in the Spirit and
  • we gaze with wonder at the revelation of Jesus we soon will see.

We are believing.

Our believing affects not only us, it affects the world we inhabit.
Though “deep darkness covers the peoples,” the Lord “shines on us” as we step into the day.  At the end of the day, the burning ball of the sun might set, but our central light keeps shining deep into the night.  Why? Because we are  continually believing.

In the shadows enemies may plot against us.  In the streets and offices of the marketplace foes may lie in wait to ambush us.  We do not fear what man can do to us for a squad of angels goes before us and goodness and mercy are following us. Why?  Because we go into the world believing.

We are saved, translated from darkness to light, because we confessed with our mouth and believed in our hearts.  We are fruitful in life because we feed on the eternal Word of God and drink deeply of the living water flowing freely from the well Jesus dug in our hearts when we first believed in Him.  We are fearless because we believe that if God is for us, it simply doesn’t matter who is against us.  We are at peace, our borders secured by armies of angels and our hearts guarded by the unsleeping eye of our Father in heaven.

Today, your assignment is this:  Keep believing!

Scriptures:
Psalm 119:65-66
Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.
Mark 5:36; 9:24 NKJV
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 11: 24 NKJV
…I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mark 16:15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
John 20:26-31
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Romans 3:22; 6:8; 10:7-11
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believeNow if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
… “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

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

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Don Moen

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church And we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birth.
We believe in the resurrection,
That Christ one day Will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy, Holy is our God
Worthy, worthy, Worthy is our King
All glory and honor Are His to receive.
To Jesus we sing Because we believe.

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 9, 2017: “Adversities”

Adversities

The world is made out of rocks and water.
We can be sure that any path we take will be strewn with rocks that might trip us and will surely hurt our feet. In spite of the rocks we keep walking. This path will also be interrupted by swollen creeks and rivers, wide and dangerous lakes, and maybe even an ocean or two. These water hazards must not stop us. We cross the creeks and rivers, take the long way around the lakes, and book passage on an ocean going vessel to reach our destination.

Life is made out of adversities.
No worthwhile destination is reached unopposed. Adversity always challenges travelers. Apart from the rigors of walking, riding, driving, flying or any other means of travel, adversity comes through relationships, personal conflicts, failures, disappointments and outright enemies. No one is exempt. Perhaps Adam and Eve walked in an earth without adversity but we do not. It is part of life to be opposed, resisted, ignored, underestimated, overestimated, and even victimized by people. In light of these cheery facts, it is little wonder why True Believers are called Overcomers!

A Generation of Overcomers
As a Baby Boomer, I was raised by what is often called, “The Greatest Generation.” My parents’ and their generation were raised in the Great Depression and grew up just in time to fight and win WWII. When the war was won, they set about repopulating the earth, at least their corner of it, and we Baby Boomers came to be. The people of the Greatest Generation were a collection of overcomers. They cleared the rocky road of economic depression, waded into the river of war, and built a bridge to the future that my generation gladly crossed.

Our Generation, Too.
We should not be surprised that adversities face us every day. It is true that we have a call from God on our lives, but that doesn’t give us a rock-free path to walk. We will come to rivers of resistance to the plan of God that we must conquer to get to the place He is calling us to go. Generational oceans may lie between us and the will of God and we may have to wait them out to at last complete our voyage to the New World on the other side. Just as God did for our forebears, He helps us get where He has called us to go. He is the God who overcomes adversity.

The testimony of the disciples is clear: Everything opposed them but nothing defeated them:

  • Cast down but not defeated,
  • Perplexed but without despair,
  • Persecuted but not alone, and,
  • Struck down but not destroyed.

It is as Jesus promised: in this world we will have tribulation but He has overcome the world. Further, our Lord Jesus makes continuing promises to those who live such overcoming lives. Read about them in Scriptures below.

So, watch out for rocks. Pass through, around, or over the waters in your way. None of these adversities can overcome an overcomer like you!

Scriptures:
Psalm 71:17-24
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; you have done great things; who is like you, O God? You have showed me great troubles and adversities, but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth. You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me, Therefore I will praise you upon the lyre for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. My tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, for they are ashamed and disgraced who sought to do me harm.
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!
Isaiah 43:1-3 NKJV
But now, thus says the Lord , who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
John 16:33
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.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed —always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Revelation 2:7; 11; 17;26-28; 3:5; 12; 20-22 NKJV

  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”‘
  • “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”‘
  • “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”‘
  • “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations — ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”
  • “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
  • “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
  • “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no need for me to inform You of the adversities I face; You see every one of them. You also see the solutions, the keys to victory. I know Your wisdom will instruct me what to do about the rocks in the road, the rivers and oceans in my way, and the people who oppose me when they should be helping me. Give me Apostolic resilience! Grant me Holy ghost endurance. Let me share in Your overcoming victory today. In Your Name and for Your glory! Amen.

Song:
Victory Ahead
Words and Music: William Grum

1. When the hosts of Israel, led by God,
Round the walls of Jericho softly trod,
Trusting in the Lord, they felt the conqu’ror’s tread,
By faith they saw the victory ahead.

Refrain:
Victory ahead! Victory ahead!
Through the blood of Jesus, victory ahead;
Trusting in the Lord, I hear the conqu’ror’s tread,
By faith I see the victory ahead!

2. David with a shepherd’s sling and five stones,
Met the giant on the field all alone,
Trusting in the Lord, he knew what God had said,
By faith he saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

3. Daniel prayed unto the Lord thrice each day,
Then unto the lion’s den led the way,
Trusting in the Lord, he did not fear or dread,
By faith he saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

4. Often with the carnal mind I was tried,
Asking for deliverance oft I cried,
Trusting in the Lord, I reckoned I was dead,
By faith I saw the victory ahead.

Refrain

5. When like those who’ve gone before to that land,
By death’s river cold and dark I shall stand;
Trusting in the Lord, I will not fear or dread,
By faith I see the victory ahead.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 7, 2017: “Silence”

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.”

Scriptures:
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.

Prayer:
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.

Song:
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

November 2, 2017: “Cupbearer”

Cupbearer

Nehemiah lived in the moment.
Each of can choose which moment we want to inhabit:

  • We can dwell on the past.
  • We can seize the present.
  • We can imagine the future.

Of course, this is all the stuff of the imagination. When it comes to the fundamental things—breathing, eating, sleeping, waking, working, playing—we are anchored to the present. But when the necessities are attended to, our minds race to the moments of our choosing: past, present, or future.

Nehemiah’s testimony is of a moment when the present became his passion. He received a report of conditions in his faraway homeland of Israel. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the walls of the city lay in ruins, and the gates thereof were burned with fire. Like the city, those who had not been taken captive to Babylon, now conquered by Assyria, were living in misery.

The news broke the young man’s heart. He was too young to really remember the past, the glory days of the Temple, the secure city of David, and the peace of the kingdom but he listened to the stories of those who did. The reality of the present pressed in on him until he began calling out to God.

In the process the cupbearer to the king filled the cup of his heart with sorrow and repentance for the sins of those who had departed from the faith. Their disobedience, not his, had broken the Covenant with Jehovah. Their idolatry had offended God, not his. Yet he repented of the sins of others and cried out to God for restoration, also a promise of the covenant. In full remembrance of the past, he saw a present moment to be seized in faith.

He was the cupbearer for the King, Artaxerxes.
In this position, he was on intimate terms with the king, as much as was possible in a slaveholding society. He knew the customs and he knew his place in the schemes of things. Sensing that a future could be much better than the present, he acted, taking an historic risk of faith.

You can read his story in Nehemiah and Ezra. He spoke up and was heard. He formed a plan and built a team. He made the journey and rebuilt the wall and the gates so that Ezra could rebuild the Temple. They reestablished true worship in the land.

Look at the position you hold today. It may seem as unimportant as that of a cup-bearing servant. Look again. Perhaps there is moment waiting for you to seize it and make a difference today and in the future. See the past and learn from it but don’t live in it. See the future and pray for it, but it will always be just out of reach. See this moment and seize it for that is the only thing that makes sense.

Scriptures:
Nehemiah 1 NKJV
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have work for me to do today. You have placed me here to be of service to You and to the world. Help me seize the opportunities this day presents and do something worthwhile with them. Let me work with integrity in my heart, wisdom in my mind, and skill in my hands. At the end of this day, when I lay my head on my pillow to rest, may I look back on a day where something good was done through my efforts and Your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Rise Up O Saints of God
Words: William P. Merrill (adapted SRP) Music: William H. Walter
1. Rise up, O saints of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O saints of God! The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O saints of God! The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task; rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up, O saints of God!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 26, 2017: “Authenticity”

Authenticity

Authenticity cannot be faked.
That seems elemental but it needs to be said. We live in a world of images where what seems to be real, may not be real at all, and what is real may make so little noise that it is overlooked. In some organizations the truth gets handled rather than simply told. Theatrical gestures are used to signal some inner reality that may be completely missing. Great care and fuller resources are spent on the way a presentation looks and sounds rather than what is actually being said. This world is so image-mad that connoisseurs accept a well-done work of art regardless of the message it contains.

As we stand before the Lord this morning, it is impossible to fake Him out. He knows the deepest things about us. We hold no secrets from Him. As we pray, God looks deep into our hearts. What does He see?

God is never fooled.
In short, He sees what is there. Many wicked things can hide deep in the human heart, stealthy things that avoid the radar of our introspection. To others we can talk a good game. We have memorized our lines and we know how to present ourselves, not as we are, but as we wish to be. Because God is God, He cannot be successfully lied to. We can fool ourselves and our public appearance of spirituality may fool others, but God is never fooled. None of us has enough wool to pull over His eyes.

You cannot pray a lie.
Private prayer becomes a season of self-revelation as the Holy Spirit rejects lie and after lie as we try to pray them. This is a process called “The Refiner’s Fire,” from the words of the Prophet Malachi. Its purpose is to “purify the Sons of Levy” (NT believers) so we offer worship to God that is worthy—read that—“authentic.” The fires of His Holy Presence bring hidden things to light where we can deal with them.

Scriptures:
Malachi 3:1-4
… 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 … as in former years.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Luke 12:1 NKJV
For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth as the authentic representation of who the Father is. You walked the same earth I walk, enduring the same types of temptations I face, yet without sin, the authentic human life. Now through Your death and resurrection and Your gift of the Holy Spirit, I can live an authentic human life. I am forgiven by faith in Your blood and I am empowered by Your Spirit, so let my life radiate with authenticity. My life will tell Your story and my works shall be works of praise. Search me, O God, and know my heart today! Amen.

Song:
Cleanse Me
Words: J. Edwin Orr Music: Maori melody

1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

2. I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

3. Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

4. O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 25, 2017: “Holding”

Holding

Holding and hoarding are not the same. 
When we hold something, we treasure it, tend it, protect it, and let it perform its function.  To hoard something means to collect things compulsively and then neglect those things to their own destruction.  Things we hold, we can access readily when we, or others, need them.  Hoarded objects, emotions, or ideas pile up in random stacks, stuffed drawers, and messy cabinets so that specific things known to be in the “collection” can never be found when needed by us or anyone else.

As believers in Jesus, there are wonderful treasures filed neatly in our inner selves, things that we hold dear:

  • The Word of God,
  • The sweet presence of Jesus,
  • The abiding comfort of the Holy Spirit,
  • The divine embrace of the Father,
  • The spirit-deep assurance of salvation,
  • The confidence in the Covenant that is called, “faith,”
  • The call of God on our lives,
  • The two families we belong to, one of blood and name and the other of faith, and
  • The hope of the life to come.

When someone is rich in the wealth of the world, that wealth can be measured by adding up the holdings of that individual.  As Christ-followers, the list above is only a partial list of our holdings.

Tending our Holdings
The things we hold in our hearts are not all the same.  There are different ways we must tend to them.  Some things we hold on to as treasure while other things need to be thrown out with the trash.

May we never hoard things like these:

  • Wounds to the body, soul, or spirit.  These should be held long enough for Jesus to heal them.  Then we can let them go so completely that all that is left of them are memories.
  • Sins that lie hidden in our hearts.  These holdings spread death in the center of our life.  They must grow so abhorrent to us that we lay them before the Lord in repentance so that he can deliver us.  These holdings are fit only for the Savior since He has already borne their cost.
  • Ambitions that life has given us, selfish motives, and wicked dreams.  These things need to be replaced with the “dreams and visions” that come with the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  We need to let go of our own glory and seek to hold in our hearts the Glory of God.

Other holdings we possess are designed to flow through us to others:

  • We cling to the love of God, and as we do, His love flows through us to the people around us.  In this way we obey both of the top two commands: love God, love people.We hold truth dear and build our lives upon it.  As w
  • We live out the Jesus story, building our house upon the Rock, we are re-telling the Jesus story to anyone who is paying attention.  The truth of God flows through us even as we hold it fast in our hearts.
  • Praise and worship flow through us.  We treasure the presence of the Lord each day and then, like an Old Covenant priest carrying the Ark, we carry the Lord’s presence out into our world.  On the Lord’s day, we join our passion to that of the Holy-Royal Priesthood and the Glory of the Lord is revealed in public worship.

As this day begins, check your holdings. 
If you find unworthy things in your inventory, do not hoard them!  Cast them out and cast yourself on the mercies of God.  Treasure the eternal, beautiful things in your well-ordered heart.  From the abundance of your heart’s holdings, your life will speak eloquently of the Glory of the Lord.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
2 Corinthians 4:7-8 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Luke 6:43-45
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Mark 12:29-31
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’   The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
1 John 4:20-21 NKJV
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Matthew 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Philippians 3:12 NKJV
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as Paul said, You have laid hold on me—thank You! This is my peace and security. Help me to lay hold of You and of all the treasures You have hidden in Your Word, in the church, and in all of creation. There are wonderful, beautiful things I can hold in my heart to regulate my emotions. There are equally splendid things I can hold in my mind to focus my thoughts. There are spiritual ideals I can live my life by to be a good and productive person. Because of Your Spirit within, these amazing things are within my grasp! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 13, “Paying”

Paying

Justice or Injustice?
Jesus was the only human being who understood what was really happening that dark Friday.  Throughout the night He had stood before the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities as they took turns abusing Him.  The religious authorities used words and fists.  The political leaders used false praise, fists, whips, a crown of thorns, and a mocking kingly robe.  They all knew exactly what they were doing.  Yet they could never have imagined what Jesus was doing.

He was no passive prisoner at the mercy of cruel men.  He was Prince of Heaven on an earthly mission fulfilling His part of the grand enterprise of redemption.

With the cross on His back, the crown pressed into His bleeding head, and with His back beaten raw by the Roman whip, Jesus walked the Way of Suffering, through the narrow city streets, crowded with uncaring onlookers.  The pitiless procession passed beneath the balconies of the well-to-do, living in finery and festive pride as well as second-story villains of all vices.  Windows closed at the sight of another execution underway; it was no concern of theirs.  They did not understand what Jesus was doing—for them—the price He was paying

The crowd grew as the parade passed through the city gates toward the Place of the Skull.  More and more people came to enjoy the ghastly spectacle.  They could never have known what was really happening before their eyes.

About fifty days hence, praise in countless languages would capture their attention and Peter would stand among them to explain what Jesus had done. Three thousand would remember this day on that Day of Pentecost and they would believe.

On that Friday, they did not believe.  There was nothing to believe.  That nice man who spoke so well and helped so many people must have done something wrong to be given the sentence of death. Surely this was justice. They were sure this was another tragedy of a young man defeated by the entrenched leaders of the nation. Perhaps it was injustice.

Soldiers, horses with ropes, hammers, nails, curses, and crosses were lifted against a darkening sky.  Rain, thunder, and wind made the work harder and the soldiers angrier and more brutal.

Jesus spoke but only a few heard what He said.  They didn’t know what He was doing, the price He was paying.  Their confusion rang out in abusive taunting shouts:

“He saved others but he cannot save himself!”
“Come down from that cross, if you are the Son of God!”
“Healer!  Heal yourself!”

In the rain, soldiers gambled for the robe He had worn.  As one last irony, they nailed Pilate’s sign into place, reading, “The King of the Jews.”

Pilate didn’t know the truth He spoke.
As the storm on Calvary reached the private chambers of the palace, the Roman Governor could not shake the feeling that he wasn’t in control of these events.  He pondered Jesus’ answer about his power to take Jesus’ life or give it back to Him.  “You would have no power all except what you have been given from above.”  Could a higher authority be at work in this bloody business?  It was true, Jesus was doing what He came to do.

Jesus was paying the price, the ransom, the debt.  He was paying for our redemption, laying down His humanity for the sake of all humanity.  The perfect sacrifice, He was making atonement for us. He was opening a “a new and living way” for us to enter into fellowship with God.

That terrible Friday, Jesus was paying the cost with all that He had—and it was enough!

Scriptures:
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 20:28
…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
John 19:9-11
Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
1 Timothy 2:4-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.
1 Cornthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Galatians 1:3-5
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 85:9-10 KJV
Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never was there such injustice than at Calvary. You were more than innocent, You were holy—with a holiness tried in the fire of life here on earth. You had no sins of Your own but You took the judgement for my sins, for all the sins of mankind. Justice and injustice mingled together in Your blood at the foot of the cross. Because You paid the price, I can face this day forgiven, a new creature, standing before God as if I had never sinned. I can pass through the new and living way You opened for me to dwell in peace at Your throne. Thank You, Lord, for paying the price. Amen.

Song:
Jesus Paid It All
Words: Elvina M. Hall; Music: John T. Grape

1. I hear the Savior say,”Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

Refrain:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,He washed it white as snow.

2. Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone.

Refrain

3 For nothing good have I Where-by Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Refrain

4 And when, before the throne, I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”My lips shall still repeat.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved