January 31 “Following”

Following

Perhaps the Twelve had never thought about the consequences of not following Jesus.
Now they considered it. Walking along with Jesus involved long periods of silence during which the Twelve thought deeply about what Jesus had just said. These things were mysteries beyond their ability to explain, riddles they could not solve. Each of them had heard the same call the rich young ruler had heard—“Follow me!” They had abandoned fishing businesses, tax rolls and other means of security for life to follow Jesus into a future none of them could imagine. They had just seen a man refuse to follow. They had heard solemn and violent warnings against things that would hinder them in following Jesus. Lose a hand or an eye but do not lose the call! Heaven awaits those who follow and hell those who are hindered.

Remembering the Abandoned
In this silence, perhaps they each remembered what they used to have before Jesus called them to follow Him. The four fisherman abandoned more than nets and boats; they left a life of security and useful purpose. Levi, also known as Matthew, left a shady but lucrative life in league with the governments, that of a tax collector free to skim his prosperity from the loosely kept records. Nine other untold stories are unknown to us but were the real histories of these men. As usual, Peter spoke what they all were thinking.

“See, we have left all and followed You.”

Kingdom Assumptions
From our distance of 2000 years, we must remember the revolutionary message of Jesus. These men had never known of a kingdom that did not involve riches for those who led it. There was no way for them to conceive of a kingdom that would be led by servants. Now Jesus was telling them not to expect riches or power but to live a life of poverty and servanthood. Perhaps if Jesus had challenged them the way He did the rich young ruler, they would have also turned away. But they hadn’t turned away. They had answered His call, leaving all behind to follow Him. He just needed to be reminded of their obedience.

Promises without Limits
Jesus loved these men and truly appreciated their love for Him, their sense of destiny, adventure and purpose. He knew what was coming and though He tried to warn them, He knew there was no way they could know what was ahead for them. He made certain promises to them that have remained in force for 20 centuries to all who answer His call.

  • Those who follow Him, leaving their comfortable lives to embark on His adventure and mission will be cared for. Leaving their families, they will find new ones, spiritual ones. Leaving their ancestral homes and traveling to the next place of service, they will be provided homes of safety and rest. There will also be persecutions.
  • In the age to come there will be mansions of glory and reunions of magnificent magnitude and no more pain or parting ever again.

Choose to serve now and you will reign then.

These promises are still in effect as Christians have proved in every generation. Without them the Gospel would be locked into one time and place. With them, the Jesus Story goes out to the whole world.

Scriptures:
Mark 10: 28- 31
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have heard and answered Your call. I can testify that though I left my natural family to follow You, You have blessed me with a multitude of friends and family. Though I left my hometown and state, You have given me traveling mercies without number and new environs in which to serve You with gladness and singleness of heart. You have been faithful to these promises. Your Word is true and following You is the only way to live! Thank You, Jesus!

Song:
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Traditional

1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2. Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3. My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

4. The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 10 “Seed”

Seed

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.
Jesus knew what He was doing as went about preaching and healing in Galilee. He was scattering seed, the good seed of the Word of God. There was about to be a seismic shift in the relationship between God and man—the Old Covenant with the people of Israel replaced by a New Covenant with the whole human race. Such a thing required preparation. This new revelation was like powerful seed sown into the lives of those who would listen and obey.

A Parable for the Ages
Jesus illustrated what was happening with a parable, a story meant to teach a lesson. They had planned ahead so the boat was now a floating pulpit in the tossing sea. The voice of Jesus bounced on the water and leapt to hills covered with people.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”

The process was a familiar one to His listeners: The sower scattered the precious seed…

  • Some seeds fell to the side for the birds to eat;
  • Some seeds fell on hard ground and lived only short, unproductive lives;
  • Some fell among thorns to live longer but still fruitless lives, choked by weeds; and
  • Some seeds fell on good ground and realized their full, fruit-bearing potential.

Jesus knew that some people would not hear Him at all while others would listen and quickly forget. Still others would hear Him and start out to follow Him only to be distracted by life itself, its details choking their lives in miserable, fruitless frustration.

He also knew that some would hear Him and realize the truth He spoke into their lives. They would see the significance of His truth and organize their lives around Him. In these people, the seed would germinate and mature into a strong, productive life, making up for the losses of the seed sown in poor ground. There would be a joyful harvest in their lives despite the failures of others.

Just to make sure…
When the disciples, who were new to this whole parable business, asked Jesus what the story meant, He took them aside and explained the symbolism. We are blessed that He did! In this parable the life of the believer is forecast. We find both a challenge and a comfort in it.

  • The challenge is to get the precious seed—the right stuff! We must learn the Word of God if we are to sow it into this world. We dare not sow worthless seed. This world has enough untruth and cynicism without us sowing more.
  • The comfort is the promise of the harvest. We will watch as the birds eat the seed we intended for those we love. Our hearts will break over the hardness of the hearts of those to whom we have spoken truth. We will hurt with those who are so caught up in temporary things that the eternal things elude them. We will also rejoice in the harvest as time and again the precious seed does it work. We live in the promise from the Psalms:

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.

Scriptures:
Mark 4:1-20
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.'” And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the precious seed you have sown in my life. I can look back over eventful years of planting and watering the seed and fruitful years of harvest. I look forward to the joys of continuing to sow the precious seed—sometimes weeping, always faithfully—in the years to come. The Harvest is sure! Help me live a strong, productive, unhindered life. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Songs of the Reaper
Words and Music: William Spencer

1. The seed I have scattered in springtime with weeping,
And watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvester’s reaping,
Shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.

Refrain:
Over and over, yes, deeper and deeper
My heart is pierced through with life’s sorrowing cry.
But the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.
By and by, by and by,
By and by, by and by,
Yes, the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.

2. Another may reap what in springtime I’ve planted,
Another rejoice in the fruit of my pain,
Not knowing my tears when in summer I fainted
While toiling sad-hearted in the sunshine and rain.

Refrain

3. The thorns will have choked and the summer suns blasted
The most of the seed which in springtime I’ve sown;
But the Lord who has watched while my weary toil lasted
Will give me a harvest for what I have done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 12, 2018: “Yoke”

Yoke

The words “yoke” and “rest” do not often appear together.
The surprising invitation of Jesus is this: “Take My yoke upon you and I will give you rest.” Usually yokes involve work, hard work that requires teams of workers bound together. When American pioneers moved west, they used 3 to 4 yokes of oxen to pull their Conestoga wagons. While one set worked, another set rested, only pulling their own weight across the plains, deserts, and mountains.

Jesus brings work and rest together.
This is one of the most amazing things about following Jesus—His burden is light and His yoke is easy. Just the other day, we were talking about the high cost of following Christ and it was all true. The outside forces of opposition are dangerous and we do serve the Lord at considerable human risk. The work of the Lord sometimes involves long hours or tedious work or even hard labor. So can it be, at the same time, easy and light?

The Easy Yoke
To follow Christ is to take up His yoke which He promises to be “easy” or literally, “useful.” In other words His yoke is easy because it works—it fits us perfectly, matching our gifts, skills, and interests. I love to conduct choirs, orchestras, and concert bands. I am trained to do this and it is an easy yoke for me to bear. When we find God’s will for our lives, we discover the easy yoke He designed for us. The other factor that makes the yoke easy even when the work is hard is the factor that the yoke-fellow relationship is a coupling, a joint venture. We do not pull the load in our own strength but in His strength, step by step along the way.

The Light Burden
Make no mistake, there are burdens to be born for the Christ-follower. The Lord often grants us the privilege of taking on heavy responsibilities in His Kingdom. Brothers and sisters in the faith depend on us to show up and follow through on these responsibilities. As we bear these burdens, they are made lighter because we have a power assist from the Holy Spirit. The Apostle tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” We do not serve at the limit of our human strength but with the power His might. We are encouraged to cast our burden upon the Lord to receive his sustaining strength. We learn that we can do more than we can do!

Rest for Your Souls
As we enter into this yoke-fellow relationship with the Lord Jesus, we will work hard and fulfill great responsibilities and our bodies will tire and require rest. We will also see a miracle. To do the work God has called and anointed us to do actually contains rest within the work! Rest for our souls—our inner person. There is rest within the work we do for God.

These are the mysteries revealed to those who would take up the yoke of Christ and bear His glorious burden. Jesus is saying, “Come do my work with me and you will find rest for your souls!”

Scriptures:
Matthew 11:25-30
At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Psalm 55:22
Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
Hebrews 4:9-11
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have called me to work for and with You! I will labor to enter into that rest. As I answer that call every day, I feel Your strength beside me pulling the load. We are a team! The willingness is mine but the power is Yours. Help me keep my mind on the work and not any weariness I may encounter. In the traces with You, I am stronger than my strength, wiser than my wisdom, more sure-footed than my human sense of balance. Together, we will not stumble and the work will be done! Amen and amen.

Song:
Come unto Me
Words and Music: Charles P. Jones

1. Hear the blessed Savior calling the oppressed,
“Oh, ye heavy-laden, come to Me and rest;
Come, no longer tarry, I your load will bear,
Bring Me every burden, bring Me every care.”

Refrain:
Come unto Me, I will give you rest;
Take My yoke upon you, hear Me and be blest;
I am meek and lowly, come and trust My might;
Come, My yoke is easy, and My burden’s light.

2. Are you disappointed, wand’ring here and there,
Dragging chains of doubt and loaded down with care?
Do unholy feelings struggle in your breast?
Bring your case to Jesus—He will give you rest.

Refrain

3. Stumbling on the mountains dark with sin and shame,
Stumbling toward the pit of hell’s consuming flame;
By the pow’rs of sin deluded and oppressed,
Hear the tender Shepherd, “Come to Me and rest.”

Refrain

4. Have you by temptation often conquered been,
Has a sense of weakness brought distress within?
Christ will sanctify you, if you’ll claim His best;
In the Holy Spirit, He will give you rest.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 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 20, 2017: “Utility”

Utility

u·til·i·ty noun 1. the state or quality of being useful; usefulness: 2. something useful; a useful thing. 3.  a public service


The Kingdom of God is a practical place.

Each of us is highly esteemed by the Lord; He has deemed us worthy of Calvary.  Yet, not one of us is simply an ornament on the Tree of Life or a decoration on the face of the earth.  Each of us has purpose.  We are here for a reason.  We have a utility to provide to the Lord and to our fellow human beings.  We are called to be useful.

As an infant we simply existed, cooing and crying, smiling and grimacing at the pleasures and pains that came our way.  We did not make the world go round.  We made no significant contribution to society, added nothing to the wealth of the family or the nation, and provided no profit or product demanded by anyone—except those who loved us!  As a beloved child we made our parent’s world go round, made precious contributions to their lives, held great potential for society’s benefit, were an asset to the home and the country and produced joy in the hearts of those who held us dear.  Even as infants, each of us possessed utility.

As we grew to become kids, teens, and young adults, we added skills and personality to our preciousness and started being useful to those beyond our family.  The early teen years pulled us away from our parents to the passing parade of people our age who might be friends.  One of the ways to make friends is to possess utility.  We make them laugh.  We are good listeners.  We help them in many ways.  In turn, we share interests and activities, problems and fun.  Friends are friends because they are useful to each other.  The pattern for life is set.

For the believer, the spiritual element of usefulness becomes a determining factor. 
We sense that we can be useful to God.  We suspect deep in our hearts that God has a plan for our lives, something He wants us to do, a specific way He wants us to serve Him and our fellow human beings.  If our progress from child to adult is a proper one, this sense of calling will become the ruling sentiment—the controlling idea—behind our choices, from friends to fun, and from ambitions to amusements.

All is not lost.
What if those early teen years were misspent?  What if the opportunities of youth were wasted, stolen by the temptations of a shallow, live-for-the-moment culture?  All is not lost.  Redemption is the most amazing part of amazing grace.  Today, we can be useful to the Lord.  Our words can speak His truth.  Our lives can demonstrate His Kingdom.  Our skills can be anointed by His Spirit to extend His Kingdom wherever we go.

You are not an ornament on the Tree of Life; you are a branch in the Vine, useful for producing fruit.  You are not a decoration on the face of the earth; you are a vessel of honor in the Master’s house, “useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Scriptures:
2 Timothy 3:15-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
Philemon 8-11
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul-an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus- I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
2 Timothy 2:20-21
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work
1 Peter 4:9-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Romans 12:4-8
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
John 15:1-8 NKJV
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, a great source of beauty in Your creation is the beauty of usefulness, of practical utility. What is more efficient and productive than a healthy branch in a thriving vine? Thank You for drafting me into the Vine! Thank You for Your calling on my life, a call to be useful and productive . This, indeed, is a beautiful life. You spoke the words and John recorded them; let me hear them again today, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you to go and bring forth much fruit and that your fruit should remain.” Help it continue to be so today and all this week! For Your Glory! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 18, 2017: “Escape”

Escape

Escape is not always a cowardly thing.
Sometimes heroes are the ones who lead an escape.  Jesus is certainly such a hero.  Through his courage and action, we can escape:

  • the judgment our sins demanded,
  • the wrath of God which is surely coming on the earth, and even
  • death itself.

There are other things we cannot escape:

  • the responsibility for the call of God on our lives,
  • the consequences of a lifestyle of sin,
  • the pain we cause others who are counting on us if we fail to follow through with our ministries, and
  • that wonderful/horrible day when we stand before the Lord and give an account of what we did and did not do with His grace in our lives.

There is a great danger that each of us must learn how to escape. 
The more serious we are about fulfilling the plan of God for our lives, the greater this danger looms.  Faithful ministers of the Gospel are especially susceptible to this danger.

Because we love Him so much and the work before us is so important and the needs of the people around us are so pressing, we can acquire the idea that we are indispensable to the work of God.  This leads to illegitimate feelings that we must learn to escape:

  • If we stop praying for a minute it is a sin for the Bible clearly says to pray without ceasing.
  • If we take a day off and do nothing to advance the Kingdom, we are sinning because we are not redeeming the time and our harvest is in jeopardy.
  • If we relax our high-speed, multitasking brains for an hour or two, we may miss the return of Jesus because the Bible says “ in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.”

This behavior pattern is called a messiah-complex.
How we escape the messiah complex?  We established that Jesus is our hero, our rescuer, our Messiah.  Escape begins when we realize that He is the one upon whose shoulders the government of the Kingdom of God rests—not us!  Jesus is the Messiah—we are not! The man or woman of God must learn a new level of trust in God Almighty.  The Bible says He never sleeps.  Might that be true so that we can sleep?  In fact, God set the example of resting—taking time off!—on the last day of the creation week.  If are going to be rested and ready to worship God on the Lord’s Day, we need to set aside time to rest up, to escape from the pressure of work for a few hours.

One of the reasons we are given minds capable of learning all sorts of things is to give us interests beyond our work.  We should never let the enemy of our souls accuse us wasting time when we are following those interests.  God remembers that we are human beings.  He knows our minds need rest and our bodies need exercise.

Go ahead today and escape or a while from the cares of this life.
Have some fun.  Learn something new that means absolutely nothing to your work.  The Kingdom of God remains secure, resting squarely on the broad shoulders of the Messiah—and that isn’t you!

Scriptures:
Hebrews 4:9-11
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Proverbs 11:9
With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.
Psalm 68:20
Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
Luke 21:34-36
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Psalm 103:14 NKJV
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 91:1-2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today is the Sabbath, the day You ordained for rest. Free me from any tiny bit of a Messiah complex. You are the Lord; I am Your servant. You do not count my rest-time as time wasted. Tomorrow, Sunday—the Lord’s Day—is the day when I will spend every ounce of my heart, soul, mind, and strength to the joy of expressing my love for You. In preparation for the day of worship, I will enjoy a day of rest and/or diversion. These things, too, are gifts from You. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Rock of Ages
Words: Augustus Toplady; Music: Thomas Hastings

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment th

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 16, 2017: “Relentless”

Relentless

To relent means to give up and that we will not do! 
The week is a work in progress.  Monday set up the obstacle course for the week and so far, so good.  Things we knew were coming lie before us and things we never expected have joined them.  Encouraging things have happened, too, another day of the work week dawns.  Some things we know how to handle and the work that must be done.  The job is to summon the resources to do that work: energy, experience, patience, tenacity, and a healthy dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.  Other challenges are new so new resources must be found: new wisdom, (Remember to ask the Lord!) new skills, (The Holy Spirit is your teacher!) and new applications of proven principles. (Count on the faithfulness of God!)

There may even be new opposition. 
Satan may send his forces against you and the work God has given you to do in new ways, tactics you have never before faced.  Do not be ignorant of his devices.  When your opposition is rooted in the spirit realm, the Holy Spirit sets off a fire alarm in your heart.  When you hear that bell, you know that victory is as sure as that empty tomb on the first Easter morning.  The Lord’s record is “a gazillion gazillion and 0” and He is not about to lose this match.

What weapons shall we use in battle?
(Prayer is not a weapon; prayer is the battle itself!) We should learn from the victors whose story is told in the Revelation. They overcame the enemy

  1. by the blood of the Lamb and
  2. by the word of their testimony.

We can choose to be relentless today because the Blood of Jesus has broken the powers of the sin and death.  We are free because no shackles can withstand the power of the Blood and no prison walls can bind us when Jesus has torn them down.

We will not give up the fight!
Like young David who faced a giant in the serenity of his own testimony of past victories, (the lion and the bear) we face the battles this week offers in the serenity of God’s spotless record in our own lives.  Even in times when the enemy temporarily gained ground in a battle, we rested in the presence of the Lord knowing that the war was not over and that victory would be ours—and it was so!  The Blood of the Lamb (the whole story of Redemption and new creation) and the word of our testimony (our on-going story of redemption and new creation) form a one-two punch Satan has never figured out how to block.

With God on our side, we are equal to any task this week presents us.

  • We can lead beyond our natural leadership.
  • We can create better than our talent and skill would allow.
  • We can love others far beyond our natural affections and affinities.
  • We can pray when we don’t even know what to pray for.
  • We can communicate things we have never learned.

Why on earth would we ever relent?

Scriptures:
Proverbs 21:31
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.
Luke 18:1
Then Jesus told his disciples … that they should always pray and not give up.
Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
1 John 5:3-5
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Romans 12: 21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Revelation 12:10-12
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!
Romans 8:31-39
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”   No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are with me in the relentless demands of life. You will never abandon me to chance. You will never be overmatched by my enemies. You will reveal to me Satan’s devices and schemes. Your Spirit will bring to my mind the truths I need to counter the enemy’s attacks. If the demands of life are relentless so are the blessings You shower on me. The Bible says that where sin abounds, grace does that much more abounds. I choose to walk in Your grace, Your relentless grace. With faith in Your name—Amen!

Song:
I Would Not Be Denied
Words and Music: C. P. Jones

Verse 1
When Pangs Of Death Seized On My Soul,
Unto The Lord I Cried
Till Jesus Came And Made Me Whole,
I Would Not Be Denied.

Refrain:
I Would Not Be Denied,
I Would Not Be Denied,
Till Jesus Came And Made Me Whole,
I Would Not Be Denied.

Verse 2
As Jacob In The Days Of Old,
I Wrestled With The Lord;
And Instant, With A Courage Bold,
I Stood Upon His Word.

Refrain

Verse 3
Old Satan Said My Lord Was Gone,
And Would Not Hear My Prayer,
But Praise The Lord! The Work Is Done,
And Christ The Lord Is Here.

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 3,, 2017: “Rebuild”

Rebuild

Sometimes the only option left is to rebuild what has been destroyed.
Who can doubt the waves of destruction that roll through this fallen world?

  • Acts of nature—storms, earthquakes, floods—scream, shake, and soak until everything is toppled or crumbled to the ground or washed away.
  • Acts of people—wars, repression, injustice, terrorism—rage out of control it seems until the social structures we depend on are reduced to rubble.
  • Acts of hate—plots, subversions, lies, assassinations—strike at us from all points of the compass in business, in church, in the streets, and even in our homes.

We have all seen the reports interviewing the victims of nature’s rage standing in front of what is left vowing to rebuild. We know veterans of wars and injustice who somehow survived, rising to wage peace in the face of hate, their heads, “bloodied but unbowed.” They must rebuild. We have all tasted, either personally or in the media, the bitter strife within the family or in the workplace and in the city streets and we must conclude that the only option is to rebuild what has been damaged. We simply cannot leave rubble unattended, waste uncollected, and destruction undone—we must rebuild.

Nehemiah, the Cup-Bearer
In a privileged position of ease, Nehemiah could find no rest. He had learned that his homeland was in ruins, his people in chains, and the worship of his God was taken captive. He knew his place, his responsibilities in the palace; they did not include worries about Jerusalem, the Temple, or the ancient walls and gates. The cup-bearer could not bear this burden. Risking his life and position, he allowed the king to see his concern. Amazingly such a breach in decorum brought favor, not danger—the King empowered the cup-bearer to go and rebuild his home.

The Hidden Destruction
When disaster strikes in any form, there is a hidden danger in the path of the storm. Today we call it “the new normal.” Destruction is no longer noticeable. Ruins fade from view and weeds grow up all around the fallen structure hiding the loss in random, meaningless growth. In another form, when the debris of a huge tree fallen in a storm is cleared and the stump removed, soon there is no memory of the old, massive, graceful tree. This forgetfulness is the true destruction.

In this Secular Age
Today, secularism seeks to destroy all vestiges of Christian Spirituality beginning with the secularized believer and extending to the commercialized church.

  • A constant storm of hedonism beats against the human body, soul, and spirit.
  • A earthquake of untruth shakes the foundations of our private thoughts and public institutions.
  • A flood of evil rises to ever increasing heights, threatening to wash away even the memory of righteousness.
    What are we to do but rebuild?
  • We must rebuild our private prayer lives, spending time with God every day. We can know a rising tide of spirituality to counter that of iniquity.
  • We must rebuild our public worship so that the Lord Jesus Himself walks into every service ready to perform His Anointed Ministry of rescuing people from their sins. His Word must be the content of our message for His Story is the only hope of the world.
  • We must rebuild our lives so that everything we do honors Him—from fun to work, from thoughts to deeds, and from home to the world.

We are cup-bearers to the King! He will send us on a mission to rebuild what has been destroyed in our lives. Your home is a city of faith and you must build a wall of prayer around it. Your church is the habitation of God by His Spirit and you must restore True Worship as you gather there. There is no one else to do what He has called us to do.

Jesus, the Re-builder
The joy of Eden—walking with God in the cool of the day—was lost forever until a dark day at a place called Calvary. Jesus rebuilt that relationship from the ground up. All we have to do is believe in Him and pay attention and each day can be sweetened a taste of another Tree of Life, the cross.

Scriptures:
Nehemiah 2:1-19 NKJV
And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work. Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
Isaiah 58:12 NKJV
Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Chief Rebuilder! You are restoring my life day by day. Your carpenter’s hands are skillful and gentle. Help me add another row of bricks to the wall of faith I am building today. Help me restore some broken bit of creation today. Open my eyes to the needs around me that I can meet. Help me speak truth to counter the lies of the culture. Help me to shine like a light in this present darkness. As You continue to restore and rebuild me, help me to be also a repairer of the breach. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Living for Jesus
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: C. Harold Lowden

1. Living for Jesus a life that is true,
striving to please him in all that I do,
yielding allegiance glad hearted and free
this is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement did give yourself for me.
I own no other master my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for you alone.

2. Living for Jesus, who died in my place,
bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace:
such love constrains me to answer his call,
follow his leading, and give him my all.

Refrain

3. Living for Jesus wherever I am,
doing each duty in his holy name,
seeking the lost ones he died to redeem,
bringing the weary to find rest in him.
Refrain

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