Wednesday The Garden

Gethsemane

Alone
Like the full Passover moon overhead, an angel from heaven stood watch in Gethsemane.  The sleeping disciples were scattered throughout the grove of ancient olive trees using cloaks and outer garments to keep warm and to soften the hard ground.

Jesus was alone in a way that no one has ever been alone. Sensing the moment and the heaviness of the burden, the angel came near to Jesus as He agonized in prayer. He touched the Lord’s shoulder, imparting strength, a flow of energy as heaven touched earth and earth responded. The strength the moment required was quickly spent in prayer, prayer so deep the blood vessels in his scalp and forehead broke as sweat and blood mingled flowing down His face to drop heavily to the garden floor.

His prayer was the same as before, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me!” His voice was hoarse with the depth of His struggle.

The angel stood by, this time unable to assist his Lord.

The Decision
Jesus was doing what no one else could ever do; He was drinking a cup no one else could drink and He must drain it dry.

“Nevertheless, not my will but Your will, Father, is what I will do.”

In this garden with a watching angel and sleeping friends, the decision was made. Jesus had emptied Himself of heavenly majesty and traded His jeweled crown for one to be made of thorns. He was the only one who could drink from the cup containing the sins of the world, all of them, yours, mine, those of all history and of all the evil deeds yet to come.

The Prize
He had won the struggle and this was the prize. He had been tempted to sin in all points as we have all been tempted yet not once had He yielded. Now, He had won the right to take all our sin upon Himself.  The decision was made that night in the Garden and tomorrow the deeds would be done: trials, beatings, scourging, abuse, insults, and finally a cross and just the right number of nails to pin Him there.

The Kiss
As Jesus prayed, Judas led Temple guards with torches, swords, and binding ropes. The disciples stirred from sleep and tried to fight the intruders but they were a sorry lot of warriors. One blow, that’s all, and a severed ear fell to the ground. Jesus rebuked the disciples and Peter, the one with the sword. His Kingdom did not advance by the sword. While still speaking, Jesus found the severed ear and replaced it to its rightful place as whole as the untouched one. Even a miracle could not prevent the events unfolding in a steel-blue moonlight of Gethsemane.

The disciples fled in terror as the guards led Jesus away. Soon the garden was quiet again with no one but the moon and the angel left to ponder these things.

Scriptures:
Luke 22:39-48
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have felt what it is like to be alone. In the depth of my isolation, You were with me. Your words were on my lips. Your presence was in my heart. Your hope was the song I heard, faint but unmistakable. I was not alone, really. In this week as we seek to somehow appropriate Your love for us, help us feel some of what You felt there in that garden alone, your friends sleeping, your enemies approaching while an angel touched your shoulder. I cannot know the agony of sweat turned to blood. I cannot feel the weight of the world’s sins, only mine. But even here in this garden I can still hear the angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” Amen.

Song:
Amazing Love
Words and Music: Chris Tomlin

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

You are my King.
Jesus You are my King.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 27 “Victory”

Victory

When you have seen something with your own eyes, it is most difficult to believe otherwise.
And so it was with the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. With their own eyes they had witnessed His death. After His body was taken down from the cross, the women who loved and followed Jesus had hastily prepared His lifeless form for the tomb. After the Sabbath had come and gone, they returned to do proper service to the body of their Lord.

We cannot imagine the grief they experienced that Saturday. Each of the women had received countless undeniable blessings from the hands of Jesus.

  • Mary and Martha of Bethany had seen their dead and decaying brother, Lazarus, come waddling out of his own tomb, wrapped in grave clothes, at the command of Jesus! How could the One who was the Master of death, be overcome by death? It made no sense, but they had seen the still body of Jesus for themselves and handled it in preparation for its rest in Joseph’s tomb.
  • Mary Magdalene had been delivered from the violence of seven demon spirits at Jesus’ command. Now His voice was stilled and she had to wonder if the forgiveness He had granted was just an illusion. Was she still in her sins?
  • From other accounts, we know that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was at the cross when he died. Without doubt she was among the women who went, early that Resurrection morning, to visit the tomb.

They went to the tomb not knowing how they would roll away the huge stone placed over the entrance by the Roman soldiers. There was little logic in their mission but they were compelled to make the effort.

When they arrived, they saw that the stone was already moved. Their first thoughts were that someone had stolen His body. Cautiously, they entered the tomb. A young man dressed in brilliant white robes was standing on the right side of the large flat stone where the body of Jesus should have been. Startled, they shrank back in fear. His voice was both commanding and soothing

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
He is risen! He is not here.”

They did not, they could not, move. From other accounts we know that the linen in which the body was wrapped lay flat on the stone, as if it had been deflated. The linen that had covered His head was folded neatly at the head of the stone. The body was gone but this was not the work of mortals.

“See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

The man spoke with an authority very much like that of Jesus Himself, so they knew they must obey. They ran from the tomb but shared this experience with no one. Who would believe it, anyway?”

Other Witnesses
Mary Magdalene was the first to actually see the risen Lord. She told the other followers of Jesus, but in the depth of their grief, there was no way for them to ascend to the level of this truth. They could not believe what they were hearing; they knew what their eyes had seen. When He appeared to two of them as they were walking, the two were convinced but even this was not enough to counter the witness of the eyes.

The world’s greatest victory had been won and so many could not see it. We are all witnesses to the reality of death. It is for us to see the Risen Lord with eyes of faith.

Scripture:
Mark 16: 1-13
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away — for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you told Thomas that those who believe in Your resurrection without actually seeing You, would be blessed. I am in that number. I believe You conquered death. I believe You hold the keys of death, hell, and the grave. I believe that death has been swallowed up in victory. I believe that my loved ones who have departed this life are with You now enjoying life everlasting. I believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with You. I believe that You are the Lord of the living. Through Your grace, I walk each day in newness of life! The Lord is risen—He is risen, indeed! Amen!

Song:
Christ Arose!
Words and Music: Robert Lowry

1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 9, “Vineyard”

Vineyard

A vineyard is much more than a yard with vines. It is a business that must produce a product and a profit.
When questioned about His authority, Jesus countered the silence of the scribes, priests and elders with a parable.

  • It was the story of a man who planted a fine, secure vineyard and leased to vinedressers while he traveled extensively.
  • Still on his journey when the time for product and profit came, the man sent his servant to collect.
  • The vinedressers beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. This shameful thing happened several times.
  • At last, the man sent his only son, expecting that they would surely respect his son.
  • They did not. They saw an opportunity to steal the vineyard, its product and the profits. They killed the son and threw his body out of the vineyard.

When He spoke of a vineyard, there was no misunderstanding His meaning. It was an ancient image for the nation of Israel.

What will their profits be?
After detailing the repeated crimes, Jesus let the story hang in Temple air. By this time a crowd had gathered to watch this contest of authorities. Did the hopes of the nation lie in the system, so ancient, so corrupt, and so firmly established? Or was it possible that One with greater authority was on the scene, One who could not only cleanse the Temple of profane merchants, but also reform the entrenched leadership? How would their leaders answer such a pointed accusation of their wickedness?

Though by now the sun was high and hot in the sky, the assembled, challenged leaders facing Jesus alternately shivered in their sandals and sweated in their vestments. When the silence grew unbearable Jesus finished the story with a question.

“Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do?

A slight breeze traversed the floor of the Temple court between Jesus and His interrogators. It did nothing to warm the shivering ones or cool the sweating ones. In the silence Jesus locked eyes with each of the leaders, staring until each one dropped his eyes to the ground. No one could think of anything to say. Finally, Jesus answered His own question.

“He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.”

No one was expecting this. Even the disciples wondered what He meant. Who but the Jews could care for the House of God? Surely renewal and revival were the plans for the Messiah’s ministry, not abandonment! Who else could tend this vineyard? Certainly not Gentiles!

The Cornerstone
Jesus continued. There is one coming whom the leaders will reject. He will become the cornerstone of a new Temple.

“Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Several of the leaders started to rush Jesus and put an end to this. Cooler heads restrained them for fear of the people. One by one, they remembered they had others things to do that day.

Scriptures:
Mark 12: 1-12
Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have appointed me to be a worker in Your Vineyard—the church! Each of us is also a branch, vitally connected to You, the True Vine. You expect me to bear much fruit! Together You expect all of us to be about the business of the Vineyard—glorifying You, telling Your story, caring for each other and seeing new life in the Vineyard. You said that You had chosen me and ordained me that I should bear much fruit and my fruit should remain. I know You are about to return so help me be faithful and fruitful! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Cornerstone
Words and Music: Dottie Rambo

Jesus is the Cornerstone, came for sinners to atone.
Though rejected by His own, He became the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone.

When I am by sin oppressed on the Stone I am at rest
And where the seeds of truth are sown, He remains the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone, The Cornerstone!

Rock of Ages, cleft me! Let me hide myself in Thee.
Rock of Ages, so secure! For all time it will endure.
Till His children reach their home, He remains the Cornerstone!

Till the breaking of the dawn, till all footsteps cease to roam.
Ever let this truth be known—Jesus is the Cornerstone!
Jesus is the Cornerstone, The Cornerstone!
Till the breaking of the dawn, till all footsteps cease to roam.
Ever let this truth be known—Jesus is the Cornerstone!
Jesus is the Cornerstone!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 8 “Authority”

Authority

True Authority is something a leader either has or does not have.
If it is missing from the life of the leader, there is little he or she can do to acquire it. It doesn’t come with education because we have all seen educated idiots. It does not reside in ignorance for this results in noise and chaos. Authority may appear to abide in personality but time will reveal its absence or presence. Authority can come with position when a leader climbs some sort of ladder making friends along the way who are obligated to him or her. These leaders may even exhibit public careers for decades within the corrupt system that props them up in a cruel theatre of public relations. Beneath the facade, there is cover up after cover up and good people lose their careers to the evil powers of those who get the headlines and the riches but whose authority is disingenuous. Another source of false authority is inherited, not earned. This also rings hollow and must be maintained with power and manipulation.

Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders
When Jesus and the Twelve returned to the Temple area, an assortment of leaders like those described above, were ready for them. They grouped together for safety when they saw Him coming. Seeing He had no whip and did not seem to be angry, they bravely approached Him, calling Him out. They asked the question each of them wanted answered. What was the source of His authority?

“By what authority are You doing these things?
And who gave You this authority to do these things?”

He was not a priest, though it was said He was in David’s royal line. He was not a scribe or an elder. What ladder did He climb to this position of authority? Sickness fled at His touch. Demons jumped and screamed at His command. Miracles were within His purview. Where did He get such authority?

What was their purpose? Surely to stop Him; perhaps to enlist Him; and perhaps, for a few of them, to investigate the possibility that He was sent from God. Regardless of the motive, the question was asked and He had to answer.

Answering a Question with a Question
Jesus read them like a scroll. He posed a question to them He knew they would not answer.

“I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?

Not to be deterred by their show of force, He followed the question with a command.

“Answer Me.”

The leaders stepped back, affronted both by the question and the command. They improvised a huddle, whispering among themselves how to give an answer. Slowly, they realized that Jesus had beaten them at their own game. There was no answer that wouldn’t get them into deeper trouble. If they said John was a prophet, He would challenge them for not believing and if they said he was not, the people would lose faith in them. They simply must avoid the question.

“We do not know.”

Jesus smiled. This was better than the whip He used the day before!

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

The Real Authority
They had the robes; Jesus had the power. They had the position; Jesus had standing with God. They had the tradition; Jesus had the moment. They had the questions; Jesus had the answers.

True Authority is something a leader either has or does not have.

Scriptures:
Mark 11:27-33
Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men'” — they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no authority higher than Yours! No name is higher. No power greater. The forces of hell and earth may oppose You but they never will overcome You. You rule and overrule. Yours is the finale word. Someday every tongue will confess that You are Lord of all. Until that day, this will be my confession. I willingly submit to Your matchless authority and Oh the peace and joy that is mine today! Amen and Amen.

Song:
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Words: Edward Perronet; Music: (Coronation) Oliver Holden

1. All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all!

2. O seed of Israel’s chosen race now ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all.
Hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all!

3. Let every tongue and every tribe on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all.
To him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all!

4. Oh, that with all the sacred throng we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 1 “Jerusalem”

Jerusalem

As a child growing up in an observant Jewish home, Jesus had been to Jerusalem many times.
This time, however, would be different. This was not a pilgrimage to the Temple for worship. This was the march to the cross. The men would see more than the usual spectacle of sacrificial lambs and goats and pigeons. They would witness the slaughter of the Lamb of God. The words of Isaiah would no longer be an obscure prophecy of indeterminate meaning. They would witness the exact fulfilment of the prophet’s words concerning Messiah.

  • His face, so kind and handsome that it flashed friendly flames when He spoke of the Kingdom, would be so marred by the hands of men that there would be nothing attractive left in it.
  • His lean, strong body, shaped by hard work and long hours in the carpenter’s shop would be bruised and pierced, hammered and battered beyond recognition.
  • Even His closest followers would turn away from His ruined visage and broken body; those who professed to love Him would reject Him.
  • His Father’s will was in this terrible process for He had to bear the sins of us all and the healing of a hurting world would be won in the stripes He would bear.

He knew. The Twelve did not.
The men knew the passage but they could not know that the Prophet was talking about Him. If the brightest among them came close to making the connection between their belief that Jesus was Messiah and Isaiah’s disturbing predictions, he would surely dismiss such a thought in a moment. It was much more pleasant to remember the power of God flowing through Jesus and through them! Why couldn’t this go on forever?

Jesus could not leave them to their uniformed reveries. He had to warn them of what awaited them in this pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

  • Jerusalem was the domain of the chief priests and scribes—self-exalted enemies of Messiah, protectors of the self-empowering status quo.
  • They will arrest Him and deliver Him to the Romans who will execute Him.
  • On the third day the religious and political leaders would have a whole new problem on their bloody hands.

Worship in Time and Place
The Old Covenant called for worship in time and place.

  • Time: the hours of every day; the weekly Sabbath; the seasonal festivals; and the generational year of Jubilee.
  • Place: The home, the local synagogue, and the Temple in Jerusalem as the object of holy pilgrimage.

Messiah would bring a whole new order of worship with a New Covenant to enforce it: Worship in Spirit and Truth.

  • Spirit: worship led by and empowered by the Spirit of God resident in the redeemed human spirit.
  • Truth: the eternal truth of God flowing in time through the sincere worship of redeemed human beings.

Jesus would open the new way through the ordeal of Calvary–worship at the intersection of Time and Eternity. Beyond our imagination is the truth that a hope of joy would somehow sustain Jesus through these inevitable events—the Hope of communing with His People as they worship. This will be worship in spirit and truth, adaptable to any time and space. And so it has proven to be through 20 centuries.

Scriptures:
Mark 10: 32-34 NKJV
Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
Isaiah 53:1-7 NKJV
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Hebrews 10:19-23;12:1-2 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water….Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my heart overflows with thanksgiving to You for Your unspeakable gift—Your innocent life for our guilty lives. Help me know that when I pray alone at my altar and when I worship with Your saints in the House of God, I am providing You the joy that was set before You in those terrible days—the joy of communing with us in the Secret Place and the Holy Place. Thank You for opening up this new and living way. It cost You so much; may I never neglect so precious and powerful a gift. Thank You, Jesus! Amen and Amen.

Song:
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Lowell Mason

1. When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them through his blood.

3. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 24, 2017: “Vision”

Vision

The Holy Spirit enables us to see with the eyes of our spirit. 
We “see” things undetectable by the natural eye, things that are more real than vision and more substantive than solids, things existing in a place unhindered by time, wear, decay, or corruption.

This is how the believer in Jesus becomes a witness to the cross.  Years ago, the great gospel songwriter, Bill Gaither, penned these words:

I’ve been to Calvary.  I can say I’ve seen the Lord.
I’ve been to Calvary, through the witness of His Word.
Each day at Calvary, what a thrill of love divine,
Just to know that the Savior is mine.

Believers since the 1960’s have embraced this song because it is a shared experience that produces an inner vision of the cross and our resurrected Savior.  The Holy Spirit can easily bridge the span of centuries, oceans, and continents between the worshiper and the actual hill called Calvary.

The Gift of Imagination
How is this possible? The Lord has equipped us with a marvelous gift—imagination.  As children, we drift in and out of the real world available to our developing senses and our inner world available to our imagination.  Child’s play is a rehearsal for adult creativity.

The gift of imagination is really the gift on internal vision.  Imagination enables us to open our hearts and minds to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  This is much different from childhood play.  The cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the Day of Pentecost, the Throne of God and of the Lamb, the River of Life flowing from it to the healing of the nations are not figments of our imagination—they are spiritual realities.  When we envision spiritual realities we do not create them, we open our spirits to revelation from God.  Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would have such a “spirit of revelation.”  We should turn on the movie screen of our minds when we worship, read the Bible, and certainly when we intercede.

The Terrible Cost of a Missing Vision
The Book of Proverbs states that lack of vision (the NIV word is “revelation”) causes death on a large scale.  Our society is rushing toward disaster because so few people have “been to Calvary.”

Today as we meditate on the cross, let us lift our inner eyes beyond that terrible day, to  the resurrection, and to the ascension of Jesus to His Throne in Heaven.  A vision of the victorious One is the message of the church.  Peter preached it  for the first time at Pentecost.  The early church occupied a world filled with frightening, confusing visual images  They reached that world because of a shared vision of Jesus the Victor.

Scriptures:
Proverbs 29:18 KJV; NIV
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Ephesians 1:16-17
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Acts 2:22-25; 32-34
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…. and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Psalm 85:10 NKJV
Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Prayer:
From The Book of Common Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You stretched out Your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace: So clothe us in Your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of You; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary. I know this is more than the tragic tale of a young man misunderstood and struck down too soon. This is not a tragedy; it is a triumph! Open my eyes that I may see the congruence of Your great love and justice in these painful events: the perfect sacrifice that makes it possible for sins to be forgiven, bodies to be healed from disease, and tortured minds to be restored. In one sweeping vision, let me see Your great love to send Jesus to us as our Redeemer and Your great wrath against evil. Help this vision propel me forward to do Your will so that more people may come to know You. Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary.

Song:
Open My Eyes that I Might See
Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes; illumine me, Spirit divine!

2. Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear.
And while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears; illumine me, Spirit divine!

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere.
Open my heart, and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart; illumine me, Spirit divine!

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 12, 2017: “Adore”

Adore

Adore is a strong word.
We sing it wistfully every Christmas when somebody slows down “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Each time we do it seems to be new all over again:

“O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

“Adore” goes beyond affection to a deep desire, beyond interest to a consuming passion.  Webster’s Dictionary defines it:

  1. To worship or worship honor as a deity or as divine,
  2. To regard with loving admiration and devotion,
  3. To be very fond of…

Notice how the definitions lose intensity as they are listed.  On this Lord’s Day the ministry before us is to “worship and honor as divine.” Our liturgy (the words we say or sing) will be filled with truth about Jesus.  Our job is to add the passion so that the worship can have both truth(the Word of God and our undivided minds) and spirit(the power the Spirit and our deepest passion.) Today’s worship service will not be about the music, or the musicians, or the singers, or the preacher, or the technology—it will be totally dedicated to honoring the One True God, and Jesus is His name.

Hopefully.

Sometimes churches get off track and some of those others things take center stage.  It shouldn’t happen, everyone knows that, but it does happen.   It happens when we try to use worship to some other ends, like church growth, or outreach to certain groups.  Worship is not a means to an end, it is our purpose on the Lord’s Day!  As we worship in spirit and truth we disciple others and evangelize the lost because His presence and His Spirit makes all that happen.  Our job is to keep everything centered on Jesus!

Worship Anyway!
What should you do when you are attending a service and you sense the emphasis is wrong, the music is not sing-able, the technology is a distraction and it just doesn’t feel like worship?  What should you do?

Worship anyway!

Close your eyes and concentrate on the words.  If you find them unusable, start quoting scripture that tells you about the Lord.  This is when it would be good to have some psalms memorized!  Don’t open your Bible and read; that would be a rude political statement and that certainly isn’t worship!  If you run out of scripture just start telling the Lord how much you love Him!  Adore Him in some way—that is why you came.  That is what the day is for.

Remember that the physical precedes the spiritual.
The Sacrifice of Praise happens when we adore the Lord as a determined act of the will, not because the music makes it easy or our emotions lead us in that direction.  You will find that if you open up your heart and enter in to praise with the best you have to give, your physical effort will be blessed by the Holy Spirit and your worship will be pleasing to God.

So, indeed, come, let us adore Him today. Not because it is easy, but because we really do worship and honor the One, True, and Living God!  We adore the Lord!

Scriptures:
Mark 12:29-31 NKJV
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Psalm 31:23-32:1
Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 97:10-12
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10
As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Chronicles 21:24
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Psalm 51:15-17
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will go to Your house today for the single purpose to adore You. My affection for You will be more than affection: it will be adoration. My praise of You will be more than praise; it will be my passion. My desire for Your nearness will be more than desire; it will be desperation. I need You, Lord, so I gather with the saints to hear a word from You, to feel Your healing touch, and to give You what I have to give even if it is only a broken heart and wounded spirit. These things, the Scripture says, You do not despise. Accept my adoring praise today and share Your presence with me and all my brothers and sisters. With love and adoration, I am Yours. Amen.

Songs:
Let Us Adore/Adeste Fideles
Words and Music: Julius Chajes / G.F. Handel and Traditional

Let us adore (Let us adore)
the ever-living God (the ever-living God)
and render praise (and render praise)
unto Him, (unto Him,)
Who spread out the heavens (Who spread out the heavens)
and established the earth. (and established the earth.)
And Whose glory (and whose glory)
is revealed in the heavens above (in the heavens above )
And His greatness (and His greatness)
is manifest throughout all the earth
He is our God and there is none else.
_____________
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.

For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy,
Christ, the Lord.

We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory,
Christ, the Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 10, 2017: “Shame”

Shame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

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