December 5 “Elizabeth”

Elizabeth

The life of a priest’s wife was a quiet one and Elizabeth preferred it that way.
Especially now. For five months Elizabeth had hidden herself away. The last thing an old lady wanted to be was the center of attention. She and her husband Zacharias were deeply in love, now more than ever. All their peers we now parents and grandparents many times over. The absence of children in Elizabeth’s home formed a natural barrier to friendships. People were not unkind; they were just busy with their own lives and children and grandchildren.

She and Zacharias often sat quietly these days.
Since the day her husband had come home from his assignment in the Temple, he had been unable to speak so sitting quietly was the only option for them. He smiled a lot, though, especially as her body began to change. It was not unusual for a woman of her years to gain a little weight, but no one would ever guessed the cause. “But I know!” the old priest said to himself with a wry smile. Elizabeth turned her face away, still blushing because of this surprising turn of events.

Her name meant, “Oath of God,” and she had always believed the promises of God would come to them if they were faithful. Everyone who knew them, knew how faithful and full of hope they were. They were such a pleasure to be around. These five months of seclusion and silence stirred interest among their friends. They had all heard the story of Zacharias’ extended stay in the Temple and of his emergence having lost his ability to speak. Rumor was he saw a vision. The truth was an angel of the Lord had appeared to Zacharias and told him that his wife would bear him a son. When he protested that she was too old, he was struck dumb.

A Visitor from Nazareth
Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, her young cousin, Mary, came for a visit. Neighbors caught a glimpse of the older woman as Mary approached the house. “She’s put on weight!” the gossips whispered before she and her visitor hurried indoors.

In the house, away from prying eyes, Elizabeth explained that the child within her lept at the sound of Mary’s voice! As Mary marveled at this, a strange look came upon Elizabeth’s face. Mary recognized the look at once—the Holy Spirit! Mary had been overshadowed by the Spirit and she knew that now Elizabeth had been filled with the Spirit, too.

Two women, two miracles, two babies, God was at work. With the infilling of the Spirit, understanding flooded Elizabeth’s heart and she prophesied.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Scriptures:
Luke 1:5-25 NKJV
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Luke 1:34-45 NKJV
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, like Sarah, wife of Abraham, Elizabeth received Your blessing, a promise fulfilled, long after the natural course of life would allow. Teach me this lesson, Lord. Help me never to give up, but cling to Your promises forever in this life. I will have faith in You not in circumstances. I will take joy in every sunrise as the dawn that brings Your promise closer. I will rest with each sunset, knowing that a night’s rest under Your watchful eye will bring the fullness of Your promise nearer. Fill me with Your Spirit so I can see clearly the promises Your supply. Thank You, Lord!

Song:
Have Faith in God
Traditional Chorus

Have faith in God.
Have faith in God.
Have faith in God for the answer
Have faith in God.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 31, 2018: “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
Traditon

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

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 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 13, 2017: “Anticipation”

Anticipation

Anticipation is hope harnessed to a particular outcome.
It is faith focused on a deep desire, and charity channeled in a chosen direction. Delay creates anticipation; we must wait for the outcome, the desire, and the direction. Anticipation keeps our waiting time from being a waste of time. As we preview the anticipated outcome our faith grows and the direction we have chosen is confirmed.

We do not wait for things in a spiritual void; we have promises to hold on to, prophesies to believe, and a covenant to cling to. Quietly, deep in our spirit where His Spirit abides, a voice speaks, “Hold on! It’s coming! God has promised!” The voice comforts and encourages us, building a stronger anticipation. Further delays are processed through this three-fold filter of faith, hope, and love so that setbacks are never seen as final.

As another week begins, let us anticipate God’s faithfulness.
Fresh from our Lord’s Day expressions of thanksgiving, praise, and adoration, we are confident that God will continue to be true to His Word this week. There may be sleepless nights this week, even tear-filled nights, but in the morning we will dry our eyes in confidence that the tears of the night will soon be only a memory as the faithful sun rises in the east and the Faithful and True Son rises in our hearts.

We will sow good seed this week, precious seed. Plowing the fallow ground of our own hearts is not easy work for the rocks are plentiful and they lie in surprising places. As a descendent of Adam, this sweat of our brow is necessary if we are to ever have a harvest. We will also water the seed others have sown in relationships and Kingdom work this week. This relational work is as important to the anticipated harvest as is the sowing of the seed. When the harvest comes, those who have sown in tears and those who have gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed shall doubtless join those who have faithfully watered the seed and tended the field and all shall come rejoicing bringing their sheaves with them.

The farmer plows and plants his field in anticipation of the harvest.
The harvest is his hope, his field of faith, and his labor of love. We also,

  • sow the good seed of the Word of God in our own hearts,
  • sow good deeds of mercy into the lives of others,
  • abundantly water the work of the Lord in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and
  • scatter the good seed of the Gospel in every field we enter and upon every path we walk.

We joyfully anticipate the harvest, not because we are great farmers, but because the field is the Lord’s and the seed is precious, powerful, and perennial.

Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Psalms 30:5 NKJV; 126:5-6 KJV
Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NKJV
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
2 Corinthians 9:6
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my confidence is in You and Your faithfulness. The only sure thing the world can offer me is pain. You, Father, offer me much more—abundant life—guaranteed by Your character. Let me echo the theme song of the Old Covenant, “Lord, You are good and mercy endures even to my generation!” I enter this day full of anticipation of good and perfect gifts from above. I anticipate victory in every conflict, endurance in every trial, wisdom in every dilemma, and joy in every circumstance. Your Word will light my path. Your voice will sound in my spirit and Your peace will be my song. In short, I anticipate Grace today! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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

October 11, 2017 “Joy!”

Joy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scriptures:
Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
John 15:9-11
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete
Nehemiah 8:10
This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 1, 2017 “Inheritance”

Inheritance

“The Reading of the Will” is always a solemn occasion.
In theatre and cinema, this scene is a staple of mysteries, comedies, high dramas, and stories of families in generational strife. Someone has left someone an inheritance and the details are about to be given.

Attorneys are present, not just the one who handled the will, but others whose clients might be blessed or cheated, depending on what is in the will. High drama, low comedy, clouds of hate and envy, pipe dreams and evil schemes fill the air:

  • If the one whose will this is was hateful and mean, there is great fear.
  • If the benefactor was kind and loving, anticipation quickens every heart.
  • If the departed one was neglected by those who should have cared, taunt faces and wary eyes seem ready for an ambush.
  • If a stranger has befriended the neglected party, suspicions lace every look and remark aimed at the outsider.
  • Plays and films feed on stuff like this.

As Christ-followers we have an inheritance laid up for us on the other side of life.
Like the scenes described above, there are details of our inheritance that we will not know until we are in heaven. We see tantalizing hints in the Scriptures:

  • “At Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore;”
  • “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is;”
  •  “…the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…;”
  • “…For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable…”
  •  “In my Father’s house are many mansions…”

To put it in high theological terms: This going to be fun!

Until then, we have what the Bible calls the “earnest of our inheritance.”
Modern translations call this the “guarantee” of the inheritance. The Amplified Bible gives others shades of meaning: “…the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste…”of our inheritance in glory. We have wonderful things “over there” and we have the Spirit of God on this side of heaven.

Of this portion of our inheritance we know much. We have:

  • The forgiveness of sins through faith in the Blood of Christ,
  • The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit,
  • The constant covenantal care of the Heavenly Father,
  • The family of God for fellowship and spiritual enterprise,
  • The private altar where the Refiner’s Fire burns and the Launderer’s soap sanctifies,
  •  Public worship where Jesus walks among us in healing, restoring power and mercy, and
  •  Deliverance from addictions and diseases and depression and any other chain hell has forged.
    We could go on and on.

We can read the will for ourselves; no attorneys needed.
No drama, no tension, no doubts, no schemes, no interlopers, can be found to cloud the air with uncertainty. The Spirit is our Guarantee, today and for all our tomorrows.

Psalm 37
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. …. The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish:…The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off. If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip. … The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
1 Corinthians 15:52-54 NIV
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Ephesians 1:13-14 AMP
In Him you also who have heard the Word of Truth, the glad tidings (Gospel) of your salvation, and have believed in and adhered to and relied on Him, were stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit. That [Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it–to the praise of His glory.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my portion in this life and the next. I rest in Your covenantal faithfulness. The Bible says You are coming and Your reward is with You. I believe. One day all sacrifices will be washed away from the memory by the presence of the reward—the inheritance. I will sow seeds in obedience today that will yield fruit both now on earth and then in heaven. My inheritance in You is one of time and eternity. Lord, You are my portion in this life and the next. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Oh I want to See Him
Words and Music: R.H. Cornelius

1.As I journey through the land, singing as I go,
Pointing souls to Calvary—to the crimson flow,
Many arrows pierce my soul from without, within;
But my Lord leads me on, through Him I must win.

Refrain:
Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face,
There to sing forever of His saving grace;
On the streets of glory let me lift my voice,
Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice.

2. When in service for my Lord dark may be the night,
But I’ll cling more close to Him, He will give me light;
Satan’s snares may vex my soul, turn my thoughts aside;
But my Lord goes ahead, leads whate’er betide.

Refrain

3. When in valleys low I look toward the mountain height,
And behold my Savior there, leading in the fight,
With a tender hand outstretched toward the valley low,
Guiding me, I can see, as I onward go.

Refrain

4. When before me billows rise from the mighty deep,
Then my Lord directs my bark; He doth safely keep,
And He leads me gently on through this world below;
He’s a real Friend to me, oh, I love Him so.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 10, 2017 “Act!”

Act!

A Sign in the Clouds
Just after one of our Florida afternoon rains, a vivid rainbow followed me home from a trip to the store. It was complete from end to end. A second rainbow, fainter than the first and much shorter and thinner, timidly smiled just to the south of the larger one. What a sight!–all the colors of creation spread like a painter’s palette resting in the clouds.

These heavenly signs were worth looking at. I kept turning to see the rainbow as I made the rights and lefts required by the small town streets of Bartow on my way home. The unusually bright rainbows stayed with me until I parked the car to stand, staring at the sky for as long as I dared.

A neighbor lady, out for her daily walk, was concentrating on something private and paying no attention to the artwork over her head. I thought she might be discomfited by my standing in the yard, so I waved to her and pointed to the sky. “Don’t miss the rainbows!” I said. She hurried on without looking.

A Sign of the Covenant
The rainbow is the sign of a covenant God made with man, never again to destroy the earth by floods. Of course the rainbow is only an optical illusion, a clever trick done with water drops and sunlight. I tried to imagine the first rainbow after the great flood. If it had never rained before the flood, there could not have been a rainbow before. Only Noah and his family saw the first one. The same voice that instructed Noah to that point of the adventure,  told him of the meaning of the sign.

The sign of the covenant was a symbol, a presentation of light and color bearing a message.  The rainbow is an illusion but the covenant and promises are real. God has been faithful to His promise even as the “days of Noah” have returned.

Two Parties in Agreement
An explanation of the ancient customs of the covenant is far beyond these paragraphs. Two parties, one greater than the other, agree to perform acts for their mutual benefit. The rainbow is the perfect representation of such an amazing thing as a covenant between God and man—beautiful, ethereal, real but untouchable.

The Poet acts in an appropriate way when He demands action from God.

“It is time for you to act, O Lord…”

We are offended by the poet’s presumption. How can we demand anything of God? He is the greater partner in the Calvary Covenant. What right do we have to question Him?

These are modern concerns. The Poet, is exercising the ancient right of a covenant partner to call the other party to action according to the covenant. This is not pride or presumption—it is an ancient form of faith, a proper petition based on love and the expectation of God’s actions. The God-Who-Keeps-Covenant will act in our behalf.

Yelling at God
As we read deeply into the psalms we find many complaints from the poets. They don’t just complain about things; they complain to God. It is almost as if sometimes, they are yelling at God. Can this be right and proper?

The Lord “remembers our frame,” that we are only human beings. Sometimes we need to complain and the only One we can complain to is God. We can even yell at Him if we chose the time and place and do so in a very painful expression of faith. This not a public event—it is not for the worship service—it is private, intensely so.

How can this be? Won’t we offend God?

He does not turn away from us in our pain and He can handle anything we have to say to Him. He knows what is in us before we speak. When the air is clear of our complaint we will hear His gentle words of promise again— all the colors of grace in the bright rainbow after the storm–He will act!

Scriptures:
Psalm 119
I have done what is just and right; do not deliver me to my oppressors. Be surety for your servant’s good; let not the proud oppress me. My eyes have failed from watching for your salvation and for your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your loving-kindness and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; grant me understanding, that I may know your decrees. It is time for you to act, O Lord, for they have broken your law. Truly, I love your commandments more than gold and precious stones. I hold all your commandments to be right for me; all paths of falsehood I abhor.
Genesis 9:8-16 NIV
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you — the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you — every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
Psalm 142:1-4 NIV
I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your promises are sure, irrevocable, unchanging. Down here on earth it seems everything is subject to change. For all we can discern with our human intelligence, there seems to be a random element to creation. I cannot reconcile Your sovereignty with this randomness. When it comes my way, I will pour out my complaint to You in prayer and You will hear me. I know that nothing lies outside of Your sovereignty. You will act in my behalf! No matter how violent the storm, I know the beauty of Your Loving-kindness, like a full, double rainbow, will guide me safely home. Amen.

Song:
Hear My Cry, Oh Lord
Words and Music: Marvia Lee Providence and G.E. Peters

Hear my cry, Oh Lord, Attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth, Will I cry out to Thee.
When my heart is overwhelmed, Lead me to the Rock,
That is higher than I… That is higher than I…

For Thou hast been, A shelter for me.
And a strong tower, From the enemy.
When my heart is overwhelmed, Lead me to the Rock,
That is higher than I… That is higher than I…

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 2, 2017 “Waiting”

Waiting

Do you know anyone who is good at waiting?
Waiting occupies the time between the moment a need is realized until it is met.

  • It could be a few seconds, like waiting for the thunder after the lightning struck nearby.
  • It may be a matter of minutes as in waiting for your food to arrive after the waiter has taken your order.
  • We wait for days for an order we placed online to arrive in the mail.
  • It certainly is a careful accounting of weeks and months until a new baby arrives.
  • Perhaps we wait (and work) faithfully for years building the credits to be awarded the degree.

We wait seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years—and sometimes, a lifetime.

It would be accurate to suppose that any moment in anyone’s life is a moment spent waiting on something.

A Skill Learned in Childhood
Just when a child is old enough to communicate what he/she wants, he/she has to learn how to wait. Even as adults, we are never quite happy about “waiting our turn” if what we are waiting for promises to be pleasurable.

On the Path of Life, waiting takes its place alongside the other essential skills required by the prospect of getting from here—life on earth—to there—life in the glories of heaven:

  • Learning skills: reading, writing, listening, speaking—and waiting;
  • Spiritual skills: believing, confessing, praying, praising, reading the Word—and waiting;
  • Interpersonal skills: loving, being lovable, supporting, being supported, honoring; receiving honor—and waiting;
  • Financial skills: giving, receiving, saving, investing, spending, selling, buying—and waiting.

I need not go on.

A Skill Demanded by Adulthood
I don’t mean a certain age, though sometimes age and adulthood arrive simultaneously. What I really mean is spiritual maturity. Waiting is an exercise in faith, a demonstration of confidence in God, a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in advance of answered prayer.

Since waiting is something we all must do, let’s put a smile on our heart as we wait on God.

  • Parents of prodigals—God has heard your prayers and is at work in their rebellious, trouble hearts.
  • Pastors of troubled churches—keep preaching the Word, loving God and feeding the sheep. Jesus still brings down walls of hostility.
  • Worship Leaders and Lead Worshipers—keep praying and leading in prayer, praising and leading in praise. The Lord has promised to pour out His Spirit in the Last Days.
  • Students—keep on studying; salesmen keep on selling; managers keep on managing and workers keep on working.

Waiting is not passive inactivity. Waiting is the work life demands—the planting, watering and tending that brings the harvest.

Scriptures:
Psalm 130
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication. If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand? For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared.  I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy; With him there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
Hebrews 6:13-15 NIV
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
Psalm 27:13-14 NIV
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 37:1-7 NIV
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Jude 20-21 NIV
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Titus 2:11-14 NIV
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Romans 8:23-25 NIV
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me to wait in faith believing! When answers to prayers are delayed, I will wait in faith believing. When needs persist, I will trust in You and wait in faith believing. When it seems the enemy will win, I will wait for Your victory in battle. As I praise You, give me confidence. As I obey You today, going about my work as if everything is just fine, each completed task draws me closer to Your answer, Your provision, Your reward. I will wait upon You and You will renew my strength! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Waiting on the Lord
Words and Music: Charles F. Weigle

1. Waiting on the Lord, for the promise given;
Waiting on the Lord, to send from Heaven;
Waiting on the Lord, by our faith receiving,
Waiting in the Upper Room.

Refrain:
The Power! The Power!
Gives victory over sin and purity within;
The Power! The Power!
The power they had a Pentecost.

2. Waiting on the Lord, giving all to Jesus;
Waiting on the Lord, till from sin He frees us;
Waiting on the Lord, for the heavenly breezes
Waiting in the Upper Room!

Refrain

3. Waiting on the Lord, longing to mount higher;
Waiting on the Lord, having great desire;
Waiting on the Lord, for the Heavenly fire;
Waiting in the Upper Room.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

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