July 21, 2017 “Fools”


Sometimes they make us laugh. Sometimes they bring us to tears.
Some of them are harmless and others are deadly. The one thing all fools have in common is this: they look for a response from us.

If fools set out to amuse us, they succeed only if they get a laugh. If, on the other hand, they set out to deceive us, they succeed when we are distracted by their skills and take their lies to be truth. Entertaining fools are dangerous when deception is their goal. They make us laugh while they make us listen. They fascinate us with their antics while they demonstrate the wisdom of their foolishness and the folly of our wisdom.

The Poet identifies these dangerous fools for us. They hold a common theology.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

These are fools on a mission—to convince created beings that there is no Creator.
They peddle the preposterous notion that this is a universe of chance. Their faith is in the idea that absolutely everything came from absolutely nothing. They strive to convince us that there is no God, no afterlife, and no Judge to whom we must give an account.

To these jesters:

  • Human life has no intrinsic value beyond that of insects and plants.
  • Life only has a meaning when we give it one.
  • Humans only have the rights granted by the state and none “endowed by their Creator.”
  • The human soul is destined to perish with the body and the human spirit is a persistent fiction.
  • There is no such thing as talent—environment is the source of all abilities. (No one can be called “gifted” if there is no “Giver!”)
  • Human behavior is raw instinct, like that of migrating beasts.
  • Young men and women cannot control their impulses and neither can adults—urges, no matter how degrading, are not to be mastered by the will—they are to be obeyed as self-actualization.
  • The mind of man is the greatest intelligence available.
  • Truth is whatever we need it to be at the moment.

Fools seem to be in charge everywhere. We need to be wary of their shows and systems, their games and gambits, and their lessons and lies. If we are not careful we can laugh our way into tragic error as their performances pollute our thinking.

What to do?

Don’t be a fool.

  • Open your eyes to their charade.
  • Tune your ears to their dissonance.
  • Think through the hidden messages in their movies,
  • the content of their concerts, and
  • the idolatry of their images.

Fill your heart and mind with the truth so that lies are easily seen.
Fools: sometimes they make us laugh. Sometimes they bring us to tears. Some of them are harmless and others are deadly.

The one thing all fools have in common is this: they look for a response from us.

Psalm 14
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” All are corrupt and commit abominable acts; there is none who does any good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise, if there is one who seeks after God. Every one has proved faithless; all alike have turned bad; there is none who does good; no, not one. Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers who eat up my people like bread and do not call upon the Lord? See how they tremble with fear, because God is in the company of the righteous. Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, but the Lord is their refuge. Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.
Proverbs 10:14; 23; 11:29; 15:2 NIV
Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin. A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom. He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
Isaiah 59:9-16; 20-21 NIV
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. …”The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Lord Jesus, unlike the fool, I have declared in my heart that there is a God and He is You! I look for You everywhere and find You there. I listen for Your voice in all that You have made and in the Book You gave us. I somehow see Your face deep in my spirit where Your Spirit abides. It is not a fleeting glance; it is a long, lingering look that changes me from the inside out. This process of saying in my heart that You are there informs me against the lies of the fools. It braces my mind against the abuse of those who sing and dance and laugh and seek to make me jump to their arts. I will not. I will look to You and be wise. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Be Thou My Vision
Ancient Irish Hymn

1. Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

2. Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

3. Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

4. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5. High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 27, 2017



It takes understanding to solve a puzzle.
Call it discretion; call it wisdom; call it knowledge; call it insight; call it discernment, call it what you will, understanding is the thing we all need all the time. With the gift of understanding we organize invisible things. We place random things in a context that orders them aright. Understanding turns notes into a song. It sequences events into a narrative. It shapes words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into a message received.

Wise old King Solomon says it this way: “With all thy getting, get understanding.”

Ours is not the way of understanding.
The pieces of the puzzle just don’t seem to fit

  • The culture around us has substituted education for understanding, facts for truths, and images for insights.
  • We live in a world of surfaces: shining, attractive, commercial, and shallow.
  • Depth is for nerds.
  • Understanding is for the senile.
  • The joys of irony, the mysteries of paradox, and the wonders of the enigmatic, are lost in the flash of attention spans measured in mere seconds.
  • We numb our souls with chemicals and hypnotic entertainments because we prefer such temporal medication to any meditation of the eternal.

The good news is this: This random world has not been abandoned.

  • To this shallow world comes a Man of great depth.
  • To this chaos comes a Spirit of order and peace.
  • To the overmedicated mind comes the Balm of Gilead, the Sun of Righteousness, rising with “healing in His wings.”
  • To this wiggling, writhing population comes a Father who does not waver and whose embrace brings stillness.
  • To this decaying world comes its Creator, whose words still call wonders into existence, a future New Creation, foreshadowed now as the twice-born heart of a child of God.

With all our getting, let us get understanding.
In every company where Christ-followers labor, there should be at least one office, one work bench, one station, one workplace that is the Office-Place of the Lord. People know who among them can pray. They know whose opinion is not just so much noise. They recognize the co-worker or the boss or the subordinate who has understanding. Him or her they seek out. It may be a quick question at the water cooler or a whispered conversation in the break room or a sidebar in a staff meeting, but they know who might have an answer to be trusted, an insight to be shared. There are those in every company whose feet seem to have a lamp, and whose path seems to be illumined by a light source from somewhere else.

We must be those insightful, wise, discerning, discrete, understanding people, for no one else can be.

In this way we follow the 12 year old Jesus. We must be about our Father’s business.

Puzzle solved.

Psalm 119:73-77 NKJV
Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant. Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.
1 Chronicles 22:11-13 NIV
“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
Proverb 4:7
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
James 3:13-18 NIV
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
1 Coriinthians 2:13-16 NKJV
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy* Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”* But we have the mind of Christ.

Lord Jesus, the Bible makes an outlandish claim: “We have the mind of Christ!” That cannot possibly mean that I am as smart as You. It means that I have You in me, including Your amazing mind. Help me listen to Your Spirit within as He brings to my mind what You have said. Give me insight into the puzzle of life that I may solve some of it every day. Let the principles You teach go so deep into my heart, that I live by them every day—today, Lord! Amen.

Open My Eyes that I May 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