September 24, 2017

Honor

Not only does God deserve our worship today, He deserves our respect.
A necessary part of worshiping God is honoring Him. In the Bible honor is often linked to aspects of His character holiness, glory, power, wisdom, goodness, and worthiness. Honor springs from the profound humility of the worshiper and is an expression of gratitude.

Honoring God in worship is an act of obeisance to the Lord. Obeisance is defined thusly:

  1. a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission (as in a bow)
  2. an acknowledgment of another’s superiority or importance

Another word that signifies honor is homage:

  1.  respect or reverence paid or rendered
  2. something done or given in acknowledgment or consideration of the worth of another

Just as worship is an acknowledgement of the worthiness of God, honor is giving homage to the Lord. It is at one time both a deliberate act of obedience and a spontaneous reaction to the revelation of who God is by the Holy Spirit. In this way, spirit and truth come together as we honor the Lord:

  • We honor God from our spirit as we are led and empowered by His Spirit.
  • We honor God with our truth through total sincerity and according to His truth as it is revealed in the Word.

Honoring the Lord is a total, body, soul and spirit praise effort.
We honor Him in all aspects of public worship:

  • We prepare our hearts before the service.
  • We arrive on time.
  • We look our best in honor of the Lord.
  • We participate in the whole service.
  • We pay attention to what is going in the service.
  • We respect the Lord’s house and those who serve us there.

Today you will be led in worship. Let nothing hinder you. Sing the songs whether you like them or not. Focus your mind and heart on the Lord Jesus. Honor him with your attitude and actions as well as with what you say.

He is worthy, holy, good, merciful, powerful, just, and wise—He deserves the homage you bring, the honor you give.

Scriptures:
Revelation 4:8-11
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Revevelation 5:11-6:1
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Hebrews 2:8-9
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
1 Timothy 6:15-16
…the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Matthew 15:7-9
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”
Isaiah 58:13-14
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I honor You today. I honor You with my heart, my schedule, my mind, and with the songs I will be given to sing. Help me rise above my personal tastes to give You the honor due unto Your name. This is far more important than any other consideration. Thank You for the community of faith—my family of God. When we gather today, help us be one in Your worship, just as You prayed we would be. As we honor Your with our praise and worship, we will draw closer to each other. This is your plan. I will honor it today. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Words: Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans (Translated by J.M. Neal) Music: Melchior Teschne

1 All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the King of Israel and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming, the King and Blessed One.

2 The company of angels is praising you on high;
and we with all creation in chorus make reply.
The people of the Hebrews with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems before you we present.

3 To you before your passion they sang their hymns of praise;
to you, now high exalted, our melody we raise.
As you received their praises, accept the prayers we bring,
for you delight in goodness, O good and gracious King!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 22, 2017 “Faith”

Faith

Faith is both common and uncommon.
It is both prevalent and extremely rare. How does faith occupy such a contradictory status? Because faith must have an object; it must be connected to something else. The object of any faith makes it common or uncommon, prevalent or rare.

Common Faith. We have faith in bridges or we would never dare cross over on them. We are confident that an airplane will fly or we wouldn’t board. We are sure those drivers hurtling toward us going the other way at least ten miles over the speed limit, inches from our car, will stay in their assigned lanes. We trust our surgeon will know what to be do when he/she peers down into the hole he/she made in us, even though we had to sign a waiver to get them to do it. We believe what is printed on food labels in the store so we buy it expecting just that many calories and carbs. Faith in these kinds of things is common; action based on this kind of faith is prevalent.

Uncommon Faith. It is rare indeed and most uncommon to find someone who deliberately puts complete faith in the character of God as He is revealed in His Word. For support over dangerous streams or steep gullies they trust in promised angels, not manmade bridges. They board boats, trains, and planes and drive cars confident of the travelling mercies for which they have prayed. Their healthcare system rests on the Great Physician rather than the best care money can buy. They consider their bodies to be Temples of the Holy Spirit, designed to be cared for through faithful obedience to the One who designed the body and supplies to it an abundant life. Faith in these kinds of things is altogether too uncommon and action based this kind of faith is altogether too rare.

Let us be the exception.
Let us be people who believe the true report summarized so beautifully in Isaiah 53:

  • Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
  • As the Virgin-born Sin Bearer with no sin of His own Jesus has borne our sins far away.
  • The perfect One has healed us inside and out.
  • He has revealed the face of God to us even though we once hid our faces from Him.

We have believed the entire report of Scripture as the ancient Christian confession states:

  • Christ has died.
  • Christ has risen.
  • Christ will come again.

Faith is believing.
Because we believe in Jesus, we can be fearless and free to go anywhere He sends us and do anything He asks us to do. Jesus has us in His strong, resurrected arms. No power can overpower Him. No enemy can defeat this Mighty Warrior. All of God’s promises are true. He is the object of our faith. Most people place their faith in roads, bridges, and other drivers. They beleive in airplanes, food labels, and in all manner of precarious promises. Everyday life mixes people of the common faith and prevalent behavior patterns with those who live by uncommon faith in God and behave in ways consistent with His instructions. Let us be on the lookout today for someone who is ready to hear about a higher faith. May our joy and productivity reveal the object of our faith–Jesus!

This faith and these behaviors may be uncommon and rare, but this is the faith for which every human heart longs.

Scriptures:
Hebrews 11:1; 12:1-3
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
John 6:29
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
1 John 5:3-5
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.
1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Romans 10:17
… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Luke 17:6; 18:8
…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
2 Corinthians 5:7
We live by faith, not by sight.
Romans 1:17
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let faith arise in my heart. Let it propel me into this day with confidence. You are my faith and shield. You hem me in behind and before and I feel Your hand on me this minute. As the fiery darts of the enemy come my way today, my shield of faith quenches their puny flames. Faith in Your name which is the name above all names, propels my every step toward victory. Let my faith in You be the warmth in my touch, the tenderness in my voice and the peace in personality. Faith is the victory! In You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Faith Is the Victory
Words: John H. Yates; Music: Ira D. Sankey

1. Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies;
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

Refrain:
Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.

2. His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints before
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath,
Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

Refrain

3. On every hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.

Refrain

4. To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heav’n;
Then onward from the hills of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conqu’ring name.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 20, 2017 “Opportunity”

Opportunity

What Constitutes an Opportunity?
Sometimes an opportunity is an event, a moment that must be seized for it will quickly pass. At other times an opportunity presents itself as a gathering of individuals who need what we can do as much as we need what they can do. Together we have an opportunity we would not have separately.

On the Lord’s Day when we came together as the church to honor the Lord with acts of worship, our multiplied praises afforded us an opportunity to sense the presence of the Lord in a communal way. Every hour of every day the church is a community of faith, bound together in the name and power of Christ by the Holy Spirit. On the Lord’s day when we come together in one place, our awareness of the Monday-Saturday reality of our community is heightened. If we could all remember what an opportunity this is, we would treasure our time together in public worship.

Opportunities Each Day
Today, as the week continues different kinds of opportunity will come to us individually:

  • We will renew relationships with co-workers, those we like and those we don’t like as well as those who like us and those who don’t like us.
  • There will be work for us to do, opportunities to demonstrate our craftsmanship and skill. Work is also an opportunity to honor the Lord as we do our work in the name of the Lord, with all our energy, and as unto the Lord and not unto men.
  • As we work our way through the week, conversations will turn to spiritual things. These times are opportunities to speak the truth of God into people’s lives. We must be gentle and let the weight of the Word have its effect.
  • When people come to us with their problems, we have the opportunity to minister the healing power of Christ to them as we lovingly listen to their stories. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say.
  • Temptations may confront us. Times of trial are opportunities to obey the Lord and not our fleshly appetites.

It is likely this week will bring us

  •  “second miles” to walk with someone,
  • “cloaks to surrender to a someone who has already borrowed our shirt,
  •  enemies to pray for and do good deeds for, and
  • even a cheek or two to turn when we have already been struck once.
  • Needy people will cross our path and we will feel prompted to help.

All of these events are opportunities to please the Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer
In the prayer Jesus gave us, there is an overriding awareness of the opportunities the day will bring:

  • “Your will be done…”
  •  “Give us this day…”
  •  “Forgive us…as we forgive…”
  • “…the time of trial…
  •  “…deliver us from evil…”

Opportunities Today
Each day presents us with opportunites to do God’s will, to depend upon Him, to forgive others, to resist tempation, and to live holy lives in an evil world. We cannot know what the week will bring except for this: we know it will be filled with opportunities to please the Lord. What joy it will be to feel His smile as we worship, work, and witness in His name and by His power.

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:16-17; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 4:2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Ephesians 5:15-20
Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me keep my eyes open today for the opportunities You send my way. There will be good words for me to say, meaningful deeds for me to perform, ordinary duties for me to attend to, and people You put in my path for me to bless. Just as every hour is filled with minutes, this day will be filled with opportunities to life up Your name with my life. How the world needs to see You! I pray that you will be visible in me today. This is my great opportunity! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B. Wilson; Music: George S. Schuler

1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad; are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
Out of my life May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True ev’ry moment you live.

Refrain:

3. Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 17, 2017 “Presenting…”

Presenting…

Today’s worship service includes a special presentation.
In honor of the occasion, a valuable gift will be given to the honoree.  In recognition for outstanding services rendered far above all we could ever ask or think, a small but important token of esteem will be presented.  Though small the gift may be, it represents the best the giver has to give, the finest tribute available.

What is the occasion?  Who is the honoree and what has He done to deserve this honor?  What is the precious gift?

The occasion is the promised entrance of King Jesus.
The King of kings and Lord of lords has announced plans to inhabit the praises of His people.  In fact He has pledged to rule upon their worship and take their worship hall and their hearts to be His very Throne Room.

The gift for this special presentation is—your heart of praise!

There is more planned today than just the singing of songs.
The time has been designated as a worship service. This will be your opportunity to make your presentation to the Lord.

  • No one else can present your worship.
  • Without your voice the “Song of the Redeemed” is incomplete.
  • The “glory due His name” requires your contribution.

The Reasonable Service of Worship
You have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light for this purpose: to present to the Lord spiritual sacrifices because He has made you His Holy, Royal Priest.  He has lavished mercy on you without restraint.  In view of His mercy, it is your reasonable service of worship to present your whole self to him as a living sacrifice of praise.

There will be time in the service for you to present your requests to Him, but before you do that, present your praise to Him, your worship, your love, your deepest commitment.  He deserves no less a gift.

The Alabaster Jar—the Costly Sacrifice
As the service begins, go to the top shelf of your life and find your alabaster jar, your finest tribute—your time, attention, love and affection.  It has been hidden away long enough.  Break its container and let the aroma of it fill the house and mix with the combined scent from all the other alabaster jars as they are broken all around you.

This is the glory due unto His name! 
This is what we gather together in His house to do.  Think of it—Jesus will be pleased by your presentation!  In your heart you will hear Him say as He did to Mary of Bethany, “You have done a beautiful thing to me!”

Scriptures:
Psalm 29:1-2 NKJV
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 56:13
I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Matthew 2:10-12
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Matthew 5:23-24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Mark 14:3-7
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.  “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
1 Peter 2:4-10
As you come 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… 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.
Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are worthy of my praise! You have earned my worship today. Your faithfulness is more certain than the sunrise. Your loving-kindness shines through the darkest night—like a moon that does not wax and wane. Your promises are recorded for all to see and so is their effect—as sure as gravity pulls a river to the sea, Your Word rolls through my life as an increasing tide of grace. So today, on Your Day, I will present my thanksgiving to You; swing the Gate wide to take me into Your presence! I will proclaim my praise—take it to be Your Royal Throne! I will bow my heart in worship and adoration—take my worship to be Your holy nearness. In view of Your mercies, this is my reasonable service of worship. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 13, 2017 “Duty”

Duty

Sometimes hope shines from an empty tomb.
Sometimes it sings in the quiet following a violent storm.  Sometimes hope whispers inside us while the storm still rages outside. Always, hope hardens the will as each day we perform our duty.

Duty is not a thing of sadness, nor is it a thing of parades and marching bands.
Duty is the quiet song of the sparrow in the morning, at noon, and in the late afternoon, as the worthless little brown birds fly joyfully from bush to bush, doing what God made them to do.

  • They don’t get the press that eagles get, high on their perches or soaring almost too high to see.
  • They don’t signal doom like circling buzzards or danger like the watching hawk.
  • They don’t form graceful lines as they fly like geese overland or like pelicans over the sea.
  • They do not make formations that we can discern.
  • They fly close to the ground in short hops, almost falling even as they fly.

Yet, the Lord told us to observe and learn from birds as examples of the Father’s excellent care. Sparrows are the least of these. We are certainly more valuable to God than sparrows!

He does not look for graceful arcs or impressive appearance or stunning skills.  God looks for the one who will do his/her duty, day after day, night after night.  The Lord prizes the one of the humble and contrite spirit who hits the mark and performs the job dependably at each opportunity.

What is our duty?
As His ultimate creation, each person has a duty to honor God.  We honor God

  • Through consistent and faithful prayer,
  • Through constant consumption of the Word of God,
  • Through continuing compassion for others, and
  • By walking through the doors He opens for us and refusing to enter those He closes to us.

Solomon’s Experiment
King Solomon had the resources and the time to conduct a grand experiment to determine the meaning of life.  Like a good researcher, he reported his findings in a thesis called “Ecclesiastes.”

  • When life is lived in vain, Solomon’s observations are bitter and realistic —it is like trying to eat the wind.
  • His conclusion is the hope that strengthens the heart—love God and keep His commands; this is the whole duty of man.

King Jesus lived that life for us.
He did His duty, taking up the cross of God’s love and justice and bearing it to Calvary.  His command to us signals the start of every day and shines like a bright star through every night—take up your cross—your duty—and follow me. That duty may seem small and little noted by others, but it is the brief flight of a sparrow that holds the intense attention of heaven. Each sparrow is an eagle in heaven’s eyes.

We should not underestimate the power of consistent living.  As we live faithfully each day, hope shines from an empty tomb, sings in the quiet following a violent storm, and whispers deep inside us while the storm still rages outside.

Scriptures:
Matthew 6:25-28; 33 RSV
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? …But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
Matthew 16:24-27
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Isaiah 66:1-2
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD.”This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Acts 23:1-2
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
Ecclesiastes 1:12-14; 12:13 AMP
I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied myself by heart and mind to seek and search out by [human]  wisdom all human activity under heaven. It is a miserable business which God has given to the sons of man with which to busy themselves. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a striving after the wind and a feeding on wind…All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to do my duty to You today. I will sing Your praise. I will respond to You with worship. I will read Your Word and listen prayerfully as I read. I will perform the tasks You have given me to do today. These things I will do with joy, anticipating Your reward both now and in eternity. Thank You for bearing Your cross of pain so that I can follow You, taking up my cross of joy in serving You. Show me my duty, Lord, make it clear. I will obey. In Your lovely name! Amen.

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master
Words: Howard B. Groce; Music: Claribel

1. Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul’s fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

2. Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

3. Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 5, 2017 “Clarity”

Clarity

A heavy fog is a dangerous impediment to orderly travel.
Some drivers ignore the fog and continue to drive at their normal above-the-speed-limit speeds, a practice that is very hard to understand.

  • Fogs turn the presumed safety of multi-lane highways into a blinding menace. In the fog brakes scream and smoke, crashes, unseen but clearly heard, fill the thick air and lives slide and crash as our suppressed terrors become real though still unseen.
  • Daylight brings the horror into view, cars and trucks frozen at odd angles up and down, often merged into mangled sculptures of meetings missed, promises broken, lives interrupted, ended or hanging by a thread, and the occasional miracle of someone simply walking away unscratched.

Even on a clear sunny day, life can become a fogbound journey.
The way ahead is obscured by clouds hanging low to the ground, even to our shoe tops and we cannot see which step to take next.

We need clarity.

We need a fresh wind of the Spirit of God to blow our way, clearing the path before us.

Jesus told us the Holy Spirit moved like the wind in ways beyond our understanding but obvious in their effect in our journey. Like a morning fog, the warmth of the Word and the soft breezes of the Spirit can clear the air for us at the beginning of each day.

Why do we choose the fog over the sweet clarity of the Word of God?
It is not as though all our questions are answered.

  • Mysterious remain, things about God or life that lie just beyond our ability to understand.
  • But mysteries never form a fog bank. They are high flying clouds that momentarily hide the sun only to see it reemerge in light and warmth.

Mysteries cast only fleeting shadows on the path before us. The light behind them is constant and clear.

Of course, we must not be a fogbank to others.
In prayer ask the Lord to show you if your witness has clarity. Let the wind of the Holy Spirit breathe away any fog in your way of living that diffuses the light He has put in you.

Clarity from Him and clarity in witness to Him are ministries of the Holy Spirit.

Scriptures:
John 3:7-8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Job 28:23-28
God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord-that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”
Job 37:21-24
Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”
Psalm 68:1-3
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him. As smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God. But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Psalm 135:6-7
The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Jerermiah 51:15-16
“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Acts 2:1
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my constant source of light. When clouds of circumstance hide Your light from me, it is only for a little while. The Bible clearly states that nothing has and nothing ever will extinguish Your light. If today should be one that is overcast, send the refreshing winds of Your Spirit to blow away the cloud cover. And Lord, help me today that I will not cloud the vision of anyone else; not a seeker desperately seeking Your light or a fellow believer looking to me for help. Keep us all safe on the dangerous roads we must travel even when the fog rolls in. Safe in You, Lord Jesus. Safe in You! Amen.

Song:
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

August 28, 2017 “Gain”

Gain

Assessing gains and losses is a matter of interpretation of facts, rather than the facts themselves. Some gains are really losses and some losses are really gains. Context is important, because the bare facts of any assessment rarely tell the whole story.

  • A lower number on the bathroom scales in the morning reports a loss of poundage but a gain of more important things: discipline, reward, optimism, and hope.
  • A business loss can be magically transformed by the inscrutable tax code into a gain with the use of a magic potion called “deductions.”
  • The loss of a beloved, believing family member can be mitigated by the knowledge he or she has gained heaven.
  • In the worldly view, great gains can actually be terrible losses in heaven’s assessment.
  • In a Kingdom of God context, a loss can be a victory, a triumph of good over evil.
  • Business people know that in starting a new enterprise, losses will most likely mount before gains begin to accrue.

The scriptures help us shake all of this confusion down to a manageable, predictable prescription:

…godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6)

These two things act to level us when loss shakes the earth beneath our feet and steady us when success brings new challenges. The productive life is lived in a dynamic tension between these two opposites:

  • Godliness motivates us to act: writing wrongs, preaching truth, living holy, gaining ground, and “climbing the Hill of the Lord.”
  • Contentment compels us to rest: waiting on God, trusting the truth, quiet obedience, holding our ground, and “standing in the Holy Place.”

Sometimes we move at the direction of and in the power of the Spirit and at other times we rest at the direction of and in the power of the Spirit. At the point of balance between these two forces is a rewarding place to live. Truly, this is great gain and it is more than an interpretation—it is a fact!

Be patient today as you work or rest, the whole story has not yet been told. The heavenly books are still being written of your deeds of mercy in the name of the Lord. Obedience to the will of God is always counted as gain. Your prayers are still being collected in a golden bowl before the face of God. Be content in your obedience to God and confident of your inevitable gain.

Scriptures:
Proverbs 16:8
Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.
Luke 21:19
By standing firm you will gain life.
Mark 8:34-38
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Philemon 1:20; 3:7-11 NKJV
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,1if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Revelation 5:6-8
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders…He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Exodus 15:23-25 NKJV
Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I would make gains today! I pray that this 24 hour period will somehow make a mark in eternity. Each moment is a gift from You not to be squandered. Help me seize every opportunity to serve, hear every cry for help, see everything Your Spirit will reveal and taste the sweetness of everyday life. Just as for Israel in the wilderness, if there is bitterness in this day, may the Cross of Christ strike the bitter waters and make them somehow sweet again as did that ancient tree. As I count the day’s deeds, may Your smile be my greatest gain. Amen and Amen,

Song:
And Can It Be?

Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Thomas Campbell

1. And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Refrain:
Amazing love! how can it be?
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

2. ‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

Refrain

3. He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Refrain

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Refrain

5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Refrain

Amen.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 16, 2017 “Assignments”

Assignments

Weekends and Weeks
Here’s the routine: after the weekend of rest and worship, we engage in the work week. It is good to periodically conduct a review of our assignment.

  • What has God called us to do?
  • Where has He called us to do it?
  • What kind of a person has He created us to be while we set about fulfilling our assignment?

Our Assignments

  • In first instance, we are assigned to be excellent people. As representatives of Christ our moods and reactions, as well as our competence and actions, must reflect the nature of our Savior. As workers, our first assignment is to be someone who is pleasant to work with, cheerful in times of stress, dependable in our responsibilities, kind and respectful toward others. Those “Christians” who are bitter, cynical, suspicious, lazy, and grumpy busybodies and strife-mongers on the job have failed at their first assignment.
  • In the second instance, each of us has been or will be blessed with a craft with which we can take our rightful place in the world. For those of us who must provide for our families or our own lives, it is a great blessing when this life’s craft is the means of that provision. Others, may find themselves working at assignments that do not reflect their interests. These assignments are blessings from God also. Believers have the power in the Holy Spirit to transform their “jobs” into “ministries” simply by following the word of Paul to the Colossians: Let your work become worship—a holy thing!
  • In the third instance, we each have an assignment from the Lord in the mission of the church. In the imagery used by Paul, some of us are hands and others are feet, but we are all essential parts of the Body of Christ—the Church! Every church needs each of her members to accomplish his/her assignment from the Lord. When we fulfill our ministry assignments, we find joy for our souls, healthy exercise for our bodies, and rich nourishment for our spirits. We advance the Kingdom of God in our community and lives are forever changed.

Failure is bad.
When we do not take and complete our ministry assignments, two really bad things happen:

  1. Ministry goes undone as lives are not changed, pain is not relieved, and the truth remains untold to some.
  2. Some other member of the Body may have to try and be the hand they are called to be and the foot someone failed to be.

Their assignment is threatened because their energy and focus is diffused and our absence removes the special touch that God designed for us to share with others.

Today, knowing what your assignments are:

  • Who you are called to be,
  • What your are called to do in the community, and
  • What God has assigned you to do for Him,

You can say with Psalmist:

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Ps 118:24)

Your joy will endear you to your co-workers, provide you with your life’s needs, and bring a smile to your Savior’s face. What a great set of assignments you have!

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:16; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…
1 Corinthians 12:14
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Colossians 4:17
… “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my hand will find work to do today. I dedicate that work to Your glory. In do not just work for my boss; I work for You. I work to provide for those for whom I am responsible, but I recognize that You are my Provider. Lord, do not let me go about my work today unassisted—send Your Spirit to bless my work as a witness to You. I will not gossip or complain. I will be cheerful and encouraging to others. Let Your holy joy strengthen me today. All for Your Glory, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Song:
Jesus, Use Me
Words and Music: Jack and Billy Campbell

1. Dear Lord, I’ll be a witness
If You will help my weakness.
I know that I’m not worthy, Lord of Thee.
By eyes of faith I see Thee
Upon the cross of Calvary;
Dear Lord I cry, Let me Thy servant be.

Refrain:
Jesus, use me and Oh, Lord don’t refuse me.
For surely there’s a work that I can do.
And even though it’s humble,
Lord, help my will to crumble.
Though the cost be great, I’ll work for You.

2. I’ll stand for Thee, dear Jesus,
Whate’er the cost may be;
I’ll spread the gospel to the lost each day;
But if it be The will, Lord,
To send me o’er the sea,
I’ll follow Thee though death should come my way.

Refrain

3. He’s the Lily of the Valley,
The Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the Fairest of Ten Thousand to my soul;
He’s the beautiful Rose of Sharon,
He’s all the world to me.
But best of all He is my coming King.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 15, 2017 “Boldness”

Boldness

Boldness is expressed in bold thoughts and bolder deeds.
Bold deeds are celebrated in song and story, in reputation and renown, and in great shouts of victory as well as in quiet deeds of mercy. Boldness, then, is to be sought, a necessary thing for victorious living in this fallen world.

Boldness is a product born of its root.

  • Boldness born in myth will dissipate like a mist on the moors because it is a fiction born of a fiction.
  • Boldness born in the heart of man will strengthen his arm for battle where luck and random violence may bring either defeat or victory it really doesn’t matter.
  • Boldness of the mind of man, may actually make the soldier shrink from the fray if there is no hope of triumph saying, “Live, my son, the battle is not yours. Live to fight another day.”
  • Boldness conceived in the spirit, the God-consciousness of mankind, will insist on spiritual weapons even when the weapons of human violence are in plentiful supply. The weapons of this fight are mighty through God.

Choosing to be bold.
When the noise of battle can be heard over the horizon of the morning and the dust of an invading army clouds the early air, the soldier of faith must choose his/her brand of bravery:

  • Mythological,Human will and courage,
  • Human intelligence and cunning, or
  • The weapons of spiritual warfare.

If we choose to fight a spiritual battle with human weapons, all our efforts will be for nothing. If, however, if we choose to fight a spiritual battle with the weapons proven by the Lord Himself and those who followed Him, whose record we read in the Bible, we will see victory.

As each week begins:

  • We choose to praise God every day—praise makes us bold!
  • We give careful thought to the battles we choose to fight—the Spirit sharpens the mind for battle!
  • We recall the victory of Christ—all evil has been already defeated—such hope makes us bold!
  • We stand fully armed for battle with spiritual armor and the two-edged Sword of the Spirit—such weapons make us invincible!

Be bold this day, for the Lord stands tall in you!

Boldness is expressed in bold thoughts and bolder deeds.

Scriptures:
Proverbs 21:29
A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.
Proverbs 28:1
The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Psalm 138:1-3
I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.
2 Corinthians 3:12-13
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10;
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…
Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Prayer,
Lord Jesus, You are my strength, my victory. Because of You I can be bold today, facing the enemies who come against me and staring down the fears within me. Doing anything for You, Lord, requires courage and You are faithful to supply the boldness this day will demand. I have Your plan, the spiritual weaponry You have provided, Your empowering Spirit abiding within, and I am stationed with a mighty army. Some of my fellow soldiers are seen here on this earth and others move in unseen realms but all move toward victory. I can be bold. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Song:
Keep on the Firing Line
Words: Bessie F. Hatcher; Music: Alphus LeFevre

1. If you’re in the battle for the Lord and right,
If you win, my brother, surely you must fight,
Keep on the firing line;
There are many dangers that we all must face,
If we die still fighting it is no disgrace;
Cowards in the service will not find a place,
So keep on the firing line

Refrain:
Oh, you must fight, be brave against all evil,
Never run, nor even lag behind;
If you would win for God and the right,
Just keep on the firing line.

2. God will only use the soldier He can trust,
Keep on the firing line;
If you’ll wear a crown then bear the cross you must,
Keep on the firing line.
Life is but to labor for the Master dear,

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 9, 2017 “Advancing”

Advancing

Let’s collect some clichés:

  • Time marches on.
  • The times they are a changin’.
  • You can’t stop progress.
  • Life is passing you by.
  • This train has left the station.
  • If you are standing still, you are going backwards.

All of these timeworn phrases express a cynical view of the relentless advancement of the years.

There is another phrase that is filled with faith and optimism:

The Kingdom of God is advancing.

Two Inevitable Spirals

  • The Outpouring of the Spirit: There is nothing the enemies of God can do to stop the unfolding of God’s plan in the earth.  What God has promised, He will do.  He has promised a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the days of the New Covenant (Joel 2:28-32) and it is happening.  Each passing day advances the cause of the Kingdom—to seek and save lost things and destroyed people–by the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit.
  • The Great Falling Away: The apostle Paul warned of a downward spiral that will happen at the same time as the upward spiral of the Kingdom of God.  “The great falling away,” he called it. (2 Thess 2:1-12) He also warned that events would advance toward the revelation of the Man of Sin and lead to the final conflict between God and Satan.  Long before that moment of revelation, the spirit of iniquity, of lawlessness would advance through the world.

In a very real sense, each day offers us a choice. 
Which cause will we advance today?

  • Will we pray, read the Word, love God, love people, listen to God’s voice, and obey the Spirit as we interpret the world around us?
  • Or, will we yield to temptation, fulfill the lust of the flesh, feed the pride of life, and look for leverage with the lustful eyes as we advance the cause of error, waste, and destruction in the world around us?

The choice is ours.  Will we yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness or implements of violence?

The enemy is advancing. So is the Kingdom of God.
It is not difficult to detect the advancing forces of iniquity, deception, and violence in the world.  The advancing forces of righteousness, truth, and healing are more difficult to see.  Righteousness does not make headlines.  Deeds of mercy seldom go on trial to grab the attention of the nation.  Truth telling is most often done quietly, one-to-one, in the dynamics of personal relationships.

As spiritual people following the Lord Jesus, we need to look for the advancing cause of the Kingdom of God and join the quite parade of mercy.  Let us hear the drumbeat of the Spirit and get in step.

Scriptures:
Joel 2:28-32
‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 NKJV
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Romans 6:12-14  NKJV
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Ephesians 5:15-16; Col 4:5-6 NKJV
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Today I want to advance with You. Let me share Your inevitable progress toward the consummation of all things. Shield me from the snares of the enemy; show me his devices; uncover his subterfuge. Give me strength for ascent of Zion today as I climb the Hill of God to stand in the Holy Place. Give me endurance to run the race with patience. At the end of this day that You have made, let me be in a different place than when it began. Help me find higher ground! Amen.

Song:
Higher Ground
Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr.; Music: Charles H. Gabriel

1. I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain:
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

2. My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Refrain

3. I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Refrain

4. I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved