November 19, 2017: “Gathering”

Gathering

“I can feel just as close to God at the beach or at home as I can in church.”
We’ve all heard people say something like that. But, is it true? That depends on your church, I guess.

  • Let’s assume that the beach is the best it can be: white sands, soft breezes, warm sun and soothing surf.
  • Let’s imagine the home at its best: comfy chair, TV remote in hand, or perhaps the quiet comfort of your sun room.

Can you imagine church at its best?

  • The people are friendly as they welcome you in.
  • The music welcomes you in spiritually.
  • As you praise the Lord with your brothers and sisters, you begin to sense the very presence of God Himself.
  • Prayer goes forth, powerful prayer in the House of God and things are going to change for people. You just know it.
  • The offering plate comes by you and you contribute to the work of God in your community.
  • The Pastor preaches a message straight from the heart of God to your heart.
  • At the end of the service, the altar call is given and someone comes into the family of God for the first time.
  • Someone else renews his relationship with the Lord and is warmly embraced by the family of God.

You leave the House of God stronger than when you came. The King James word is “edified”. But, not only are you different, you have been a part of a process that helps others. Public worship edifies the believer and also redeems a lost humanity.

None of that happened at the beach or on your comfy couch.

What does the Bible say?
But, that’s enough of my imagination. The writer to the Hebrews writes a great passage on this subject. It amounts to this instruction—

“Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.”

The writer tells us that as the end-times approach, the habit of many believers will be to avoid public worship. We are warned not to forsake the gathering. When we gather together, we encourage one another and actually provoke each other to love and good deeds.

Public Worship is not optional!
I believe the word of the Lord to us is this: If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, you must gather together with other believers. Each of us has a place in the family of God each time the family gathers. God expects each of us to unite with a local body and support His work through that body. If you have fallen into the “habit” of not attending worship, you have cut yourself off from all that God has for you. Your church could be struggling needlessly without your financial support and the work of God for which you are responsible goes undone.

With each new year we make such towering promises to ourselves. There is no reason to wait for a new year. Today, let’s put this one at the top of the list. Say it with me, “I will be faithful to—The Gathering.”

Scriptures:
Hebrews 10:22-25
Therefore brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Psalm 82:1 NKJV
God stands in the congregation of the mighty…
Psalm 111:1 NKJV
Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Joel 2:15-17 NKJV
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord , And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
Psalm 22:25-26 NKJV
My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
Psalm 35:18 NKJV
I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.
Psalm 149:1 NKJV
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints.
Psalm 145:1-7 NKJV
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness.
Psalm 68:24-26 NKJV
They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; Among them were the maidens playing timbrels. Bless God in the congregations, The Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
Psalm 73:1-3; 16-17 NKJV
Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. …When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me — Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, on this, Your day, You will be my focus as a gather with the saints in the House of God. I will offer unto You the Sacrifices of Praise, Thanksgiving, Adoration, and Worship. I will lift my voice to sing with the saints as You have commanded. I will take joy in Your Presence and be stronger for it. I will listen to Your Word proclaimed in power and let it find a shelter in my heart. I will touch and be touched by the People of God for such fellowship is a hard-won privilege from Your nail-scarred hands. I will pray with Your people in faith and agreement so that Your Kingdom will advance. Let all things be done decently and in order so that the church will be edified and Your name be lifted high. Lord Jesus, on this, Your day, You will be my focus as a gather with the saints in the House of God. Amen and Amen.

Song:
O Worship the King
Words: Robert Grant; Music: Joseph Martin Kraus

1. O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

2. O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3. Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

4. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

5. O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 12, 2017: “Adore”

Adore

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully.

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

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

Worship anyway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 10, 2017: “Shame”

Shame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe it. Accept it. Live in it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 7, 2017: “Silence”

Silence

Every silence means something.
There may be an absence of sound, but there is always a presence of meaning. Absolute silence is rare. It is the province of outer space. Here on earth there is always sound. I’ve heard it said that the universal pitch of creation is B Natural. I don’t know if that is true but what we usually mean by silence is a lack loud or unwanted sound—quiet. In music a measured period silence is called a rest. The old conductor’s joke is: “What do you do on a rest?” The student replies, “Nothing.” “Wrong,” says the leader. “You count.” Rests are not restful in music.

Selecting Silences
Many of us long to linger by the ocean and we call it silence when it is really quite noisy with wind, waves, and shore birds. It feels like silence to us because we don’t hear motors or crowds or loud speakers. Our silence is really the absence of manmade noise. It is the same with the country or the woods. There is plenty of sound but it is not the sound of the city, of civilization. It is the sound of rest and not work, of relaxation not tension.

The Psalmist claims silence as a form of prayer:

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

Silence and waiting are joined together in prayer.
A place of prayer should be place free from noise. We must find a solitary place where only the sounds of creation accompany our time with the Father. There is enough noise in our souls; we don’t need the clanking clamor of man’s devices. We need silence of the soul to hear the still, small voice of God. We don’t even need the ticking of the clock. Waiting on God in prayer is the suspension of time—there are no clocks in heaven. In this silence our strength is renewed like the eagle.

Silence and Faith
When there are no answers for a question facing us, silence is needed. Perhaps we have already written a “pros and cons” worksheet and we still can’t see the way forward. It is time to be still and know that God is God. It is enough to know that He knows and doesn’t need any information from us. Faith is sometimes expressed best when we close our mouths and just trust in what we know God has promised. Overwhelming circumstances shrink in this silence to a manageable size. This quiet faith reminds us that God knows and cares and is on the scene.

Silence and Hope
Silence simplifies life. One of the three greatest things in the world, according to the Apostle Paul, is hope. Hope does not shout, it whispers. When the noise of the moment subsides, we hear the beautiful drone of hope. It was there all along but it was drowned out by cacophony of life. Hope is like what is called the tonic in music. It is the note C in the Key of C. The song starts there and wanders far away through all the other pitches in the scale but in the end it returns to the tonic, to C, and we are at rest. Hope is always singing to us; silence helps us hear the song again.

Choose Silence Every Day
The Path of Life is the path of silence—choose to walk it every day. Today, turn off the speakers and machines and the other noise makers so you can hear the silence.

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

Scriptures:
Ecclesiastes 3:7 NKJV
…A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
Exodus 14:13-14 NKJV
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Psalm 62  (BCP)
For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken. How long will you assail me to crush me, all of you together, as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall? They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor; lies are their chief delight. They bless with their lips, but in their hearts they curse. For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my safety and my honor; God is my strong rock and my refuge. Put your trust in him always, O people, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge. Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, even those of low estate cannot be trusted. On the scales they are lighter than a breath, all of them together. Put no trust in extortion; in robbery take no empty pride; though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, that power belongs to God. Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, for you repay everyone according to his deeds.
Luke 21:19 KJV
In your patience possess ye your souls.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, quiet my soul today that I may hear Your voice within. I may face, like the prophet, a mighty wind today—let me weather the storm. My world may shake like the tremors of an earthquake today—help me stand steady until the shaking stops. A consuming fire may threaten to destroy what I have—keep me safe from its flames. After all these devastations have done their worse, I know in the silence that follows, I will hear Your still, small voice and know that it is well with my soul. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
Be Still My Soul
Words: Katrina von Schlegel; Music: Jean Sibelius

1.  Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2.  Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3.  Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away.

4.  Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 5, 2017: “Due”

Due

A three-letter word can have a powerful impact.
When used in the sentence from Psalm 29, the impact is one of definition and perspective. Our worship must be defined and measured by the glory due unto the Name of the Lord.

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.

We must not define our worship by what pleases us, reflects our nature and preferences, or satisfies our humanity. We must not measure our worship by our standards or those of the surrounding culture. We must define our worship by the details of His wonderful name. We must measure our worship by the standard of the glory due God Himself. When something is due someone, it means they have earned it. It is theirs by right.

This changes everything about what we do on Sundays.
It takes the focus off us and places it back on the One who should be the object and the subject of public worship. Public services should be about giving unto the Lord before it is about receiving from Him. It should be about pleasing Him, not about pleasing ourselves. We should come before His presence with the Sacrifice of Praise, seeking to experience the revelation of His glory. We should not be presenting targeted music to targeted audiences in order to draw them in. “The glory due His name” leaves no room for a diffusion of our passions; they must be spent on the pursuit of the manifestation of His divine presence. The results of worship are blessings to be enjoyed but the blessings we receive are not our motivation. The truth of “it is more blessed to give than receive” is born out in true worship. We bless God and He blesses us in response.

When Jesus Walks among Us
In Luke chapter four, Jesus was asked to read the scriptures in His hometown synagogue. It was a tough audience filled with friends and family, fellow businessmen and former customers, and people who hadn’t forgotten the shadow over the marriage of Joseph and Mary and the birth of Jesus.

Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah of the ministry of the Messiah—an amazing list of benefits He would bring into the lives of those who worshiped Him. With the rapt attention of the worshipers, he initiated the Good News of the New Covenant.

Luke 4:21-22 NKJV
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Nothing less than a riot ensued. His friends took Him to the brow of a hill to throw Him off. He stared them down and walked through the mob like the Israelites through the Red Sea.

When Jesus Walks among Us
Jesus’ quote of Isaiah describes the thing Messiah will do when He visits His people. The list is amazing:

Luke 4:18-19 KJV

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and
recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

When we give Him the glory due unto His name, Jesus walks among us in power:

  • To preach the gospel to the poor,
  • To bind up the broken hearted,
  • To set captives free,
  • To give sight to the blind,
  • Set those who free who have been deeply injured, and
  • Preach the Day of the God’s visitation.

This visitation of God among His people is the need of every generation gathered in the house of God. This is what the world needs from the church.

What prevents these blessings from being the routine? God’s promises are true and His character is beyond question. Surely the fault must lie in our worship, our public presentation focused on people rather than God.

What can we do?
We can recalibrate our theological instruments by the standard of the Glory due His name! We can recommit to biblical methods and principles in our planning and leading of worship. True Worship begins in the heart of each worshiper and extends to the healing of the nations.

Scriptures:
Psalm 29 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. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is
full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!” The Lord sat en
throned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.
Revelation 4:8-11 NKJV
And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, sayi
ng: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Revelation 5:9-14 NKJV
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today, I will not measure my praise by my comfort or by what pleases me. I will lend all my humanity to the prospect of giving unto You the glory due Your name. I will hold nothing back. I will give You glory. I will give You praise. I will honor You for You are worthy. I will tune my heart to heaven’s music and fix my mind on the revelation of who You are by the Spirit. Your name will be my song; Your holiness it’s majestic tune and angel voices will harmonize with me. This and more is what is due unto Your Holy Name. Praise the Lord! Amen.

Song:
Come Now O Royal Priesthood

Words and Music: Stephen Phifer

1. Come now, O Royal Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Praise,
The fruit of lips that sing His Name, the song of ancient days.
Made holy by His Righteousness, made regal by His Grace,
Come now, O Royal Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Praise.

Refrain:
O sing unto the Lord Your King
And make the Courts of Heaven ring!
Let the measure of your praises be “the glory due His Name.”
Come now, O Royal Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Praise!

2 .Come now, O Holy Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Love;
The first commandment now obey, affections fixed above,
Where Jesus reigns in majesty on a Throne of Truth and Trust.
Come now, O Holy Priesthood bring the Sacrifice of Love.

Refrain:
O sing unto the Lord Your King
And make the Courts of Heaven ring!
Let the measure of your praises be “the glory due His Name.”
Come now, O Holy Priesthood, bring the Sacrifice of Love!

3. Come now, O Holy Nation, for the King is calling you
To stand for Him and live for Him, a people brave and true;
Ambassadors of Heaven with Heaven’s work to do.
Come now, O Holy Nation for the King is calling you!

Refrain:
O sing unto the Lord Your King
And make the Courts of Heaven ring!
Let the measure of your praises be “the glory due His Name.”
Come now, Holy Nation, for the King is calling You!

4. Come now, O Purchased People, come and follow close your King
for He has bought your souls from hell and given cause to sing.
The debt of love we owe to Him compels the love we bring.
Come now, O Purchased People come and follow close your King!

Refrain:
O sing unto the Lord Your King
And make the Courts of Heaven ring!
Let the measure of your praises be “the glory due His Name.”
Come now, O Purchased People, come and follow close Your King!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 22, 2017 “Extol”

Extol

What is the difference between exalting the Lord and extolling the Lord? 
Since dictionaries tend to use “exalt” as a synonym for extol, finding the meaning can be confusing.  However, a comparison of how the words are used in the Psalms reveals the distinction:

  1. Extolling the Lord is the accumulated exaltation of the Lord.  The word “extol” (and its KJV equivalent “bless”) is usually given in the context of the corporate worship of the people of God.
  2. Individually, each of has the capacity exalt the Lord—to honor Him with the highest place in our hearts, to tell of His excellence, to sing of His grace and in many other ways acknowledge His greatness.
  3. When the people of God gather and we all begin to exalt Him, our praise accumulates as together we begin to extol.

OT:5549 calal (saw-lal’); a primitive root; to mound up (especially a turnpike); figurative, to exalt; KJV – cast up, exalt (self), extol, make plain, raise up.
OT:1288 barak (baw-rak’); a primitive root; to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration),  KJV – X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank

Let us extol the Lord!
Today we will gather in the House of the Lord to mount up our praise, to exalt the Lord together!  The volume of sound in the room will mount up.  In the spirit realm, the value of the sacrifices of praise of the people of God will mount up to the heavens.  Just as the instrumentalists and the singers became “one, to make one sound” in praising and thanking the Lord, when King Solomon dedicated the Temple, the unity of personal exaltation of God becomes a corporate unison of bodies, souls, and spirits, as we join the hosts of heaven to extol the Lord.  Heaven and earth meet at His footstool to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

This is one celebration we dare not miss!  This is a gathering in the Spirit.

  • Here we are seated together in heavenly realms for our exaltation has mounted up and the pleasing aroma of our collected sacrifices of praise has accumulated into a sweet smelling savor to God Himself.
  • Jacob’s ladder has been extended from eternity’s throne room into our moments and days.  Angels now ascend and descend with armloads of grace.
  • The Lord we extol presides over this gathering, His precious Spirit quickening yielded hearts and melting cold ones.
  • The focus is on the One Who Sits Upon the Throne, the Lamb, Slain Before the Foundation of the World who has formed for Himself a people out of every tribe and tongue and nation, a Kingdom of Priests and Priesthood of Kings to sing His praise.

And we have a place there. 
We have a verse to sing in the eternal song, a harmony to add, a grateful tear to shed, splashing at our feet, running together with all the grateful tears of the Redeemed and flowing together into the full tide of the River or Life.

How wonderful it is to join the throng, to sing the songs of time and eternity, to exalt God with all our might, and to see our sacrifice of praise mount up with all the others until it is high praise indeed.

Scriptures:
Psalm 34:1-3
I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 95:1-2
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psalm 109:30
With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng I will praise him.
Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Psalm 145:9-12
All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Psalm 147:12-14
Extol the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
Psalm 149:1-6 NKJV
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand …This honor have all His saints. Praise the LORD!
Hebrews 12:22-24
… you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are worthy of all praise. Help me add my song to the song of the multitudes around Your throne. Amazingly, my heart-song has a place in this symphony! You have called me out of darkness into Your marvelous light expressly so that I might praise You with the saints gathered in grace. This is no solo; this is the ensemble of the ages, the choir and orchestra of the Redeemed! Together, from steadfast hearts, we sing and make the music of praise and worship. This amalgamated song of heaven and earth rises above exaltation to status of High Sounding Praise as we extol You! Bless the Lord, O My soul! Amen.

Song:
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Lowell Mason

1 O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!

2 My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
to spread thro’ all the earth abroad the honors of your name.

3 Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease,
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,’tis life and health and peace.

4 He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean; his blood availed for me.

5 To God all glory, praise, and love be now and ever given
by saints below and saints above, the Church in earth and heaven.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 15, 2017 “Praise!”

Praise!

Everything that exists in time has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
Worship is no exception. Praise is the starting place for a service of worship. Psalm 100 states that praise is the gateway to the courts of the Lord. We enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving.

If your worship leader understands his/her ministry, the praise part of the service today will enable you express your gratitude to God for His faithfulness to you. There should be an opportunity to boldly and joyfully proclaim the praises of God, perhaps with the ancient words of a biblical psalm or with a classic hymn of praise with four stanzas: one for the Father, another for the Son, still another for the Spirit, and a fourth for the Kingdom of God. You may be led in a contemporary song that extols the majesty and love of God or the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. However it is done, praise is the starting point.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Praise focuses our minds on God and not on us.
  • Thanksgiving humbles us before our God.
  • Exaltation of the Lord Jesus establishes His heavenly Kingdom here on earth.
  • The Lord responds to our praise with His presence and His sovereignty.
  • The praise of the Church is heard by the spiritual wickedness arrayed against us.
  • The greatness of God is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
  • If there is un-confessed sin in our hearts, humility leads to repentance.
  • Praise renews the mind and clears away any confusion we may have collected during the week.

Tempo is not the Issue.
Songs of praise do not have to be fast songs. Sometimes a slower song that really exalts the Lord can be an excellent starting place for a worship service. Many times, though, our bodies need a little help getting into a worship state of being. In times like these a little bit or rhythm can help us release our praise. A catchy tune can help us recall the words of scripture so we can enter into the service.

It is an act of obedience.
Praise has another strategic advantage: it is not a matter of feeling. Praising God is not an involuntary or emotional reflex, it is an act of obedience. The Bible says the Lord is pleased by the Sacrifice of Praise. King David set the example in a terrible, judgment-filled moment of crisis when he refused to offer a sacrifice to the Lord which costs him nothing.

Today, become a proactive praise-er.
Go ahead and praise God whether you like the music or not. Lift your heart, your mind, your hands, and your voice in praise as act of obedience. Don’t wait for a feeling. Let your praise be a costly sacrifice. It may cost your comfort, your position, your pride, your dignity, or even your embarrassment, but if you praise the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will find yourself through the gates and into the presence of the Lord.

Scriptures:
Psalm 22:3,
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. KJV … You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Psalm 147:1
Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
Psalm 103:1
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generation
James 5:13
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
2 Samuel 24:24
I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ephesians 3:10-13 10
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, if I learn anything at all from the scriptures it is that You are worthy of praise. Your excellence is beyond our understanding so what we must do is celebrate it. Thank You for making praise and thanksgiving the gateway to Your presence. How fitting and pleasant it is for Your people to give thanks for all You have done and to praise You for Your excellent greatness. You found us in the darkness of our messed-up lives and brought sweet healing light to our souls. Now You have called us out of darkness for the purpose of proclaiming Your praise. This I will do today! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: Chester G. Allen

1. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory,
strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children;
in His arms He carries them all day long:

Refrain:
Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness!
Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!

2. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
For our sins, He suffered and bled and died;
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
love unbounded, wonderful, deep, and strong:

Refrain

3. Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
crown Him! crown Him! prophet and priest and King!
Christ is coming, over the world victorious,
power and glory unto the Lord belong:

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 13, “Paying”

Paying

Justice or Injustice?
Jesus was the only human being who understood what was really happening that dark Friday.  Throughout the night He had stood before the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities as they took turns abusing Him.  The religious authorities used words and fists.  The political leaders used false praise, fists, whips, a crown of thorns, and a mocking kingly robe.  They all knew exactly what they were doing.  Yet they could never have imagined what Jesus was doing.

He was no passive prisoner at the mercy of cruel men.  He was Prince of Heaven on an earthly mission fulfilling His part of the grand enterprise of redemption.

With the cross on His back, the crown pressed into His bleeding head, and with His back beaten raw by the Roman whip, Jesus walked the Way of Suffering, through the narrow city streets, crowded with uncaring onlookers.  The pitiless procession passed beneath the balconies of the well-to-do, living in finery and festive pride as well as second-story villains of all vices.  Windows closed at the sight of another execution underway; it was no concern of theirs.  They did not understand what Jesus was doing—for them—the price He was paying

The crowd grew as the parade passed through the city gates toward the Place of the Skull.  More and more people came to enjoy the ghastly spectacle.  They could never have known what was really happening before their eyes.

About fifty days hence, praise in countless languages would capture their attention and Peter would stand among them to explain what Jesus had done. Three thousand would remember this day on that Day of Pentecost and they would believe.

On that Friday, they did not believe.  There was nothing to believe.  That nice man who spoke so well and helped so many people must have done something wrong to be given the sentence of death. Surely this was justice. They were sure this was another tragedy of a young man defeated by the entrenched leaders of the nation. Perhaps it was injustice.

Soldiers, horses with ropes, hammers, nails, curses, and crosses were lifted against a darkening sky.  Rain, thunder, and wind made the work harder and the soldiers angrier and more brutal.

Jesus spoke but only a few heard what He said.  They didn’t know what He was doing, the price He was paying.  Their confusion rang out in abusive taunting shouts:

“He saved others but he cannot save himself!”
“Come down from that cross, if you are the Son of God!”
“Healer!  Heal yourself!”

In the rain, soldiers gambled for the robe He had worn.  As one last irony, they nailed Pilate’s sign into place, reading, “The King of the Jews.”

Pilate didn’t know the truth He spoke.
As the storm on Calvary reached the private chambers of the palace, the Roman Governor could not shake the feeling that he wasn’t in control of these events.  He pondered Jesus’ answer about his power to take Jesus’ life or give it back to Him.  “You would have no power all except what you have been given from above.”  Could a higher authority be at work in this bloody business?  It was true, Jesus was doing what He came to do.

Jesus was paying the price, the ransom, the debt.  He was paying for our redemption, laying down His humanity for the sake of all humanity.  The perfect sacrifice, He was making atonement for us. He was opening a “a new and living way” for us to enter into fellowship with God.

That terrible Friday, Jesus was paying the cost with all that He had—and it was enough!

Scriptures:
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 20:28
…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
John 19:9-11
Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
1 Timothy 2:4-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.
1 Cornthians 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.
Galatians 1:3-5
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 85:9-10 KJV
Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never was there such injustice than at Calvary. You were more than innocent, You were holy—with a holiness tried in the fire of life here on earth. You had no sins of Your own but You took the judgement for my sins, for all the sins of mankind. Justice and injustice mingled together in Your blood at the foot of the cross. Because You paid the price, I can face this day forgiven, a new creature, standing before God as if I had never sinned. I can pass through the new and living way You opened for me to dwell in peace at Your throne. Thank You, Lord, for paying the price. Amen.

Song:
Jesus Paid It All
Words: Elvina M. Hall; Music: John T. Grape

1. I hear the Savior say,”Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

Refrain:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,He washed it white as snow.

2. Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow’r and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots And melt the heart of stone.

Refrain

3 For nothing good have I Where-by Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Refrain

4 And when, before the throne, I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”My lips shall still repeat.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 1, 2017 “Majesty”

Majesty

We long for majesty, for events of significance on a grand scale.
While there are times when we want to snuggle up in Father’s lap, each of us also wants to stand in awe of His majesty. We need the majesty of the King of kings and Lord of lords on the highest throne in heaven or on earth. We long for His majesty.

Isaiah 9:6-7
… the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever

The prophecy of Isaiah speaks to the universal human need for majesty. When political systems and politicians fail to serve the interests of the people, those who serve Jesus can look forward to government resting securely on the shoulders of a leader who can balance governmental increase with peace. Jesus’ administration for a thousand years of peace will also be a time of unprecedented productivity as each of us finally fulfills the potential God created us to exercise.

The public mind is fascinated with ceremonies.
On a small scale, we rely on family weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and memorial services to mark the passages of life. On a much larger scale, we love pageantry. We watch royal weddings, coronations, and passages of power from one leader to another. In America we feast on the parades, inaugurations, political conventions, award ceremonies, and championship games.

We want to be a vital part of a grand enterprise of cosmic significance. We want to locate our meaning somewhere in a great cause—“truth and justice for all.” Too often our institutions and leaders fail us. Any peek behind the pageantry reveals the absolute corruption of absolute power. We keep on hoping that the next congress, or administration, or court will embrace righteousness and we keep on getting our hearts broken.

On this day there is one who reigns with truth and justice for all. His name is Jesus.
He has shed His blood so that we can come before the same Throne seen by Isaiah under the Old Covenant and by the Apostle John under the New Covenant. The writer to the Hebrews describes the throng before the Throne.

Hebrews 12:18-24
You have not come to (Mt. Sinai) … you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

In Lord’s Day worship we take our places among the angels, saints, elders and flying creatures to sing of the majesty of God. The doorposts of Heaven shake with the sound of our music. Louder still is the sound of crowns crashing to the golden floor at the feet of the One Who Sits upon the Throne.

Breathe the atmosphere of His presence. Feel the vibration of His limitless power. See His majesty!

Scriptures:
Isaiah 9:6-7
… the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever
Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Revelation 4:2-5:1
… I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures… Day and night they never stop saying: “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.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I echo the words of the psalmists: “The Lord Reigns!” Grant me a new vision of Your majesty—of a Savior from heaven, born to this earth, walking this life, killed on a cross, exiting a sealed tomb, walking this earth again in resurrection power, ascended to the throne of heaven and ruling now in absolute love. As I worship today, let me hear the sounds of singing angels, swooping around Your Throne. As the door posts of heaven shake, so also shake my heart so that I am changed to another increasing degree of glory. Let the train of Your robe fill the temple and cover my heart. May all the petty concerns that seek to occupy my time, fall victim to Your Majesty! Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty! Amen and Amen.

Song:
Majesty
Words and Music: Jack Hayford

Majesty, worship his majesty;
Unto Jesus be all glory, honor, and praise.
Majesty, kingdom authority,
Flow from his throne unto his own, his anthem raise.

So exalt, lift up on high the name of Jesus.
Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus, the King.
Majesty, worship his majesty,
Jesus who died, now glorified, King of all kings.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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