January 1 “Dove”

Dove

The Dove never flew away from Jesus’ shoulders.
When Jesus and John exchanged smiles and the great rush to repentance began, Jesus slipped away unnoticed. The Dove, always a visible manifestation of something invisible, faded from view. The inner reality of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit did not fade. In fact, the voice within Jesus was sounding louder than it ever had, insisting on one thing, “The Desert.”

Just as Mary pondered things in her heart, Jesus had much about which to think and pray. The booming voice from heaven that everyone heard served to signal to the repentant crowd and the doubting skeptics that events beyond their imagination were about to unfold and this Jesus would be at the center of them. Long after the sound had echoed through the farthest hills, the truth still sounded in Jesus’ heart:

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

The strong compulsion to leave Nazareth and the carpenter shop to Mary and her other children and seek out His cousin, John, was justified by this surprising declaration. Jesus had made it! He had emerged from childhood unharmed, from the teen years unscathed, and from young adulthood unmarked by sin. His Father in Heaven was pleased. Whatever lay ahead, Jesus would be surrounded by the love of the Father. Angels would always be standing by if needed. The hosts of heaven so accustomed to worshiping Him were now assigned to guard Him from earthly harm or hellish device. The dangers of His Mission would be many and ominous.

The Dove Within
Though the lovely white Dove was gone, the Holy Spirit abided within Jesus. The Spirit could do this because Jesus had never sinned. The Holy Spirit will not dwell in an unholy place. This was to be the chief difference between the Old and New Covenants—this abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the clean vessel. In the Old days, the Spirit would come upon a person for a specific task and then depart. The New Covenant Jesus would establish changed all of that. Sins, confessed and repented of, will be forgiven and cast away! The Holy Spirit, the beautiful Dove of Heaven, would come to dwell in each believer making us victorious witnesses to the Jesus Story.

The Call of the Dove
Gently but with great insistence, the Spirit whispered one word to Jesus, “Desert.” There was important work to be done there. The crowds would come later in the villages, the countryside, on the highways and in Jerusalem but now isolation was required. This was to be a new level of testing, of temptation, of proof of the calling. The flesh, already mastered in the routines of life, must now be disciplined at a new depth. Fasting, prayer, isolation and communion with the Father as the Spirit led, were now in order for the One who had come so far to do so much for so many.

Scriptures:
Mark 1:1-13 NKJV
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.
Scriptures on the New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit:
John 14:15-18; 25-26
John 15:26-27
John 16:5-15

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank for the Abiding Dove of the Spirit within me! This Spirit Baptism, so long ago promised by the prophets and recorded by the New Testament witnesses is a current reality. Cleanse me, O Lord! Refiner’s Fire purify this son of Levi that I might offer acceptable worship to You. O Launderer’s Soap, clean away even the particles of leftover wickedness that may linger in the fibers of my heart so that Your likeness can go as deep as possible into me. Empower me, O Holy Spirit to be a witness to this world of hope and love and peace and redemption flowing from You to all who will respond in faith. O sweet Dove of Heaven, abide in me! Amen.

Song:
O Holy Spirit
Words: Michael Schirmer; Music: Philipp Nicolai

1. O Holy Spirit, enter in,
And in our hearts Your work begin,
Your dwelling place now make us.
Sun of the soul, O Light divine,
Around and in us brightly shine,
To joy and gladness wake us
That we may be Truly living,
To You giving Prayer unceasing,
And in love be still increasing.

2. Give to Your Word impressive pow’r,
That in our hearts from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing,
That in true Christian unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Your glory ever showing.
Hear us, cheer us By Your teaching;
Let our preaching And our labor
Praise You, Lord, and serve our neighbor.

3. O mighty Rock, O Source of Life,
Let Your dear Word, in doubt and strife,
In us be strongly burning,
That we be faithful unto death
And live in love and holy faith,
From You true wisdom learning.
Your grace and peace  On us shower;
By Your power  Christ confessing,
Let us see our Savior’s blessing.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Mark’s Gospel Devotions are also available from KingdomWinds.com

December 30 “Savior”

Savior

In my imagination, I see a hill near Nazareth high enough to endanger the life of one who fell from its heights.
It commanded a peaceful view of the countryside below where fields of sheep and goats grazed in contentment. Well-traveled roads, footpaths really, could be seen approaching and crossing and diverging in different directions. People and their animals loaded with the burdens of the day occupied the roads. It was wonderful place to sit and think and pray.

Joseph and Mary met here often while they were waiting for Jesus to be born. The boy Jesus soon discovered this hill and, like all boys do, delighted in ascending its heights to sit and think and pray. As a carpenter’s apprentice, when the work was done in the late afternoon or in the early morning before the work day began, Jesus would climb this hill to meet with God.

A Heavenly Father
As a boy He could sense the presence of God in this place, a presence that was very much like the nearness of Joseph whom He loved dearly. In the presence of God there was something more somehow, as if He were the Heavenly Father. By His teen years, Jesus regularly considered God to be His Father in Heaven. He once spoke of this to Joseph who was not at all offended. He felt that way, too. Joseph and Jesus enjoyed long talks late at night about prophesies concerning Messiah. Jesus considered Joseph an expert in these matters.

Unavoidable Questions
When Joseph was gone, Jesus began to ask questions of Mary, questions about His birth. Mary prayed deeply about this before deciding that the time had come for Jesus to know the truth. On a Sabbath, they climbed the hill even though this was a questionable thing to do on the Sabbath. She told Him the whole story, the story we have told in this document. As she proceeded she watched His face to see how He was reacting. To her relief, He didn’t seem surprised at all. It answered so many questions that had lingered in His mind for as long as He could remember. For Mary, it was a burden lifted from her shoulders.

The Prophecies
After this, Jesus would often steal away to the hill to pray and consider the prophesies of the Redeemer. They were not comforting. Both angels in their declarations to Mary and Joseph had insisted that He be named Jesus, meaning Savior. “For He shall save the people from their sins.” He did not have to search for prophesies describing how this would be done. He knew that He must suffer for the sins of the whole world. He must have no sins of His own—he must go to the slaughter innocent, a helpless and pure lamb, the Lamb of God.

He could not foresee the circumstances of how it would come about, but from the beginning, He knew how it must end. He knew of other prophesies of great healing and restoration.

  • There would be forerunner who would prepare the remnant—God always had a remnant—to receive Him.
  • There would be a great joy set before Him enabling Him to endure the shame.

His entire humanity cried out against such suffering. He possessed the same will to survive that we possess. He knew that He would have to serve against this nature to do what must be done. The will of the Father must be done.

Scripture:
Luke 22:41-44 NKJV
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
1 Timothy 2:5-7 NKJV
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of the world—of my soul! I can never know the suffering You endured to accomplish this redemption but I can know some of Your joy in its accomplishment. The smile my worship can bring to Your face is part of that joy. The deep satisfaction of working for You to see good things happen here and now is also a part of it. Help me surrender my will to Yours every day—on this day, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
He’s the Savior of My Soul
Traditional Chorus

He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.
He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.

Your sins He’ll wash away.
Your night He’ll turn to day.
Your life, He’ll make it over anew.

He’s the Savior of my soul. Jesus, my Jesus.
He’s the Savior of my soul.
He’s the Savior of my soul.
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions can also be found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 28, 2017: “Pretense”

Pretense

Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.
Jesus walked in truth through a world of deception.

  • Once, the world was “good” in the eyes and judgment of the Creator.
  • Now, it was bad, corrupted by the contents of the human heart.
  • Once, the True Religion of the Covenant with Jehovah was pure and powerful, running like a well-tuned clock ticking off the hours of prayer through the day and the night, the seasons of the year, and the generations to come.
  • Now, it was putrid and pitiful, reeking of the power-grabbing machinations of Herod and Caiaphas. They had turned the Covenant with God into a power structure for sinful leaders, smart in the ways of men but ignorant of the ways of God.

A World of Pretense
They misjudged Jesus, thinking of Him as unlearned and unsophisticated, an opponent scarcely worthy of their superior skill. So they pretended.

Luke 20:19-20
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.

They were defeated before the game even began.
Jesus saw through their pretense like a clean window made of the clearest of glasses. Their wicked hearts were laid open to His perusal. He found hate, ambition, deceit, violence, and duplicity coursing through their veins, sourced in and pumped by those wicked hearts.

They thought they had Him this time; they would ask a question that had no correct answer.

Should faithful Jews living under Roman occupation serve God or Caeser?

With the simple toss of a Roman coin, He answered the unanswerable question:

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Stunned, there was only one course left to them, something that had never tried before; “they kept silent.”

We laugh at them, but we should also learn from them.
Let us keep silent in prayer so that the holy light of the Holy Spirit can search our hearts. Because we are human, pretense may lurk in our hearts, too. The world doesn’t need any of our preening pretense; the world needs to see real followers of Christ—people who walk in His steps, people with a different vocabulary, a cleaner sense of humor, a higher sense of honor and a genuine sense of purpose. Life isn’t a show; it is a real life drama. We do not “present” ourselves to this world, we occupy it. We do not “strut and fret our hour upon the stage,” as Shakespeare said that actors must do. We live a larger life than a play within a proscenium, a theatrical stage. Our story is one of eternity, a grand narrative of good conquering evil, light destroying darkness, and life defeating death.

Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.

Only the foolish think they can fool God.

Scriptures:
Luke 20:19-26 NKJV
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 19:7-14 NKJV
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Help me be real as I walk through the events of this day. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O God my strength and my Redeemer. May my choices reflect the values of Your Kingdom. May my actions spring from Your love in my heart. May my story be yet another chapter in Your grand narrative, the story of God’s love come to earth, God’s compassion reaching to the wounded hearts of men. Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Cleanse Me
Text: J. Edwin Orr; Music: Maori Melody

1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.

2. I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, when once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
3. Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride;
I now surrender; Lord in me abide.

4. O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival—start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply the need;
For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 26, 2017: “Gratitude”

Gratitude

If you want to go in, you have to find the gate.
There is a biblical way to approach Almighty God, a way He has commanded us to take.  Gratitude brings you before the King.

Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

As we seek to gain entrance to the presence of the Lord today, a day that He has made, let us do so with the most profound gratitude we can generate.

  • Dire problems may weigh heavily upon our spirits; lay them down at the door.
  • Doubts may plague our minds; set them aside.
  • Divisions may exist among brothers and sisters; call a truce.
  • Dependencies of all sorts may inhibit our concentration; depend on the Holy Spirit.
  • Destitution may have driven every choice we made all week; choose gratitude today.

There is only one way in.
His Name is Jesus, forever the Door to the Kingdom of God.  He is the Gate of Thanksgiving.  When we can count nothing else in life as a blessing, we can always look to Him and find reason to give thanks.  The writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus opened up a “new and living way” by the destruction of His own earthly life and body.  In the face of this unspeakable sacrifice, the veil in the temple ripped from top to bottom and the way to the heart of God was declared “Open!”

Let us be thankful.

Because Jesus bore our sins far away, we can enter the presence of the Holy One without fear. Without the atonement of Christ, our sins would not only disqualify us to enter His presence, our guilt would consume us to our destruction.  Because of Jesus we can stand before God as if we had never sinned.  The indictment against us has been nailed to His cross.

Let us be thankful.

Through Jesus we were emptied of the guilt of sin.  Now we have been filled with the precious gift of His Spirit!  We are being regenerated to life new and unending.  Old things pass away as all things become new.  There is power in us now to defeat the old nature of sin, and even when we do not, the Lord Jesus is there to forgive us for all our sins as we confess them to Him.  By the Spirit we can hear the voice of God deep within us.  We can obey His instructions and we can watch His power work through our humanity to help heal the world.

Let us be thankful.

This is the day for it!
The joy and the power of the presence of the King are on the other side of the Gate of Thanksgiving.  As Isaiah said, “Go through the gates!” Gratitude brings you before the King.

Let us be thankful.

Scriptures:
Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 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 generations.
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!
Mark 15:37-39 NKJV
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Hebrews 10:19-24
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,   because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Thank You for laying aside Your deity and becoming a human like us. Thank You for submitting to the facts of this life: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood to show us how it should be done. Thank You for revealing God to us. We don’t have to wonder about God—all we need to do is look to You. Thank You for Your victorious walk through this life, conquering sin by the power of the Spirit. Thank You for submitting to betrayal and injustice, pain and death to win my forgiveness and redeem my life. Yes, I will enter Your gates with thanksgiving today—what else can I do? Amen.

Song:
Give Thanks
Words and Music: Don Moen
Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
(Repeat)

And now let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us.”
(Repeat)

Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

Give thanks.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 24, 2017: “Vision”

Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 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

October 31, 2017 “Responsibilities”

Responsibilities

The Big “I”
Did you ever notice how many times the letter “i” is found in the word, responsibilities?—4 times!  Excessive, don’t you think?  No wonder we tend to think that fulfilling all our responsibilities depends on us.  Since we do not form theology on numbers and letters, it is good to sort out the relationship between us and the things for which we are responsible.

Responsibility vs. Power.
Many people seek power; others accept responsibility.  These are not the same thing.  Power is the partner of pride. Responsibility is the ally of humility.  There cannot be a wider gap between two attitudes.  The Jesus way is to accept responsibility; the devil’s way is to seek power.  The Scriptures make it clear:  God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

The sources of human power range from physical prowess, to political position, to financial force, to intellectual influence.  All this power is rooted in a fallen, but still able, human capacity to desire, plan, and produce.  Personal power is essentially selfish and self-sustaining using any means available.  Pragmatism, not principle, pushes the protagonist from deed to deed, drama to drama without concern those who get stepped on from scene to scene.

Responsibility only gets headlines when connected to crimes.  Indeed, the life of responsibility in the things of both time and eternity begins when one accepts responsibility for one’s sins.  We do not blame parents, or teachers, or culture; we accept the blame ourselves.  With godly sorrow comes repentance and then, amazingly, forgiveness from the Throne of God and of the Lamb.
Soon, this new creature, forgiven and filled with the Spirit of God, seeks not power, but responsibility.

Jesus, Use Me!
The old song said it well…

Jesus, use me.  And, oh, Lord don’t refuse me.
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. (Jack Campbell)

Salvation brings a desire to serve.  All of life is redefined according to the teaching of Jesus:

  • The desire to come in first becomes the desire to put Jesus first.
  • The desire to be a star becomes the desire to be a servant.
  • The desire to lead becomes the desire to be led by the Spirit.
  • The desire to be in the driver’s seat becomes the joy of being a passenger, liberated from watching the road and seeing the world rush by the window while the sky lingers in the distance.

Taking Up Our Cross
Just as Jesus carried the cross, we shoulder the will of God for our lives, the set of responsibilities we are privileged to carry in the will of God for us.  Sometimes there is pain because we are sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings.  Sometimes there is breathtaking joy as we see the work of the Spirit of God being done in the arena of our calling.  All the time there are our responsibilities, not burdened with “I’s”, but joyfully blessed with His—His strength, His wisdom, His victory, and His approval.

Scriptures:
James 4:6 NKJV
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
2 Corinthians 7:10-11 10 NKJV
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Mark 8:34-38
… “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?
Mark 9:35
… Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 10:41-45
…Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Romans 8:12-17
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation…(to live) by the Spirit … because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children… heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Matthew 25:21
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want my life to count for You—I want what I do in my time on earth to matter in eternity. . Help me follow Your example and shun power while welcoming responsibility. Help me be the kind of person others can depend upon. Give me broad shoulders so I can carry the load You want me to carry. Give me a careful mind so I can remember the right things and forget the things best forgotten. Give me a caring heart so that I can be sensitive to others and to Your Spirit. Defend me against distractions that would get me off the job You have given me to do. Keep me focused on You and the work of Your Kingdom today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Refrain:
Jesus, use me, o Lord, don’t refuse me,
Surely there’s a work that I can do.
Even tho’ it’s humble Lord help my will to crumble,
Tho’ the cost be great, I’ll work for You.

V. 1 Dear lord I’ll be a witness, if You will help my weakness.
I know that i’m not worthy, Lord, of You.
By eyes of faith I see You, on the cross of cal-v’ry,
Dear Lord, I cry, “let me Your servant be”

Refrain

V.2 He’s the Lily of the ValleyThe 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

October 23, 2017: “Dreaming”

Dreaming

When you go to work this morning, don’t leave your dreams at home. 
Take them with you. The work you will do today has direct impact on your dreams.  It may not seem so until you really think about it, but, as we walk the Path of Life, no moment is given without purpose.  Each day and each duty within the day has a dual purpose.

  • There is the immediate use of that block of time for the job at hand.  This is obvious and to keep your job, it is an absolute necessity.  We must keep our mind in the game, if we want to succeed.
  • There is also a long range use of our time today.  God is at work in unseen spiritual realms affecting the physical world we inhabit.  As we frame each day in morning and evening prayer, each day is sanctified for the Lord’s purposes.  If the events of the day go as planned; all is well.  If they do not; all is still well!

God’s covenantal promise is to make every day count for our eventual good because we have been called according to His purposes.

He reveals these long range purposes to us through our dreams, our inner, guiding vision.  God gives us a guiding vision of who He wants us to be and a divine revelation of what He wants us to do.  This revelation of tomorrow helps you take on the demands of the day.  When you take your phone and your computer with you out the door, don’t forget to bring your dreams along.

Dreams and Visions
For those whose work is less than fulfilling, the days can be long and tiring.  Don’t forget that the job you have but do not like is not your dream.  Husbands dream of providing for their wives.  Wives, at home or on the job, dream of a better home for their husbands, more time together, and a deeper love for each other.  Moms and dads go to work each day dreaming of a better life for each of their children

  • when they are little and their needs are so close by,
  • when they are teens and they are starting to pull away to form their own lives, and
  • when they are adults and have transformed into friends whose dreams you share.

All of these future provisions from the hand of God are tied to the work facing us this Monday morning.

For those whose daily work is what we always dreamed it would be, the days can still be long and tiring.  The challenge remains; make this day count!  Artists who are blessed to make a living with their creativity are always dreaming.  Most of these dreams will be years in the making.  Today’s work must count as another layer of preparation, another session of practice, another pre-production experiment and another step closer to the dream: the novel, the play, the screenplay, the song, the album, the exhibition, the concert, the ensemble, the role of a lifetime, and of course, “the body of work,” that grand collection of all you have created for the use of others.

There is an essential role for the Holy Spirit in our dreams.
He writes them, produces them, and projections them onto the screen of our minds.  Do not neglect the Spirit’s work in your heart.  Your dreams press meaning into your work today.  Without the guiding dream from God, you may do a terrible thing—you might waste this Monday.

When you go to work this morning, don’t leave your dreams at home.  Take them with you.

Scriptures:
Jeremiah 29:11-14 11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Joel 2:28 / Acts 2:17
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.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Proverbs 29:18 KJV / NIV
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Romans 8:28-30
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 5:8-17
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You supplied me with an imagination. This means I can “see” things with my mind. I invite the Holy Spirit to heal me of wounds and evil words spoken over me that prompt any disparaging visions within me. Install in me a vision for my life that is based in Your Word and Your will. You have a plan for me; help me find it and walk in it. On the job today, show me realities that are helpful in my work. Give me vision and insight. Give me the courage to dream the dreams You have for me! Supply me with the courage to follow those dreams for Your glory. Amen.

Song:
Be Thou My Vision
Words Translated: Mary E. Byre; Music: Irish Folk Song

1 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2 Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3 Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
be Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;
be Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,
O raise Thou me heav’nward, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
be Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

5 High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys, after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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 10, 2017 “Doing”

Doing

A King’s Last Command
King David, sensing death nearby, whispered to his chosen son Solomon a word of advice that would make his life a blessing.  “My son, do the work…”

Some people are good at planning things to do, but seldom get around to actually doing them.  Others talk a good job but never seem to be caught actually working.  Still others carefully time their entrances and exits when the work ends or when it is just getting started so that to the casual observer it looks like they have done something but they really haven’t done anything.  There are also dreamers who imagine themselves as productive people but their deeds are also merely dreams.

We can’t do anything about those kinds of people.  We can only make sure we are not found in their company.  If we have made plans, let us get busy doing what is necessary to achieve the plans.  If we can “talk the talk,” let’s make sure we also, “walk the walk.”  Let’s put as much thought into finding out what needs to be done and lending our strengths and efforts to the tasks as others do avoiding work.  Let’s bring our heads down out of the clouds and get our hands dirty with the work that must be done.

Wisdom for the Ages
King David’s charge to his son Solomon as the moment of this transfer of power is one of the most useful pieces of instruction in the Bible.  Twice David told his son to, “Do the work.”  This is wisdom for the ages.

When we see those we admire for their great abilities, there is more than talent on display.  We are observing the effective work of someone who has “done the work” it took to develop talent into skill.

  • Talent, the ability to readily learn to do something, is God’s gift to us.
  • Skill, the ability to do something well, is our gift to God.

One of the most amazing things about watching an orchestra play in concert is the realization that in the space of an hour or so of musical presentation, we are reaping the benefits of countless hours of lessons and practice, drills and rehearsals on the part of the players.  One doesn’t learn to play an instrument well without “doing the work.”

Faith without Works
In the New Testament the Lord’s brother warns us that our faith is demonstrated by what we do, not just by what we know and certainly not by what we say.  The apostle makes it clear that each believer has work to do for God, not to earn his/her salvation by good deeds outweighing bad ones, but by demonstrated the power of the redeemed life.  We are called to be more than good planners, exciting talkers, clever work avoiders, or useless dreamers.  We are called to me people of good hearts and good deeds.  Our hearts have been cleansed by the washing of the water and the Word and our daily deeds are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This week, do not be a hearer only; be a doer!  Hear King David whispering across the ages of time, “Do the work!”

Scriptures:
1 Chronicles 28:9-10; 20-21
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”… David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
1 Peter 3:11
… turn from evil and do good…
James 1:22-25; 2:18-19
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.
Hebrews 13:16
… do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth… Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Colossians 3:17; 23-25
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.
Ephesians 2:9-10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, all around me today, there is work to be done for You. Help me to see it and to do my part of it. Some tasks are one-time events and therefore are opportunities not to be missed. Other work is part of a longer process. These jobs won’t be finished today but the work we do today is important to the final result. Help me function as a problem solver on the job today. Give me the solutions my co-workers are looking for. Help me esteem my fellow workers as brothers and sisters. Let me be the kind of person they can count on. May the work of my hands be praise and worship unto You, today! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

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