February 19 “Bethany”

Bethany

We must minister to the Lord if we are to minister to the world.
After the rigorous events in Temple and teachings He gave the men, Jesus was tired. He retreated to one of the few places on earth where He was made welcome, Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most of what we know about these sisters and their brother comes from other accounts so we will not treat them here. This particular dinner was at the home of a former leper names Simon. It is likely that Martha and Mary helped Simon put the dinner together. Lepers were not known for social graces.

A Plot Brews in Jerusalem.
The defeated leaders of the people in Jerusalem were hatching another plot against Jesus. He was not concerned. He was beyond their trickery. As they were about to proceed, the brightest among them realized that it was near the time of the Passover, not a good time for a political ploy. They decided to wait for a more opportune time.

A Celebration of Joy
It is easy to imagine that this dinner at the home of Simon, a former leper, was a joyous celebration. Add to the healing of Simon the celebration of the resurrection of Lazarus and you have the makings for quite a party. Martha hurried here and there in the unfamiliar, dreadfully ill-equipped kitchen working her hospitality magic just as if she were home in her own well-designed kitchen.

Mary was there, too, in her customary place at the feet of Jesus. She had prepared for this scene by secretly bringing a gift for Jesus, her most valued possession, a flask of expensive ointment. She was oblivious to the noise of laughter and of fellowship. Her focus was on Jesus. She was waiting for the right moment—not a moment for others, but a moment just for her and Her Lord.

The Alabaster Flask
The moment came and she knew it. There was no change in the room as she removed the flask from her loose clothing. No one noticed as she broke its seal. When she started to release its contents into her hands and then on to Jesus’ head, the aroma of the ointment filled the house. Silence stole over the room as Jesus smiled at her with tears in His soft eyes. He knew what she was doing.

The Twelve did not smile. This was a waste of a valuable commodity. Someone, Judas probably, did the math and announced what a blessing this could have been to the poor.

Jesus did not agree.

“Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.”

He reminded them—again—that these days were of a special season. The poor will always be available but these moments will not come again.

“She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.”

The party mood was gone now. Jesus had one more thing to say as the heavy fragrance hung in the air. It was about the preaching they were going to do.

“…wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

From that moment, worship and preaching the Gospel have been linked. Each needs the other.

We must minister to the Lord if we are to minister to the world.

Scriptures
Mark 14:1-11
After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there are moments to be seized in this life; do not let me miss them. Mary worshiped You without regard for the opinions of others. Let me learn to do that! She ministered to You with the best gift she had. Let me learn that lesson, too. I will not offer to You a praise that costs me nothing. Holy Spirit, show me how to focus on Jesus as I worship. I want to sense deep in my spirit the same commendation that You gave Mary. “You have done a beautiful thing to me.” Lord, help me, as she did, to do what I can! Amen and amen.

Song:
Broken and Spilled Out
Words: Gloria Gaither: Music: Bill George

1. One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn
And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a pris’ner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Refrain 1:
Broken and spilled out Just for love of you Jesus
My most precious treasure Lavished on Thee
Broken and spilled out And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

2. Lord You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me
The love of the Father
Just for love it was done
And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Refrain 2:
Broken and spilled out Just for love of me Jesus
God’s most precious treasure Lavished on me
You were broken and spilled out And poured at my feet
In sweet abandon Lord You were spilled out and used up for Me

In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 23 “Gifts”

Gifts

The tradition of giving and receiving gifts at Christmas comes from the gifts at the manger.
In the gifts presented in the stable that holy night we see the whole Gospel Story:

  • Gold represented the birth of the King of kings.
  • Frankincense spoke of the way of worship Jesus would open for each of us.
  • Myrrh signified that Jesus was the Anointed One, the Christ, the Savior of the World.

In the light of all this, the gift of the heart is the only reasonable gift we can give this Christmas.

The Gift of the Heart
The heart is the most important gift I can bring to the Lord. If my heart is proud, it is not ready yet to be given. I need to expose it to the Word and presence of the Lord for softening. If my heart is full of unholy things, I need to fill it with truth as a proper gift to the King. Jesus would later say that a spoiled heart could only present corrupted worship.

Gold
Gold has value as a medium of exchange—commerce moves when gold changes hands. The gold of the wise men was needed by the King and His family in the days ahead. They had taxes to pay and a trip to Egypt to finance. Gold was a beautiful and practical gift for the Child.

Gold is also a symbol of royalty. Kings deal in gold.

  • They bank it as the measure of their wealth.
  • They build their palaces with it, decorating their surroundings with significant reminders of their worth.
  • They adorn their bodies with gold.

When the wise men gave gold to the Holy Family, their gift spoke eloquently of true royalty. All the kings of the earth should bow before this King!

Frankincense
Less familiar to us than gold is the gift of frankincense. The resin was added to sacrifices when they were burned before the Lord. Therefore, frankincense was seen as an aid to worship and prayer. It produced the atmosphere associated with the Tabernacle and the Temple. It is understood to be a component in the bowls containing the prayers of the saints in the book of Revelation.

Myrrh
In ancient times this spice was a major component in the anointing oil. With this gift the wise men declared that Jesus was the anointed One, the Christ of God. It was also used in the preparation of bodies for burial. This gift was a recognition that the Child was the Sin-bearer, The Lamb of God, born to die and to live again.

Such Meaningful Gifts
From these facts we see how important our prayers of worship and petition are as gifts to the Lord. They are sweet to the senses of the Lord Himself. The greatest gift of God was one offered by shepherd and king alike—the gift of the heart.

Scriptures:
Matthew 2:11 NKJV
And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
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.
1 Chronicles 16:28-30 NKJV
Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved.
Isaiah 60:1-3; 6 NKJV
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. … They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord.
Leviticus 2:1-3 NKJV
‘When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Revelation 8:1-4 NKJV
When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me be more impressed with the simple gift of the heart than I am with great riches or ancient symbols no matter how full of meaning. When I give you my heart, it becomes a gift of gold. When I offer to You my sacrifice of praise, as frankincense did the offerings of old, a pure heart makes my gift a sweet-smelling savor to You. I want the prayers of my heart to be scented with myrrh, a deep appreciation for the cost of my ready access to Your presence. You opened heaven to me by the tearing of Your body, the riven veil. Lord, may You never have occasion to say to me, “With your lips you draw near but your heart is far from me.” Lord, Jesus, here is my heart; make it whole! For Your Glory, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
What Can I Give Him?
Words: Christina Georgina Rossetti; Music: Don Cason

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what can I give Him?
Give Him my heart.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 17 “Bethlehem”

Bethlehem

As old as religion itself is the concept of “sacred space.”
The Old Covenant was permeated with the idea of places where God would meet with people who reached out to Him. The patriarchs built their altars of sacrifice and God met with them there. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a movable space, no less sacred for its portability. God’s presence was manifested there. When the singers and players made “one sound” to praise and honor the Lord, King Solomon’s splendid Temple was saturated by a cloud of God’s glory. The glory was so thick the priests could not stand up to perform their duties. This was the pinnacle of sacred space and would remain so until certain events would unfold in the vicinity of place called Bethlehem.

The City of David
Bethlehem was called the City of David. He was born there and anointed to be king there. The fields near Bethlehem were his fields before they were occupied by shepherds when Jesus was born. In them he killed the lion and the bear in preparation for his battle with Goliath. He never lost his love for Bethlehem. When King Saul pursued him and David was hiding in a cave, he remembered the sweet waters from a well in Bethlehem. His men risked their lives to bring him some. Later Ruth and Boaz would meet in the fields near Bethlehem to continue the Line of David which would eventually include both Mary and Joseph. When Rome called for a census Mary and Joseph had to make the journey to Bethlehem.

Big things happen in small places.
After the days of Ruth and Boaz, Bethlehem fell into a well-deserved obscurity. The Prophet Micah, however, exalts the little town to the pinnacle of prophetic importance.

Micah 5:2-5
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

This little town, these peaceful pastures and fruitful fields, will be the birthplace of Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords. This town whose name means “house of bread” will produce the One who is called the Bread of Life, David’s Royal Son.

Sacred Space indeed.

Places of Worship Today
Just as Jehovah met with Abraham and the other patriarchs at their altars of sacrifice, the Lord meets with people today when they gather in the name of Jesus. Our praise makes that place a sacred space. Just as the glory of the Lord rested on the Tabernacles of David and Moses and filled the Temple of Solomon, we can know the Shekinah of God when we call upon His name in truth. In small numbers or large, the Lord inhabits and is enthroned upon the praises of His people.

Let us make our journey to Bethlehem, the House of Bread, to at last be filled with the Bread of Heaven. Let us make our way to Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Savior so that He can be born in us. The star is leading. The angels are singing. The journey is underway.

Scriptures:
Micah 5:2 NKJV
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”
Matthew 2:5-8 NKJV
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
1 Samuel 16:1-5 NKJV
Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord .’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
2 Samuel 23:13-17 NKJV
Then three of the thirty chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam. And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, “Far be it from me, O Lord , that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it.These things were done by the three mighty men.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NKJV
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
Psalm 22:3 KJV/NKJV
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Matthew 18:20 NKJV
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, just as you blessed little Bethlehem with Your entrance into this world, You have blessed my heart with Your entrance there. Now, miracle of miracles, my heart is sacred space. Manifest Your glory there. Let me join the songs of angels today in worship as they sing before Your throne. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of His glory. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!” I gather with the saints in Your holy name to feast on the Bread of Life and drink from the Living Waters. Alleluia. Alleluia. Amen.

Song:
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Words: Phillips Brooks; Music: Lewis H. Redner

1. O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep  the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth  the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

2. For Christ is born of Mary and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

3. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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 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

November 2, 2017: “Cupbearer”

Cupbearer

Nehemiah lived in the moment.
Each of can choose which moment we want to inhabit:

  • We can dwell on the past.
  • We can seize the present.
  • We can imagine the future.

Of course, this is all the stuff of the imagination. When it comes to the fundamental things—breathing, eating, sleeping, waking, working, playing—we are anchored to the present. But when the necessities are attended to, our minds race to the moments of our choosing: past, present, or future.

Nehemiah’s testimony is of a moment when the present became his passion. He received a report of conditions in his faraway homeland of Israel. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the walls of the city lay in ruins, and the gates thereof were burned with fire. Like the city, those who had not been taken captive to Babylon, now conquered by Assyria, were living in misery.

The news broke the young man’s heart. He was too young to really remember the past, the glory days of the Temple, the secure city of David, and the peace of the kingdom but he listened to the stories of those who did. The reality of the present pressed in on him until he began calling out to God.

In the process the cupbearer to the king filled the cup of his heart with sorrow and repentance for the sins of those who had departed from the faith. Their disobedience, not his, had broken the Covenant with Jehovah. Their idolatry had offended God, not his. Yet he repented of the sins of others and cried out to God for restoration, also a promise of the covenant. In full remembrance of the past, he saw a present moment to be seized in faith.

He was the cupbearer for the King, Artaxerxes.
In this position, he was on intimate terms with the king, as much as was possible in a slaveholding society. He knew the customs and he knew his place in the schemes of things. Sensing that a future could be much better than the present, he acted, taking an historic risk of faith.

You can read his story in Nehemiah and Ezra. He spoke up and was heard. He formed a plan and built a team. He made the journey and rebuilt the wall and the gates so that Ezra could rebuild the Temple. They reestablished true worship in the land.

Look at the position you hold today. It may seem as unimportant as that of a cup-bearing servant. Look again. Perhaps there is moment waiting for you to seize it and make a difference today and in the future. See the past and learn from it but don’t live in it. See the future and pray for it, but it will always be just out of reach. See this moment and seize it for that is the only thing that makes sense.

Scriptures:
Nehemiah 1 NKJV
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have work for me to do today. You have placed me here to be of service to You and to the world. Help me seize the opportunities this day presents and do something worthwhile with them. Let me work with integrity in my heart, wisdom in my mind, and skill in my hands. At the end of this day, when I lay my head on my pillow to rest, may I look back on a day where something good was done through my efforts and Your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Rise Up O Saints of God
Words: William P. Merrill (adapted SRP) Music: William H. Walter
1. Rise up, O saints of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O saints of God! The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O saints of God! The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task; rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up, O saints of God!

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 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 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