February 26, 2017

Between

42 Bridges
On US Highway 1 travelers cross 42 bridges to get all the way from Miami to Key West, Florida—113 miles. The highway follows a 1912 railroad plan and was completed in 1938 with recent modern replacements on most of the bridges. It is called the Overseas Highway. For an impressive stretch of this highway, motorists can see the Atlantic Ocean on south side of the car and the Gulf of Mexico on the north side. Nothing separates the two except these small islands and bridges. The traveler is literally poised between two immense bodies of water every moment. The Florida Straits are the meeting place of great ocean currents from the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Public worship is much like this amazing, beautiful drive.
The worshiper is traveling between time and eternity. Out one window a vast ocean shimmers and out the other a huge gulf glistens. The ocean of eternity and the gulf of time touch beneath this road.

And so it is with worship.

We who are bound by time and space, travel in spirit to a timeless destination of spiritual coordinates—the Throne Room of God Almighty. Here the gulf and the ocean merge. Just as deep currents battle each other in these waters, human tendencies and cultural mores conspire against worship.

This isn’t just fanciful language; this is descriptive. The Book of Hebrews says that when the church comes before God in worship, we are transported spiritually to Mt. Zion, “…to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…” (Heb 12:22)

What does this mean?

  • Worshipers who are locked into time, get a taste of eternity.
  • The gravity-like pull of time is countered by the upward winds of the Spirit.
  • The fog of earthly confusion is shredded by the warming, clearing light of truth.
  • The homeless ones of earth rest for a while in mansions made for them.
  • The solitary ones, the neglected and forgotten here on earth, fellowship in God-redeemed families.

Today when the hour for worship comes, we must realize that we live our lives between two great forces, time and eternity.

  • Through one window the tide of the gulf may draw us away from worship. The pull of time is heavy and the conflicting currents of human weakness are difficult to fight.
  • Out the other window, the ocean is calling with strength to pull us homeward–deeper tides than those of time and mightier currents than those of the soul.

Eternity is stronger than time and in worship we can enter the eternal—for a moment. There we can touch God and be touched by Him.

Scriptures:
Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
…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.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-12 NIV
… He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 NIV
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I thank You for my life today. Made in Your image, I can enjoy the warmth of the beautiful gulf of time and the prospect of the ocean of eternity, gleaming beyond my imagination. In this life I travel a road between time and eternity. As I worship today, lift me beyond the sensational to the spiritual. Open my eyes to heavenly things. Tune my hearing to the music of Your Throne Room. Help me empty my heart of pride so that Your Spirit can fill me with Your love. Take us to Mt. Zion, today! The in-between-road we must travel will be straighter and safer and more meaningful tomorrow, because today, for a while, we worshiped before Your Throne frolicking with angels and singing with saints to the music of eternity. Joyfully in Your Name, Amen!

Song:
Launch Out
Words: A.B. Simpson; Music: Russell Carter

1. The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood;
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shore line,
And be lost in the fullness of God.

Refrain:
Launch out, into the deep,
Oh, let the shore line go;
Launch out, launch out in the ocean divine,
Out where the full tides flow.

2. But many, alas! only stand on the shore,
And gaze on the ocean so wide;
They never have ventured its depths to explore,
Or to launch on the fathomless tide.

Refrain

3. And others just venture away from the land,
And linger so near to the shore
That the surf and the slime that beat over the strand
Dash over them in floods evermore.

Refrain

4. Oh, let us launch out on this ocean so broad,
Where floods of salvation o’erflow;
Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God,
Till the depths of His fullness we know.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 24

Fun

Like joy, fun is an essential.
The Sabbath principle calls for rest and worship. We define worship in a dazzling display of words, rich with meaning and employing vivid imagery. Rest can also be parsed into many words expressing its many sides. One of those words is fun.

Does it stretch things too far to say, “Fun is holy?”

Fun is an expression of joy, which of course, is our strength when we find our joy in the Lord. It follows then that fun in the Lord can be a source of strength as well. God created within us a capacity for enjoyment at every level of our humanity: body, soul, and spirit. There is no need to expound on the fun of the body: movement, rhythm, rhythmic movement, music, touching, seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling—the five senses can be fun.

Soul-ish fun is also known to us:

  • humor,
  • curiosity,
  • mysteries and puzzles solved,
  • riddles revealed,
  • ironies realized,
  • stories told,
  • precious memories lingering in our souls,
  • music—again the language of the emotions—the list could go on.

But what of spirit fun?
Is there such a thing? Of course and it brings us back to joy in the Lord, our strength. The joys of the soul and body are often used in Scripture as metaphors for the fun we can have in the spirit. The Bible commands to take joy in the Lord, to delight in Him, to rejoice in Him with constant rejoicing and even says that it is fitting to do so.

He was not the Hollywood Jesus!
Perhaps because fun has been captured by a sinful world, it has lost its holiness to some. This is unfortunate at best and debilitating at worst. One of the most remarkable things Jesus said of all the remarkable things He said was that He was bequeathing His joy to us. If He had been the dour, depressed character He is often purported to be in Hollywood films, His statement of intent to leave His joy to His disciples would have itself been funny.

  • He must have walked this earth in profound joy.
  • Surely it felt good to heal sick people, to set demon possessed people free, to raise the dead, and to answer the questioning minds all around Him.
  • One can see the enjoyment Jesus had in His public encounters with the religious leaders who opposed Him.
  • In the scriptural record, one can see Jesus having fun with His disciples and those who followed Him: walking and talking, dinning, fishing, and playing with children.

So, let us have our good, clean fun today. It is a day the Lord has made–have fun and enjoy it!

Scriptures:
Psalm 118:24 NKJV
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 51:11-12
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Nehemiah 8:10
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Philippians 4:4 NKJV
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
John 15:9-12
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me see the joy you displayed in Your short life on this earth. The Bible makes it clear that you have planned for us to enjoy things—people, situations, funny words, laughable sights and so on. Lord, don’t let the Devil steal these things from me. Let me pray with King David, “Restore my joy! Show me the funny things and give me the courage to laugh at them, especially when that requires laughing at myself! Today, I will have some fun in Your Name! Thank, You, Jesus!

Song:
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Words: Henry van Dyke; Music: Ludwig van Beethoven

1. Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day.

2. All the works with joy surround Thee, Earth and heaven reflect Thy ways,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, Call us to rejoice in Thee.

3. Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living, Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ, our Brother—All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the joy divine.

4. Mortals, join the happy chorus Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music lifts us sunward In the triumph song of life.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved