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 3,, 2017: “Rebuild”

Rebuild

Sometimes the only option left is to rebuild what has been destroyed.
Who can doubt the waves of destruction that roll through this fallen world?

  • Acts of nature—storms, earthquakes, floods—scream, shake, and soak until everything is toppled or crumbled to the ground or washed away.
  • Acts of people—wars, repression, injustice, terrorism—rage out of control it seems until the social structures we depend on are reduced to rubble.
  • Acts of hate—plots, subversions, lies, assassinations—strike at us from all points of the compass in business, in church, in the streets, and even in our homes.

We have all seen the reports interviewing the victims of nature’s rage standing in front of what is left vowing to rebuild. We know veterans of wars and injustice who somehow survived, rising to wage peace in the face of hate, their heads, “bloodied but unbowed.” They must rebuild. We have all tasted, either personally or in the media, the bitter strife within the family or in the workplace and in the city streets and we must conclude that the only option is to rebuild what has been damaged. We simply cannot leave rubble unattended, waste uncollected, and destruction undone—we must rebuild.

Nehemiah, the Cup-Bearer
In a privileged position of ease, Nehemiah could find no rest. He had learned that his homeland was in ruins, his people in chains, and the worship of his God was taken captive. He knew his place, his responsibilities in the palace; they did not include worries about Jerusalem, the Temple, or the ancient walls and gates. The cup-bearer could not bear this burden. Risking his life and position, he allowed the king to see his concern. Amazingly such a breach in decorum brought favor, not danger—the King empowered the cup-bearer to go and rebuild his home.

The Hidden Destruction
When disaster strikes in any form, there is a hidden danger in the path of the storm. Today we call it “the new normal.” Destruction is no longer noticeable. Ruins fade from view and weeds grow up all around the fallen structure hiding the loss in random, meaningless growth. In another form, when the debris of a huge tree fallen in a storm is cleared and the stump removed, soon there is no memory of the old, massive, graceful tree. This forgetfulness is the true destruction.

In this Secular Age
Today, secularism seeks to destroy all vestiges of Christian Spirituality beginning with the secularized believer and extending to the commercialized church.

  • A constant storm of hedonism beats against the human body, soul, and spirit.
  • A earthquake of untruth shakes the foundations of our private thoughts and public institutions.
  • A flood of evil rises to ever increasing heights, threatening to wash away even the memory of righteousness.
    What are we to do but rebuild?
  • We must rebuild our private prayer lives, spending time with God every day. We can know a rising tide of spirituality to counter that of iniquity.
  • We must rebuild our public worship so that the Lord Jesus Himself walks into every service ready to perform His Anointed Ministry of rescuing people from their sins. His Word must be the content of our message for His Story is the only hope of the world.
  • We must rebuild our lives so that everything we do honors Him—from fun to work, from thoughts to deeds, and from home to the world.

We are cup-bearers to the King! He will send us on a mission to rebuild what has been destroyed in our lives. Your home is a city of faith and you must build a wall of prayer around it. Your church is the habitation of God by His Spirit and you must restore True Worship as you gather there. There is no one else to do what He has called us to do.

Jesus, the Re-builder
The joy of Eden—walking with God in the cool of the day—was lost forever until a dark day at a place called Calvary. Jesus rebuilt that relationship from the ground up. All we have to do is believe in Him and pay attention and each day can be sweetened a taste of another Tree of Life, the cross.

Scriptures:
Nehemiah 2:1-19 NKJV
And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work. Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
Isaiah 58:12 NKJV
Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Chief Rebuilder! You are restoring my life day by day. Your carpenter’s hands are skillful and gentle. Help me add another row of bricks to the wall of faith I am building today. Help me restore some broken bit of creation today. Open my eyes to the needs around me that I can meet. Help me speak truth to counter the lies of the culture. Help me to shine like a light in this present darkness. As You continue to restore and rebuild me, help me to be also a repairer of the breach. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Living for Jesus
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: C. Harold Lowden

1. Living for Jesus a life that is true,
striving to please him in all that I do,
yielding allegiance glad hearted and free
this is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement did give yourself for me.
I own no other master my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for you alone.

2. Living for Jesus, who died in my place,
bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace:
such love constrains me to answer his call,
follow his leading, and give him my all.

Refrain

3. Living for Jesus wherever I am,
doing each duty in his holy name,
seeking the lost ones he died to redeem,
bringing the weary to find rest in him.
Refrain

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 30, 2017: “Productivity”

Productivity

Created to Produce
Just as peace is not passive, productivity is not optional; we were created to produce.  Adam and Eve were commissioned to be fruitful, to multiply, and to manage the life systems and resources of the earth.  When they fell into sin, God did not rescind this commission from Adam and Eve, and therefore, from us.  The result of sin was that the processes of productivity became work:

  • Women would become mothers through pain.
  • The earth would become fruitful by the sweat of the human brow.

The need to create and the drive to produce remain in the human heart, though the means of this productivity has become a thing of pain.

Spiritual Productivity
As necessary as productivity is to life, there is also a spiritual dimension to it.  Just as we are called to be productive in material things, we are intended to produce spiritual fruit.  “Bearing fruit” is the most common biblical image for personal productivity.  Jesus introduced the vivid metaphor of the Vine and the branches.  He said He was the Vine and we were the branches.  In order to bear much fruit we must remain connected to Him, just a branches must have a functioning connection to the vine if they are to bear fruit.  “Fruit” in this context means more than winning souls; it means producing what God made us to produce.  Writers write.  Teachers teach.  Builders build.  Designers design, and so on.

Facing this Week
You face this week of work with a deep desire to be productive and most likely, a pressing need to do well on the job.

  • Job assessments are a measure of the worker’s effectiveness, his/her productivity.
  • Fathers and mothers work hard to provide for their families by the value of their productivity.
  • The mechanized, computerized fields the modern worker plows still depend on the willingness of the worker to sweat—to do the work!
  • Visionaries bring new businesses into the world and the pangs of this kind of birth can last for years of 90 hour weeks before the business grows up and becomes profitable.

The good news is this:  We were made to be productive!
The same Lord who saved us from sin and hell stands ready to empower us to produce in our daily lives.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us, to give us the wisdom, the creativity and the grace we need to succeed.  When we begin to understand the theology of work as worship, we open ourselves to the continuing enablement of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life.

More than an inborn need and a daily requirement, productivity is a spiritual responsibility.  The scriptures have wonderful things to say about productivity:

  • Each of us has a productive path to walk, one laid down for us by the Lord Himself long before the wondrous week of creation. (Eph 2:10)
  • Being fruitful brings glory to God. (John 15:1-8)
  • Each of us has been hand chosen and ordained by the Lord Jesus to bear much fruit and fruit that lasts. (John 10:15,16)

Hard work is still hard work.
Bringing new life into the world is still a thing of pain.  Wringing a harvest from the earth still demands the sweat of the brow.  Hard work is the order of the day for most of us   Yet, the one who believes in Jesus is not alone in the delivery room, behind the plow, or at the office or workstation.  Jesus holds us close in each new venture.  He guides the plow and helps us pull the load as His Spirit gives us strength and wisdom, rest and refreshment as we work.

Scriptures:
Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”…Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 3:17-19 NKJV
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Colossians 1:10
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
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.
John 15:16-17
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are The True Vine and I am only a branch, but I am a branch that can bear much fruit. You have promised me this. As You said in John’s gospel, You have chosen me and ordained me that I should go and bear much fruit and that my fruit should remain. Without You I can do nothing but with You I can do much—great things! Extend Your Kingdom through the life I live each day. I want to tell Your story with my life and work. I want to share Your love with the whole world, starting with those I meet today. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichol

1 We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

2 We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3 We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4 We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 29, 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 on 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.

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, how else dare I come before You except with the most profound gratitude. You have done everything for me from saving me to filling me to healing me to calling me to loving me! Thank You, Lord! That gratitude is the gateway to presence is such a blessing. I know that if I praise You from my heart, You will hear me and will grant me the wondrous gift of Your manifest presence. Oh, I may not feel Your presence, but in a place deeper than feelings, I believe and I know You are with me! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
I Will Enter His Gates
Words and Music: Leona Von Brethorst

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart.
I will enter His courts with praise.
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.

He has made me glad. He has made me glad.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.
He has made me glad. He has made me glad.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.

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 17, 2017: “Competing”

Competing

Competition is an unavoidable part of life.
Two competing quotes:

“Winning isn’t everything; it is the only thing.”  Coach Vince Lombardi (among many others!)
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Jesus Christ

Today each of us goes to our place of work.  In the vast majority of those places workers will compete.  When the competition begins, the need to win becomes paramount.

  • Fathers and mothers compete against the conspiracies of the media, the marketplace, and the mania of the post-modern milieu for the future of their children.
  • Salespersons compete against others in the marketplace and even with other personnel.
  • Those in the medical profession compete against the onset and spread of disease.
  • Teachers and administrators compete against ignorance.
  • Physical therapists help disabled people compete against impairment.
  • Mental health professionals compete against sicknesses of the mind and soul.
  • Christian ministers compete against sin and its destructive forces arrayed against society.
  • Christians compete against their own inclinations to wander away from God and the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • The Church competes with the powers of darkness in high places, in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, in the warfare of worship and with the irresistible force of radial obedience.

The list could go on and on.

This is not a game; this is war.
The coach’s quote above and the words of Jesus differ in one really significant way.  Lombardi was talking about professional football—a game.  Jesus was talking about eternal life, not at all a game.   Today we do more than take our places in the work force, we take our positions in a line of battle.

  • The enemy never takes a day off.
  • His propaganda outlets never cease broadcasting.
  • His agents in the field are tireless.

He has formed an evil empire that roars and stalks the innocent like a universal pride of lions, hungry, always hungry, seeking those unguarded ones to devour them.

When wars are lost, suffering breaks upon the defeated peoples far exceeding the pain of the war itself.  If we lose our families, our marriages, our children, or our country, it doesn’t matter what trifles we traded them for.  It will be a bad bargain.  No matter how difficult the battle may be, the defeat will be worse.

But we will not lose.  Jesus is victor!
You take your place in the line of battle with spiritual weapons for this spiritual warfare.  They are mighty through God, not through electricity, or pyrotechnics, or computing, or fossil fuels, or even nuclear power.  Our weapons are mighty through God to the destruction of strongholds and every device or deception that exalts itself to obliterate the name of Jesus.

Enter today’s competition assured of victory because winning this war is the only thing that matters!

Scriptures:
Mark 8:36-38
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?
Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Colossians 2:14-15
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Mark 8:34-38
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I step into this day confident of Your overcoming grace. You have face all my enemies and defeated them. The competition wasn’t even close! You know my heart, Lord, how sometimes it strays from what is right. Temptation draws me away, competing for my attention. As You told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Your blood has cleansed my heart and Your Spirit dwells within. That makes me a winner no matter what the contest today. Help me prevail in today’s competition and to do so with a smile for my co-workers and especially for those who compete with me in unholy ways. Help me overcome evil with good. I want to walk in Your victory today, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Song:
Victory in Jesus
Words and Music: E.M. Bartlett

1. I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

Refrain:
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

2. I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 15, 2017 “Praise!”

Praise!

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

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

There are many reasons for this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 8, 2017 “Celebration”

Celebration

People were created to celebrate. 
We celebrate at the slightest provocation.  Occasions for celebration run from private gatherings in honor of intimate events like the birth of a child to big family events like graduations and weddings to huge public celebrations like championships, inaugurations and coronations.  Human beings love to celebrate even when there is nothing to celebrate like young people celebrating nothing more than the weekend.

In the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof,

God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
How much more can we be joyful when there’s really something to be joyful for?

Is there a deeper significance to this human need or desire?  Without doubt—public worship should be a celebration.

Old Covenant Celebration
The spirituality of the Old Covenant was marked by frequent and fervent celebrations:

  • The Sabbath was a weekly celebration of God’s covenantal faithfulness.
  • Three festivals marked each year with celebrations related to the provision of God through the hard work of His people.
  • Every seven years the land itself had a celebration of rest.
  • Every 50th year was supposed to be a year-long celebration called the Year of Jubilee.
  • The book of Psalms commands singing and playing music, rejoicing and dancing before the Lord in celebration of “His abundant goodness.”

New Covenant Celebration
In the Gospel narratives, celebration is at the heart of New Covenant spirituality as Jesus presented worship in Spirit and Truth.

  • Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Old Covenant feasts.
  • Jesus instituted the New Covenant feast of the Lord’s Table.
  • The Father of the prodigal son celebrated greatly at the return of his repentant child.
  • Jesus said the angels in heaven celebrated over one lost sinner who repented.
  • The book of Revelation describes a great celebration with Jesus as Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride.

Celebrate the Lord’s Day!
Each Lord’s Day worship service should have a strong element of celebration in it.  Even if the Spirit is calling the church to solemn prayer, to “weep between the porch and the altar,” the prophet Joel said, we should also “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” as the Psalmist said.

On this Lord’s day, let us gather together to celebrate the Lord’s abundant goodness.  Let us rejoice and be glad.  Why?  Because we were made for this purpose and because the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!

Scriptures:
Exodus 23:14-16
“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; No one is to appear before me empty-handed. “Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.”Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
2 Samuel 6:12-13
Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
Psalm 30:11-12 NKJV
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 100 NKJV
Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands.  Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Psalm 145:3-7
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.   They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Matthew 26:18-19
He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'”   So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
Luke 15: 10; 21-24
…I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NKJV
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, on Your day I choose to celebrate! I will lift my voice with those of my brothers and sisters in the House of God! Together we will join the celebration around Your Throne in Heaven where un-numbered angels meet in joyful assembly with the saints we know and love who have preceded us to the Heavenly Zion. I will celebrate with the Song of the Redeemed that angels do not know and cannot sing. I will let the rhythms of celebration move my body, the truths we are celebrating inform my mind, and the Spirit of the Living God animate my spirit so that my whole human existence will be lost in celebration—You deserve nothing less! Hallelujah! Amen!

Song:
Celebrate Jesus!
Words and Music: Don Moen

Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!

He is risen! He is risen!
And He lives forevermore!
He is risen! He is risen!
Come on and celebrate
The resurrection of our Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 1, 2017 “Majesty”

Majesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song:
Majesty
Words and Music: Jack Hayford

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

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

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved