August 11 “Patience”

Patience

Patience is an iron tool forged in the fires of adversity.
Repeated successes only produce impatience and hopes too quickly dashed. Lost battles can refine the tactics and resolve of an army. Lost opportunities can strengthen the hearts and sharpen the minds of the disappointed. Patience is a hard-won virtue that turns today’s defeat into tomorrow’s victory. Jesus said:

“In your patience possess ye your souls.”

What need have we of such an iron tool?  We have some heavy work to do for the Lord Jesus.

Two Temples
One Temple, under construction, seemed to rise a little higher against the sky each week. With the elevating walls and ramparts, the hopes of the people rose as well. Would this Temple be the site of Messiah’s prophesied ministry? Would their avenging hero return though these city gates and enter these Temple Courts to defeat the pagan Romans? Was this man, Jesus, that Hero? His words and deeds indicated that it could be so.

The other Temple was the body of Jesus, the earthly tabernacle where divinity condescended to dwell in the earth. “It is appointed unto man to die.” Everyone knew this, but Jesus knew that His story would not end with death. He knew that death was doomed to defeat like an invading army ill prepared for battle with a superior foe. His unexplained use of “this temple” as a metaphor for His life would become part of the indictment against Him.

The questions about the destiny of Herod’s Temple came from sincere hearts, not critics. As they admired the beautiful structure under construction, Jesus warned that it would all too soon come crashing down. Naturally the people wanted to know when this would happen. What would be the signs of it?

Deception and Confusion
The answers Jesus gave were for those days and for ours. The purpose of deception is confusion. Many would come claiming to be Messiah and proclaiming the time of deliverance was near. These false messiahs were not to be believed. To follow them meant to be deceived. Confusion would reign at all levels of society as competing groups with competing narratives explained the world to hapless listeners. With so many false messiahs and so much false hope, despair and disillusionment would hang in the air like a toxic fog.

The End Is Not Yet
Jesus warned that these events were not to be long in coming. When they started to unfold, it was time to find and hold to the truth, to live in the hope that patience gives. These are the signs:

  • Political strife—nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom,
  • Natural disasters—earthquakes,
  • Human disasters—famines, devastating diseases, and
  • Never-before-seen signs in the sky.

Before the end, political power will turn against the followers of God.

  • It will begin with persecution, and
  • Will continue with loss of rights and imprisonment.
  • A fierce, unreasoning hate will arise against the People of God, and
  • Family members will betray each other.

Through it all a witness to the truth would be seen and heard as supernatural speech poured forth from the faithful.

“…settle it in your hearts…”
Jesus was speaking to the citizens of Israel. Within a generation, the armies of Rome would destroy the city and the new Temple. His words are also meant for us today. Amid the confusion of life today we must settle in our hearts that we believe the Word of God and follow Jesus. The truth will guide us through the confusion like an unfailing beacon, giving us patience.

Patience is an iron tool forged in the fires of adversity. What need have we of such an iron tool?  We have some heavy work to do for the Lord Jesus.

Scriptures:
Luke:21:5–19
NKJV
Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see — the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.
James 1:2-8 NKJV
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the master of all time, the Master of my days. My hope is in You, my trust in Your Word. Whatever this day may bring, You are the Master of it. Whatever enemies may assault my life, You are the Victor over them. Help me to take the temporary setbacks and momentary defeats and forge a mighty Hope in these fires. This iron hope will be the strength in my patience. You are the master of all time, the Master of my days. Amen.

Song:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Words: Martin Luther; Music: Traditional

1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 8 “Discernment”

Discernment

It is said that wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.
Understanding requires discernment, defined as “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” It was important that Jesus teach discernment, spelling out the many facets of living for Him in a hostile world.

Keep Your Lamps Burning
Returning to the image of light, Jesus placed tending our personal lamps at the highest priority. If we are to rightly see this world, we need the inner light of His Word and Presence. He spoke not only of His presence then and there but of a distant day when He would return.

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

At Peter’s request, Jesus made it clear that this teaching was for all time. We are the servants and He is the Master of the House. Life should be about doing the Master’s will. We should not be put off balance because the Master seems long in returning. Our job is to be ready.

Division before Unity
The Lord was distressed by the warnings He had to give to His followers. Before the peace of His Kingdom could come there would be terrible division in families, in worship, in civic life, as people decided one way or the other about following Him.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”

And it is so. The joy of following Jesus often comes with the pain of seeing those we love choose not to follow Him. Because of our love for them and for Jesus, our hearts are broken. We must deliver these broken hearts to the Secret Place of Prayer, crying out to God with the names of our loved ones who refuse to follow Him. This is the work of the ministry. We do not badger them; we pray for them. We do not complain about this sinful world; we intercede for it. Discerning this need for unity in the church, we must worship as One Family. We must not blindly follow the cultures of division. Where else in this broken world will the truth be heard except in the lives, worship, and witness of the church?

Signs of the Times
In the natural world, people watch the skies for indications of approaching weather. If we can discern these signs, we should also discern the signs of the end times. The Bible is replete with these signs. We must lift them off the pages of the book and inscribe them in our hearts. They provide us with “keen insight and good judgment.”

Living among the Lost
Jesus concluded this teaching by instructing those who followed Him in wise living. There is no doubt we are engaged by adversaries. We all live within a system of laws which we must respect. Beyond being law abiding citizens, we must also be blameless in our dealings with everyone, our fellow citizens in the Kingdom as well as those outside the faith. If we can avoid the “law and order” establishment without compromising our faith, we should. We will not find mercy at the hands of an enemy in power.

As we follow the Lord, living for Him, we find our mercy there. We will also possess the discernment to know what to do and how to do it. Wisdom is knowledge combined with understanding.

Scriptures:
Luke: 12:35-59

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”

Prayer:
Lord, give me the discernment required to see things as they really are today. I know from Your Word that two signs of the end times will happen at the same time: The Great Outpouring of Your Spirit on all flesh and the Great Falling Away, the terrible end time apostasy. Help me see the difference so I can join the Outpouring and shun the Apostasy. Teach me to intercede for those who are refusing You and for a country that spurns Your love. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Songs:
Signs Are Everywhere

Words and Music: Kittie Louise Suffield

1. The King is coming in glory To catch His bride away,
It may be in the morning It may be at midday,
At the even or midnight; The trump will sound so clear,
The dead in Christ, and we that live, His voice shall hear.

Refrain
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
The fig tree is budding, The signs are everywhere,
The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

2. Behold! He cometh, and leaping, And skipping o’er the hills;
Like the young roe, like the young hart, My soul with rapture thrills;
Thru the window He’s looking, Thru the lattice work is seen,
The winter’s past, the rain is o’er, The figs are green.

Refrain

3. The King is coming, Be ready, To meet Him on that day;
With your heart right, with your robes white, And in this holy way;
Like the lightning that flashes In the twinkling of an eye,
Our Lord shall come to claim His own, He’s drawing nigh.

Refrain

4. The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.
The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 22 “Lawlessness”


Lawlessness

The King James version uses the word, “iniquity.” It means lawlessness.
It is difficult for us, more than 20 centuries later, to understand the teachings of Jesus concerning the end times. He spoke as if these events were imminent. What can we take away from these ancient words and warnings to make a difference in our world?

Outward Structures, Inward Realities
As Jesus and His men left the Temple and began their ascent up the Mount of Olives, the Disciples noted how impressive the Temple complex looked from that elevation. Jesus seized the moment.

Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another,
that shall not be thrown down.”

Buildings are symbols of invisible things. The important thing about the Temple was that it was a place for people to meet with God. All the lovely marble stones, all the impressive architecture, even all the historic forms of worship had no value in themselves. Their value was in the truth they represented. If and when it all fell down, the invisible things would still remain. In fact, under the New Covenant, The church would be the True Temple, the “habitation of God by His Spirit.” Built solidly on the Cornerstone, Christ Jesus, this structure will never fall.

The Beginning of the End
When they reached their familiar retreat on the mountain the Disciples asked Jesus to tell them when the Temple would fall. We should be grateful to the Twelve for asking—we need to hear the answers Jesus gave.

  • The end times will be an age of deception. Fake messiahs will capture the public’s attention before they are exposed. Do not be deceived by them.
  • International unrest will rule the last days. “Wars and rumors of wars” will be the daily report. “Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom” has been and continues to be the history of this world. Why? Because nations and kingdoms spring from the fallen hearts of men. Un-redeemed, men have always and will always bring war.
  • Natural disasters and social disasters will shake the earth and the population. “These are the beginnings of sorrows.”
  • Persecution of True Believers will spread from nation to nation. Some will pay with their lives to follow Jesus. For them, it will not be the end; it will be a transformation to glory.
  • False prophets will rise up to deceive many, even those who have once known the truth.
  • The spirit of the age will be iniquity—lawlessness—and the love of even God’s people will wax cold. Apostasy, the ancient curse of Israel, will deceive many into forsaking the truth and embracing comforting falsehood.

Enduring Faith
There is no doubt this age is infested with the spirit of iniquity–of lawlessness. Even in such times of persecution and peril, an inner strength will rise up in the faithful ones—they will endure. That may not sound like much of a promise. Shouldn’t we expect to thrive and prosper? Perhaps, but the important thing is to endure.

  • Stay in touch with Jesus.
  • Stay in the Word. Be faithful to worship.
  • Find the will of God and do it. Serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart.

For the Jesus Story will go out to all the nations. The Gospel cannot be stopped.

Scriptures:
Matthew 24:1-14
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I long for Your coming! In this age of lawlessness, help me be true! Help me proclaim Your salvation day by day and declare among the nations that the Lord reigns! When Your enemies come against me, come to my rescue! I will put on the Gospel Armor and fight the good fight of faith. You have made me more than a conqueror. Thank You for the reality of Your Holy Temple—the Church! More than a building or a symbol, Your Church is real and victorious! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Rise Up O Saints of God
Words: William P. Merrill; Music: William H. Walter

1. Rise up, O saints of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O saints of God!
The Kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of righteousness,
And end the night of wrong.

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

4. Lift high the cross of Christ;
Tread where Christ’s feet have trod;
Come sisters, brothers, in the faith,
Rise up, O Saints of God.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved