August 17 “Swords”

Swords

At the Last Supper, Jesus tried to prepare the men for what was ahead.
Only much later, after the Passion and the Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, would the disciples understand the things Jesus told them that night. It was His duty to warn them. He began with Peter.

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Simon Peter would have none of it. He boasted that He would follow Jesus even to prison or to death. A silence followed this boast as the other disciples lowered their heads, tiring of Peter’s impulsive answers but hoping that each of them would do the same.

In that silence, Peter’s thoughts raced. He had no way of knowing how Satan worked on the inside of a man, invading his private thoughts and suggesting unspeakable behavior. He only knew that he had left all to follow Jesus. He believed everything Jesus said. He knew the power of Jesus’ name on his own lips as he healed the sick and cast out demons. He felt the fish and bread multiply in his own hands in the wilderness. He had seen the winds and waves obey the voice of Jesus and walked on the water to meet Him. Yes, Peter believed it all, all except this strange prediction that he would fail Jesus. Fear and disbelief fought each other in the fisherman’s heart.

Jesus let the silence linger before smiling at Peter and answering quietly.

“I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Silence. Peter’s empty boasts were all used up.

Preparing for Battle
Jesus began to prepare the men for the conflict ahead. He compared His former call to ministry to the days that were upon them.

  • Previously He told them not to carry provisions and everything they need was provided.
  • Now they must plan carefully and carry provisions for an ongoing battle.
  • Previously He told them to turn the other cheek, now He told them to arm themselves with a sword.

He was about to be “numbered with the transgressors” and they must defend themselves. One of the disciples said,

“Lord, look, here are two swords.”

Jesus replied:

“It is enough.”

Two Swords Are Enough
A sword can be both a defensive and an offensive weapon. To wage warfare in Jesus’ name we need two swords:

  1. The defensive, real-world sword to protect our lives and those we love and
  2. The “Sword of the Spirit” to wage warfare in against spiritual wickedness in high places.

As He did so many times in the history of Israel, God blessed the weapons of His people when they fought earthly foes. If He had not done this, they would have failed in their mission to bring Messiah into the World. When attacked by enemies of the flesh, we can and must use natural weapons to defend ourselves.

Over and above the human forces arrayed against us are the armies of Satan. Here we fight both a defensive and an offensive warfare. We are commanded to take up the whole armor of God which includes one offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, a sharp, two-edged blade. This is the second sword.

It is enough.

Scriptures:
Luke:22:24-30
NKJV
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
Ephesians 6:10-20 NKJV
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus You are the King of Glory. I will lift up the gates of Praise and in this way I will do battle! “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, The Lord, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10 NKJV)

Song:
Mighty Warrior

Words and Music: Debbye Graafsma

Refrain:
Mighty Warrior, dressed for battle.
Holy Lord of all is He!
Commander in Chief, bring us to attention
Lead us into battle to crush the enemy

1. Satan has no authority here in this place.
He has no authority here.
For this habitation
Was fashioned for the Lord’s presence,
No authority here.

Refrain

2. Jesus has all authority here in this place.
He has all authority here!
For this habitation
Was fashioned for the Lord’s presence,
All authority here!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 15 “Endtimes”

Endtimes

Next to the Temple area was the Mount of Olives. From such a height, one longs to see the future.
Jesus and the Twelve left the Temple, the quarreling leaders, and the blushing widow with the deep smile on her face and climbed to an observation point on the Mount of Olives. Without turning the head, the city could be seen in its completeness and the Temple rising to heaven as its centerpiece. A vision like this prompted pride in the past and hope for the future. One of the disciples commented on the solid construction of Herod’s Temple projecting permanence and a future of hope. Jesus let the comment rest on their minds as they completed the climb. When they reached the observation point, He directed their vision to the impressive sight below, but with a dire prophecy.

“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another,
that shall not be thrown down.”

What Will the Future Hold?
This was not at all what the men expected to hear. They expected Jesus to restore the spirituality of the Temple not bring down its buildings. None of them knew what to say so they let the matter drop. Later in a private setting with just Peter, James, and John, the inner circle, Jesus gave more details in response to their questions. They wanted to know when this would happen and what signs to look for.

Jesus told them such important things:

  • Deceivers would could claiming to be from Him or to actually be Him. Do not believe them.
  • The nations of the world will wage war after war against each other.

As terrible as these things will be the end will be yet to come.

  • Natural disasters, earthquakes and famines and troubles of all kinds. Even these things will be just the beginning of sorrows.
  • His followers will be counted as outlaws to be tried and beaten before rulers as a testimony to Him.
  • Through all of these horrors, His people will continue to preach His story until all nations have heard.

The Ministry of the Spirit
Even in these terrible Endtimes, the Holy Spirit will be at work. He will fill the mouths of Christ-followers when they are on trial. To the end, they will speak as a witness that cannot be denied by courts or councils, kings or commoners. Families will be torn asunder by those who will not believe the truth. Believers will be hated and hunted, captured and killed for the sake of the Gospel.

Through it all, believers will have supernatural strength, strength to endure whatever may be hurled at them by a sinful, angry world. This strength of Spirit will carry the faithful through the trials, the torture, even the bloody tide of death to the other side of eternal life and peace.

The disciples were silent. There was nothing they could say. Some, perhaps thought of turning back. Maybe following Jesus was all a mistake. Sitting there in the presence of the Lord as the shadow of the Mount of Olives crept over the city walls toward the Temple, the words of Jesus seemed unreal, impossible, unbelievable. Yet, if they were learning anything, they were learning to believe what Jesus said. Deeper than their thoughts and fears was a stirring in each man’s heart—Jesus had called them, selected them, to follow Him. That calling gripped each man and would not let Him go.

Scriptures:
Mark 13:1-13
Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
Luke 21:28
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your return is near! All the signs You gave Your men are happening now in some part of the world. Be with my brothers and sisters in other lands who do not enjoy religious freedom. They serve You at the risk of their lives. Holy Spirit, give them the words to say that tell the Gospel story even as they go down to suffering and death, just as Jesus promised. We will not be distressed at the signs of the time for we see in them our final hope! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Redemption Draweth Nigh
Words and Music: Gordon Jenson

1. Years of time have come and gone
Since I first heard it told
How Jesus would come again someday
If back then it seemed so real
Then I just can’t help but feel
How much closer His coming is today

Refrain:
Signs of the times are everywhere
There’s a brand new feeling in the air
Keep your eyes upon the eastern sky
Lift up your head redemption draweth nigh

2. Wars and strife on every hand
And violence fills the land
Still some people doubt He’ll ever come again
But the Word of God is true
He’ll redeem His chosen few
Don’t lose hope soon Christ Jesus will descend.

Refrain
Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 8 “Authority”

Authority

True Authority is something a leader either has or does not have.
If it is missing from the life of the leader, there is little he or she can do to acquire it. It doesn’t come with education because we have all seen educated idiots. It does not reside in ignorance for this results in noise and chaos. Authority may appear to abide in personality but time will reveal its absence or presence. Authority can come with position when a leader climbs some sort of ladder making friends along the way who are obligated to him or her. These leaders may even exhibit public careers for decades within the corrupt system that props them up in a cruel theatre of public relations. Beneath the facade, there is cover up after cover up and good people lose their careers to the evil powers of those who get the headlines and the riches but whose authority is disingenuous. Another source of false authority is inherited, not earned. It also rings hollow and must be maintained with power and manipulation.

Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders
When Jesus and the Twelve returned to the Temple area, an assortment of leaders like those described above, were ready for them. They grouped together for safety when they saw Him coming. Seeing He had no whip and did not seem to be angry, they bravely approached Him, calling Him out. They asked the question each of them wanted answered. What was the source of His authority?

“By what authority are You doing these things?
And who gave You this authority to do these things?”

He was not a priest and, though it was said He was in David’ royal line. He was not a scribe or an elder. What ladder did He climb to this position of authority? Sickness fled at His touch. Demons jumped and screamed at His command. Miracles were within His purview. Where did He get such authority?

What was their purpose? Surely to stop Him; perhaps to enlist Him; and perhaps, for a few of them, to investigate the possibility that He was sent from God. Regardless of the motive, the question was asked and He had to answer.

Answering a Question with a Question
Jesus read them like a scroll. He posed a question to them He knew they would not answer.

“I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?

Not to be deterred by their show of force, He followed the question with a command.

“Answer Me.”

The leaders stepped back, affronted both by the question and the command. They improvised a huddle, whispering among themselves how to give an answer. Slowly, they realized that Jesus had beaten them at their own game. There was no answer that wouldn’t get them into deeper trouble. If they said John was a prophet, He will challenge them for not believing and if they said he was not, the people would lose faith in them. They simply must avoid the question.

“We do not know.”

Jesus smiled. This was better than the whip He used the day before!

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

The Real Authority
They had the robes; Jesus had the power. They had the position; Jesus had standing with God. They had the tradition; Jesus had the moment. They had the questions; Jesus had the answers.

True Authority is something a leader either has or does not have.

Scriptures:
Mark 11:27-33
Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men'” — they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no authority higher than Yours! No name is higher. No power greater. The forces of hell and earth may oppose You but they never will overcome You. You rule and overrule. Yours is the finale word. Someday every tongue will confess that You are Lord of all. Until that day, this will be my confession. I willingly submit to Your matchless authority and Oh the peace and joy that is mine today! Amen and Amen.

Song:
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Words: Edward Perronet; Music: (Coronation) Oliver Holden

1. All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all!

2. O seed of Israel’s chosen race now ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all.
Hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all!

3. Let every tongue and every tribe on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all.
To him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all!

4. Oh, that with all the sacred throng we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

“January 15 “Sent”

Sent

It is one thing to go. It is quite another to be sent.
Jesus knew deep in His heart that He was sent by God on a mission of redemption in the earth. In turn, Jesus sent others to share in His mission. The act of sending changed the lives of the ones who were sent. Their lives were divided by the call. Before the call their lives were their own; after the call, their lives were not their own—they were under a prior commitment. Before the call, their lives radiated the power of their personalities. After the call, another personality eclipsed their own—Jesus Himself moved in them, spoke through them, healed with their touch, and delivered with His authority sounding in their voices.

The Twelve
Jesus divided the twelve into six teams of two each. So there was an organizational plan. We are not given the rationale Jesus used in pairing up these men but we can be sure it made sense. Perhaps each team had a spokesman and a silent prayer partner. Whatever the plan was, Jesus knew how to put a team together. He still does!

He gave them power over unclean spirits. This means more than the exorcisms people would need. The powers of hell were focused on Jesus and His ministry. There was an ongoing spiritual warfare all around Jesus. Those in league with Satan, whether possessed by demons or merely evil people operating by their own sinful passions, were always set on edge by the presence of Jesus. When the six teams went out, they, too, would need power over all of hell’s devices and over the wickedness of powerful people whose petty little kingdoms were threatened by this Man from Galilee.

Traveling Light
Jesus shared His methodology with them—travel light. Have no concerns for what might happen. Trust God in every detail of life. The One who sends, always provides. Keep your traveling gear in order at all times. Stay with the people; join their households and families. You will be a blessing to them. But, when it is time to go, go! Someone in the next town must be similarly blest. If someone turns you away, that is their problem not yours. God will deal with them. From His instructions, the phrase, “shake the dust off your feet,” entered the languages of civilization. The rejecters will have to get in line with the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah to receive their reward.

Now He could do no mighty work there…because of their unbelief …

The Tour
The six 2-man teams made their tour and the results were fantastic. They did the same works in Jesus’ name that He had done: preaching repentance, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Their successful tour got the attention of Herod, one of those evil people in un-knowing league with Satan.

John, “a Man Sent From God.”
Herod thought he had disposed of John the Baptist. He was tricked into giving His word to a sensuous woman who danced for Him. She demanded the head of John. She got it. When the paranoid king got word of all the healing going on, he thought John was back from the grave.  It was actually a reasonable conclusion. When a person has been sent by God, a little thing like death may not stop him!

And so it is with us. Jesus has called us out. He has sent us into this world to continue His work. In His name we have power over the enemy. In His name we can preach repentance and see the sick raised to new health. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a price and we have been sent.

It is one thing to go. It is quite another to be sent.

Scriptures:
Mark 6:7-29
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts — but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” Others said, “It is Elijah. And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.” But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!” For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my life is divided by the call You placed on my life. Now I am under orders—Your orders. You have sent me into this place to do these things. Thank You for not sending me here in my own power. You share Your power with me. You send me forth in Your powerful name. Help me be patient with those who oppose me for many do not realize they are fighting against You. Help be firm and uncompromising with opposition from evil spirits. They know what they are doing. Send Your angels to go before me and watch behind me for they too have been sent. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Go Forth (Rise Up O Champions of God)
Words and Music: Mark Altrogge

1. Rise up, you champions of God.
Rise up, you royal nation.
Rise up, and bear His light abroad.
We’ll reach this generation.
We’ve got our marching orders.
We’ve got our marching orders.
Now is the time to carry them forth.

Refrain:
Go forth! Jesus loves them.
Go forth! Take the gospel.
Go forth! The time is now.
The harvest is ripening.
Go forth!

2. Feel now the burden of the Lord.
Feel how He longs to save them.
Feel now for those who never heard
About the Son He gave them.
We’ve got our marching orders.
We’ve got our marching orders.
Now is the time to carry them forth.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 12 “Chains”

Chains

Sometimes chains aren’t strong enough.
Nothing could control the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gadarenes. He lived among the tombs for no place else could afford him rest. His torment spread from the host of demons inside to the whole village. Community efforts were made to silence him; nothing worked. He was bound with chains and they couldn’t hold him; he snapped them like threads. Iron shackles were useless; he broke them in pieces. His tormented cries echoed from the hills in daylight and haunted the long sleepless nights. He could not even take his own life although he tried cutting himself with stones.

Then Jesus Came
Without announcement or promotion, Jesus crossed to the Gadareneside of Galilee to continue His work there. Through a demonic haze the poor man saw Jesus coming across the sea. Somehow He knew that Jesus was not just any man. When the Lord stepped out of the boat, the demonized man met Him. e fell at Jesus’ feet, not with tormented cries of pain but with worship.

How could this be? The Bible says that demons believe and tremble, but the demons inside the man did not worship; this afflicted man worshiped. As far down as he had fallen, he still had something left of his spirit, that God-conscious part of him. Jesus spoke to the darkness inside the man:

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

With a loud voice one of them cried out:

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

Jesus was quick with a reply:

“What is your name?”

“My name is Legion; for we are many.”

The demons begged Jesus not to send them to hell. 2000 pigs were minding their own business, feeding in the nearby hills. At the request of the demons, Jesus sent the legion into the hapless hogs. Although they were ignorant beasts, they knew better than to host demon spirits. They went mad, rushed off a cliff and drowned themselves in the sea.

What do we do about this?
The herdsmen of the swine told the people of the town what had happened. There was nothing in their leadership manuals about what to do about something like this. They saw the man who was their biggest problem now clothed, quiet, and in his right mind. A quick meeting of the brightest of these pillars of the community was convened. Their solution was to ask Jesus to go away and not come back.

To conform to their wishes, Jesus got back into the boat. The delivered man started to climb in the boat with Him. Who could blame him? Jesus asked him to stay as His representative to the town that had just sent their Healer away.

“Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you,
and how He has had compassion on you.”

With those words Jesus returned to the other side of the lake. In the country of the Gadarenes sick folks were not healed. People in bondage were not delivered from their spiritual chains. Their days and nights were quieter now without the noise of the man who lived among the tombs but they had missed their time of God’s visitation. The chains of their unbelief were strong and binding.

Sometimes chains are strong enough.

Scriptures:
Mark 5: 1-20
Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea. So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I marvel at the power of Your name, the glory of Your Presence. Help me seize the opportunities You afford me each day. There are chains in this life than seek to bind me; break them by Your power! You have defeated all my enemies! You have given me Your Holy Name as a weapon. I know demons tremble at the sound of it! Help me never to turn from You but always toward You. I will call out to You in my pain and You will always hear and deliver. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Jesus Breaks Every Fetter
Traditional

Jesus breaks every fetter.
Jesus breaks every fetter.
Jesus breaks every fetter.
And He sets me free.

I am now on the altar.
I am now on the altar.
I am now on the altar.
And He sets me free.

I will shout Hallelujah!
I will shout Hallelujah!
I will shout Hallelujah!
For He sets me free!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 22, 2017: “Rank”

Rank

In the military, rank really counts. 
A soldier, sailor, airman, or marine has to know where he or she stands in the chain of command.  Over the years a cliché has been used to describe warriors of the lowest degree, “the rank and file.”  In the modern versions of the military in the USA there is a clear difference between “enlisted personnel” and the officers’ corps.

Among each group there are progressive strata of authority available to the individual with each rank adding a stripe to the uniform and another level of responsibility to the duties of that individual.  Likewise, the officers’ corps features a progression through ranks with appropriate insignia and increasing responsibilities.

How does this apply to spiritual combat in the Army of the Lord? 
Of course rank is not as formalized in the church as in the military but it certainly is a reality.  Each of us needs to understand where we function in the “chain of command,” from Jesus down to us, and on to those we lead.  Ideally, leaders in the church rise to that position of responsibility because of the call of God on their lives.  This ideal should be present at every level of leadership and follow-ship in the church—each one should be serving in the area of his/her calling.

This may be all too rare, but is the way that Jesus taught. He turned the seeking of rank on its head, proclaiming that leadership in the Kingdom of God was really servant hood. It is interesting to note that in their letters, the Apostles claimed to be servants not masters, private soldiers not generals.

Rank and Privilege
With the calling of God on each person as the central factor, the effects of rank in the Army of God are quite different from the effects of rank in the military organizations today.  In the world, “rank has its privileges.”  The general or the admiral is considered more important than the private soldier or able bodied seaman.

Not so in the Kingdom of God! Every warrior in the Army of the Lord is equal in importance, if not in rank!  We do not have equal responsibility but we are of equal worth.  This is a significant difference!

  • Some of us have the responsibilities of officers, that is, we are leaders, planners, and evaluators.
  • Others have the responsibility level of enlisted personnel, that is, we carry out the plans of the officers.
  • Each of us, leader or follower, planner, or implementer, holds an equal place in the heart of our Commander, the Lord Jesus.

Paul used the soldier-commander model to encourage young Timothy to a life of faithful spiritual warfare, warning him not to become entangled with “civilian” activities that would take his mind and heart away from the war at hand.  He gave Timothy a lofty but entirely manageable life’s goal: “to please your commanding officer.”

To do this, Timothy had to live a specific life:

  • He had to live life “by the Book,” that means, according to the Word of God.
  • He must seek to please the Lord and not men.
  • He must wage warfare with spiritual weapons, not those of men.

Today for a warrior of any rank, this remains a good three-fold set of life principles:

  1. Live by the Book;
  2. Please the Lord; and
  3. Depend on the Holy Spirit.

In the Army of the Lord, this, not rank, is what really counts.

Scriptures:
Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ
James 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
Jude 1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
Mark 10:42-45
… Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 1:27-28
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus’ Teaching: Matt 9:38; 11:25; 12:8; 20:16; Luke 13:29-30

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
  • Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth
  • For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath
  • So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.

Revelation 22:9
Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
1 John 5:1-5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
2 Timothy 2:3-5
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my commanding officer. At the same time, You have given me responsibilities that put others under my leadership. I want to shoulder these responsibilities and succeed in every mission. Help me lead as Your words command, not in forced power but in shared responsibilities. Give me spiritual vision to see the field of battle. Give me strategic wisdom to know what should be done. Help me prepare the spiritual weapons in Your arsenal and use them well. You are Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Our Banner, Our Victory. I will raise Your name high for all my soldiers to see. In Your victory, Amen.

Song:
Onward, Christian Soldiers
Words: S. Baring-Gould; Music: Arthur Sullivan

1. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banner go!

Refrain:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!

2. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise!

Refrain

3. Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Refrain

4. Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor, unto Christ the King;
This thro’ countless ages men and angels sing.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 17, 2017: “Conspiracy”

Conspiracy

Soldiers, perhaps the same squad that performed the gruesome crucifixion, were scattered in front of the tomb.
One by one the sixteen soldiers of the Roman guard stirred from the deep sleep that had taken each of them. They groaned and stretched as if they were waking from an all-night drunk. But it was still the middle of the night. The full moon floated serenely overhead and the night sounds common to a garden graveyard could still be heard. Each soldier also jerked awake when he remembered what had happened just before this heavy sleep had struck the down. Shakily each one stood to his feet, looked for his sword and shield, and reconnoitered the tomb site.

The huge stone that took all sixteen of them plus a lever and fulcrum to roll into place was back where they found it. The sight of this sparked the memory of the tall soldier in white who had easily manipulated the stone. They were glad he was gone. The soldiers exchanged apprehensive looks. The tomb was standing open, a dark cavern holding unknown terrors. The officer knew it was up to him. He could command any of the guard to look inside and he would do it. But he was a Roman officer and he was honor-bound. He knew they were in deep trouble if the body was gone. And he knew that the open tomb could really mean nothing else. He would have to answer to his many superiors, so it was he who must investigate.

He signaled for a torch, ordering a soldier to thrust it into the darkness of the tomb’s mouth to illuminate what was inside. The officer tightened his grip on the sword in his right hand and the shield in his left and looked into the tomb. He could see that the body was gone. He commanded the soldier with the torch to move it around so he could see everywhere inside. He could see no one hiding in ambush. He exchanged his sword for the torch and entered the Tomb.

The stone slab where the body was supposed to be contained only the linen wrappings of the body. Why would thieves do this? Wouldn’t they need the protection of the anointed grave clothes when they carried the body away? And, another wonder, it was all so neat. The linens were not torn or disturbed in any way and the head clothes were folded neatly as if they were meant to be some sort of mute witness. But, witness to what? A robbery under the noses of sixteen Roman soldiers? None of this made any sense.

What to do?
Finally, the squad of defeated warriors could relax and try to determine what they should do next. When their superiors found out about this either their lives or their careers were in jeopardy. The youngest of them knew what he should do. With his eyes on his commander, he back away into the darkness and at a safe distance turned and ran into the night. A good idea has many companions. The others followed in quick succession until finally the officer stood alone holding the torch, its limited light offering little illumination to his dilemma. Slowly he picked up the scattered implements of battle and trudged out of the darkness of the night into a future even darker.

Report to the Leaders
Later some of the soldiers took the only action that made sense; they went to the Jewish leaders and told them all they had seen. To their amazement, the leaders looked more alarmed than the soldiers had been! Quickly they produced cash and a promise.

“Don’t tell anyone the truth; lie and say His disciples stole the body while you slept.”

“But there were sixteen of us!”

“No problem! Money is no object–Here’s more. Tell all your companions that if Pilate gives them any trouble, we will cover for you. This means more to us than it does to Rome.” The soldiers went away, richer for the experience.

Thus the conspiracy began that continues to this day:
“Suppress the truth about Jesus. Lie, murder, slander, persecute believers, do what must be done to keep the truth about Jesus sealed in a tomb. If the truth gets out, it will set people free.”

Scriptures:
Matthew 27:62-66 NIV
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Matthew 28:11-15 NKJV
… some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure. “So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Acts 4:27
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let me always contemplate the cross through the opening of the empty tomb. The Bible says Your death was “once and for all”—a never to be repeated event. There is no need to repeat it. Unlike the innumerable lambs sacrificed under the Old Covenant, You, Lord, are the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. However, Your victory over death is repeatable—each of us can share in Your new life! Help me walk in resurrection power today, countering the lies people tell about You. Help me live and tell the truth. As the ancient Christian confession proclaims, “Christ has died. Christ his risen. Christ will come again!” “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Christ Arose!
Words and Music: Robert Lowry
1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 22, 2017 “Faith”

Faith

Faith is both common and uncommon.
It is both prevalent and extremely rare. How does faith occupy such a contradictory status? Because faith must have an object; it must be connected to something else. The object of any faith makes it common or uncommon, prevalent or rare.

Common Faith. We have faith in bridges or we would never dare cross over on them. We are confident that an airplane will fly or we wouldn’t board. We are sure those drivers hurtling toward us going the other way at least ten miles over the speed limit, inches from our car, will stay in their assigned lanes. We trust our surgeon will know what to be do when he/she peers down into the hole he/she made in us, even though we had to sign a waiver to get them to do it. We believe what is printed on food labels in the store so we buy it expecting just that many calories and carbs. Faith in these kinds of things is common; action based on this kind of faith is prevalent.

Uncommon Faith. It is rare indeed and most uncommon to find someone who deliberately puts complete faith in the character of God as He is revealed in His Word. For support over dangerous streams or steep gullies they trust in promised angels, not manmade bridges. They board boats, trains, and planes and drive cars confident of the travelling mercies for which they have prayed. Their healthcare system rests on the Great Physician rather than the best care money can buy. They consider their bodies to be Temples of the Holy Spirit, designed to be cared for through faithful obedience to the One who designed the body and supplies to it an abundant life. Faith in these kinds of things is altogether too uncommon and action based this kind of faith is altogether too rare.

Let us be the exception.
Let us be people who believe the true report summarized so beautifully in Isaiah 53:

  • Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
  • As the Virgin-born Sin Bearer with no sin of His own Jesus has borne our sins far away.
  • The perfect One has healed us inside and out.
  • He has revealed the face of God to us even though we once hid our faces from Him.

We have believed the entire report of Scripture as the ancient Christian confession states:

  • Christ has died.
  • Christ has risen.
  • Christ will come again.

Faith is believing.
Because we believe in Jesus, we can be fearless and free to go anywhere He sends us and do anything He asks us to do. Jesus has us in His strong, resurrected arms. No power can overpower Him. No enemy can defeat this Mighty Warrior. All of God’s promises are true. He is the object of our faith. Most people place their faith in roads, bridges, and other drivers. They beleive in airplanes, food labels, and in all manner of precarious promises. Everyday life mixes people of the common faith and prevalent behavior patterns with those who live by uncommon faith in God and behave in ways consistent with His instructions. Let us be on the lookout today for someone who is ready to hear about a higher faith. May our joy and productivity reveal the object of our faith–Jesus!

This faith and these behaviors may be uncommon and rare, but this is the faith for which every human heart longs.

Scriptures:
Hebrews 11:1; 12:1-3
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
John 6:29
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
1 John 5:3-5
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Romans 10:17
… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Luke 17:6; 18:8
…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
2 Corinthians 5:7
We live by faith, not by sight.
Romans 1:17
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let faith arise in my heart. Let it propel me into this day with confidence. You are my faith and shield. You hem me in behind and before and I feel Your hand on me this minute. As the fiery darts of the enemy come my way today, my shield of faith quenches their puny flames. Faith in Your name which is the name above all names, propels my every step toward victory. Let my faith in You be the warmth in my touch, the tenderness in my voice and the peace in personality. Faith is the victory! In You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Faith Is the Victory
Words: John H. Yates; Music: Ira D. Sankey

1. Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies;
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

Refrain:
Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.

2. His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints before
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath,
Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

Refrain

3. On every hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.

Refrain

4. To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heav’n;
Then onward from the hills of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conqu’ring name.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 11, 2017

Danger

In this dangerous world we find safety in Jesus.
In Jesus we find the courage to face the dangers in this world. Our faith is not a run-and-hide kind of faith. We are called to do dangerous things but not foolish things or presumptuous things. We must not let danger stop us from following the call of God on our lives.

This isn’t a truth just for missionaries.
We are all called to take a stand for Christ in difficult and dangerous places. Missionaries who are called to the untamed regions of the world may face cannibals, wild beasts, hostile tribes, or treacherous terrain. Most of us will never face that kind of danger.

We are called to different jungles, domestic and foreign.

  • The cannibals who would have us for lunch are often co-workers or wicked bosses with patches of jungle they have to protect.
  • The wild beasts that roar at us are speeding cars, buses, trains, and aluminum tubes that fly at hundreds of miles an hour 35000 feet in the air.
  • We face hostile tribes of competitors who will just as soon slit our career throat as stab us in the vocational back to advance their safari through this jungle.
  • We walk in dangerous places, steep mountain trails, impenetrable forests, and we must somehow cross swollen rivers.

All the while, foreign enemies who follow a hostile god who commands that we either deny Christ or die, stand ready, armed, and dangerous at every point of entry to our country, digital or geographic.

What Might Happen
Yes, we face danger. Worry is one of the greatest threats. There is a lot to worry about: illness, accidents, family, machine failure, society breakdowns, dirty bombs–North Korea! The “what if” game will drive us mad. How can we sleep at night? How can we venture forth tomorrow to brave the dangers the day will hold? If every time we are tempted to worry we would turn that thought into a prayer, what a difference that would make.

What We Know
Of all the things we can remember or imagine, there are few things that we can know.

  • We know that God loves us and that He is in ultimate control of lives when we have trusted Him with them.
  • We know that Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us.
  • We know God sends angels to watch over us every hour of every day.
  • We know that we are called according to God’s purpose and He is really good at making all things work out for our good.
  • We know that “greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.”
  • We know that Jesus has overcome the world and that through Him we can overcome it too.

We do not face danger alone.
If we don’t understand what is happening, we know that God does. He is not pacing the balcony of heaven wondering what to do next. If our spiritual eyes could only see them, we are sure angels surround us all the time. Our every footfall will be lit by the Word of God as will every path we take no matter how steep and narrow. In Jesus we find the courage to face these dangers. Let’s turn every worry into a prayer!

In this dangerous world we find safety in Jesus.

Scriptures:
2 Corinthians 11:24-29
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
Romans 8:34-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 6:10-13 NKJV
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the Wiles of the devil … to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Prayer:
The First Song of Isaiah
Isaiah 12:2‑6 The Book of Common Prayer(adapted SRP)
Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior. Therefore you (I, we) shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation. And on that day you (I, we) shall say, Give thanks to the Lord and call upon His Name; Make His deeds known among the peoples; see that they remember that His Name is exalted. Sing praises of the Lord, for He has done great things, and this is known in all the world. Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Be Still My Soul

Words: Kathrina von Schlegel; Music: “Finlandia” Jean Sibelius

1. Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future surely as the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord;
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 10, 2017 “Sunday”

Sunday

Sunday is the Lord’s Day.
He gives us seven days, but claims one of them as His own.
It is not a bad deal. Life as an endless stream of days would be unbearable. We need the organizational point of the Lord’s Day each week. It is a chance to end things and start them up again.

Perhaps the slaves-turned-landowners who crossed the River Jordan into Canaan’s Land needed a day to knock off work and take up worship and rest. Without this grace, they would have worked themselves to death.

Just like we sometimes do.

In Isaiah the Lord calls it, “My Holy Day.”
It is not rightfully ours to spend as we please. Early Christians, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection, expanded the Sabbath, the seventh day, to Sunday, the first day of the week. The Sabbath Day of the Old Covenant converged with the Resurrection Celebration of the First Day to become the New Covenant Lord’s Day.  On Sunday we gaze at the cross through the door of an empty tomb.

The seeds of sanity, rest and worship, are sown in this weekly break from our routines:

  • Rest for weariness or to avoid it, and
  • Worship to renew us and reconnect us to the Lord and His family.

The Lord’s Day is a day to rise above our musical preferences to sing the music of others.
It is a day to thank God for His faithfulness and to honor His work in our brothers and sisters as we hear the testimonies of both

  • the young and the old,
  • the victor and the vanquished, and
  • the sick and the healed.

The Lord’s Day is a time to praise and worship the Lord, to seek His face in intercession and to hear His Word.

On the Lord’s Day we focus our hearts on Jesus.
In response to our attention, He lavishes us with love and truth and peace. His Holy Spirit expands our hearts so we can know Jesus better and experience more of His strength. When we close out the clamor of the week in Lord’s Day worship, our hearts can hear the worship going on in heaven as we encounter His holy presence on His Holy Day.

Offering ourselves to Him gives the Lord opportunity to retune our internal instruments to face another week proving His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

There is no day like the Lord’s Day. Let us gather together in His presence. Let us give Him the glory due His name, for as He promised, in giving we receive.

On Sunday we gaze at the cross through the door of an empty tomb.

Scriptures:
Exodus 20:8
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Matthew 12:11-12
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
John 20:1
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
Acts 20:7
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread
Revelation 1:9-11 NKJV
I, John… was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,”
Isaiah 58:13-14
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Prayer:
Dearest Lord Jesus, today we will give You thanks. We will give You the glory due unto Your name. This day is Your Day not ours. It is Your holy day and we will not profane it. We focus on You. We seek Your face. Like the woman in the crowd we press through to touch You. We need Your healing virtue. We need a Word from You, Lord. We need to sense Your nearness and rest in Your mercy. You have called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light so that we might give You praise. And this we do, today, Your Day! Amen.

Song:
This Is the Day

Traditional Scripture Chorus

This is the day (This is the Day)
That the Lord has made (That the Lord has made)
I will rejoice (I will rejoice)
And be glad in it (And be glad in it)
This is the day that the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day (This is the Day)
That the Lord has made!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved