July 14, 2017 “Rubble”


In the Path of the Storm
Sometimes we cry out to God to still the storm but the storm came anyway.  The devastation was beyond description:

  • Trees stripped bare,
  • Houses blown away leaving only stairwells and inner closets standing,
  • Cars deposited in trees,
  • Bits and pieces of people’s lives scattered among the sticks of their homes,
  • All shining under a sky now clear of menacing clouds and stirred by gentle breezes that bore no resemblance to the tornado last night.

Rubble, wild and unattached pieces of a puzzle that was too real to be unreal, was all that was left of the beautiful, carefully planned and constructed neighborhood.

The storm did not care for the plans or the people or their places to live.
It roared through the darkness on its own path, doing its deadly work sweeping away the structures and scattering the lives of the people in them.

In the morning, the survivors picked through the rubble looking for something they could use as a starting place for the re-build. You see, these people loved their homes. Their affections were not blown away by the storm. In this they were like the people of Jerusalem where their homes were destroyed by their enemies.

“For your servants love her very rubble, and are moved to pity even for her dust.”

When there was nothing left but rubble and dust, they loved the rubble and dust.

In time, the dead were buried, the injured recovered, the houses were rebuilt and the only traces of the night of destruction are the rubble of dreams, the memories of the sickening silence that followed the roar, the dim morning light that revealed the rubble.

There are others storms that do not roar.
There are winds of other kinds whose paths are filled with the rubble of the soul:

  • Houses destroyed by debt,
  • Lives wrecked by addiction,
  • Families broken by unfaithfulness, and
  • Hearts shattered by betrayal.

Though not as visible as the rubble a tornado leaves behind, if we could see into hearts and minds, this ruination of the soul would be even more disturbing. There is no insurance, no check coming in the mail to rebuild. This is rubble that will remain—until…

Until Jesus comes on the scene.
He is not only the Master Builder—He is the Master Re-builder of destroyed lives. He loves us and when our hearts are broken, He feels the pain. When we walk through the rubble that was once our lives, His arm is around our shoulders, holding us up. He helps us find the strange little things that somehow survived the storm to pop up from the rubble. Each cup and saucer, toy and knick-knack we find lifts our spirits—if these things can survive so can we! This may only be rubble and dust, but it is our rubble and dust and we love it.

We know somehow that Jesus loves the rubble and dust of our lives, too, and He is the One with the plans and the power to rebuild them. When we cry out to God to still the storm but the storm comes anyway, it is not the end. In His grace it is a new beginning.

Psalm 102
But you, O Lord, endure forever, and your Name from age to age. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to have mercy upon her; indeed, the appointed time has come. For your servants love her very rubble, and are moved to pity even for her dust. The nations shall fear your Name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory. For the Lord will build up Zion, and his glory will appear. He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. For the Lord looked down from his holy place on high; from the heavens he beheld the earth; That he might hear the groan of the captive and set free those condemned to die; That they may declare in Zion the Name of the Lord, and his praise in Jerusalem; When the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms also, to serve the Lord. … O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; They shall perish, but you will endure; they all shall wear out like a garment; as clothing you will change them, and they shall be changed; But you are always the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants shall continue, and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight.”
Isaiah 58:9-14 NIV
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. “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.
Psalm 71:19-21 NIV
Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

Lord Jesus, You never promised us a life without storms. You were careful to say that if we built our lives on You as the Sure Foundation, that when the storms come our lives will stand the punishment. Yet, there are times when the storms are so severe that You, the Foundation of our lives, are all that is left. Even then, it is enough in Your capable, carpenter’s hands—You will rebuild us. You will take the rubble and make it useful and beautiful again, a strong structure ready for the next storm. Thank You, Jesus!

I Will Serve Thee

Words and Music: William J. Gaither

I will serve Thee, because I love Thee.
You have given life to me.
I was nothing before You found me.
You have given life to me.
Heartaches, broken pieces, ruined lives are
Why You died on Calvary.
Your touch was what I longed for.
You have given life to me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 6, 2017


Jesus and His men were used to roughing it.
They probably spent most nights huddled around a couple of fires, the flames dancing in their eyes as they listened to Jesus speak softly, with need to project His voice to a crowd. There was something tender in His voice muffled by the heavy night air speaking visions of another world and truths that must be resident somewhere out there in the darkness beyond the fire’s light. The clear nights with multitudes of stars seeming almost to sing of the glory of the Lord, made thoughts of eternity seem almost within reach.

The day’s events were reviewed. Things they couldn’t laugh at in public were enjoyed with bursts of laughter that would cause others nearby who were likewise bedding down for the night to wonder who this band of twelve, no, thirteen men might be and what they might be up to.

Parables were explained. Deep silences followed the astounding words of Jesus. One simply could not answer; one could only consider. One by one the Disciples would find a place to make a bed as the fires and the conversation grew smaller and smaller. When all the men had found their places and the slow, deep breathing of sleep was all there was to hear, I can imagine that Jesus stood up and stirred the fires a little, perhaps adding some more wood. He would then have another conversation, this one with His father, one that could only be heard in His heart. Soon, even that conversation would end only to be continued before dawn as Jesus, tired from the day as any man would be, found a place to lay His head.

But what about bad weather?
In cold seasons and on stormy nights, Jesus and His men needed more shelter than the stars could provide, hidden as they were by clouds or bright as they were in the frigid winter air. Lodging was the shelter they needed; fires safely contained in stone and vented by chimneys of stone. This was the shelter they needed but the kind they seldom had.

The House at Bethany
This made the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany such a special shelter for them. It must have been a large house to accommodate so many.

  • It is easy to see that Martha’s hospitality gifts were vital to the whole enterprise.
  • Mary’s love for Jesus was itself like a fire that warmed and refreshed Him.
  • Lazarus, perhaps not as strong as his sisters, watched quietly and listened intently.

No Shelter in the Garden
On that last night after their last meal together, deep in the green of the Garden called Gethsemane, a silent storm raged in the heart of Jesus. His time had come. He had set His face like a flint toward the moment that was now upon Him. His sleeping disciples were no solace to Him. The Garden itself was no shelter from the interior storm–the icy winter of His soul.

There was no shelter for Him. He must face

  • the winds of wickedness,
  • the storms of Satan’s schemes,
  • the treachery of the traitor,
  • the swords of the soldiers and
  • He must face all of this alone.

The shelter of the Father’s wings promised in the Psalms was nowhere to be found.  There was no towering rock to give cover; no defense could be made against the madness of men.

No one was ever so alone, so exposed, so vulnerable as Jesus, without shelter on the night when sin ruled the world.

Matthew 8:20 NIV
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Mark 14:32-42 NIV
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba,e Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Matthew 7:24-25 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.

Lord Jesus You are my shelter against the storm. You are my rock and my salvation in this weary land. I have built my house upon you. You promised that the rains would fall down, the waters would rise up and the winds would howl and blow against my house but it would not fall. It would not be swamped by the rising flood or break beneath the weight of the winds. Today I remember all Your nights under the stars with no soft bed to receive You. I call to mind all those cold or stormy nights when You found to place to lay Your head. I remember also Your agony in Gethsemane where no shelter could shield You from the tempest in the hearts of men. I want my heart to be to You a shelter like the home of Martha and her kin. Be welcome in my heart and find shelter there. Amen.

Till the Storm Passes By
Words and Music: Mosie Lister

1. In the dark of the midnight I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

2. Many times Satan whispered, “There’s no need to try,
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by.”
But I know Thou are with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.

3. When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;
In the land where the tempest never comes, Lord may I
Dwell wee with Thee when the storm passes by.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved