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

June 18, 2017 “Forgiven”


She was used to the company of men.
She could read their smiles. It is likely that some of the men gathered for dinner in the home of a Pharisee named Simon saw her come in. If they noticed her at all, they quickly turned their faces away; they did not smile at her. The man she wanted to see was a stranger among the smelly men reclining around the table laden with lavish food. The oil lamps sent wavering shadows here and there across the room, but from the man she came to see, a constant inner light seemed to glow from deep inside Him.

She had seen that light even in the bright sunlight on the Jerusalem streets. She had followed Him, welcoming the anonymity of the crowd. She held back, always in the second or third rank and always with her head and face covered, while her keen eyes watched Him closely.

In one glorious moment, His shining eyes met hers.
He looked deep into her heart, the way no man had ever looked at her. His unbroken gaze was like a torch shining into the dark cavern of her wounded soul. She tried to look away but she could not. Though she did not understand why, she knew this was a life-changing moment for her, that she could never be the same. She knew that her livelihood was now a thing of the past. She would find a way to live that would meet His approval; she didn’t know how but she knew she could and would.

The Smile of Jesus
As they continued to look at each other, a broad smile came across the face of Jesus. This thrilled her to the depth of her being. It was as if He knew what had happened inside of her, as if He knew of the shame that had suddenly overcome her, as if He knew of the choice she had made. It seemed He was saying that all was forgiven. For the rest of her life, she would make all her choices in the light of that smile—life was about pleasing Him, not others and not herself.

He went on this way; there were others to talk to, to touch, and some who needed the power of His gaze and the forgiveness of His smile. She seemed frozen to that spot, transfixed by the new life inside her. She forgot about her scarf and head piece, letting them drop, her face and hair shining in the sun. She breathed deeply looked intently at a future she had never imagined before.

A few hours later she heard that He was dining in the home of Simon the Pharisee, a home she knew well. Entering by the servant’s entrance she invaded the dinner gathering, her heart bursting with gratitude. Without hesitation she found her way to Jesus. At first, she stood behind Him weeping. Then she fell at His feet and began to wash His feet with her tears and lovingly dry them with her hair. She took perfume and anointed those feet, kissing them.

Recovering from the shock of this intrusion, Simon, knowing full well who she was, seized the moment to prove that Jesus was obviously not a prophet or He would know who she was as well.

With a parable Jesus gently instructed Simon and all the other proud sinners about the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven —
for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

So it is today. If our record of sins is large or small, if we have met Jesus eye-to-eye in faith and repentance, the record has been cleared, and we, too, must minister to Him. As we do, we too, can feel His smile.

Psalm 104
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities; He redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness; He satisfies you with good things, and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed. He made his ways known to Moses and his works to the children of Israel. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. He will not always accuse us, nor will he keep his anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. As a father cares for his children, so does the Lord care for those who fear him. For he himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust. Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; When the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever on those who fear him, and his righteousness on children’s children; on those who keep his covenant and remember his commandments and do them. The Lord has set his throne in heaven, and his kingship has dominion over all. Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word. Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will. Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul.
Luke 7:36-50 NIV
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 11:4; 17:3-4 NIV
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”… “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Lord Jesus, my Savior, Healer, Baptizer, and soon coming King, I worship You today! I marshal all my strength to this purpose. As I think of “the glory due Your name,” I must add my voice to that of nature and all creation in song of praise from creation to Creator. When I consider Your mighty throne, I join the songs of angels attending there, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” I hear the Song of the Redeemed, roaring from the heavenly gallery, as angels must fall silent. They cannot sing this song of thanksgiving for they have not known Your mercy as has the church. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for Saving My Soul.
Traditional Chorus

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.
Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.
Thank You, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and so free.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
For more on Pride: “The Invisible Mountain”

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 17, 2017


There are two types of people…
If we listen closely enough we will often hear someone declare, “There are two types of people in the world…” and go on to make some clever observation about how we human beings go about the business of being human. Usually it has nothing to do with gender.

Well, it is time to say it, “There are two types of people in the world, morning people and everyone else.” Some people do their best work late at night when all is quiet or when the noise is a chosen one. They look with deep suspicion on those who do their best thinking first thing in the morning, and their finest work to the accompaniment of birds and the early morning news.

It is a good thing when these two types of people marry; that way work or fun can happen around the clock in their house.

In the earliest days of the church, hours of prayer were kept all through each day and night. To this day some of us do our devotions in the morning and others at night. The only rule we need to consider is to give the Lord our best time, be that early or late.

A Special Gift from God
Think for a moment of a different application of “mornings” as a special kind of gift from the Lord. The broad rhythms of life are vital to our spiritual and physical health.

  • We need activity and we need rest.
  • We need wakefulness and we need sleep.
  • We need to be alert at crucial times and at other times we can tune out and the let the old earth turn without our help.

These alternating states of being come to us in the steady beat of day and night, of “morning and evening” as in the biblical account of the Creation.

Perhaps we should think of each morning as a “do-over”—a chance to try again. It is as if the darkness of night was a curtain drawn on the past and the light of day was the rising of the curtain on a future full of promise. Each morning is like a little New Year’s Day—a chance to out yesterday behind us and to improve on it today—a new challenge to keep life interesting. What a blessed gift from God!—Mornings!

Fear and darkness have always been partners.
Before the age of electricity homes and streets were dark or poorly lit by candles and lamps, slender flames against the wide darkness of night. The night held terrors both real and imagined. The ancient prayers the people of God used to pray through the night reveal this now-forgotten fear. In our modern world the troubles of the day or the frailties of the body may pain the mind or the human frame to the point of lost sleep. For these long nights, mornings are indeed a gift from God.

Of course the Bible famously promises that the loving-kindness of the Lord is new every morning. That means that as the earth is constantly turning, every moment is morning somewhere.

We can rejoice when the alarm shocks us awake. We can smile at the sunrise. We can spend time with God and a good cup of coffee, knowing that each morning holds a bit of the Resurrection morning and that God has gifted us each with a fresh start.

Maybe we will get it right this time!

Psalm 5 
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation. Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I make my prayer to you. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you. For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you. Braggarts cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those who work wickedness. You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O Lord, you abhor. But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house; I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness, because of those who lie in wait for me; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; there is destruction in their heart; Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Declare them guilty, O God; let them fall, because of their schemes. Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But all who take refuge in you will be glad; they will sing out their joy for ever. You will shelter them, so that those who love your Name may exult in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Prayers for the Morning from the Book of Common Prayer
For the Renewal of Life
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep Your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done Your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give You thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Grace
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Guidance
Heavenly Father, in You we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray You so to guide and govern us by Your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget You, but may remember that we are ever walking in Your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Morning Has Broken
Words: Eleanor Farjeon; Music: Gaelic Folk Tune

1. Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

2. Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

3. Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 15, 2017


Jesus never loses a battle, but sometimes we do. 
It hurts so much that we tend to lose perspective on life when we lose a battle, a valuable asset, a trusted relationship or someone we love.  Victories are fun!  We take them in stride and pack them away into our collection of memories to be recalled when needed.  Chances are we don’t learn much from victories; they serve to affirm what we already know.  Losses, however, are a school, “the school of hard knocks,” it is called.  In this school our skills are examined and expanded and our philosophies are tested and adjusted.

If Jesus has the power to win all the time, why does the believer ever experience failure? 

There are too many reasons to explore in this devotional, but here are a few:

  • Sometimes we mess up. We lose when we let our discipline slip or when we yield to temptation.  When this happens we must accept the responsibility, repent, and pray for mercy.
  • Sometimes our methods are wrong.  God will let failure come our way when He wants us to abandon methods that do not please Him.  He loves us more than He loves what we can do for Him and He is pleased when we do things in His ways, not ours.
  • Sometimes are motives are wrong.  Improper motives can lurk deep in our spirits, unknown to us but most displeasing to God.  An unbroken stream of wins will keep these poisons out of sight so God sometimes lets us fall on our face to get our attention so we will seek His forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Sometimes others fail us.  Our faithfulness to God extends as far as our will, but we are not isolated from the failures of the people in our lives.  The wickedness, anger, deceit, and violence of the people around us can touch us in painful ways.  Think of the terrible bus accident several years ago in Kentucky where a drunk driver killed several young people returning from a church outing.  In these losses, God is an able counselor, a comfort and a friend.

Sometimes we lose and there seems to be no reason. 
When our hearts are right and our methods are pure and our faithfulness to God is intact, and we lose a battle or a loved one anyway, this is the toughest kind of loss.  There is no one to blame, no faulty methods to correct, no hidden sin to uncover and deal with.  There is no one to blame but God.

The book of Psalms contains prayers that boldly question God for His lack of action.  These make as uncomfortable as the “hallelujah” psalms make us happy.  What is the lesson?  Simply this:  It is not a sin to question God in such matters.  He can handle our inquiries.  He understands our doubts.  He remembers that we are human, not divine.  When we question from a standpoint of love, the Lord listens and comforts us with His presence, if not with all the answers to our questions.

Losses must be grieved; severe losses must be deeply grieved.
This is how God made us and it is not a sin to grieve a loss.  The psalms set an example of pouring our grief out to God. The key to this process of grief must also include solitude and listening.  “Beside still waters, He restores my soul.” In the quiet moments, after the crying is done and the tears have dried, after our legitimate questions have made the journey from our wounded hearts to His great, healing heart, God will speak to us.  We may not even have words for what He says, but He will speak.  He will be our solace.  He will touch us deep inside where no one else can reach.  He promises a greater day, a higher good, and a time to come when all our tears will be swept away by His own wounded hand.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Psalm 88
O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.  … You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.  I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you… I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me? …. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.
Revelation 7:17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Lord Jesus, though You are the Victor over all, You suffered losses in Your earthly ministry. One of the twelve men You chose to follow You betrayed You instead. There was a village where You did not heal the sick and rescue the demon-possessed because of the low level of faith found there. In spite of Your creative and careful teaching about the coming atoning death and the subsequent resurrection, the disciples just didn’t get it. So You understand this world where sometimes we lose. I will take your advice and shake the dust of failure from my feet and follow You to the next thing. Through You I will win! Hallelujah!

Victory in Jesus
Words and Music: Eugene Bartlett

1. I heard an old, old story, How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins And won the victory.

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

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


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 3, 2017


However it is measured, daily progress is to be desired.
It is important to us to feel that we have advanced the cause of our lives, the purpose God has for us, and the dream or vision the Holy Spirit has given to us. At the beginning of the day we pray for advancement in these things. At the end of the day we look back, hoping to measure the advancement of the day. If we see progress, we can go to sleep dreaming of tomorrow’s tasks. If the day has been one of setbacks or frustrations, we worry ourselves to sleep searching our memories for unseen flaws of technique or hidden causes of the random nonsense that robbed the day of measurable progress.

Give it time.
Advancement isn’t always easy to judge. Many times what we need is a greater time reference than a single day. What may seem like a setback today may prove to be a necessary course correction in a few days. With time, frustrations can lead us to new understandings of the task we are attempting. Even people who we think have hindered our advancement may turn out to be friends not enemies, helpers, not hinderers.

To gain this more accurate perspective, we must pull the camera of our analysis of our work back to a wider view. It is possible that the energy we pour into worrying about an unproductive day may be wasted. Things can look completely different from a longer viewpoint. Tossing in bed and constant adjustment of our pillow can be relieved by reflecting on how the Lord Himself might judge the day just past.

Paul encourages us to ruminate, not on the possible setbacks of the day, but on the final victory in Christ that is guaranteed in the Covenantal Promises of God.

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”

Remember the Promises.
As we meditate on the promises of God, the energies wasted on worry can be more profitably spent on

  • praise in advance for what God has promised to do,
  • thanksgiving for what God has already done,
  • anticipation of what tomorrow may bring, and
  • confidence in God to see us through.

Perhaps it is time to replace our hunger for advancement with a quiet confidence in faithfulness.

We cannot always sense advancement, but we can always be faithful. If we have been faithful, we have advanced the cause of Christ.

It may be that we have to look to the right or the left to judge our progress. This is useful, but all we need is a glance or two. Keep looking up

  • to the vision,
  • to the dream,
  • to the prize, and most of all,
  • to the Lord.

True advancement comes only from Him.

Psalm 75:6-7
No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Proverbs 4:25-27
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
Isaiah 30:19-21
O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Galatians 6:9-10
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Lord Jesus, I take a constant delight in You. As I do You shape the desires deep in my heart. I long for each day to be one of progress, ever higher, ever deeper, ever greater and all of this in Your will and love for me. Help this day to be one of advancement—advancement of Your splendid Kingdom. Help me move in Righteousness for Your cause does not advance through sloth or wickedness. Help me operate from a base of profound Peace with no anxiety in my mind or fear in my heart. Strengthen me with the Joy of the Holy Spirit which gives me Your power for the tasks before me. For Your Kingdom’s sake, Amen.

Higher Ground
Words: Johnson Oatman; Music: Charles Gabriel

1. I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining everyday;
Still praying as I’m homeward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith on heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

2. My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fear dismay;
Though some may dwell were these about, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.


3. I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has heard the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.


4. I want to scale the utmost height, and catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heaven I’ve found, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 18


We never can be sure what the day will hold.

Some days go as we planned them but most are filled with unplanned interruptions. It has been said that some of the most important teachings of Jesus came when someone interrupted him. It is good to look at unplanned interruptions as opportunities the Lord sends our way.

There. That was easy enough.

But what about those huge interruptions when we fail at something really important to us? Most of us don’t shoot from the hip in things that really matter. We take careful aim but still, sometimes, we miss the target. Our momentum is lost. Our rhythm gets off by a beat or more. We have to regroup, re-plan, reorganize, and somehow restore our enthusiasm. Talk about interruptions!

Sometimes things just don’t work out.
When, on the well-imagined, finely tuned, well-plotted journey of life, something just doesn’t work out, this setback must be carefully managed. The high hopes that sung us to sleep each night have stopped singing altogether. In their place is a mournful lament. As mature as we might like to think we are, the truth is our feelings are hurt. Setbacks are painful for they strike us in the heart with disappointment and in the mind with questions we thought we had answered correctly.

What is the old worn out saying? “The best laid plans of rodents and regents sometimes fail.”—something like that, anyway. Being neither rats nor rulers, this certainly applies to us. So how do we respond to setbacks, large and small?

Setbacks Small and Large
The small setbacks are managed easily with simple time management and coping skills. We know we cannot react to everything that happens. We must choose where our limited supply of energy will go.

Big setbacks—failures, shortfalls, crises, unfaithful people, wrong-headed ideas and plans—demand careful thinking and intentional examination.

  • Examine the plan. Was it from God? Did it work to fulfill the call on your life?
  • Examine the motivation behind the plan. Was this a godly thing to attempt? Were the hearts of the leaders pure?
  • Examine the presentation of the plan. Was there a mixed message that undermined the ministry? Was this sold to the people? Was there a consensus in the minds of the people or was this a top-down effort?

The Holy Spirit will lead you to the right questions to ask. Remember,

James 1:5
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault…”

Besides, you are certainly not alone:

  • An angel with a flaming sword posted at Eden’s Gate was a major setback for Adam and Eve.
  • Growing past the age of childbearing was certainly a setback to Abraham and Sarah.
  • Moses experienced setback after setback as Pharaoh continually hardened his heart.
  • King David’s heart broke when a young man lay dead by the Ark of the Covenant, but he recovered, consulted the Word of God, and called for the Priests and brought the Ark to Jerusalem.
  • John the Baptist became discouraged in prison and asked if Jesus was the One or should he look for another.
  • Jesus couldn’t heal in some towns because of unbelief so He just went on the next village.
  • Peter denied the Lord three times and all the disciples except John ran away. Later, they turned the world upside down.
  • Paul experienced too many setbacks to relate in this short space. His words to us are as powerful today as when he wrote them centuries ago.

Take heart. You will get another chance to get it right.

Philippians 3:12-14
…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. … I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Lord Jesus, you lived on this wonderful, fallen planet. You ran a business and were part of family who didn’t quite know what to do with you. I am sure your hammer slipped a time or two and hit your thumb. You probably did quality work for someone who never paid you more than empty promises. You chose twelve men to follow you and one them didn’t. Lord, you knew the setbacks built into life. You had to think on your feet, dodge the sucker punches, and take the losses, so you know how it is done. Walk in me today so that if a setback should surprise me or a disappointment find me or a faithless friend should betray me with a kiss, it will be just the old routine of life on earth. Your experience and resilience will clothe me in peace. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

God Leads Us Along

Words and Music: G.A. Young
1. In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along;

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along;


3. Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along;


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved