January 6 “Rules”

Rules

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.
Just as so many suffering folk were ready for His healing touch, many humble minds were open to the teachings of Jesus. Other minds were locked tight, threatened by anything from outside of their limited experience be it message or messenger. These were the “people of the rules.” To keep the rules required no thought and certainly no creativity. Since rules were at the surface of things, there was never any need to dive into matters. To alter the scriptures for them, “Deep did not call to shallow.” (Ps 42:7)

Rule Number One: Call the Right People
Beyond shallow rules, Jesus brought the truths of Kingdom of God to the regions of Galilee. He encountered the Rules People time and again. Passing through the multitude of hungry, humble souls, He spied one Levi, also called Matthew, a tax collector, and called to him just as he had the four fisherman, “Follow me.” Like those fishermen who left their businesses to follow Jesus, Levi abandoned his tax rolls to take up with the least political public figure he had ever seen.

The results of Levi’s obedience to the call were immediate. He invited his associates, an unseemly if prosperous lot of crooks, to dine with Jesus and His disciples in his own home, surely a sizable one acquired in the usual manner of those in his profession.

When the news of this dinner became known to the Rules People, the scribes and Pharisees, they had the evidence they needed to discredit Jesus. They approached His disciples with the 1st century equivalence of a smoking gun.

“How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard about it, His answer went beyond surface rules to deep principles:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Rules by Comparison
Certain Rules People who followed both John and the Pharisees noticed that the four fisherman were not joining them in fasting. They wanted to know why their rules were not everyone’s rules. The answer lay in the identity of Jesus Himself. He was Messiah, not forerunner. This was a day for feasting not fasting. Those times would come when He was gone from them. Here was the principle: Something new required new preparations:

…new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Grainfields and the Sabbath
Jesus and the five disciples walked through a field of grain. Hungry, the men ate some of the ripened grain. No problem; except that it was the Sabbath. The score-keepers marked their cards and complained. The rules were more important than the hunger of the men. Jesus answered them with a story from the Scriptures. David and his men ate bread dedicated to the priests when they were pursued by King Saul. In their hunger this was an approved action, not a sin. In this case, the Rules People called it reaping and condemned Jesus and His men.

To answer their charges, Jesus introduced one of the most important facts about the Kingdom of God: Jesus is Lord of all—including the Sabbath! He is the ruling principle!

Rules are the delight of small minds. Principles are the strength of the wise.

Scriptures:
Mark: 2:13-28
Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me a hunger for You today. Bless me with a thirst for Your Living Water, truth direct from the Throne of God, a River of Life. As my spirit feasts on Your Word and as my soul deeply drinks of Your Spirit, impress upon me the principles behind the rules. You, Lord Jesus, are Rule Number One! Your life-giving principles demand much of me, but they supply so much more! Give me that hunger and thirst for righteousness that results in a full heart. Amen and Amen.

Song:
As the Deer
Words and Music: Martin Nystrom

1. As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

Refrain:
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

2. You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a king
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

Refrain

3. I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 22 “Manger”

Manger

Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus were not alone for very long.
The first Christian worship service was about to happen in that stable with a manger as the central focus. The object of worship was not the manger but its contents—“the little Lord Jesus.” Perhaps this is the first lesson we should learn—it isn’t the building or the stage or the setting or the leaders or anything or anyone else who is at the center of our worship. It must be the Lord Jesus.

Shepherds
The shepherds were the first to arrive, the faces aglow with star dust and their hearts brimming with the praises heaven taught them. They had no gifts to bring beyond their joyful hearts but these were more than adequate. When they sought entrance to the stable there must have been something about them that allowed Joseph to grant them such a privilege. Otherwise no good husband would countenance such an intrusion at such a moment. Perhaps it was their testimony of angels for both Joseph and Mary could identify the symptoms of an angelic visitation. At any rate Joseph granted them passage.

They each one bowed to Mary and stretched their shepherd necks to see the child she was holding. The dim light in the stable seemed aided somehow by gentle illumination from undetermined sources as if there were star dust here as well. When they saw the little One, taking turns reluctantly, each shepherd began to weep. Past sins were remembered, repented of, and forgotten in the presence of this little One. Peace flooded each soul as tears rolled through deep smiles. Mary and Joseph somehow understood of all this, for they felt it, too.

Kings
Noises from outside broke the spell of this revere. Joseph investigated to find a large caravan crowding into the space around the stable. A bright star seemed to be leading them, filling the entrance to the stable with light reminiscent of angels. Three leaders of this entourage met Joseph and explained their quest. They seemed to Joseph to be in a hurry. When Joseph invited them to come in, they each retrieved gifts from their servants and cautiously entered the stable.

Quickly, wiping away their tears, the shepherds made room for the kings, feeling woefully unworthy. Each king, in a predetermined, well-rehearsed order, presented his gift with a little speech carefully written and recited. When the ceremony was completed, silence fell on this impromptu but long-planned congregation.

The Baby Jesus
In the silence, the Baby Jesus began to cry. His soft cries stuck the kings and shepherds like hammer blows to the heart. Here was the Good Shepherd. Here was the King of kings. Stiffened backs began to relax as others bent low by social circumstance began to firm. Shepherd’s staff or kingly crown became superfluous. Cautiously, kings and shepherds looked at each other as a carpenter and his wife looked on in wonder. One king, perhaps their leader, extended his hand to one of the shepherds. The shepherd responded in kind. The others followed their lead and social barriers crumbled. Economic definitions of worth were discarded in the presence of the wealth of heaven weeping in a manger.

Today, as in that first Christian worship service, True Worship humbles the mighty, exalts the lowly and equalizes everyone in the presence of Jesus.

Scriptures:
Luke 2:15-20 NKJV
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Matthew 2:9-12 NKJV
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, forgive us for  posturing when we should be praying. Help us to hear Your voice calling us to repentance and humility. Banish pride from our minds and haughtiness from our hearts. As we worship You in spirit and truth, do Your personal work in each heart. Bring down those of us who are mighty in our own eyes. Lift up those who have been cast down by life and circumstance. Heal those who see themselves as worthless. Teach us the lessons of the manger. For Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen

Song:
The First Noel
Words: Anonymous; Music: Traditional English Carol

1. The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Refrain:
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
born is the King of Israel.

2. They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.

Refrain

3. And by the light of that same star
three Wise Men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.

Refrain

4. This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.

Refrain

5. Then entered in those Wise Men three,
full reverently upon the knee,
and offered there, in his presence,
their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 22, 2018: “Confession”

Confession

Words have power. When they are spoken that power is called into action.
Jesus grew up confessing the psalms. It was part of the training of every boy in Nazareth. Since He was—Jesus!—we can be sure that He had a deeper understanding than others of these normal processes. The Holy Spirit inside of Him told Him things, gave Him a perspective on normal events and practices that others could not see. Thus, when as a young man, He began this teaching and miracle tour of the regions around Galilee, He had lots to say, many observations to share and many parables and metaphors to employ. Among these was the power of confession.

Jesus knew that beliefs privately held possessed an innate power and when those beliefs were publicly spoken, that innate power externalized; it entered into life itself. The crowds coming to Him were enormous and they did not depart from Him disappointed. He knew there would be many theories as to who He was. If the general confession was that He was Messiah, it could bring about the end too soon. Perhaps for this reason He implored those who benefitted from His healing, delivering touch to remain quiet about it. It was a hopeless cause, of course. Who, once blind but now seeing, could not confess it? What deaf person now hearing, lame person now walking, dead person now alive, could refrain from telling people about Jesus? What sane person, once possessed by emissaries from hell, now clothed and in his right mind could keep from telling people how it happened as by whose hand?

Bethsaida
So they came to a fishing village called Bethsaida. A blind man was led to Jesus by friends. He and his friends begged Jesus to touch him. Jesus did some strange things:

  • He took the man by the hand and led him out of town.
  • He spat in the man’s eyes and laid His hands on him.
  • He interviewed the man. He asked if he could see anything.

“I see men like trees, walking.”

The job wasn’t finished. The man’s true confession revealed that there was more healing needed. Jesus touched his eyes again and made the man look up, beyond the level of men or trees. The blind man’s vision was completely restored. Then Jesus sent him home, commanding him not to confess his miracle to the town. He left the outskirts of the village and made his way unassisted home avoiding the townspeople.

Caesarea Philippi
By foot Jesus and the Twelve went north to Caesarea Philippi on the slopes of Mount Hermon, the northernmost point of Jesus’ ministry. On the road, Jesus asked His disciples about the various confessions of His identity. As they discussed various ideas expressed by the wondering crowds, Jesus asked them personally who they were confessing Him to be. Peter’s answer continues to ring all these centuries later.

“You are the Christ.”

It was too soon for this explosive confession, so Jesus asked them to keep this to themselves for a little while.

Confessing Christ
It is great to believe in Jesus, but we must confess Him publicly. When we do this with repentance, we become a follower of Him. When we do this every day we are a witness to Him. The innate power of our believe goes out into the world with our confession and someone’s life gets changed.

Scriptures
Mark 8:22-30
Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.” Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

Prayer:
Confession of Faith

The Apostles’ Creed
From the Book of Common Payer
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
Because We Believe
Words and Music: Don Moen

1. We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Christ the Son.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We are the Church and we stand as one.

2. We believe in the Holy Bible.
We believe in the virgin birth.
We believe in the resurrection
That Christ one day will return to earth

Refrain:
Holy, holy, holy is our God!
Worthy, worthy, worthy is our King!
All glory and honor are His to receive.
To Jesus we sing because we believe.

3. We believe in the blood of Jesus.
We believe in eternal life.
We believe in His love that frees us
To become the bride of Christ.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 11, 2017: “Pillars”

Pillars

Pillars hold up important, heavy things.
Life itself has pillars, strong principles that support those who choose to live. The Psalmist, speaking for God Himself, introduces the metaphor:

“I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity. Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast.”

This is good to know, isn’t it? God has installed principles into the living process that are strong, like marble columns of truth that hold up the temple of life. Where can we go to discover these pillars? You know the answer. We go to the Book He has given us.

The Worship/Service/Rest Pillar

  1. Jesus summarized all the commandments of the Old Covenant into two for the New Covenant: Love God with all you’ve got and
  2. Love people.

These two commandments join worship and service into one powerful pillar. We are designed to be in a loving relationship with God that captivates us completely—heart, soul, mind, and strength. This relationship provides us the strength, wisdom, and patience to love people and to serve humanity all our days.

The word used by Paul in Romans 12:1 develops this worship/service concept.

  • NKJV” I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
  • NIV “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.”

The reason for the two different translations is this: the original word means both service and worship. From Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament words:

latreia – primarily “hired service,” is used (a) of the “service” of God in connection with the tabernacle, Rom 9:4; Heb 9:1… (b) of the intelligent “service” of believers in presenting their bodies to God, a living sacrifice, Rom 12:1…

We must add the Sabbath principle to that of worship/service. Rest from our labors gathers strength for our worship! These strong pillars will support one’s whole life on this earth.

The Pillars of Paul
The Apostle Paul identifies three pillars of the spiritual life—the three “best things:” Faith, Hope, and Love. There is no way to overstate the importance of these pillars.

  • Faith is essential. We do not walk in the wisdom of this world; we walk in faith—believing before there is proof. We do this by embracing the substance of things hope for and acting on the evidence of things not yet seen. Without this pillar it is impossible to please God. With it, all things are possible.
  • Hope is energy for the soul. With faith in place a seed is planted deep in our hearts and it begins to grow. There is a confidence in the future quite unrelated to current events or the status quo. Hope holds us fast to our faith as contrary winds blow. We emerge from the storm stronger for the testing.
  • Love is the connector. We are not meant to trudge through life alone. We are designed for fellowship—with God and with people. Connected above and all around by love, we are insulated from cold and warmed by the proximity of God and His people.

The Pillar of the Word
How can we be sure of these pillars? Because they are “Bible!” The Book He gave us describes the pillars of life. This mighty column has been proven to hold up the lives of believers since Moses brought down the tablets of stone from the Mountain. Jesus battled Satan armed with the Word of God. He came “in the volume of the book” to redeem us from a collapsing life. The Apostles stood on the Word and changed the world. The church fathers, led by the Spirit of God, sorted out the false from the true and formed the canon of scripture and thus it has remained. Heaven and earth will pass away before the Word would ever fail.

Live your life today. Rest your life on the pillars of God: Worship/Service/Rest; faith/hope/love; and the everlasting Word.

Scriptures:
Psalm 75
We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds. “I will appoint a time,” says God; “I will judge with equity. Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, I will make its pillars fast. I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns; Do not toss your horns so high, nor speak with a proud neck.'” For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west, nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains. It is God who judges; he puts down one and lifts up another. For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup, full of spiced and foaming wine, which he pours out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and drain the dregs. But I will rejoice forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.He shall break off all the horns of the wicked; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
Mark 12:28-31 NKJV
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Romans 12:1 NKJV
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 John 4:7 NKJV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 Peter 1:22-25 NKJV
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the firm foundation of my life. Help me build well upon the pillars of the faith: Worship/Work/Rest, Faith/Hope/Love, and the Eternal Word of God. Help me today to be faithful to you in thought, word, and deed. If I make a false step, correct me. If I lapse into despair, remind of Your promises. If I am unloving, rebuke me and show me how to make it right. If I am enchanted by the lies of this world, convict me, reprove me, and bring me back to the truth of Your Word. Let this day be one of faith and faithfulness, love in word and deed, and joy in my eternal hope. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
How Firm a Foundation
Words: (disputed) “K;” Music: Anonymous

1. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. “In every condition, in sickness, in health,
in poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth,
at home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
as days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.”

3. “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

4. “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

5. “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

6. “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 28, 2017: “Contemplation”

Contemplation

Stillness–a Way to Pray
It may be a walk in the quiet woods or a season by the sea or a session on a secluded mountaintop or a stillness in the secret place of prayer, but contemplation is an important way to pray.

Contemplation, also known as meditation, observation, or deep consideration, takes us to places in the heart of God we cannot reach with speed. Stillness is the requirement, stillness and solitude. We do not contemplate aloud; it is not a conversation with other people. Contemplation is an inner dialogue with our own heart, the heart of God, the marvels of His creation, and the wonders of His Word. In contemplation mysteries are not solved. Instead they are adored in anticipation of revelation someday. The tension between two opposite truths is not relaxed as we contemplate them. On the contrary, as we listen to the dissonance we hear two stirring tunes instead of one.

“To Know”
Another synonym for contemplation is the verb, “to know.” The knowledge gained from spiritual contemplation goes far beyond cognition, merely adding new volumes to our internal library. To “know” something by the force of contemplation is to experience it in spiritual sense. This contemplation is a process of revelation through which the Word of God is written in our hearts. This spiritual inscription by the hand of God is the first promise of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 8:10
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.

How does this happen?

  • When we read the Bible, the hand of God writes it in our minds.
  • When we memorize verses, the hand of God writes them in our hearts.
  • When we contemplate scriptural themes and doctrines, the Holy Spirit writes them on the deepest pages in our book connecting verse with verse, truth with truth, and promise with expectation.

On this day of rest, take time to contemplate the

  • The sermons in the sky and sea,
  • The carols in all of creation,
  • The beauty of the Bright and Morning Star,
  • The calamity of the cross,
  • The reality of the resurrection, and
  • The King and His Kingdom.

Such time is time well spent, for when we are finally still, then we will finally know.

Scriptures:
Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
… the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Psalm 46:8-10
Come and see the works of the LORD…”Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 119:8-16 NKJV
Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes … I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
Psalm 143:5-6
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding (contemplating) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I pause at the beginning of this day to contemplate Your goodness, to think deeply about Your mercy, and to remember Your faithfulness to me. Help me find a place of stillness so that I can know the things that only stillness reveals. Send Your enabling Spirit to quicken my mind to understand more about You and about Your lovingkindness. People today say terrible things about You, Lord: You are dead; You don’t exist; You don’t love us and other terrible lies. As I walk and run through everyday, I know You are really there, that You are alive and that You love all of us. Now, as I attempt stillness in order to contemplate You, take me deeper still. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Song:
Be Still and Know
Words and Music: Stephen Phifer

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
And I will be exalted, exalted among the nations.
Yes, I will be exalted in all the earth!
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 26, 2017: “Authenticity”

Authenticity

Authenticity cannot be faked.
That seems elemental but it needs to be said. We live in a world of images where what seems to be real, may not be real at all, and what is real may make so little noise that it is overlooked. In some organizations the truth gets handled rather than simply told. Theatrical gestures are used to signal some inner reality that may be completely missing. Great care and fuller resources are spent on the way a presentation looks and sounds rather than what is actually being said. This world is so image-mad that connoisseurs accept a well-done work of art regardless of the message it contains.

As we stand before the Lord this morning, it is impossible to fake Him out. He knows the deepest things about us. We hold no secrets from Him. As we pray, God looks deep into our hearts. What does He see?

God is never fooled.
In short, He sees what is there. Many wicked things can hide deep in the human heart, stealthy things that avoid the radar of our introspection. To others we can talk a good game. We have memorized our lines and we know how to present ourselves, not as we are, but as we wish to be. Because God is God, He cannot be successfully lied to. We can fool ourselves and our public appearance of spirituality may fool others, but God is never fooled. None of us has enough wool to pull over His eyes.

You cannot pray a lie.
Private prayer becomes a season of self-revelation as the Holy Spirit rejects lie and after lie as we try to pray them. This is a process called “The Refiner’s Fire,” from the words of the Prophet Malachi. Its purpose is to “purify the Sons of Levy” (NT believers) so we offer worship to God that is worthy—read that—“authentic.” The fires of His Holy Presence bring hidden things to light where we can deal with them.

Scriptures:
Malachi 3:1-4
… I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness … as in former years.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Luke 12:1 NKJV
For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth as the authentic representation of who the Father is. You walked the same earth I walk, enduring the same types of temptations I face, yet without sin, the authentic human life. Now through Your death and resurrection and Your gift of the Holy Spirit, I can live an authentic human life. I am forgiven by faith in Your blood and I am empowered by Your Spirit, so let my life radiate with authenticity. My life will tell Your story and my works shall be works of praise. Search me, O God, and know my heart today! Amen.

Song:
Cleanse Me
Words: J. Edwin Orr Music: Maori melody

1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

2. I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

3. Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

4. O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 24, 2017: “Experiment”

Experiment

It is the duty of an infant human being to experiment.
They are at this duty constantly.  At first the world is a blur of colors, a din of noise, and a baptism of sensations.  Gradually, by constant experimentation with all these stimuli, the child begins to discover the order of things.  That lovely sound, a voice—mother’s voice!  That strange pain inside—hunger!  Cold and warmth and light and dark, quiet and rhythmic pounding are all put together into a world that starts to make sense.  What are those things?—Ah! Toes!  And these things?—fingers! And where do they go?—mouth!  The life of the infant is a constant process of experiment and discovery.

As the child grows, this voyage of experimentation and discovery continues as play—the duty of the child.  Coupled with the gift of imagination that is unbounded by the inconvenience of logic or material realities, the child experiments with activities and images, words and feelings, all the while learning and discovering.

The same is true for older children and teens.  Their experiments get more daring and even can be dangerous as they age, but true to the mission of a child, they continue as random scientists seeking to understand the world in which they find themselves.

Spiritual Experimentation
Of course, this is all a picture of the life of the believer.  We are challenged to experiment in the ways of the Spirit.
We must discover a method for private prayer.

  • When should we pray, morning or evening? Both?
  • How should we pray, talk to God? Pray the Scriptures? Pray in the Spirit? All of the above?
  • How many types of prayer are there?
  • What does it mean to pray without ceasing?

We experiment with the Bible to determine how we should best consume its nourishment.

  • Morning? Evening?
  • Old Testament/New Testament?
  • Gospels/Acts/Revelation? (The Jesus Story!)
  • Apostolic letters?
  • Should we memorize verses?
  • What is the difference between Bible reading and Bible study?
  •  Experience tells us not to read in sequence for we will bog down in Leviticus for sure.

There is much in daily living that requires experimentation and discovery.

  • How do we turn the other cheek? Go the second mile? Pray for our enemies?
  • How do we discover the will of God for a certain task, opportunity, or life-long vocation?
  • How can a husband love his wife as Christ loves the church?
  • How can a wife submit to her husband without losing herself?
  • How can parents raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
  • How can children honor their fathers and mothers?
  • How do we learn what pleases God?

The Lab of Life
Life’s questions are many, but the Lord has them all covered.  He has given us a laboratory called “life” and an experimentation manual called “The Bible.”  Now He wants to enjoy watching us do our work, the work we were designed for from the beginning, the work of experimentation and discovery.

Life is a treasure field with riches buries within it; some close to the surface and many hidden way down deep.  It is the glory of God to conceal wonderful things and it is our glory to find these treasures.  So, get to the lab today.  Do the work.  Find the treasure and don’t forget to keep good records.

Scriptures:
Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Proverbs 25:2
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord.
1 John 4:1-3 4:1
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Be joyful always; pray continually;  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6 NKJV
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the God of mystery who has revealed Himself in the written Word (the Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus.) There are mysteries in You that call to me. Help me understand more of You as I prayerfully read Your Word. Your Spirit dwells within me to prompt me to explore, to experiment, to examine the things of life so that I might understand. Holy Spirit quicken my heart and strengthen my resolve to discover the wonders of You and Your creation. For Your Glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Show Me Your Ways
Words and Music: Russell Fragar

Show me Your ways That I may walk with You
Show me Your ways I put my hope in You
The cry of my heart Is to love You more
To live with the Touch of Your hand
Stronger each day Show me Your ways

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2017: “Essentials”

Essentials

Every task in life has its own essentials—

  • Fundamentals to be mastered,
  • Languages to understand, and
  • Disciplines to maintain.

Today we consider the essentials of life itself—

  • The fundamentals of living a life that matters,
  • The languages of life, and
  • The daily disciplines that keep life livable.

There are not that many absolute essentials to life, but there are a few, vital factors that make life meaningful and enjoyable.

Three Essentials
Among his many detailed instructions essential to a full life in Christ, Paul elevates three essentials to the top of the list:

  • Faith,
  • Hope, and
  • Love.

The brilliance of Paul’s analysis is apparent:

  • Faith—we will believe something that gives meaning and shape to life;
  • Hope—we will function in those beliefs because they provide expectations from life that motivate us to keep going; and
  • Love—we are not alone and the best way to connect with people and with our Creator is to purposely develop and express affection and real concern for others.

Faith is an Essential.
Faith presents itself in a number of guises, among them: world view, philosophy, and theology. Faith may even masquerade as science or cynicism or sarcasm, but it is all faith. At the core of any belief system is a set of assumptions, things that must be believed without proof. Faith provides the context in which we choose to live life.

A secular faith provides us with this poverty-stricken context for life:

  • I am an accident of an uncaring universe.
  • I have no purpose beyond my own choices.
  • I am an animal controlled by instinct, driven by the will to survive and procreate.
  • I am accountable to no one except my fellow man.
  • I have no eternal destiny; this life is all there is.
  • There is no judge or judgment day beyond human existence.

Each religion provides its own context for life. Let us consider the context the Christian life provides:

  • I was created by God and He has an eternal purpose for me; my life matters.
  • Made in the image of God, I am a trinity: body, soul, and spirit.
  • I have a free will and a deep desire to know, love, and serve God.
  • Jesus took the judgment of my sins at the cross and I will stand before Him one day to receive His judgment of my deeds as a believer.
  • I will live forever to serve and worship the Lord Jesus.
  • This life is preparation for the next.

The proper faith leads to hope and love.
With this faith, we can stride into each day with confidence that God is faithful. The theme song of the Old Testament is, “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever.” Faith gives us hope. With this faith and hope, we can approach others through genuine love. We need not fear what man can do to us—God is for us! We can love those who love us and those who hate us. We can love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love for God empowers us to love our neighbor as much as we do our self.

Whatever details of your life you encounter today, if you carry with you these essentials, when the night falls and it is time to sleep, you will look back on a day lived to its fullest.

Scriptures:
Psalm 107:1 NKJV
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Mark 12:30-31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Matthew 5:43-45 3
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Colossians 1:3-6
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints- the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach me the fundamentals! Help me to never forget the essentials. I will rehearse the faith in prayer and scripture confession. I will exercise my days in the firm hope of Your promises and Your character. I will love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength while loving others as myself. These three essentials will empower the life I live before You and before the world. Lord, these aspirations are beyond my human ability. Holy Spirit, You dwell within me to empower me to do what I cannot do in the natural. Help me live this essential, spiritual life. For Your glory! Amen.

Song:
Faith Is the Victory
Words: John Henry 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 30, 2017 “Investigate”

Investigate

Each of us has a bit of the snoop in us.
We like to find things out, to investigate matters, to ask questions that provide insight into a mystery. For some this is a life’s work. The professional may be a scientist, an explorer, a reporter, a policeman or government agent, a student or anyone whose work and main interest is investigation. Some who do not make a living at it, may be amateur sleuths, hobbyists, or students who investigate things for fun. At the bottom of the list of perpetual investigators would be gossips, whose natural curiosity has mutating into malice.

A Gift from God
Curiosity, as the old saying goes, may have killed a cat or two, but it is really a gift from God. We were created to be inquisitive. The desire to discover how something works is deep in the human heart. The need to understand what we see, hear, and taste is a prime mover of the human mind.

For all the ages of people on the earth, the night sky has prompted awe and wonder peppered as it is with clear points of light all moving in each its own way. Some even stream fire as they race to an appointment primitive people could only wonder about. God placed a huge bright disk in the night sky and made it appear to change shapes regularly and move lazily from horizon to horizon, sometimes hiding behind clouds and at other lines pulling on our brains with tides of wonder as the moon pulls the waters of the seas. Why would God do something like that? Surely it was to cause us to wonder, to imagine and eventually to actually go there, a journey made possible by mankind’s desire to investigate.

“The heavens are telling…”
The marvels of creation are a testament to who God is and to the precision of His handiwork. From the tiniest particles of matter, light, and energy to the vast reaches of an ever-expanding universe, God the Creator, has given us a cosmos designed for investigation. Like the whole of creation, the flower of all creation, the human being, is so minute in the mysteries of life in the cell, so complex in the workings of mind, and so spectacular in the capabilities of the body, that investigators have been compelled to explore the cell, probe the soul, and to celebrate the arts and athletics of mankind. It must delight the Lord God when we unravel a mystery He has hidden for us to explore.

As just one example, think of the ability to fly.
The desire to fly like the birds predated the discovery of powered flight by thousands of years, years of experimentation and investigation. Surely no one smiled a bigger smile than the Lord at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903. The same could be said for the multigenerational searches that led to discoveries that benefitted mankind. When we investigate creation, we are doing the work God put us here to do.

Are You and Investigator?
Do not protest that you are not a scientist or inventor or explorer so there is nothing for you to investigate.

  • Remember The Book. God has given us a detailed, demanding document for our investigation. Asking questions of God is an ancient spirituality that delights Him.
  • The Psalms are full of questions, some answered and some not. The faith God wants us to enjoy is one of asking, inquiring, seeking, finding, listening, and receiving.
  • Even the silence of God on a matter tells us much if we are truly investigating.
  • The heart of God is revealed in Jesus; if you want to know who God is, investigate Jesus.

Follow your God-given desire to know and to understand. Ask in faith instead of cynicism or doubt and you will receive. Never lose the wonder of the night sky with its stunning stars and mystifying moon, for the heavens are still telling of the glory of God!

Scriptures:
Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Psalm 24:1-2
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Psalm 40:4-5
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 89:5-8
The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, It gives You great joy when I investigate Your goodness, Your creation, and Your plan for me. Help me be consistent in my consumption of Your Word. Excite my curiosity concerning Your world. Assist me to look deep into my own heart as the Holy Spirit illumines my mind. Let there be no wicked ways in me. Give me insight into the hearts of the people in my life so that I might serve them better. Show me Your ways, O Lord! Show me Your ways. For Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Show Me Your Ways
Words and Music: Russell Fragar

Show me Your ways That I may walk with You
Show me Your ways I put my hope in You
The cry of my heart Is to love You more
To live with the Touch of Your hand
Stronger each day Show me Your ways

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 6, “Growth”

Growth

As a child we never had to think about growth.
It just happened as we ate and played and went to school and played and slept only to wake up to do it all again another day.  The only ones who worried about our growth were our moms and dads, and maybe just our moms.  It seemed like we always grew out of our dress shoes on a Sunday morning or we always had to buy new clothes that were too big at the beginning of the school because our mom knew we would grow into them. When the first baby tooth turned loose it scared us until we found out it was a natural part of growth and that new ones—permanent ones!—would replace them.  Some of us still remember the pains in the calves of our legs at night that our moms called “growing pains.”

In a few years growing up stopped and we were as tall as we were ever going to be.  At precisely that moment, whether we knew it or not, the battle to keep from growing out began.  We will fight against that kind of growth the rest of our lives.

From School to Life
Most of our growing up years involved schooling, first in the basics of communication, numbers, and a fundamental sense of who we were as citizens.  After varying numbers of years we were graduated from the school system never to return.

The learning processes, however, did not stop.  We had to learn how to live and how to make a living.  Some of us kept going to schools that specialized in skills, facts, and concepts to help us become productive members of society.  Our mental growth became our responsibility and we either reaped the rewards for growth or we suffered the consequences of the lack of knowledge and skills that locked us into poverty and dependency on others.

Spiritual Growth
Like so many other physical dimensions of life, there is a spiritual parallel to physical and mental growth.

  • The Bible is clear that we should grow up in the knowledge and skills required to be a productive member of the Kingdom of God.
  • Christian maturity doesn’t happen just because time passes.  It is all too common to find believers in Jesus who are advanced in years but still have not grown up in God.

Christian growth is not automatic or accidental—it is intentional.   We need spiritual food and exercise.

  • The Bible says the Word of God is both baby food and adult food—milk and meat.
  • Jesus said believing in Him at the Table of the Lord was like taking bread and wine for the spirit.
  • Jesus said that doing the will of God was “food” that the disciples knew nothing about.
  • Jesus told us the Holy Spirit would be a well of living water flowing inside of us.

If we regularly partake of the spiritual food and drink of unending life the Lord offers, we will grow.  We will mature and no longer be aged children.  To grow strong demands disciplined, consistent exercise.  Spiritual strength is the same; spiritual disciplines are a sure thing—if we do them we will have unlimited spiritual growth.

More than the Passing of Time
It is time to put away any childish notion that the passing time will make us grow in the Lord.  It just isn’t so.  For the disciplined believer who serves the Lord growth does not have to diminish with the passing of time, we can grow spiritually even as the outward person fades.  One day we will draw a final weak breath of earthly atmosphere and the next breath will be laden with the scent of glory and our growth in spirit will continue for all eternity.

Scriptures:
1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Ephesians 4:14-16
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
John 4:32-34
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  …”My food… is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
John 6:28-29; 32-36
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent…I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Revelation 2:7
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me grow in You today! When this day ends and this allotted sunshine fades, may the evening find me stronger than I am at this moment. May my knowledge of You be deeper and sweeter and may I look back on a day of obedience to Your will. As I rest tonight in the safety of Your grace, may my unconscious mind consolidate the day’s learning into permanent growth. Tomorrow, I will start all over again, but I will be different for today, by Your Spirit, I will have experienced growth! All for You Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
More about Jesus
Words: Eliza E. Hewitt; Music: John R. Sweney

1. More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

Refrain:
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

2. More about Jesus let me learn,
More of his holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

3. More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing his voice in ev’ry line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

4. More about Jesus on his throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More if His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of peace.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved