January 9 “Together”

Together

The Jesus Story is about being together, no longer isolated, but connected to God and to each other.
The crowds seeking Jesus’s touch grew so large it was no longer possible to get time and space for meals. “His own people,” evidently a delegation of relatives from Nazareth, came to get Him to stop this nonsense. This was no way for a carpenter’s son to behave. “He is out of his mind,” some concluded, while others suggested a more sinister theory: “He is empowered by Satan, Himself.” They must have thought they could restrain Him by force.

A Hometown, Family Meeting
Jesus called “His own people” to His side for a conference. He reasoned with them:

“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand…

Perhaps this quieted them for a while; it did make sense. He was in the process of plundering “Satan‘s house,” his systematic program of confusing people, leading them away from God and then binding them in sin. Some went so far in this deception as to become hosts for demons themselves. Jesus was dismantling this demonic oppression in front of their eyes. How could He do this if He was in league with Beelzebub?

He warned of a great danger—Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
At the heart of all of Satan’s plans was an assault on the character of God. It was nothing new; it began in the Garden of Eden. Satan lied to Eve calling God a liar. His words were not to be believed, let alone trusted.  To counter this lie, the constant theme of Old Covenant worship confessed this truth:

“The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”

To confess that God is evil is the opposite of worship; it is blasphemy—a profanity. Sin is never more destructive to one’s soul than this blasphemy.

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”

The Good News!
We need to understand the unique role of the Holy Spirit. He draws the sinner to Christ. Without this conviction of the Spirit, the sinner never seeks forgiveness and is thus “subject to eternal condemnation.” The good news for each of us is this: If we feel a tug toward the Lord, the Spirit is still wooing us to Christ.

Mary and the Family
The retrieval committee played their highest card—His mother and family—surely at their appeal Jesus would drop this Messiah business and get back to His shop in Nazareth. At this moment Jesus added a new dimension to the word, “Together.” Who would be His family? Not just Mary and her children, but everyone who hears the words of Jesus and obeys them would be His holy family.

Scriptures:
Mark 3: 20-35
Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” — because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me into Your Holy Family—the church! You and I are together! I am not alone in this world. I have fellowship with You and with those who are Yours! Help me always to honor the Holy Spirit Who draws me to You. You are good and Your mercy does endure even to this generation. You have not placed me in Your family for my comfort only, but to serve You joyfully. This I will do with all my might! Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
Day by Day
Words: Carolina Sandell; Music: Oscar Ahnfelt

1. Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best–
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

2. Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

3. Help me then in eve’ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 30, 2017 “Fellowship”

Fellowship

Christian spirituality is more than an individual faith, it is a corporate reality as well—a fellowship.

2 Cor 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

You are never alone. Even if all your friends and loved ones were taken from you, you would still not be alone. Our Christian fellowship is rooted in the fellowship within the Trinity:

  • The Father with the Son,
  • The Son with Father,
  • The Father with the Spirit,
  • The Spirit with the Father,
  • The Son with the Spirit, and
  • The Spirit with the Son.

We came from God.
The most amazing truth is that our very existence is rooted in the existence of the Triune God—we came from God. When Adam and Eve sinned and passed on their sinful nature to us, a barrier fell to earth and barred us from fellowship with God, just as the angel with the flaming sword barred re-entry into Eden. For centuries the sin barrier remained. The Old Covenant provided forgiveness in the innocent blood of animals. Fellowship with God was based in symbolic worship and the common bond of the Word of God.

It took a Roman cross on a Judean hill to break this barrier of sin—Jesus came as the final, innocent Lamb. Just as the veil in the Temple gave way to the mercy of God for all of mankind, the sin barrier between each of us and our Creator was destroyed by the death of the Lamb of God. When we repent of our sins and confess the Lordship of Christ, we are welcomed back into fellowship with Almighty God.

Fellowship, not isolation
As personal as our reception of communion with God may be, it is not done in isolation. Communion with God initiates communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how alone you may feel, you cannot know who among your faith family is praying for you at any moment. The same Holy Spirit who abides in your heart, abides in their hearts, leading and empowering them. Their effectual, fervent prayers avail much—in your behalf.

The New Covenant disciple should enjoy close fellowship with a group of intimate friends from the church. These companions share our faith, our passions, our interests, and even our sense of humor. Some call this an accountability group and certainly our friends should function as that, but this fellowship goes deeper than that. Miles may separate these friends but distance does not break this fellowship. Words of affirmation and admonition as well as humorous comment and heartfelt confession sustain these relationships without reference to passing time or diminishing ability.

“In the midst of the congregation”
On the Lord’s Day we gather with the local expression of the whole family of God as our fellowship with God and His Covenant people draws us another step closer to heaven. One of the most important prepositional phrase in the Scripture is, “In the midst of the congregation.” If we are to feel the presence of God in our quiet, lonely moments when we are tempted to feel alone, we must be well schooled in the fellowship of Grace at all levels: Our fellowship with the church, with our closest friends, and our fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Scriptures:
Psalm 68:24-26
Your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. In front are the singers, after them the musicians, with them are the maidens playing tambourines. Praise God in the great congregation; praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel.
Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Psalm 26:12
My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.
Psalm 52:9
I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
1 John 1:7 7;3:14
…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Mattnew 28:20 NKJV
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Even when I cannot feel Your presence I know You are still with me. You have promised to never leave me and You haven’t. Expand my heart, O Lord, that I might learn from You how to love and have fellowship with others. Help me pay closer attention to people around me, to hear a note in their voice that may be a call for help, to see a look that signals trouble within. Help me be an encourager of others, helping them to walk more closely with You. For when others do this, they are also closer to me, and aa promised, walking together in the Light, we have fellowship with one another. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Family of God
Words and Music: Bill Gaither

1. You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,
It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

Refrain:
I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, The Family of God..

2. From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved