December 29 “Craftsman”

Craftsman

The Incarnation—God appearing in the flesh—has many facets of meaning.
One of these is the fact that Jesus was a craftsman, a tradesman doing business in the real world of commerce. Just as He learned His faith in the synagogue, He learned His trade as an apprentice to Joseph. He developed the necessary skills to make a living in this world. In every culture of the world where people love and follow Him, this factor draws Him closer to both the worker and the business owner, the men and women who make that culture function. He learned how to design and build things, to choose materials, to fulfill a contract, and to make a sale. He knew the long hours required to do the job right. He understood the cost of doing business and importance of a job well done. He flourished in the competitive world of commerce where the customer was always right even when he wasn’t. Best of all, he learned the joy of craftsmanship, of doing good work, of making something. It was a joy He had known before, this joy of creation. Jesus learned all of these at Joseph’s side.

The Death of Joseph
Sometime between the Lord’s 12-year old visit to the Temple and His baptism in the Jordan at about age thirty, Joseph disappears from the biblical narrative. We can only imagine the grief in the home when the man of faith, the one who dreamed of angels and obeyed their commands, was suddenly absent. What a comfort Jesus must have been to Mary and to her children. As her first born son, Jesus became the head of the family. He was no longer the promising apprentice; He was the proprietor of the carpenter shop. He had to become the mentor to James, his half-brother, as Joseph had been to Him. After long days in the shop there must have been long discussions by lamplight about family and business details that only He and Mary could handle.

Mary grew to depend on Jesus as she had Joseph. His amazing mind was of great assistance in solving problems, both in the family business and in the family itself. As much as He loved them, Jesus recognized the challenge his brothers and sisters, and Mary for that matter, faced in having Him in their lives. He was wonderful but He was different. Mary knew, if the others didn’t, that He had other work to do. His calling was to be about “His Father’s business,” that of being Savior, Redeemer, King. What did that mean? When would it begin?

A Different Craft
As Jesus dealt with the people in His life, family, friends, customers, citizens of Nazareth, and even the ever-present Roman soldiers, He was learning a different craft. He was learning to be the Carpenter of Souls. He studied people, sensing who was worthy of selection and who was not, like selecting wood for a project. He listened to people, understanding that the contents of their hearts poured forth in their speech. He studied the normal conflicts between friends and the battles between enemies. He made note of the weaknesses that brought people to ruin and the strengths that carried them through crises.

When the time came, He would leave the shop to James and the home to Mary and begin attending to His Father’s business. He would be the Carpenter of Souls, the Redeemer, the Savior. He continues that ministry today with skillful craftsman’s hands, now scarred by nails, as He makes all things new for those of us who love and follow Him.

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:17; 23-25 NKJV
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
2 Timothy 2:20-26 NKJV
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 NKJV
But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, like You, I have a set of useful skills, a life business to which I must attend daily. I have many crafts to master. Direct my mind, guide my hands, and focus my heart so that I might do Your work well in this earth. Let my work be a work of integrity, done well for the right reasons. May the work of my hands be praise to You. Thank You, Lord for Your gentle, skillful hands molding and shaping my life in Your very likeness. You are indeed the Carpenter of Souls. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 18, 2017: “Escape”

Escape

Escape is not always a cowardly thing.
Sometimes heroes are the ones who lead an escape.  Jesus is certainly such a hero.  Through his courage and action, we can escape:

  • the judgment our sins demanded,
  • the wrath of God which is surely coming on the earth, and even
  • death itself.

There are other things we cannot escape:

  • the responsibility for the call of God on our lives,
  • the consequences of a lifestyle of sin,
  • the pain we cause others who are counting on us if we fail to follow through with our ministries, and
  • that wonderful/horrible day when we stand before the Lord and give an account of what we did and did not do with His grace in our lives.

There is a great danger that each of us must learn how to escape. 
The more serious we are about fulfilling the plan of God for our lives, the greater this danger looms.  Faithful ministers of the Gospel are especially susceptible to this danger.

Because we love Him so much and the work before us is so important and the needs of the people around us are so pressing, we can acquire the idea that we are indispensable to the work of God.  This leads to illegitimate feelings that we must learn to escape:

  • If we stop praying for a minute it is a sin for the Bible clearly says to pray without ceasing.
  • If we take a day off and do nothing to advance the Kingdom, we are sinning because we are not redeeming the time and our harvest is in jeopardy.
  • If we relax our high-speed, multitasking brains for an hour or two, we may miss the return of Jesus because the Bible says “ in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.”

This behavior pattern is called a messiah-complex.
How we escape the messiah complex?  We established that Jesus is our hero, our rescuer, our Messiah.  Escape begins when we realize that He is the one upon whose shoulders the government of the Kingdom of God rests—not us!  Jesus is the Messiah—we are not! The man or woman of God must learn a new level of trust in God Almighty.  The Bible says He never sleeps.  Might that be true so that we can sleep?  In fact, God set the example of resting—taking time off!—on the last day of the creation week.  If are going to be rested and ready to worship God on the Lord’s Day, we need to set aside time to rest up, to escape from the pressure of work for a few hours.

One of the reasons we are given minds capable of learning all sorts of things is to give us interests beyond our work.  We should never let the enemy of our souls accuse us wasting time when we are following those interests.  God remembers that we are human beings.  He knows our minds need rest and our bodies need exercise.

Go ahead today and escape or a while from the cares of this life.
Have some fun.  Learn something new that means absolutely nothing to your work.  The Kingdom of God remains secure, resting squarely on the broad shoulders of the Messiah—and that isn’t you!

Scriptures:
Hebrews 4:9-11
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Proverbs 11:9
With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.
Psalm 68:20
Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
Luke 21:34-36
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Psalm 103:14 NKJV
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 91:1-2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today is the Sabbath, the day You ordained for rest. Free me from any tiny bit of a Messiah complex. You are the Lord; I am Your servant. You do not count my rest-time as time wasted. Tomorrow, Sunday—the Lord’s Day—is the day when I will spend every ounce of my heart, soul, mind, and strength to the joy of expressing my love for You. In preparation for the day of worship, I will enjoy a day of rest and/or diversion. These things, too, are gifts from You. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Rock of Ages
Words: Augustus Toplady; Music: Thomas Hastings

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment th

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 29, 2017: “Gratitude”

Gratitude

If you want to go in, you have to find the gate.
There is a biblical way to approach Almighty God, a way He has commanded us to take.  Gratitude brings you before the King.

Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

As we seek to gain entrance to the presence of the Lord today, a day that He has made, let us do so with the most profound gratitude we can generate.

  • Dire problems may weigh heavily upon our spirits; lay them down at the door.
  • Doubts may plague our minds; set them aside.
  • Divisions may exist among brothers and sisters; call a truce.
  • Dependencies of all sorts may inhibit our concentration; depend on the Holy Spirit.
  • Destitution may have driven every choice we made all week; choose gratitude today.

There is only one way in.
His Name is Jesus, forever the Door to the Kingdom of God.  He is the Gate of Thanksgiving.  When we can count nothing else in life as a blessing, we can always look to Him and find reason to give thanks.  The writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus opened up a “new and living way” by the destruction of His own earthly life and body.  In the face on this unspeakable sacrifice, the veil in the temple ripped from top to bottom and the way to the heart of God was declared “Open!”

Let us be thankful.
Because Jesus bore our sins far away, we can enter the presence of the Holy One without fear. Without the atonement of Christ, our sins would not only disqualify us to enter His presence, our guilt would consume us to our destruction.  Because of Jesus we can stand before God as if we had never sinned.  The indictment against us has been nailed to His cross.

Let us be thankful.
Through Jesus we were emptied of the guilt of sin.  Now we have been filled with the precious gift of His Spirit!  We are being regenerated to life new and unending.  Old things pass away as all things become new.  There is power in us now to defeat the old nature of sin, and even when we do not, the Lord Jesus is there to forgive us for all our sins as we confess them to Him.  By the Spirit we can hear the voice of God deep within us.  We can obey His instructions and we can watch His power work through our humanity to help heal the world.

Let us be thankful.
This is the day for it!  The joy and the power of the presence of the King are on the other side of the Gate of Thanksgiving.  As Isaiah said, “Go through the gates!”

Gratitude brings you before the King.

Scriptures:
Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!
Mark 15:37-39 NKJV
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Hebrews 10:19-24
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,   because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, how else dare I come before You except with the most profound gratitude. You have done everything for me from saving me to filling me to healing me to calling me to loving me! Thank You, Lord! That gratitude is the gateway to presence is such a blessing. I know that if I praise You from my heart, You will hear me and will grant me the wondrous gift of Your manifest presence. Oh, I may not feel Your presence, but in a place deeper than feelings, I believe and I know You are with me! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
I Will Enter His Gates
Words and Music: Leona Von Brethorst

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart.
I will enter His courts with praise.
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.

He has made me glad. He has made me glad.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.
He has made me glad. He has made me glad.
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 21, 2017 “Laughter”

Laughter

Laughter comes so naturally to us that we never have to learn to do it.
Tiny babies will giggle, and chuckle, and even guffaw without ever being taught how. We laugh with them, not because we see the infantile humor they see—that always seems to mystify adults—but we laugh because laughter is contagious.

Everybody loves to laugh. It releases tension built up inside of us and it relieves fears and worries. We need to laugh some every day if we are to be healthy, whole human beings. We even justify unusual behavior by saying we are just “doing it for laughs.” Surely God smiles when we have a good laugh.

What is laughter? It is part of a human phenomenon called primal speech—sounds that express our feelings but not in words. Primal speech includes: wailing, sighing, groaning, and expressions of amazement like, “Oh!” or realization like, “Ah!” or a pleasant taste like, “Ummm!” One reason why music is so important to people is that musical sound operates in the soul like non-verbal speech saying things we feel deeply but things for which we have no words.

The Best Medicine
Laughter is perhaps the greatest form of primal speech ranging an internal laugh signified only by a smile, to a chuckle deep in our chests, to a chortle in our throat, to a loud, continuous howl.
According to the scripture, laughter is one of the best medicines God has given us. Not only is it healthy, laughing is fun! The relaxation that results from a good laugh is part of the Sabbath rest the Lord has given to us. Responding to something funny is refreshing. Even in times of great stress, the sense of humor of those who bear the burden with us serves to relieve the tension.

It is impossible for us to follow the command of the Lord to rest without engaging in pleasantries, laughter chief among them. The Bible has much to say about laughter and joy.

  • Remember Sarah’s incredulous laughter at the prospect of having a child and her astonished laughter when Abraham’s son came along? It was so important, she named the boy, Isaac, which means, ”laughter.”
  • In the Book of Psalms commands to be joyful abound.
  • Solomon’s writings declare there is a time to laugh and that cheerfulness is like a feast.
  • Jesus Himself said that those who mourn will soon be laughing. Surely He also laughed as children played at His feet and in His lap.

Good humor is more than an ice cream company—it is a requirement if we are to ride out the unsettling waves of life as time rolls them in.

Find something to do today that will bring joy to your heart, put a smile to your face, and coax a chuckle, chortle, giggle or guffaw out of you. As laughter escapes your soul, peace will come in to occupy the space where once was fear, or, sadness, or grief. This is the medicine each of us needs today.

Scriptures:
Genesis 21:6-7
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Psalm 126
When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Ecclesiastes 3:4
…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Luke 6:20-21
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 15:15
All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Prov 15:30
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Psalm 100:2
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 68:3
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when man was crafted by the Creator out of clay of Eden, one of the gifts You gave us is the gift of laughter. It is fun but it is not frivolous. A good laugh is like a good medicine, lightening a heavy moment, brightening a dark day, and soothing a withering soul. Part of this gift is the ability to see what is funny so we can laugh about it. From the absurd to the ironic to the silly, funny happens. Thank You, Lord! Help me take several doses of this medicine today! Amen!

Song:
Joy Unspeakable
Words and Music: Barney E. Warren

1 I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.

Refrain:
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

2 I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.

Refrain

3 I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face. [

Refrain

4 I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017 “Circumstance”

Circumstance

Circumstances; we all have them and we must sort them out every day.
This sorting of circumstances is a type of prayer.

Definitions include:

  • A condition or fact attending an event and having some bearing on it;
  • A determining or modifying factor.
  • A condition or fact that determines or must be considered in the determining of a course of action.
  • The sum of determining factors beyond willful control.

The omnipresence of circumstances yields a bevy of clichés in our speech:

  • “Circumstances permitting,”
  • “Under the circumstances,”
  • “Pomp and circumstance,”
  • “A victim of circumstance,” and
  • “Face the circumstances.”

Sorting it all out.
Our ability to live through each day with any degree of self-determination depends on our ability to sort out the conditions and facts we will face. As free will agents, there are many things we can control, enough of them to count—and to count on—to give us courage to get out of bed, cleanup, dress for the day, and even to go out the door and start the car. Free will is a gift from God and He enables those who worship Him to do this regularly and with great redeeming effect upon the world.

However, some of the circumstances we face are well beyond our ability to control.
The person without Christ must file these things safely away from the conscious mind in order to function. If the unbeliever cannot do this, the burden of life becomes too great to bear. That person must find relief in an altered state of consciousness, using anything from alcohol to drugs to soul-numbing addictions, to suicide.

The Christ-follower is never left alone to face the circumstances of his/her life. The worshiper of Jesus does not stand in awe of the Lord from a distance, but is held close in a secure embrace. There are no circumstances beyond the Lord’s control.

In prayer this morning, sort out the circumstances you will face today.
Renew your vows of discipline to fully engage the fruit of the Spirit called self-control. Look for opportunities throughout the day to change the circumstances others may face. Look squarely, fearlessly, into the circumstances beyond your control and place them in the hands of your Lord. He can handle anything.

Scriptures:
Psalm 61 NKJV
Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name … So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.
Ephesians 1:22-23
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Romans 8:28-29
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Philippains 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for seeing what I cannot see, hearing what I cannot hear, and knowing what is beyond my capacity to know. You already know what circumstances will come my way today. Nothing that happens will surprise or alarm You. Lord, sometimes circumstances rush at me so fast and in such numbers that my heart is overwhelmed, like a dry gully in a sudden, violent rain. But in such times, You are my Rock, Lord Jesus, my high tower of safety and you always welcome me, fears and all. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” From the vantage point of Your towering greatness, I can see that the storms and floods are no real threat to me, because I am in You. Lord, Jesus, my all-in-all. Amen.

Song:
Living by Faith
Words: James Wells; Music: R.E. Winsett

1. I care not today what the morrow may bring,
If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything,
And all of my worries are vain.

Refrain:
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.

2. Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise,
Obscuring the brightness of life,
I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies—
The Master looks on at the strife.

Refrain

3. I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.

Refrain

4. Our Lord will return for His loved ones some day,
Our troubles will then all be o’er;
The Master so gently will lead us away,
Beyond that blest heavenly shore.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 3, 2017 “Calling”

Calling

Following Christ
At the heart of the believer’s relationship with the Lord is a sense that He has called us to follow Him.  The promises of the New Covenant are those of a personal relationship with God.  We are not following a philosophy as best we can; we are following the Master who has called us personally to follow Him closely.  We know His voice and recognize His authority.  We trust His judgment as we voluntarily submit to His Lordship.

Daily Staff Meeting
If we choose to, we can have a personal staff meeting with the Lord each day in morning prayer.  If we listen, we can hear His voice throughout the day warning us, guiding us and revealing His great heart to us.  As the day closes and we meet with Him again for evening prayer, we sense His pleasure or His pain at the day just past.  We can feel what Jesus feels and rest peacefully in His faithfulness.

There are some things every believer is called to do:

  • To read and understand the Word of God,
  • To praise and worship the Lord Most High,
  • To witness to those who do not know Him through holy living and intercessory prayer,
  • To serve others; (even leaders are called to be servant-leaders)
  • To do good work as the Lord’s crafts-persons, and
  • To take our place in the company of the Redeemed to honor God and touch a hurting humanity.

There are also specific things the Lord calls individuals to do.

  • Some are called to make music or create some other art.
  • Others are called to teach.
  • Still others have been called to lead the church.
  • Some people are called to work in retail sales and some are called to manage businesses.
  • The Lord calls some to be involved in health care.
  • Craftspeople are called to make things and repair things.

There is no end to the possibilities of occupations the Lord has designed His people to do.  Just as King David appointed priests and Levites to make the music of worship at David’s Tabernacle. King Jesus appoints His followers to places of responsibility and blessing.  Some doubt this, saying we just need to love God, live by the Word, and do our best.  The scriptures indicate otherwise:

  • The words of the writer to the Hebrews encourage us to hear the calling of the Lord through the details of each day.
  • Jesus said His sheep would know His voice.
  • In the Revelation Jesus encourages us to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

You heard Him, too!
Just like those ancient fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and others of low estate, who heard Jesus say, “Follow me!” you have heard Him, too.  Even if your are not sure that the job you go today is one God has called you to do, you can go to that job sure that He has called you to integrity and faithfulness, and to life in the power of the Spirit.  He has appointed you to greatness today.  If He is the only one to witness your success, that is more than enough.

Scriptures:
John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life…
Hebrews 1:1
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…
Revelation 2:7
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches
1 Chronicles 16:4-5
He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel:
2 Peter 1:10-11
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Matthew 4:18-20
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
John 21:15-22
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  … Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  … You must follow me.”
Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no voice like Your voice. It sounds everywhere: in creation, in circumstances, in the storm and in the still after the storm, even in the words of others when they are touched by Your Spirit. The two places where I hear Your call most clearly and in the Word and in my spirit, deep in my inmost part. You have promised to write the Word into my heart and that You have done. I hear Your call. It is a fixed milestone in my life; other considerations may fade, but Your call remains clear. It is the central organizing point of my life. Help me not only hear You today, but follow You as well. Following You is success, regardless of any outcome. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
A Charge to Keep Have I
Words: Charles Wesley; Music Lowell Mason

1 A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

2 To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill,
O may it all my pow’rs engage to do my Master’s will!

3 Arm me with jealous care as in Thy sight to live,
and now Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!

4 Help me to watch and pray,and still on Thee rely,
O let me not my trust betray,but press to realms on high.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 2, 2017 “Craftsmanship”

Craftsmanship

Sweat runs down his dirty face.
There is nothing divine about it, just human sweat, the immediate product of human toil. A contract had been made and must now be honored by the craftsman’s skill and his sweat. Shops, generally, are not comfort zones. They are hot, noisy stalls where work gets done with little thought given to the comfort of the worker. Productivity is the guiding principle.

Look beyond the sweat on the craftsman’s face; look at his hands. There you find the main product of his endeavors. Something is taking shape beneath his skillful fingers. From worthless bits of material he is fashioning something useful; order out of chaos. Soon the contract will be fulfilled, the sweat forgotten in the joy of creation.

Who is the craftsman described above? The King, of course.
It is no accident that Jesus spent most of His life as a carpenter. In this he identifies with us. We are craftsmen, too. Not carpenters, perhaps, but craftsmen nonetheless. We all make things;

  • salesmen make sales;
  • homemakers make homes;
  • teachers make scholars;
  • students make grades;
  • repairmen make repairs;
  • CEO’s make salaries (and organizations); on and on it could go.

Wherever our “shop” may be located, whatever the product, we can do that work as unto the Lord.

The Bible tells us to in what I call the Colossians Credo:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,…work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…

Your “spiritual” work is more than just what you do at church.
The Lord longs to make your workplace a sanctuary, a dwelling place for Him by His Spirit. He can do that when you do your work as praise and worship unto the King. Like all worship, He has promised to inhabit it and to be enthroned upon it. And, He can make your shop a sanctuary because He has had His own.

He still has His own shop.
It is called the church. He is in the business of taking broken lives and putting them back together again. When we worship, His skillful fingers are at work, shaping us into His own image.

Scriptures
Psalm 139:13-18 NKJV
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Colossians 3:17;23-24 NIV
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I dedicate the work of my hands to You today. I consecrate my concentration to Your cause today. Inhabit the work of my hands. Be enthroned upon the thoughts and intents of my heart. Fill me with the creativity of Your Holy Spirit Who has all knowledge. Let me be a problem solver and not a problem today. As I rejoice in my work today, let that joy be my strength. May others see the craftsmanship of my life and know that You are its source. May the thoughts of my heart, the meditations of my mind and the work of my hands be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Henri A.C. Malan; Music: Lowell Mason

1. Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing, Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee.

4.Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it Thine, It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne.

6.Take my love, my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 20, 2017 “Opportunity”

Opportunity

What Constitutes an Opportunity?
Sometimes an opportunity is an event, a moment that must be seized for it will quickly pass. At other times an opportunity presents itself as a gathering of individuals who need what we can do as much as we need what they can do. Together we have an opportunity we would not have separately.

On the Lord’s Day when we came together as the church to honor the Lord with acts of worship, our multiplied praises afforded us an opportunity to sense the presence of the Lord in a communal way. Every hour of every day the church is a community of faith, bound together in the name and power of Christ by the Holy Spirit. On the Lord’s day when we come together in one place, our awareness of the Monday-Saturday reality of our community is heightened. If we could all remember what an opportunity this is, we would treasure our time together in public worship.

Opportunities Each Day
Today, as the week continues different kinds of opportunity will come to us individually:

  • We will renew relationships with co-workers, those we like and those we don’t like as well as those who like us and those who don’t like us.
  • There will be work for us to do, opportunities to demonstrate our craftsmanship and skill. Work is also an opportunity to honor the Lord as we do our work in the name of the Lord, with all our energy, and as unto the Lord and not unto men.
  • As we work our way through the week, conversations will turn to spiritual things. These times are opportunities to speak the truth of God into people’s lives. We must be gentle and let the weight of the Word have its effect.
  • When people come to us with their problems, we have the opportunity to minister the healing power of Christ to them as we lovingly listen to their stories. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say.
  • Temptations may confront us. Times of trial are opportunities to obey the Lord and not our fleshly appetites.

It is likely this week will bring us

  •  “second miles” to walk with someone,
  • “cloaks to surrender to a someone who has already borrowed our shirt,
  •  enemies to pray for and do good deeds for, and
  • even a cheek or two to turn when we have already been struck once.
  • Needy people will cross our path and we will feel prompted to help.

All of these events are opportunities to please the Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer
In the prayer Jesus gave us, there is an overriding awareness of the opportunities the day will bring:

  • “Your will be done…”
  •  “Give us this day…”
  •  “Forgive us…as we forgive…”
  • “…the time of trial…
  •  “…deliver us from evil…”

Opportunities Today
Each day presents us with opportunites to do God’s will, to depend upon Him, to forgive others, to resist tempation, and to live holy lives in an evil world. We cannot know what the week will bring except for this: we know it will be filled with opportunities to please the Lord. What joy it will be to feel His smile as we worship, work, and witness in His name and by His power.

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:16-17; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 4:2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Ephesians 5:15-20
Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me keep my eyes open today for the opportunities You send my way. There will be good words for me to say, meaningful deeds for me to perform, ordinary duties for me to attend to, and people You put in my path for me to bless. Just as every hour is filled with minutes, this day will be filled with opportunities to life up Your name with my life. How the world needs to see You! I pray that you will be visible in me today. This is my great opportunity! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B. Wilson; Music: George S. Schuler

1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad; are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
Out of my life May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True ev’ry moment you live.

Refrain:

3. Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 18, 2017 “Experience”

Experience

Experience is the final filter in our sifting of life’s meaning.
Like freshly ground coffee beans, experience colors and flavors the life we choose to live.
Tennyson wrote these words in “Ulysses”

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

We interpret the past, perceive the present and prepare the future by our experience.
Some Christian theologies shun the use of experience to decide what we should expect from God. Experience is too subjective, too subject to personal interpretation—as Peter warns:

“…that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,…”

A Book of Experiences
With these very real dangers in mind, we must admit that the Bible itself is a series of narratives about the experiences people had with God or without Him. These stories link us to the ancient book. They remind of us our own hearts and provide examples of how to please God. Narrative (experience) cannot be dismissed as a dubious source of truth. In the Bible and in our own lives experience is a part of God’s plan, a tool the Spirit uses to “transform” us by “the renewing” of our minds.

Sifting Experience
As my brother used to say, we have to deal with “the things we have done and the things that have been done to us.” These experiences can be doorways into the plan of God for us or barriers to keep us out of His plan.

  • The adult child who was abused or abandoned by a father may have a tough time seeing God as his/her Heavenly Father.
  • The musician trained in the entertainment world may have difficulty being transformed from a performing star into a minister with music.
  • The worshiper who grew up in a formal worship may either fear demonstrative worship or desire it.
  • The worshiper who grew up in free, emotional worship may resist the use of planned liturgy, thinking that anything planned is inherently insincere.
  • The leader whose experience is rooted in manipulative leadership techniques will find servant leadership the greatest challenge of all.

Through faith in God’s Word we can trade our bad experiences for the truth we read, believe and obey.

  • The fatherless adult child can find his/her heavenly Father.
  • The performer can become a minister.
  • Worshipers can grow in the use of worship forms foreign to them and
  • leaders can learn to put down the sword and take up the cross.

A Wise Warning
Wise and wary leaders will warn Christians not to seek experience but seek God and there is a great truth in this warning.

  • We must always seek the Lord Himself, not just His benefits. He is a covenant-keeping God whose promises are dependable. He is not a cosmic vending machine into which we place our prayers and then wait for the answers to fall to the receiving tray.
  • He is Almighty God who deserves to be sought, to be pursued, to be engaged and to be enjoyed in spirit-deep fellowship.

A Warm Challenge
Seek God like the deer pursued by the predator, for that, indeed, is our experience. Interpret the things you do and the things done to you in the light of the Scripture and in the light of God’s call on your life.

  • Listen for His voice in His Word.
  • He speaks through the voices of others, also.
  • He sings to us through His marvelous creation and invites to sing along with a sunset or a rising storm or a gentle rainbow.
  • He warns us through the daily news and through our careful observation of events surrounding us—the experiences of others.

These practices and others like them will open the door the future God has for us and keep it open.

They are the coffee in the filter that makes the morning fresh and flavored with promise.

Scriptures
Psalm 42:1-6 NIV
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Romans 12:1-2 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. 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.
2 Peter 1:19-21 NKJV
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 John 1:1-3 KJV
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, following You is more than following a philosophy—it is an ongoing experience of relationship. Your truth is real and dependable but, more than that, You are standing there with us. Like the ancient prophecies, You are with us! Your touch is real and healing. Your presence is a reality, not a psychological phenomenon. You have changed my life in amazing moments of grace. You have molded my life in steady steps of discipline. I can look forward to more moments of grace and more blessed processes of grace—experiences of growth and maturation. Help me sift the experiences of life to determine what is from You and what is not. Help me cling to Your grace. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
He Touched Me
Words and Music: William J. and Gloria Gaither

1. Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘neath a load of guilt and shame;
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.

Refrain:
He touched me, O, He touched me,
And O, the joy that floods my soul.
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.

2. Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole;
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 16, 2017 “Substitutes”

Substitutes

A Poor One
In a TV interview, a contemporary film maker revealed that he did not grow up in a religious home. Film was their religion and the movie house was their church. To my mind cinema is a poor substitute for a loving, covenantal relationship with my Creator.

Life is an exchange.
Through no effort of our own we are given life—energy, intelligence, strength—all bundled up in passions, fears, ambitions and deep-seated needs. And, we are given time. None of us knows how much time, but we have a backpack full of memories of yesterday, a toolkit full of skills for today, and a hatful of dreams for tomorrow—if it comes.
Living is the process of exchanging these gifts for the rewards they might bring. “Time is money.” It is true, in a sense, and it is a lie in another sense. It is true in the sense of the exchange—we work by the hour or on commission or on salary, trading our time and skills for a living wage (and hopefully a little more.)

The statement is a lie in its incredible miscalculation. Time is much more than money.

  • It is the relentless retreat of life itself, a strategic withdrawal of our life-force that we cannot stem.
  • It is the diminution of opportunities and the accumulation of results, good or bad.
  • It is the inevitable passing of the planting and the unstoppable reaping and storing of the harvest.

So time can be money or it can be poverty. It all depends on the exchange.

  • Do we seek out the real or the substitute?
  • Do we mine for gold, or settle for fool’s gold?
  • Do we purchase the real diamond or the fake one?
  • Do we choose a sandy beach for the foundation of our lives or find the Solid Rock?
  • Do we choose false religion based on lies instead of worship in spirit and truth?
  • Have we substituted sports or film or music or money or fashion or pleasure for church?

The Jesus Question
Words spoken so long ago to anonymous crowds by an itinerant preacher still stir those who hear or read them today. Questions Jesus asked then, ring in our hearts today. One of them concerns substitutes.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

The world offers so many scams, so many bad deals, so many ways to waste our precious lives. The Lord Jesus offers so many promises, so many amazing exchanges of grace for whatever we hold in our hands and hearts, so many ways to plant good seed in words and deeds that will doubtless bring an eternal harvest, even when we sow in tears.

  • Why settle for saccharin when we can have honey?
  • Why settle sell our lives for the paper money of empty promises when pure gold is the option?
  • Why devalue life by equating it with temporal wealth when there are heavenly storehouses to fill where there is no thief to steel, no moth to devour, and no corruption of time?

Jesus offers true life—accept no substitutes.

Matthew 6:19-21; 16:24-28 NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Isaiah 60:16-19 NIV
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Romans 1:21-25 NIV
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen
Revelation 3:16
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the Gospel of Mark promises that those who preach Your gospel are immune to the poison they may accidentally drink and impervious to the venom of any snake that strikes from the shadows. Help me see the poison posing as good food and drink in this culture. Help me avoid the snakes hiding in the deep weeds of iniquity all around me. Help me see the glittering, appetizing substitutes marketed by the sin-saturated society. Lord Jesus, You shine with a true light of brilliance in this darkness. Your Word is true food and drink for my spirit. True Worship is beneficial exercise for my soul. Help me traffic in the genuine rather than the substitute, the real not the theatrical prop. All for You, Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
Wasted Years
Words and Music: Wally Fowler

1. Have you wondered alone on life’s pathway,
Have you lived without love a life of tears,
Have you searched for the gray hidden meaning,
Or is your life filled with long wasted years.

Refrain:
Wasted years wasted years oh how foolish,
As you walk all in darkness and fears,
Turn around, turn around God is calling,
He’s calling you from a life of wasted years.

2. Search for wisdom and seek understanding,
There is someone who knows and always hears,
Give it up, give it up the load you are bearing,
You can’t go on in a life of wasted years.

Refrain

3. Don’t you know Jesus died for all sinners,
He loves you and your guilt he gladly bears,
Come to Him, Come to Him your sin confessing,
You can go on with a life of fruitful years.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved