January 4 “If…”

If…

Having the power to heal the sick is one thing. It’s availability to others is another.
While recognizing His power, the leper doubted the character of Jesus. Why shouldn’t he? As a leper he was an outcast never welcomed in any circumstance and never invited into any circles of friendship except those of other lepers. Thus his call to Jesus, “If you are willing…”

The Morning After
The day before had begun in the synagogue with teaching, continued in a house for healing, and concluded past sundown in a city-wide healing and deliverance meeting. Early the next morning Jesus arose before all the others and went out to a solitary place to pray. When the others finally woke up, so many of them pain free for the first time in recent memory, no one could find Jesus. The people turned to the four men who seemed to be His followers to locate Him. The search was on until Peter found Him hidden away in the wilderness. Peter was not one to hesitate before speaking. He rebuked the Lord for being so unavailable.

“Everyone is looking for You.”

Jesus paid no attention to the rebuke. He had been praying about what to do next. Would He set up shop in Capernaum and operate from there, inviting needy people in? Or should they move on? Now He was sure of what do.

“Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also,
because for this purpose I have come forth.”

That settled it. They would move on to as many of the towns and villages in the region as possible. Every village had a synagogue where Jesus preached. Every town had sick folks who received a healing touch. Those infested with demons were everywhere to be found. Jesus exhibited mastery over them, commanding them not even to speak to Him.

At some point in these journeys the leper braved the rejection of the crowd and called out to Jesus:

“If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Jesus stopped to locate the unfortunate man. The crowd cleared the way making it possible for Jesus to see the pitiful sight: rags for clothes, bandages old and putrid, and a face covered to hide the wounds. Jesus could see into the leper’s soul. There He saw the deeper wounds of the outcast. Words had pierced his heart. Rejection had bruised his mind. Abuse had crippled his dreams.

Compassion and power rose up in Jesus, a compassion deeper than the wounds within the man and a power greater than the wounds on the surface.

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

From a safe distance the crowd watched without breathing as the leper began to shake his head as if shaking off a chill. His eyes opened as wide as possible as bandaged hands began to claw at the rags around his face. A great gasp came from the people as his face emerged without a scar. The man stripped the rags from his hands and they, too were clean and whole. The man began to dance as rags flew off in vile circles into the amazed and disgusted crowd. Someone brought him a robe and he danced in it for a while. His breath gone, he stood before Jesus. Jesus instructed him to not tell anyone before going to the priests for the requirements of the law.

Of course the man didn’t do that. He told everyone and the crowd became a multitude.

Such a miracle! And it began with the word, “If.”

Scriptures:
Mark 1: 32-45 NKJV
At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes we can recognize on one level that You are powerful and good and still doubt at another level that Your grace is available to us. We introduce the word “if” into our prayers. While we must never presume upon Your grace, let us always have faith in Your Word. The Bible says Your promises are sure. They are based in Your character, Your goodness. Let us confess with the Old Covenant saints that “the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” Help us to hear, deep in our wounded spirits, Your sure word, “I am willing…” In Your Name, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Reach Out and Touch the Lord
Traditional

Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.
You’ll find He’s not too busy to answer your cry.
He’s passing by the moment, you needs to supply.
Reach out and touch the Lord as He goes by.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 27 “Also”

Also

When a king speaks, he does not necessarily mean what he says.
So it was with King Herod. He told the wise men in a secret meeting that he wanted to worship the Messiah also.

It was a lie.

On the night Jesus was born, the kings told Joseph and Mary of their meeting with King Herod. They did not believe his announced intention to worship the child and they planned to return to their home by a different route. Joseph was alarmed by their caution.

After the dedication of the child, Joseph and Mary were excited about returning home. Beneath that excitement, Joseph harbored misgivings about the journey. In a dream an angel visited him to warn him not to return home but to flee the wrath of King Herod and go to Egypt. Awaking from the dream and telling Mary of the angel’s warning, the decision was made—Egypt it would be.

Called out of Egypt
How strange that the nation that welcomed and then enslaved their ancestors would now unknowingly harbor the Messiah of Israel! Yet, there was a strange verse of prophecy to this effect—“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”

Stranger still was the fact they could afford to make the journey. The gifts of the kings provided more than enough. They did not waste the gold on rich clothes and the finery of wealth; no one would suspect them to have riches tucked away.

The Rage of Herod
In a matter of days, Herod realized he had been deceived by the visiting kings. He had a rival!—some wiggling little boy threatened his golden, rotten kingdom. Rage and fear stole his sanity. He ordered the massacre of all the little boys born in that region over the last two years. This fulfilled another prophecy, one that told of uncontrolled weeping in the land. History calls this the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Months later, news arrived that King Herod was dead and his reign of terror was ended, the angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream commanding them to return home. Eventually they returned to Nazareth. For the next twelve years the Holy Family disappears into the haze of history.

Jesus the Child
We can be sure that these years were spent as an ordinary childhood for Jesus. By today’s standards than ordinary childhood was anything but ordinary. From a child, Jesus would be steeped in the words of God. As soon as He could talk He would learn to pray Shema every morning:

“Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

As soon as He could read, He began memorizing the Psalms as daily prayers. In these psalms He learned how to pray, to reach out to God with heart, soul, mind and strength. He would attend the school in Nazareth to learn from the Rabbi of the history of His people and the character of His God. His young life would be informed by truth and enriched with spirit and with these two things, He would learn to worship God. Twelve years of such a life prepared Him for the next scene in the biblical record.

Scriptures:
Matthew 2:1-23 NKJV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
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.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, while many chose to ignore Your coming into this world and did not worship You, King Herod announced a desire to join the kings in worship. This was a lie. Instead of worshiping You, he sought to destroy You. This violence against You still exists in our world today. There are people who hate You. You threaten their little kingdoms so they lie about You and strike out against Your people. Restrain them, O Lord. Empower Your people to worship in Spirit and Truth and to tell Your story in worship, in work, and in personal witness! We will tell Your story! Amen.

Song:
Go Tell It on the Mountain
American Negro Spiritual

Refrain:
Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain  \that Jesus Christ is born.
1. While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens  there shone a holy light.

Refrain

2. The shepherds feared and trembled  when lo! above the earth
rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior‘s birth.

Refrain

3. Down in a lowly stable the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 14 “Priest”

Priest

There is always a faithful remnant, even within the priesthood.
To the old man named Simeon, the priesthood was more than a family business; it was a calling from God. There were specific duties to be performed in a rotation. Each assignment was a joy to fulfill. More than these things, there was a general duty, a daily duty of scripture, prayer, and adoration. With a whole tribe of priests and Levites very few of them actually lived on the Temple grounds. When assigned the specific duties, they occupied temporary residences. Others lived at the Temple as caretakers and representatives of God to the people. A few, Simeon among them, lived close by, perhaps even in a small chamber in outer courts the Temple itself.

The Word of God was Simeon’s occupation.
He had long ago memorized huge portions of the prophets and all of the psalms. It is the duty of old men to know the Scriptures and bring them to bear on the issues of the day. His old heart was troubled and comforted by the Words he quoted in prayer. The spiritual state of the nation and of the Temple troubled him. The promises of Messiah comforted him. Sleep was of little interest to him. He followed the most demanding hours of prayer—seven times a day—rising at appointed times in the night to call upon God for deliverance. He quoted the words of the prophets as if there were a crowd listening to him and he was the prophet himself.

The Temple guards on duty through each night were accustomed to the sounds of preaching coming from Simeon’s little room. They somehow knew that the old man’s prayers and confessions were important even if there were no crowds to hear him, only a few sleepy soldiers. Deep in their hearts they knew that Simeon had the attention of heaven itself.

Simeon Prayed the words of the Prophets.
The Prophet Joel was a favorite source:

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming…
Rend your hearts and not your garments…

The Prophet Hosea supplied another prayer:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord….

The old man could sense in his spirit a stirring in the heart of God. Something was about to happen. Long uttered prayers were about to be answered! Jehovah would hear their prayers and respond…

A Promise Given
Simeon stopped his preaching in midsentence. The listening guards were startled at the sudden silence. Had the old man’s heart finally given out?

In the silence of his obscure chamber Simeon, priest of the Most High God, was given a promise. He would not taste of death until he had seen with his own eyes the Promised One, the Anointed One, the Messiah.

The rest of that night was spent in silence. A Temple guard looked in on Simeon to see if the end had come for him and found him fully awake. The guard honored the silence just as he had the noisy praying. Somehow he knew that the Hope of Israel was at stake.

“It is time to seek the Lord!”

Scriptures:
Luke 2:25-27 NKJV
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple.
Joel 2: 1; 12-19; 28-32 NKJV
Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming, For it is at hand: “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him — A grain offering and a drink offering For the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, And pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. …”And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.
Hosea 10:12 NKJV
Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let me feel the significance of these times. It is time to break up the fallow ground of my heart, of the church! It is time for all of us to seek the Lord. It is time to sow in righteousness and reap in mercy. Send the rain, O Lord! Let each worship service be both a celebration of joy in that You have come to earth and You are here with us and a solemn assembly wherein the needs of the hour and the demands of the day are pressed upon us by Your Spirit. Pour out Your Spirit as You have promised. The task before us is beyond our human abilities to perform. Let us as Your Holy-Royal Priesthood pray and preach through this long night until the Dayspring from on High dawns in this world. As we rend our hearts and not our garments—do a deep work in us today! Amen and amen.

Song:
Search Me, O God
Words: J. Edwin Orr; Music: Maori Melody

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.

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.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 11, 2018: “Resurrection?”

Resurrection?

Faith and reason do not have to be at war with one another.
There were those leaders in Jesus’ day who did not believe in the supernatural. They were bright people of reason who could not imagine a world beyond their own senses. If they could see something, or taste it, or measure it, or hear it, then it was a part of their acknowledged existence. If not then it really didn’t exist and was the province of fools. Intellectual superiority marked their company and they amused themselves with lesser beings who believed in things like the resurrection of the dead.

Missing Evidence
Life after death? The whole idea flew in the face of reason. Where was the evidence of such a thing? The evidence for the finality of death was all around, from the elaborate gardens of stone tombs in the city to the cemeteries in every humble village. Stories of ghosts and demons and angels were hardly evidence at all.

A group of these men approached Jesus. They pretended to accept the premise of a resurrection. They began with a quote from Moses about brothers marrying the wife of a dead sibling to raise up children in his name. They extended the hypothetical into seven such instances in one family. Now, in the “resurrection,” whose wife will she be?

Jesus did not reason with them. They were wrong from the onset.

“Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?

A Different Reality
These proud men were mistaken. Their logic was sound but wrong. Their reasoning fell short of reality. There is a world beyond the five senses! They quoted Moses assuming his writings were natural in their source. The Word of God reflects all of reality not just the natural world. The primary concern of Scripture is not an understanding of the natural world. His Word opens to us the world of invisible realities, those of –faith!

These sincere, brilliant men were mistaken because they took reason to be everything and ignored the crucial role of faith in life. This side of heaven, there will always be more questions than answers. Reason organizes the predictable; faith deals with the unpredictable.

The Sadducees projected the ways of the natural world onto the supernatural world—marrying and giving in marriage. Jesus opened the curtain on the spirit world. Gender exists but not for procreation! Life is eternal without deaths or births, an existence like that of angels. These mistaken men were hindered because they did not recognize and exercise the role of faith. Faith in God makes sense in both worlds because the power of God is at work in both worlds. Reason without faith will lead to pride and destruction.

Faith and Reason
Jesus said these men were “greatly mistaken.” Their miscalculation robbed them of life before and after death. The same is true today. To believe in the Word and power of God is not to deny the natural world, but to enjoy it as a witness to the works of God. Within the framework of each day’s sunrise and sunset, each night’s darkness and promise of light to come, we pray—a supernatural activity—and believe and worship and serve, all with the expectation of a real reward in the life to come. Faith and reason, working together, enables us to live life to the fullest.

Faith and reason do not have to be at war with one another.

Scriptures:
Mark 12:18-27
Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are Master of both the natural and supernatural worlds! You are the Creator of both. You gave me a human spirit to understand the supernatural world and a human soul and body to process the natural world. Help me walk by sight in the natural world and by faith in the unseen world. I will not fear the unpredictable in the world nor the powers of darkness because I am living in Your care. You are God of the living and not the dead! I know my loved ones are waiting for me over there in Your presence and I know You are with me today in this world. Help me live by faith and by reason. Amen.

Song:
Living by Faith
Words: James Wells and R.E. Winsett; Music: J.L. Heath

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 to this earth some sweet 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

© 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

November 4, 2017: “Wings”

Wings

The neighbor across the street put out corn and birdseed.
The result was a group of sand hill cranes, (see photo) noisy year-round natives of Florida. They are strikingly tall and walk carefully as if the bottoms of their feet are sore. The males wear a natty red cap and are larger than the females. They fight and argue with each other while the lady crane keeps pecking at the seeds and corn as if she were disinterested. They are fun to watch, especially when they decide to fly. Like an old fashioned carrier plane, they need a runway to gain airspeed. When they lift off and circle above the neighborhood and head out to some distant wetlands, the miracle of wings comes to mind.

We have all felt the desire to fly like a bird. It was this passion that led 20th century man to finally master self-propelled flight. Now the phrase, “taking wings” applies to us.

There are so many reasons to take wing:

  • Travel to distant lands,
  • The adventure of defying gravity,
  • To get a higher view of creation, and
  • To escape.

This is the desire of the psalmist:

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

Situations here on earth press upon us, seemingly increasing the downward pull of gravity. If we could only do what the birds do—take wing and fly!

But this type of flight remains a metaphor, a fantasy unfulfilled. Birds have wings; we do not.

Or do we?

Is there a way the soul can take wing?

Is there a dove whose wings we can borrow for a while “to fly away and be at rest?” Of course there is. The Heavenly Dove of the Holy Spirit can lift us above the tortured plane of difficulties. To pray in the Spirit is to take wing. To enter the lofty realms of truth in the Word of God is to soar in restful restoring flight. To gather with the saints to worship in Spirit and Truth is to be lifted to the heights of Mt. Zion where God lives and rules. There is found peace, real peace, a peace resting among the promises of God, not the circumstances of earth.

So let us practice our taxi for takeoff—prayer. Let us consult the pre-flight checklist, like any well-trained pilot, making sure all is in proper working order. And let us take wing and soar on the rushing mighty winds of the Spirit. We can travel to distant lands in effectual fervent intercession. We can defy the earthly gravity of circumstances for a while. From these heights, let us get a wider view of life. This escape is restorative, preparing us to land and face the challenges of the day.

Scriptures:
Psalm 55:1-9
Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition. Listen to me and answer me; I have no peace, because of my cares. I am shaken by the noise of the enemy and by the pressure of the wicked; For they have cast an evil spell upon me and are set against me in fury. My heart quakes within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling have come over me, and horror overwhelms me. And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee to a far-off place and make my lodging in the wilderness. I would hasten to escape from the stormy wind and tempest.”
Psalm 139:7-12 NKJV
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the Dove of Your Spirit! Let me borrow His wings for a while this morning. Lift me above circumstances, good and bad, to see Your higher purpose in me. Help me take the wings of this morning for a flight to Your heavenly chambers. Let me carry the strength and beauty of Your Presence through this day. Though I am earthbound, Your lofty promises carry me forward, fearlessly into this day. Thank You, Lord, for these wings. Amen.

Song:
On the Wings of a Dove
Words and Music: Bob Ferguson

1. When troubles surround us, when evils come
The body grows weak. The spirit grows numb
When these things beset us, God doesn’t forget us
He sends us His love.

Refrain:
On the wings of a snow-white dove
He sends His pure sweet love,
A sign from above On the wings of a dove.

2. When Jesus went down through the river that day
Well, he was baptized in the usual way
And when it was done God blessed His son.
He sent him His love On the wings of a dove.

Refrain

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 8, 2017 “Celebration”

Celebration

People were created to celebrate. 
We celebrate at the slightest provocation.  Occasions for celebration run from private gatherings in honor of intimate events like the birth of a child to big family events like graduations and weddings to huge public celebrations like championships, inaugurations and coronations.  Human beings love to celebrate even when there is nothing to celebrate like young people celebrating nothing more than the weekend.

In the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof,

God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
How much more can we be joyful when there’s really something to be joyful for?

Is there a deeper significance to this human need or desire?  Without doubt—public worship should be a celebration.

Old Covenant Celebration
The spirituality of the Old Covenant was marked by frequent and fervent celebrations:

  • The Sabbath was a weekly celebration of God’s covenantal faithfulness.
  • Three festivals marked each year with celebrations related to the provision of God through the hard work of His people.
  • Every seven years the land itself had a celebration of rest.
  • Every 50th year was supposed to be a year-long celebration called the Year of Jubilee.
  • The book of Psalms commands singing and playing music, rejoicing and dancing before the Lord in celebration of “His abundant goodness.”

New Covenant Celebration
In the Gospel narratives, celebration is at the heart of New Covenant spirituality as Jesus presented worship in Spirit and Truth.

  • Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Old Covenant feasts.
  • Jesus instituted the New Covenant feast of the Lord’s Table.
  • The Father of the prodigal son celebrated greatly at the return of his repentant child.
  • Jesus said the angels in heaven celebrated over one lost sinner who repented.
  • The book of Revelation describes a great celebration with Jesus as Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride.

Celebrate the Lord’s Day!
Each Lord’s Day worship service should have a strong element of celebration in it.  Even if the Spirit is calling the church to solemn prayer, to “weep between the porch and the altar,” the prophet Joel said, we should also “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” as the Psalmist said.

On this Lord’s day, let us gather together to celebrate the Lord’s abundant goodness.  Let us rejoice and be glad.  Why?  Because we were made for this purpose and because the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!

Scriptures:
Exodus 23:14-16
“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; No one is to appear before me empty-handed. “Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.”Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
2 Samuel 6:12-13
Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
Psalm 30:11-12 NKJV
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 100 NKJV
Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands.  Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Psalm 145:3-7
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.   They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Matthew 26:18-19
He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'”   So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
Luke 15: 10; 21-24
…I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NKJV
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, on Your day I choose to celebrate! I will lift my voice with those of my brothers and sisters in the House of God! Together we will join the celebration around Your Throne in Heaven where un-numbered angels meet in joyful assembly with the saints we know and love who have preceded us to the Heavenly Zion. I will celebrate with the Song of the Redeemed that angels do not know and cannot sing. I will let the rhythms of celebration move my body, the truths we are celebrating inform my mind, and the Spirit of the Living God animate my spirit so that my whole human existence will be lost in celebration—You deserve nothing less! Hallelujah! Amen!

Song:
Celebrate Jesus!
Words and Music: Don Moen

Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate!

He is risen! He is risen!
And He lives forevermore!
He is risen! He is risen!
Come on and celebrate
The resurrection of our Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 21, 2017 “Need”

Need

Desires and Needs
The desires of the heart and the requirements of our work and play can sometimes work against each other producing a state of confusion.  If we really want something, it feels like we need it.  If we have a goal to reach, there are certain things the quest requires.  We want to reach the goal so much this also feels like a need.

Need, however, is much simpler than the desires/requirements state of confusion.  Desires and requirements are noisy little nuisances that clamor through our days distracting us here and there according to the conflicted hungers of the human body and soul.  Need, on the other hand, is a quiet, persistent call to survival, not entertainment or achievement.

Human need can be expressed with a very short list of physical needs:

  • Air,
  • Water,
  • Food,
  • Shelter, and
  • Clothing.

The spiritual life has an even simpler expression of need—Jesus:

  • His grace,
  • His truth,
  • His Spirit,
  • His presence,
  • His power, and
  • His church.

A Method to see the Difference
Prayer is a method for sorting out the confusion that sometimes exists when we deal with desires, task requirements, and real needs.  The Lord has promised to meet all our needs.  When we ask for something in prayer and it does not happen, it may be that that thing is just a desire and not really a need.  When we are attempting to do what God has called us to do and that work requires things that we ask for in prayer but do not receive, this also may be an indication that those things may not be requirements after all.  God will show other ways to do His work as He supplies what we really need.  Of course there is a third possible explanation for not having what we need when we have prayed for it; perhaps it just isn’t God’s time yet.  We hear it said that there are three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait.  There is much truth in this.

Two Sets of Needs
There are two sets of needs that should concern us:

  • our needs and
  • the needs of those we care about.

God has covenanted with us to supply all our needs.  He also wants to use us to supply what others within our sphere of influence need.

  • Bread winners in the home provide the human needs listed above for the rest of the family.
  • The spiritual head of the family supplies regular access to Jesus so that spiritual needs can be met.
  • The household of faith, the family of God must be our concern as well.  Supporting the local church in offerings and service is one of the ways God uses us to meet the needs of others.

By exalting the name of Jesus with our worship, our work, and our witness, thereby touching a hurting humanity with the Good News about Jesus, we help meet the greatest need of others—a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Scriptures:
Matthew 6:6-8; 31-34
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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philemon 4:10-13; 19
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your promise to meet all my needs. As I delight in You, even the desires of my heart change into Your desires for me. You have promised me those as well. Help me to delight in You today! Change the desires of my heart to match the desires of Your heart. Cleanse me from selfish motives and ungodly desires. Let me echo Your great prayers: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” here and now, just as it is in heaven. I will “seek first Your kingdom and righteous” and I know all me needs will be met. You are my sufficiency! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: William M. Runyan

1. “Great is thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changtest not, thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

Refrain:
“Great is thy faithfulness!” “Great is thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided–
“Great is thy faithfulness!” Lord unto me!

2. Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above.
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Refrain

3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 19, 2017 “Story-teller”

Story-teller

“This is the west, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”—from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” 1962 dir. John Ford

Each of us is a storyteller. I don’t mean that we are all liars, although many are. I mean we tell a story with our lives. What’s more, we live our lives based on a story that we believe is true.

What makes a story?
The elements of a story are three:

  1. Character,
  2. Conflict, and
  3. Conclusion.

The narrative structure of a story is also a three-part reality:

  1. Exposition,
  2. Development, and
  3. Finale.

If life were a play, we would say it this way:

  • Act One—the Beginning: childhood,
  • Act Two—the Middle: adulthood, and
  • Act Three—the End: eternity.

Apply these three trinities to the Jesus Story:

  • Act One—The Exposition:
    -The backstory of creation and the Nation of Israel
    -The Nativity
    -Theme: The Coming Redemption of Humanity
  • Act Two—Development
    -The earthly ministry of Jesus
    -The early church and the wisdom of the Apostles
    -Theme: Redeeming Love
  • Act Three—Finale
    -The End-time drama of Revelation
    -The absolute Victory of Christ over evil
    -The New Heaven and the New Earth
    -Theme: Redemption and New Creation

No Legend, This!
We live in a world of lies and legends. As Isaiah predicted, “Truth has stumbled in the streets.” We who tell a story that is neither legend nor lie have work to do. We don’t need filmmakers, or the news media, or atheists, or cynics, or comics, or celebrities, or gossips on social media. We need the love of Jesus in our hearts, the fire of the Spirit in our bones, and the truth of God in our souls.

Jesus said the contents of our hearts would come spilling out of our mouths.
Let’s fill our hearts with the Story of Jesus.

  • Let’s tell it with words of truth, deeds of mercy, tithes and offerings, prayers and supplications, and with praise and worship.
  • Let’s tell it to each other, to our children and grandchildren, to our neighbors and friends, to our enemies, to those passing and let’s tell it to ourselves in prayer every day.
  •  Let’s tell it as we work, rest, and play and let us dream of it when we sleep.
  • Let’s let the zeal of His house consume us until we disappear into the blinding, healing revelation of who Jesus is right now.
  •  Preachers, tell it when you take the pulpit. It is the power of God unto salvation for all!
  • Worship Leaders, tell it when you choose the songs.
  • Musicians, tell it with your voices and instruments.
  • Writers, write it; painters paint it; poets, set it to verse.

And let us be sure to tell the whole story, Act One, Act Two, and Act Three:

  • Jesus is our Savior.
  • Jesus is our Healer.
  • Jesus is our Baptizer in the Spirit.Jesus is our Soon-Coming King!
  • No other story rescues people from sin and destruction. No other story drains the heart of its despair and fills it again with hope and peace.

Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.

Storytellers We Must Be!

Scriptures:
Isaiah 59:14-15 NIV
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
Romans 1:16-17 NIV
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Matthew 24:12-14 NIV
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 26:6-13 NIV
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Colossians 3:17; 23-25 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.
Romans 1:15 NKJV
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have a story to tell—Your story! Like the Apostle, I am not ashamed of Your story for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Help me to tell your story with words and deeds, with thoughts and intentions of the heart, and with compassion and empathy for all I meet. Never let my humanity spoil the story. Never let me betray the truth with phony living. I invite the Holy Spirit to anoint me in all dimensions so that my life will be an open letter to the world, a moving narrative of Your life in me. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: John R. Sweney

1. Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus, Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Refrain:
Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.

2. Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor, Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted, Homeless, rejected and poor.

Refrain

3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him, Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender, Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper, “Love paid the ransom for me.”

Refrain

4. Tell how He’s gone back to heaven, Up to the right hand of God:
How He is there interceding While on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit He has poured out from above;
Tell how He’s coming in glory For all the saints of His love.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved