November 4, 2017: “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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017


Peace is not passive. 
Peace needs to be made, kept, and embraced.  We obtain peace from God through action on our part by active faith—choosing to act on the promises of God.

Jesus is our peace, Paul said, for He has broken down the walls life builds between us and others, between us and life.  But walls don’t come down for us until we obey the commands of the Lord.

The first two are simple and lead to success in all the others:

  1. Love God with the sum total of our humanity, and,
  2. Love others as we do ourselves.

Jesus said success in all the other requirements of living with God flow from these two.  Peace and faith are integrally related to each other.

There is a spiritual progression from no peace to much peace:

  • Our confidence in God’s faithfulness to His promises gives us peace when He seems to be paying no attention to us at all.
  • Faith is ours according to the depth of our knowledge of the Word of God.
  • The more we know of the Word of God the more of His peace we enjoy.
  • The greater our availability to the Holy Spirit, the more we will know about Jesus, the church, worship, service, humility, and the Kingdom of God.

We make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit through regular prayer and Bible reading and through an unbreakable commitment to the local church in worship, fellowship, and service.  Faithfulness to God provides peace that passes all understanding.

Peace is not accidental; sometimes it must be made. 
Jesus said those who made peace would be called the children of God.  The most obvious meaning of this is to help peace come to others through the ministry of reconciliation.  Those who foment conflicts among people are not doing the work of the Kingdom.  Believers are called to help bring an end to conflicts by fairness, truth-telling, and by being a friend and good listener.

Peace is not passive; sometimes we need to go get it.
Isaiah said that those who fill their minds with the things of God will have not just peace, but perfect peace.  When peace has flown from our lives we should deliberately go to the Book or to the place of prayer and pour truth about who God is and what He has promised into our minds. With that rehearsal of eternal truth, the peace we need will flood our souls.

Peace is not passive; sometimes we have to keep it.
One of the most ancient of Christian ministries was called “the passing of the peace.”  At a special time in a worship services believers turned to embrace each other with the words, “The Peace of Christ be with you.”  The one who was embraced responded with, “And also with you.”  In the early church this part the worship service was considered so important and so powerful it was reserved for only those who had been baptized into full fellowship with the church.  Perhaps it is time to return to this ancient spirituality.  The personal touch, the kind prayer, the good will in this moment of sharing would surely promote peace within the church.  Church strife could be avoided and the proper focus of each believer could be maintained—loving God and loving people.

On this day, don’t wait for wait passively for peace.  If you don’t have it,

  • Embrace it (go get it.)
  • Make it (speak peace to others.)
  • Keep it (do the work of the Kingdom.)

And watch Jesus tear down some walls.


Ephesians 2:14-18
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Philippians 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.
Romans 14:17-19
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Songs of Peace
He Is Our Peace 
Composer: Kandela Groves

He is our peace who has broken down every wall
He is our peace, He is our peace
He is our peace who has broken down every wall
He is our peace, He is our peace.

Cast all your cares on Him for He careth for you
He is our peace, He is our peace
Cast all your cares on Him for He careth for you
He is our peace, He is our peace.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 2, 2017


Beneath the glittering surface of our lives there is the deep of who we really are, who we were, and there are dark tidal forces taking us where it seems inevitable that that we will end up. Most people passing by us see only the glitter and never the deep.

We like it that way.

The deep is private stuff, like the ocean’s floor covered by tons of water, beyond the penetration of the sun’s light and effciently obscured by the silt and sand collected in our hearts.

So distant is the deep, that we seldom dare explore it ourselves.

Just a glimpse of the monsters that may lurk there or the mysteries that linger there is enough to send us searching for the shallows and the friendly splashes of air that welcome us back from the deep.

What Is the Truth?
How much energy do we spend in self-delusion pretending the surface is the true story? Concentric relationship circles radiate out from us with only a very few people in the closest ring and there are secrets we must never tell even them. There is no need. It is all under the blood of Christ, long ago forgiven and stricken from the heavenly ledger. We know this, of course, but even these forgotten and forgiven things erupt in strange images in our dreams setting little fear fires that burn in the night and leaping to mind at odd hours during the day.

The Deep Things of God
Who is there that we can trust to dive deep into the hidden, neglected caverns of our historical hurts and lingering fears? Is there a “Deep” that can speak to our “Deep?”

The good news is this: The Holy Spirit dives as deep into us as we go. At conversion, our sins were cast from us into a sea that is so much deeper than we are. Thank You, Jesus!

And the Spirit within us is an abiding Spirit. He does deep work. At the surface it may feel like an emotional tug, or we may feel nothing at all. But when we open our depths to the Lord whose dimensions are deeper still, He is faithful to do the deep work only He can do.

  • Hurts are healed.
  • Painful memories are managed, filed away someplace too deep to disrupt our joy.
  • Despair is dislodged and hope installed in the empty space left behind.

No matter how deeply we have been hurt, no matter how deep our shameful secrets are buried, no matter the terror that crouches deep in us, the Spirit of God goes deeper.

We are deep but the Spirit dives deeper. Trust Him with your deep places today

Psalm 42:5-8
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. … Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16 NIV
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word and make me pure (and whole) within;
Fill me with fire where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Your name.
from Cleanse Me J. Edwin Orr

Deeper, Deeper

Words and Music: C. P. Jones

1. Deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus Daily let me go;
Higher, higher in the school of wisdom, More of grace to know.

O deeper yet, I pray, And higher every day,
And wiser, blessed Lord, In Thy precious, holy Word.

2. Deeper, deeper! Blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still,
Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus, And His perfect will.


3. Deeper, deeper! Though it cost hard trials, Deeper let me go!
Rooted in the holy love of Jesus, Let me fruitful frow.


4. Deeper, higher, every day with Jesus, Till all conflict past,
Finds me conqu’ror, and in His own image Perfected at last.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 20


Living, as we do, locked into the dimensions of time and space, we cannot imagine the life of our Lord who is everywhere all at once and all the time. We must deal in now-and-then and someday-will-be. Many people we would love to be here with us are absent. Some will return from wherever it is they have gone; others will wait for us to join them where they have gone.

Right now the result is the same—absence—a gaping hole in our hearts.

Tell It to Jesus
Morning prayer is a good time to deal with absences. We can pray for those who are away from us, and in a strange way, draw them nearer. It has been well said and often repeated that there is no distance in prayer. There is, however, distance in absence, a distance we want with all our hearts to close. As the years pile up, the list of those who were once close by but who are now absent grows longer. Affection and admiration still abide in our hearts for them, but miles and mountain ranges, rivers and rolling hills, and perhaps even oceans have come between us. Because the Lord is present with us and with them, lifting their names to Him closes those immense intervals and invokes God’s love, care, and provision on those we love who are absent from us.

Spiritual Absence
Some have left us in other ways—they have departed from the faith we once shared. Morning prayer is a good time to close that gap as well. Because there is no distance in prayer, we can intercede for them, inviting the Holy Spirit to send people their way to remind them of the wrong turn they have taken. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is more than a Comforter and Helper, He is One who convicts and convinces. The Spirit abiding with us also surrounds those who have left us spiritually. He can manipulate circumstances around them to melt their rebellious hearts and turn their deceived minds around. Remember, praying father or mother, prodigals do come home!

The Departed
We also know that there is another degree of absence—those who have graduated from this life to the next. The Bible refers to an ancient Christian belief theologians call “The Communion of the Saints.” In Hebrews chapter eleven we are inspired by the heroes of the faith gathered in a gallery of witnesses with the best seats in the house beholding the “One Who Sits upon the Throne.” The next chapter makes it clear that the Royal Grandstand isn’t reserved for the famous only—our departed loved ones are there as well! When we draw near to the Lord in praise and worship, we also draw near to them, “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

In prayer we effectively deal with the absences of our lives. Because the faithful ones are with the Lord, either here or there, and because the Lord is near the prodigals, we can face our day full of presence, not absence.

1 Corinthians 5:3

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment … just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present…
Hebrews 12:1-3; 22-24 NKJV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. … 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…

Lord Jesus, although You are eternal, You entered into time and space. You know how it feels to be in one place at one time, just as we are. Sometimes the people we love are close by—how we treasure those moments—while at other times the people with us are not the ones we want near and those preferred ones are away, even far away, from us. You understand our discomfort with such an unmanageable thing as time and space. Now, Lord, You have entered back into Your natural, supernatural state in glory. We have loved ones near You there, embrace them for us. You are also with those who are absent from us in so many ways. Hold them close for us, Lord Jesus. You watch over the prodigal, the wayward, the troubled and confused. Whisper in their hearts, reminding them that You are close by, close enough to hear them call on You. In Your sweet and very present name, Amen.

Never Alone

1. I’ve seen the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll;
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul;
I’ve heard the voice of my Savior, Telling me still to fight on;
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

3. When in affliction’s valley I’m treading the road of care;
My Savior helps me to carry my cross when heavy to bear;
My feet, entangled with briars ready to cast me down,
My Savior whispers His promise, “I never will leave you alone.”


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved