September 5, 2017 “Clarity”


A heavy fog is a dangerous impediment to orderly travel.
Some drivers ignore the fog and continue to drive at their normal above-the-speed-limit speeds, a practice that is very hard to understand.

  • Fogs turn the presumed safety of multi-lane highways into a blinding menace. In the fog brakes scream and smoke, crashes, unseen but clearly heard, fill the thick air and lives slide and crash as our suppressed terrors become real though still unseen.
  • Daylight brings the horror into view, cars and trucks frozen at odd angles up and down, often merged into mangled sculptures of meetings missed, promises broken, lives interrupted, ended or hanging by a thread, and the occasional miracle of someone simply walking away unscratched.

Even on a clear sunny day, life can become a fogbound journey.
The way ahead is obscured by clouds hanging low to the ground, even to our shoe tops and we cannot see which step to take next.

We need clarity.

We need a fresh wind of the Spirit of God to blow our way, clearing the path before us.

Jesus told us the Holy Spirit moved like the wind in ways beyond our understanding but obvious in their effect in our journey. Like a morning fog, the warmth of the Word and the soft breezes of the Spirit can clear the air for us at the beginning of each day.

Why do we choose the fog over the sweet clarity of the Word of God?
It is not as though all our questions are answered.

  • Mysterious remain, things about God or life that lie just beyond our ability to understand.
  • But mysteries never form a fog bank. They are high flying clouds that momentarily hide the sun only to see it reemerge in light and warmth.

Mysteries cast only fleeting shadows on the path before us. The light behind them is constant and clear.

Of course, we must not be a fogbank to others.
In prayer ask the Lord to show you if your witness has clarity. Let the wind of the Holy Spirit breathe away any fog in your way of living that diffuses the light He has put in you.

Clarity from Him and clarity in witness to Him are ministries of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:7-8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Job 28:23-28
God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord-that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”
Job 37:21-24
Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”
Psalm 68:1-3
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him. As smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God. But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Psalm 135:6-7
The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Jerermiah 51:15-16
“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Acts 2:1
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting…

Lord Jesus, You are my constant source of light. When clouds of circumstance hide Your light from me, it is only for a little while. The Bible clearly states that nothing has and nothing ever will extinguish Your light. If today should be one that is overcast, send the refreshing winds of Your Spirit to blow away the cloud cover. And Lord, help me today that I will not cloud the vision of anyone else; not a seeker desperately seeking Your light or a fellow believer looking to me for help. Keep us all safe on the dangerous roads we must travel even when the fog rolls in. Safe in You, Lord Jesus. Safe in You! Amen.

Open My Eyes that I May See
Words and Music: Clara H. Scott

1. Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes; illumine me,
Spirit divine!

2. Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear.
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears; illumine me,
Spirit divine!

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere.
Open my heart, and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart; illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 2, 2017 “Serenity”


To us the storm of the Sea of Galilee is a metaphor; to the disciples it was a storm.
At the rebuke of Jesus, the waves went flat and the rain, lightning, and thunder ceased and a great calm ensued.

For the disciples there was no serenity in the calm. A different fear gripped Jesus’ followers as they considered the power of the One they were following. For Jesus there was no fear in the storm; He slept in the boat while the storm raged around Him.

That is serenity—peace while the storm does its worst.

The dictionary defines serenity and serene this way:

Serenity – the state or quality of being serene , calm, or tranquil; sereneness.
Serene – calm, peaceful, or tranquil; unruffled:

When you have a day of rest and recreation, may the Lord grant you serenity. May you be calm, peaceful, tranquil and entirely unruffled. The serenity that comes from God is not an illusion—it is a deep reality.

It is a gift of grace but it is not a mystery.
Serenity of the spirit is a choice we make. It is based on the character of the Heavenly Father. His Word is true and He is always true to His Word. The serenity of the worshiper of the Lord Jesus is composed of equal parts faith, confidence, and trust.

  • Faith—we see everything through spiritual eyes; we see beyond the storm of the moment to the serenity of the future.
  • Confidence—we know that with the passing of time we will see the blessing in each storm.
  • Trust—we take a deep spiritual breath and calm ourselves knowing that no storm is more powerful than Jesus and no storm lasts forever.

We believe in the promises of God. 
We know what they are. Our expectations of life spring from our knowledge of the Word of God.

  • We read His Book and commune with the Lord in prayer regularly.
  • We make choices based on the truth of God, the principles of the Kingdom, and the complete mastery of Jesus over all storms, circumstances, and enemy attacks.

We know that just as Jesus rebuked that storm, He will rebuke the storms we face. While we wait for the sea to go flat and the rain, lightning and thunder to cease, we can serenely sleep below decks just as Jesus did.

That is serenity.

Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Acts 3:19-20
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-even Jesus
Ephesians 3:12
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 37:3-6
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Psalm 52:8-9
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
Isaiah 12:2-3 NKJV
Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.'” Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in the LORD, is everlasting strength.
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.

Lord Jesus, You are my peace, my serenity. I have anchored my life in Your character. I have informed my mind with Your Word. I have calmed my heart with confessions of the promises You have made. Oh I know the winds will rise against me. The rains will pummel me and seem never to stop. Circumstances will cry out for me to despair that perhaps this time You have forgotten me. But deep in my mind I know better. Your promises have been written there by the Holy Spirit. The rains will stop. The winds will shift and settle down. The noise of the storm will subside. I know that when the storm has done its worst, You will still be standing and I will be safe in You. You are my peace, my serenity. Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Till the Storm Passes Over
Words and Music: Mosie Lister

1. In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by


2. Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies


3. When the long night has ended and the storms come no more
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 22, 2017 “Sustained”


There are creatures of the night—silent, stealthy—stirring about while we sleep.
They mean us no harm. In fact, they do us much good. The raccoon, the opossum, the beautiful fox, the feral cat, patrol the urban landscape after hours to clean up things we don’t want to know about, let alone touch. When the sun comes out, they go in to take their turn at sleep.

Fields sleep, too.
They dutifully grow the grass, taller each day, thicker with each fall of rain. When the season is full, then comes the mower, the hay bailer, to organize what was random, to strengthen what once was wearied by bending to the wind. Then, resting from its work, the field sleeps sustained by the hand of God and the diligence of man.

The poet speaks of the broad, sustained rhythms of life: daylight and dark, the changing seasons.

“I lie down and go to sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”

The Creator of both day and night, the Designer of the earth, brilliantly tilting us on an axis so that we could have seasons of contrasts to enjoy, made us for time and He made time for us.

We are sustained when we loosen our grip on time.
The conscious mind must rest so we close our eyes to sleep. It seems the world stops when we sleep, but it doesn’t. It seems but a moment when we awaken several hours later, rested, sustained.

While we slept time worked its magic and the creatures of the night were on patrol.

  • When we rest in the grace of God, the inner mind processes the day, speaking mysteries the soul needs to hear and songs the spirit needs to sing. Like tall grasses in a well-tended field, we danced through the day, breathing the air, drawing strength from the fertile earth, and sipping the sun and rain. With the night comes the sustaining rest when our sleeping selves consolidate and organize the growth of the day.
  • The darkened alleyways of our inner lives are patrolled, not by creatures of the night, but by the gentle Dove of the Spirit, to organize what was random, to strengthen what was wearied by bending to the wind. Angels watch over our bed and the Lord Himself guards our heart. No evil force can enter there. The Spirit of God dwells within and He is at work in us.

“I lie down and go to sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”

Psalm 3
Lord, how many adversaries I have! how many there are who rise up against me! How many there are who say of me, “There is no help for him in his God.” But you, O Lord, are a shield about me; you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head. I call aloud upon the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill; I lie down and go to sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I do not fear the multitudes of people who set themselves against me all around. Rise up, O Lord; set me free, O my God; surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face, you will break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people!
Proverbs 6:20-23 NIV
My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life…
Psalm 4:5-8 NIV
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 104:19-23 NIV
The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.
Psalm 121 NIV
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 91:9-11 NIV
If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the Lord, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

Lord Jesus, You never tire or grow weary. The Bible says You never slumber or sleep, that Your eyes are always open keeping watch and Your ears are always listening to the faintest cry of the troubled heart. When I sleep Your angels keep watch and Your Spirit examines my inmost being. Often You speak to us in our dreams, making wild and silly dramas of our waking fears so that we can awaken and realize You have it all in Your hands. When we awake, refreshed by a very real dream or even alarmed by a nightmare, we soon know that You are with us in the darkest nights and speak to us in the deepest places we know. Thank You for sustaining us day and night. Amen.

Abide with Me
Text: Henry F. Lyte; Music: William H. Monk

1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 17, 2017 “Backing”


No one gets far in this life without backing.
The brilliant, highly trained naval officer is worthless without the backing of his/her ship and crew. The same is true in every aspect of life.

  • Many of us were blessed with parents who backed us when we didn’t even know who we were.  They knew who we were and saw to it that we had what we needed in every stage of childhood.  Good parents are focused on their children.  Most of their decisions are made with a primary consideration for the welfare of the children God has given them.
  • At school, good teachers back their students to the hilt.  The best ones are in the business precisely to provide their students with everything they need to learn the things they need to know.  Teachers, in turn, are backed by their colleagues, administrators, school workers, materials publishers, and college professors who form a continuing network of support.

Everyone needs good backing.
When we finally graduate from the school system and begin to make our contribution to the world, we realize we need to find some backing.  If we are starting a business or starting in business, it is going to require some support from somewhere.  Hopefully, we have learned how to make good friends and how to be a good friend.  Whatever we choose to do with our lives, we will have to walk the two-way street called “backing.”  If we are faithful to our friends, backing them when they need us, many of them will do the same for us.

This is a spiritual way of life:

  • Experienced workers should be eager to help the rookie.
  • Older brothers and sisters in the church should be available and willing to help younger brothers and sisters get started as faithful men and women of God.
  • Older pastors should be ready to counsel the young pastor when he or she needs a larger, more seasoned perspective.

On the other hand:

  • Inexperienced workers should be humble enough to seek out the wisdom of experience.
  • Younger believers in the church need to respect their elders and carefully consider their counsel.
  • The younger pastor needs to revere the elder minister and seek out the priceless wisdom he or she has learned by experience.

In short, not only does each of us need backing, there is someone close at hand who needs our backing.  Of course, few things are as un-welcomed as advice we haven’t asked for.  If you are young, have the wisdom to ask.  If you are old, have the grace to wait until you are asked.

Generational Division
We must realize the strategy of the enemy of the church—generational division.  Satan is busy buildings walls around the generations in the Body of Christ.  When our structures of worship keep the older folk from the younger folk, both ages groups lose out.  The picture they get of the church is distorted.  It looks like the church is made up of only one generation.  Nothing could be further from the heart of God.

Generational Unity
The truth is this:

  • Younger believers need their elders, and,
  • Older believers need the young folks.

This is such a contrast to the world! Dividing the generations is big business for the world; the multiply their markets. The church is supposed to be different, really different—we are called to be ONE even as God Himself is ONE. This doesn’t happen by accident—it happens when we shake off the world’s thinking and obey the Lord!

We can step out into the world today fully assured of the Lord’s backing in all we do for Him! He is the original Covenant Keeper! His promises are the best backing we could ever hope for.  He is also counting on us to provide the backing our brothers and sisters need.  No one gets far in this life without backing.

2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Psalm 119:140
Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
Psalm 145: 3-7; 13-16
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 …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. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.  The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Revelation 19:11
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.
Hebrews 3:13; 10:23-25
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Titus 2:2-8
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech…
1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
John 17:9-19 NKJV
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

Lord Jesus, You have my back! As I go into this day, I am confident that I am backed by the infallible Word of God, the immutable character of God, and the unmatched power of the Holy Spirit. Who can stand against one who is so thoroughly backed? No one, Lord. Help me keep my eyes open for those who need my backing but help me keep my mouth closed until I am asked for help. Help all of us in Your family to realize how much we need each other! Help us throw off the divisive influence of the world and be ONE! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Standing on the Promises
Words and Music: Russell Kelso Carter

1. Standing on the promises of Christ my king,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.


3. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.


4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 14, 2017 “Faithfulness”


The Coinage of the Kingdom of God
If there is a coinage in the Kingdom of God and it isn’t what people normally treasure: talent, physical beauty, intelligence, creativity, skill, or personality. The quality that holds the greatest value in the Kingdom of God is faithfulness.

Today a new week begins. Regardless of the demands our work places on us, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional, work of any kind requires faithfulness. Showing up and showing up on time is important. Faithfulness on the job has an air of predictability about it that enables us to keep a job when we are blessed to have one.

One of the most vital characteristics of God is His faithfulness.

  • He does not forget what he has promised.
  • He never loses track of His people.
  • He never sleeps nor does He slumber, so God is faithful through the longest night.
  • He is faithful and just to forgive us ours sins when we confess them freely to Him and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • He hears us when we pray, when we praise Him, and when we worship Him and,
  • He is always faithful to respond to our praise and gratitude with the gift of His presence and the comfort of His sovereignty.

God is a covenant keeping God who cannot lie and never has to reconsider a promise. Keeping Covenant is His nature. God has all power, so nothing can ever hinder Him from being faithful to His word. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is given a name, “Faithful and True.”

We are made in His image, so truth is of immense importance to us. We want to know the truth of things. We have an inherent expectation that life should make sense and that God should be true. When this does not seem to be the case, doubts about God and His faithfulness crowd into our minds. Sometimes life only makes sense to God and we can’t make heads or tails of it. Sometimes it seems the truth isn’t really true and we wonder if we have believed cleverly devised fables.

The enigmas and mysteries of life make our faithfulness important, too.

  • Let us be faithful in prayer, so that we can place the things we don’t understand before God’s throne.
  • Let us be faithful in reading the Word so the truth of God can continue to set us free.
  • Let us be faithful to God on the job so others can count on us and see in our faithfulness a reflection of the faithfulness of God.

Each faithful attitude and action adds a valuable coin of the realm to our heavenly account. In the words of Jesus, we can be “rich toward God.”

Psalm 89
Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness. For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens. “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: ‘I will establish your line for ever, and preserve your throne for all generations.'” The heavens bear witness to your wonders, O Lord, and to your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones; For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? who is like the Lord among the gods? God is much to be feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible to all those round about him. Who is like you, Lord God of hosts? O mighty Lord, your faithfulness is all around you. You rule the raging of the sea and still the surging of its waves. You have crushed Rahab of the deep with a deadly wound; you have scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours; you laid the foundations of the world and all that is in it. You have made the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your Name. You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand and high is your right hand.
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. Happy are the people who know the festal shout! they walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence. They rejoice daily in your Name; they are jubilant in your righteousness. For you are the glory of their strength, and by your favor our might is exalted. Truly, the Lord is our ruler; The Holy One of Israel is our King.
Revelation 19:11
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.
Matthew 25:19-21
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Romans 12:12-13
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Hebrews 10:22-24
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Lord Jesus, the Bible says Your name is “Faithful and True.” I believe it and confess it again today. You are faithful to all Your promises to me. You are true in all Your ways. There is no shadow of turning with You, no hint of iniquity, no fraction of malice or even inattentiveness. Lord Jesus, I want to be faithful, too. I want to be good inside, deep in my heart. I want to do good outside as my life touches others. Your Holy Spirit abides within me empowering me to live a crucified life—the flesh under control and the resurrected life—the whole man free to serve and worship You. I would be “faithful and true,” as You are, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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

1. Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

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.


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


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 12 “Future”


The Soon-to-Be
We deal with, or fail do deal with, the prospect of the future all the time.

  • In business it is called everything from a “to do” list to an annual projection.
  • In school it is the almighty calendar.
  • In church leadership it is a strange three-way dance featuring today’s demands, this week’s services, and the season of the year that has all the dancers out of breath.
  • In the home each child and adult has a personal agenda that combines with the others to create domestic chaos barreling like a runaway train toward the future.

It isn’t that we don’t know what to do about the future—we do!

We do basically four things:

  1. We ignore it.
  2. We fear it; this is another form of denial.
  3. We worry about it.
  4. We prepare for it.

We may not know the details of what will happen in the future but we have some promises from God that are as sure as the future is uncertain.

What will the future hold?
One must be careful predicting the future—one’s veracity as prophet is immediately put to the public test. I will venture three predictions—three things the future holds for sure.

  1. God has a future for each of us. The Path of Life deals with the past, enriches the present, and secures the future. This is the “Abundant Life” Jesus promised each of us.
  2. In the Last Days before the Return of Christ, there will be a great “Falling away.” The world which has never welcomed Jesus will so influence His Church that many will walk away from the faith “once delivered to the saints” in a fatal reenactment of the Babylonian Captivity. The Spirit of the Lord will be supplanted by the spirit of the age. The Bible calls this the spirit of antichrist, the spirit of iniquity. The love of many who once followed the Lord Jesus will grow cold.
  3.  Also “in the Last Days,” the Lord has promised to pour out of His Spirit “on all flesh.” This outpouring is greater than any human tradition or theological system. Nothing like this has ever happened before. It started on the Day of Pentecost and was renewed in the 20th Century. It spilled over the denominations formed by it. It brought the charismatic renewal and the rain of the Spirit has continued to fall beyond the 20th Century into this one as the whole church opens to the reality of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Poet prophesies,

“Let this be written for a Future Generation…”

He describes an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit—an outpouring of Grace like the world has never seen:

  • God will look down from heaven and hear the voice of a hurting humanity.
  • God will open prison doors, releasing people from the death sentence of all kinds
  • The name and fame of the Lord Jesus will be declare from every coast to every coast.

What triggers this Out Pouring of the Spirit? The answer is surprising:

“… when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.”

True Worship is our privilege today and our hope for tomorrow.
We gather—not to deliberate or debate to confer or to complain—but to worship and serve the Lord!

Each day we face a choice: Will we fall away from faith in Jesus? Or will we experience the Outpouring?

  • As we walk the Path of Life each day we choose to follow the Lord Jesus, positioning us to receive our part of the Outpouring.
  • To ignore the future or to fear it or to waste energy worrying about it is to shrink back from the Outpouring and to join the Apostasy.

The daily disciplines required by the Path of Life equip us for today and prepare us for tomorrow’s demands.

The harvest of the future is found in the seeds of obedience we plant today.

Psalm 102:18-22 NIV
Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Acts 2:16-18 NIV
…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NKJV
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
1 John 4:3 NIV
…every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Matthew 24:10-13 AMP
And then many will be offended and repelled and will ebegin to distrust and desert [Him Whom they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred. And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error. And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity, But he who endures to the end will be saved.
1 John 3:1-3 NIV
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Lord Jesus, all my tomorrows are in Your capable hands. I don’t need to know what tomorrow will bring because You are already there. Today I will do what is given for me to do and tonight I will rest in hope. Show me the horrid details of a church that is falling away from the True Faith; keep me from this apostasy. Show me the wonderful details of the Great Outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that I can be a part of that tomorrow. Somehow, Lord, you live outside of time, equally present in past, present, and future. This is beyond my understanding. I will remember that You laid aside Your omnipresence and entered into time. You understand how we must live—step by step, day by day—and You help us find each tomorrow. Amen.

I Know Who Holds My Hand
Words and Music: Ira Stanphil

1. I don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

2. I don’t know about tomorrow
It may bring me poverty
But the one who feeds the sparrow
Is the one who stands by me
And the path that be my portion
May be through the flame or flood
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 24, 2017 “Press”


Divine guidance brings with it certain sensations.
An unseen but tangible hand presses the small of our back to keep us going. Two unseen hands equally tangible throw us a “stop sign,” like a third base coach to a runner who wants to score, and stops us in our tracks.

Divine guidance: Sometimes a hand from the back pressing us forward and at other times a hand in the front telling us to slow down or even to stop.

The Poet says it this way:

“You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.”

The NIV translates the verse like this:

You hem me in — behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Psalm 139:5-6

These hands that hem us in are gentle hands, the hands of our best best Friend. There is wisdom here that sees beyond the obvious and knows what lies around the next curve in the road.

A Hand on Our Back
All of us need a push from time to time. Like a parachutist on his/her first jump we freeze in the door of the plane. Our Instructor pushes out into the freefall of faith, a sensation we could never feel in the safety of the aircraft and an on-rushing vision of creation we could never have seen through any window.

When the Lord tells us to do something, there is a natural hesitation to obey. This is good. We are warned in the Scripture to count the cost before beginning a new enterprise. It is proper to think things through, to plan, to gather resources and information and to build a team. Sometimes such careful analysis can lead to careless paralysis. At this point we feel that welcomed push in the small of our back, the gentle hand of a Savior leading us to greatness—and not just any greatness—but greatness in His eyes.

A Hand before Us
There is this thing in life called momentum and it must be accounted for. It is closely related to its cousin, inertia—the resistance to a change in motion. These things are of this world, a part of God’s creation. As hard as it is to get something rolling, if gravity and inertia get hold of it, it can be even more difficult to stop or even slow down. Just as that beginning parachutist needs the nudge from the back, he/she also needs the braking power of the chute itself!

Too many well-intentioned souls have crashed to the ground when momentum carried them through a stop sign. When that runner in baseball rounds third base to head for home plate, if he runs through the two-handed stop sign of the third base coach and he is called out at the plate, not only has he made an out, he is in big trouble with the team. The coach and the whole team can see the whole play in the field the runner cannot see. And so it is with the Christ-follower who does not slow down or stop when the hands in front give the sign. He knows when it is time to score and when it is time to slide safely into third base, 90 feet away from home.

We can rejoice with the touch of the Master’s hands on our backs to get us going and keep us on track and in front of us to slow us down when disaster looms. Loving hands are these and wise, hands to be trusted to guide us safely home.

Psalm 139
Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them. How deep I find your thoughts, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.… Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Lord Jesus, that You for Your guiding hand. When I drift off course, even when I don’t know it, I feel Your hand edging me back to the proper coordinates. If during the course of this day, I wander to the left or the right, I know I can count on your guiding hand. If I get ahead of myself or of Your plan, hold me back! Your hands are gentle and firm and loving. I am so grateful that You have “hemmed me in behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” Thank You, Lord!

I’ll Go where You Want Me to Go
Words and Music: Mary Brown

1. It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Yours,
I’ll go where You want me to go.

I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

2. Perhaps today there are loving words which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin, some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if You will be my Guide, though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.


3. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide,
Where I may labor through life’s short day for Jesus, the Crucified.
So, trusting my all unto Your care, I know You always love me!
I’ll do Your will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 10, 2017 “Near”


When we know the Lord, it is natural for us to want to be near to Him.
We have confidence in His amazing grace. This confidence is faith not presumption. We trust that when we repented of our sins and confessed that Jesus is Lord, that the sin barrier between Him and us was removed. We believe His New Covenant promise that His Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us, not for an Old Covenant-type special visitation for a special task, but as the abiding Comforter, the Helper who enables us to serve and quickens our spirit to understand the truth about things.

We dare to approach the nearness of the Almighty because there is over us the shadow of a cross. The cross stood on a hill called Calvary, a place of Atonement where our sins were nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers with Roman nails through the hands and feet of Jesus, an innocent Man.

When they took Him down, the nails were removed and thrown back into the container to be used again but our sins remained on that cross, forever removed from our record, no longer separating us from God.

So we can say with the writer to the Hebrews, “Let us draw near!”
We can come boldly to the Throne of Grace because our sins are gone! They were cast into a sea of forgetfulness never to remembered against us again. We stand before God more innocent than newborn babies; we stand before as if we had never sinned.

How do we draw near?—In faith to be sure, but in a faith expressed. The expressions that bring us near to Him and Him near to us are these:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Praise
  • Adoration
  • Confessions of Faith

These are all forms of prayer.

There is a New Covenant promise we can count on.
If we draw near to God, God will draw near to us. When two objects are converging, the distance between is covered at twice the speed of each. In other words, it doesn’t take long for our thanksgiving and praise to become His dwelling place. Our submission to His Lordship brings us speedily to His Throne Room.

Each day at our private altar and each Lord’s Day in public worship drawing near to God should be the first order of business. We need not linger at a distance. The power of His blood calls us close, as the angel says to John in the Book of Revelation, to “come up higher.” We can lift our hearts with songs of praise and with the songs of heaven’ hosts. The Spirit will bear us up higher so that we, like Isaiah, can see the Lord “high and lifted up.”

To contemplate His nearness is to be changed from glory to glory. What joy! What a privilege?

When we know the Lord, it is natural for us to want to be near to Him.

Psalm 148
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights. Praise him, all you angels of his; praise him, all his host. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens. Let them praise the Name of the Lord; for he commanded, and they were created. He made them stand fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind, doing his will; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds; Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; Young men and maidens, old and young together. Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for his Name only is exalted, his splendor is over earth and heaven. He has raised up strength for his people and praise for all his loyal servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him. Hallelujah!
Hebrews 10:19-20 NIV
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…
Psalm 73: 28; 145:17-18
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
James 4:6-10 NIV
That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Lord Jesus, by faith I rejoice in Your nearness. I refuse to ruminate on my past for it is covered by Your blood and erased from my record in heaven. I will not entertain any fear of the future, for it is covered by Your New Covenant. You will make all things work together for my good because I am called according to Your purpose. My past and future attended to, I will live in the moment today, confident that wherever this day takes me, I will be near to Your heart. Thank, You, Lord. Amen.

Near to the Heart of God
Words and Music: Cleland B. McAfee

1. There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God;
a place where sin cannot molest,  near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee near to the heart of God.

2. There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God;
a place where we our Savior meet, near to the heart of God.


3. There is place a place of full release, near to the heart of God;
a place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 5 “Lions”


Lions—there are many lions to watch for and one Lion to trust.
Using an image that meant something to an ancient people who lived among the real things, the poet describes his enemies as a pride of lions waiting to destroy. There is danger in the world. There are those who are the predators and there those who are the prey. The Christ-follower is considered the valued prey to spiritual predators who rely on stealth, deception, numbers, and speed to overcome the objects of their hunt.

This is not paranoia. This is simply the truth. To deny the presence of the artful enemies of the soul is to fall prey to their deception.

A pride of lions will lie about lazily in the tall grass, capturing the attention of the lookouts among the prey, warily grazing on their own grass in an adjacent field. The hunting lions creep through the tall grass perfectly hidden by the camouflage of color, stalking the herd. If a calf drifts too far from the center of the herd, one of the lions will strike with amazing speed and force, and the young one is dead.

In the same way, evil gathers in groups; “pride” is an appropriate name for these packs of predators. Their revelry gets the attention and is fairly easy to avoid. However, their influence extends beyond the borders of their bacchanal; there are hunters dispatched to hide in the weeds of the culture, stalking the unwary potential prey.

These hunting lions have much cover to conceal their threats. So many wonderful grasslands intended for the nourishment of man have been infiltrated by the agents of the enemy: arts and entertainment, education and industry, work and retirement. We must be wary for the good things in life are often camouflage for the evil things in life.

There are many lions to watch out for. We need a protector. We need One who sees through any camouflage, who detects the presence of danger when to us all seems well. The lions are there. We can’t see the hunters, only the diversion of the pride, and we might think we are safe.

We must not be the oblivious, contented calf who wanders away from the protection of the herd. We must stay close to each other, remain in the true faith, and rejoice in our destiny within the safety of God’s Kingdom.

There is one Lion to trust—Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah! He is the victorious One.
He defeated the lions of evil. In the placid pride or in the grassy field, they are all subject to Him. He knows their intent. He unmasks their methods. When he roars, they run.

There are many lions to watch for and one Lion to trust.

Psalm 10:1-12 NIV
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.” His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.” Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Isaiah 5:29; 59:15
Their roar is like that of the lion, they roar like young lions; they growl as they seize their prey and carry it off with no one to rescue. …Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
Psalm 17:8-14
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover. Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword. O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life.
Revelation 5:1-5 NIV
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Lord Jesus, Lion of Judah, I find comfort in Your roar. Your strength flows into me with the sound of it. My fear morphs into courage the way medieval sorcerers dreamed of making gold out of iron. The same roar of Your truth that comforts and strengthens me terrifies my enemies. You are the Master of All. No puny pride of predators can get through to me for You guard me with angel herdsmen watching all sides with spirit-swords drawn. You are on my side; whom shall I fear! Let us take this day in strength and victory! Amen!

The Lion of Judah
Traditional Youth Camp Song
(Sung to the tune of “The Bells of St. Mary’s”)

The Lion of Judah shall break every chain
And give to us the victory again and again.
The Lion of Judah shall break every chain
And give to us the victory again and again!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 1, 2017 “Poison”


In an outstanding gift of mercy, God supplied rattlesnakes with rattles.
They warn before they strike. It is like an audio warning label—POISON!

Thank You, Jesus!

If life were a kitchen or a garage, all the containers with poison in them would be clearly marked. No one would accidentally die by poison.

Life isn’t a kitchen or a garage. It is an open field, a running game, a moveable feast, the “oldest established, permanent, floating craps game in New York” (from “Guys and Dolls) and everywhere else. The containers in our kitchens and garages have few warnings—the poisons are hidden among the blessings. How can we identify them without having to taste each one?

The playing fields in the Game of Life are infested with rattlers.
It is rumored that some snakes are helpful but most of us shiver at the sight of any snake, unwilling to make the close examination of the shape of the head and the eyes. Snakes depend on stealth, hiding in weeds and tall grasses, drain pipes and holes in the ground before they strike their chosen victims with serpentine lightning. Punctured and poisoned, the small victims of the poisonous snakes face the destiny of a long digestion.

The Poet compared his enemies with poisonous snakes:

“They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adder’s poison is under their lips.”

We need to be as wise in our day as the poet was in his.

Avoiding Snakes and Poisons
Woods are made to be walked in and fields were made to be stood in so we can let our souls breathe air that isn’t sooty. Yet these wonderful places are habitats for snakes—poisons lurk unseen just off the path or in the tall grasses.

Avoiding snakes involves constant awareness—keeping a watchful eye on every step and on the way ahead, and a weapon at the ready. (My dad loved to hunt and fish. I am the proud owner of the 5-shot .22 revolver that was his “snake gun.”) How do we affect this constant awareness?

  • Daily time with God—prayer and Bible reading—is constant awareness, warning us of paths not to take and dangerous places not to go where there are sure to be dangerous snakes.
  • The choice and ready weapon of the Word of God causes poisonous things to light up like radioactive materials in 1950s Sci-Fi movies. The name of Jesus on our lips protects us from the corruption of Satan’s poisons.

Avoiding poisons involves:

  • Constant awareness of sources—keeping a watchful eye on every communication we encounter. Every container (entertainment, art, news, publications) has a source. With the fresh taste of the Waters of Life in our mouths, we can smell the polluted streams when our paths come upon them.
  • Constant consumption of the “Good Things” is a necessity. If we go about hungry or thirsty, these needs become drives that take control. We become vulnerable to the temptation to taste the pretty poisons on any shelf we find. If we go into the world full of good things from God’s supply, our lives are not driven by hunger, but are led by the Spirit.

We can enjoy the fields, the woods, the garage and the kitchen because the Word and Presence of Jesus protects us there. Since there are no labels, let us be constantly aware of the sources that produce the poisons hidden among the blessings.

In an outstanding gift of mercy, God supplied people with His Word, “Wonderful words of life,” and with common sense.

Thank You, Jesus!

Psalm 140
Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, Who devise evil in their hearts and stir up strife all day long. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adder’s poison is under their lips. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who are determined to trip me up. … I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the poor and render justice to the needy. Surely, the righteous will give thanks to your Name, and the upright shall continue in your sight.
Gen 3:1-5 NKJV
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Mark 16:15-18 NIV
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Acts 28:1-4 NIV
Once safely on shore… Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. …But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.
2 Peter 2:1-3;18-21 NKJV
… there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. … For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Lord Jesus, I love walking in the woods or on an old road by well mowed fields. But I do so with an eye for snakes and an ear tuned to the sound of a rattle by the road. Give me a like caution as I walk through this life. I know that the snake that slithered in the Garden of Eden is still at work, stealthily stalking each believer. I will not fear him but I will be wary of him. The delights of this world shimmer on every shelf around me; so many of them are poison. I feast on Your Word today. I will drink deeply from the Waters of Life so that I am no hungry or thirsty on my walk. I will be safe in the market place, on the road and in the field because I will be full of good things from You. Amen.

Wonderful Words of Life
Words and Music: Philip P, Bliss

1. Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty;
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.

2. Christ, the blessed One gives to all wonderful words of life;
Sinner list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
All so freely given, Wooing us to heaven;
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.

3. Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever;
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, Wonderful words of life.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
For an article on dealing with deceptive people: “Handling Snakes with Safety”

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved