June 29, 2017 “NightWatch”


We cannot imagine the world before electric lights. It was, shall we say, dark.
Each time the sun slipped over the western rim of the world, a gathering darkness crept across the land from the east. Only the thin flames of candles, the withering wicks of oil lamps, and an inconstant, silvery moon challenged the night. The stars, more than we can see these nights, decorated the darkness but did little else.

With darkness came fear and with the fear came the night-watch.

Someone had to stay awake through the night; it was filled with danger.
Evil people did evil things in the dark. In the military, in industry, in cities and in towns, watchmen take this job: police, firemen stationed near the alarm, emergency personnel on duty around the clock, and other folks who have trouble sleeping.

Mark Twain paints a poignant scene of the 19th Century night in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Huck and Jim are running downstream aboard a raft on the huge Mississippi River. They traveled at night, keeping time by the lights on the shore. Most of the candles and lanterns went out after midnight and when they started reappearing it signaled the approach of dawn. Some candles burned through the night, “Where there is sick folk, maybe.” Huck said.

Setting the Night-Watch is an ancient practice.
In the scriptures the watchman makes a powerful metaphor for an important aspect of pastoral leadership and priestly leadership in the home. There had to be a constant awareness while the town or the home was unaware and vulnerable to the villains and villainy of the dark hours of night. Someone would sleep in daylight so those who slept in darkness could do so in safety.

Still today, the darkness is real and it is an encroaching darkness. Parents and Pastors must be vigilant on the NightWatch for the darkness wants to steal the light in our homes and churches.

The problem is: we are only mortal and cannot go long without sleep.

Who can be our Night-Watch? The Lord and His friendly angels, of course.
We can rest and wake up rested. We can dream and wake to follow those dreams. Families can bond together and the Family of God can enter into that rest because Jesus and His mighty angels have the NightWatch.

Psalm 119:145-152
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes. I call to you; oh, that you would save me! I will keep your decrees. Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. My eyes are open in the night watches, that I may meditate upon your promise. Hear my voice, O Lord, according to your loving-kindness; according to your judgments, give me life. They draw near who in malice persecute me; they are very far from your law. You, O Lord, are near at hand, and all your commandments are true. Long have I known from your decrees that you have established them forever.
1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
John 3:19-21 NIV
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
John 1:3-5 NIV
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Revelation 22:3-5 NIV
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Romans 13:11-14 NIV
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Isaiah 21:11-12 NKJV
“Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” The watchman said, ‘The morning comes, and also the night.

Evening Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:
Against Perils
Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in Your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of Your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For the Presence of Christ
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know You as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of Your love. Amen.
For Rest
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give Your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for Your love’s sake. Amen.

All Through the Night
Traditional Lullaby

1. Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night;

2. Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night.

3. Angels watching, e’er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night

4. Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night

5. While the moon her watch is keeping,
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping,
All through the night

6. O’er thy spirit gently stealing,
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling,
All through the night.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
For more on Pride: “The Invisible Mountain”

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 24, 2017 “Crisis”


Imagine you are aboard a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, out of sight of land.
The boat loses power and starts sinking. That would be a crisis. Immediately you would set your Crisis Plan into motion and go through the steps to save your life or maybe even the boat itself.

Wait. You don’t have a Crisis Plan? What are you doing out in a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico without a Crisis Plan?

Pardon the cliché but each of us is like a boat on the big water, out of sight of land.
As long as the boat keeps the water out and keeps moving, we feel safe even if we don’t know where we are going. Any disturbance of that delicately balanced scenario could create a crisis: heavy seas, high winds, loss of power, a hole in the hull, a sudden squall, a great white whale…anything.

And then we need a plan.

The Poet had a Crisis Plan: he would call on God.

“Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you;
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me”

Not bad. Not bad at all!

OK, what then?

I suppose God would provide the details of the plan from that point. He’s good at that since nothing surprises Him.

The sea we sail on is a dangerous one. The forces of nature must be dealt with as they arise. Comfort in the journey is only found when we have confidence in the craft, the captain, the cargo, and the course.

The Craft
Old songs called the Church, “The Old Ship of Zion” and that is a viable metaphor. If we looked to the Bible we might see the Ark of Noah as a meaningful picture of salvation—“the Ark of Safety,” I heard the old-time preachers say. Choose your craft, but the Salvation we enjoy is made for the crisis. It is more than a fair weather vessel. We have seen up close how others in the same boat have weathered the most severe storms to stay on course if not on schedule. And we have, too.

We are ready for any crisis on this journey:

  • The Captain is Jesus—nothing else needs to be said.
  • The Cargo is life-changing truth—impervious to shifting forces or internal decay.
  • The Course is the heavenly realms—just over in the Glory Land!

So we need not fear the crisis for we have a proven plan—call on Jesus!

Our captain is up to the crisis. Our craft is built for heavy seas and our cargo is safe. We will stay on course, as the old song says, “He leads whate’er betide!”

Psalm 102
Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, For my days drift away like smoke, and my bones are hot as burning coals. My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the voice of my groaning I am but skin and bones. I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake and groan; I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top. My enemies revile me all day long, and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me. For I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping. Because of your indignation and wrath you have lifted me up and thrown me away. My days pass away like a shadow, and I wither like the grass. But you, O Lord, endure forever, and your Name from age to age. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to have mercy upon her; indeed, the appointed time has come. For your servants love her very rubble, and are moved to pity even for her dust. The nations shall fear your Name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory. For the Lord will build up Zion, and his glory will appear. He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. For the Lord looked down from his holy place on high; from the heavens he beheld the earth; That he might hear the groan of the captive and set free those condemned to die; That they may declare in Zion the Name of the Lord, and his praise in Jerusalem; When the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms also, to serve the Lord. He has brought down my strength before my time; he has shortened the number of my days; And I said, “O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days; your years endure throughout all generations. In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; They shall perish, but you will endure; they all shall wear out like a garment; as clothing you will change them, and they shall be changed; But you are always the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants shall continue, and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight.”
Genesis 7:6-8 NIV
Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.
Mark 4:35-41 NIV
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!”

Lord Jesus, I want to stay on course today. You have given me a load to carry, a job to do, a mission to accomplish. Today is a part of all that. Chances are I will be surprised by something today but You will not be. Save me from panic. Give me flexible strength today so I can bend with the winds of circumstance. You are my strength. I do not sail these seas alone. If a crises arises, You are the Master of the winds and waves. You are the Captain of this ship. You will see me through. You will make all things work together for me, for I am called according to Your purposes. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

I Must Tell Jesus
Words and Music: Elisha A. Hoffman

1. I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and care for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

2. I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.


3. Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior,
One who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and, 2017 sorrows will share.


4. O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
Over the world the victory win.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 21, 2017 “Pasture”


Pastor and Pasture—Two Important Words
The word we use for a scene suitable as habitat for livestock with broad grasslands and maybe a split-rail fence is, “pastoral.” What is the link between those guys up there carefully not wearing suits with this rural vision? Care—Pastoral Care. The word “Pastor” means “shepherd”–One who cares for the sheep.

King David, poet laureate of the Scriptures, gives us the timeless metaphor:
“The Lord is my shepherd.”

The composer of Psalm 100 continues the metaphor:
“We are his people and the sheep of his pasture”

Believers are like sheep?
It may not be flattering to think of Christ-followers as sheep since these animals are not known for the qualities we think are most human: intelligence, creativity, independence, etc. But it is accurate. With all our excellent, highly “evolved” humanity we are still so like sheep. What we need is a good pasture, a safe, abundant place to live and make more sheep.

And, of course, we need a Shepherd. If it is unpleasant to think of ourselves as a dumb sheep, it is just as pleasant to think of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He makes it OK to be a sheep. We have value because He loves us, is focused upon us, provides for us, disciplines us, and because we know His voice. When He calls us, we come to Him. At night when we need to sleep, He sings over us until we are at rest. When we need to move, He prods us and gets us going. When we need a cause, He gives us one worth moving for.

The pasture in which we are enclosed (not confined!) is His Kingdom.
It is expressed locally as a church, a congregation of fellow believers, a spiritual flock of spiritual sheep. Most are top notch sheep, but some are unruly and stay on the fringes of the flock. Others are stupid and move only by their baser instincts.

  • These self-absorbed sheep hear only the bleating of other sheep, not the Shepherd’s beautiful call.
  • They stay lost and confused and are always fighting.
  • When they wander too far from the safety of the Shepherd’s reach, they too easily and too often become the prey of the many predators sneaking around the pasture.

Out on the edges, there are false shepherds who are themselves predators.
There are also sheep who aren’t real sheep. These conspire to deceive the true sheep with promises of greener pastures outside the fence. They lie. They destroy but they are never satisfied; they never cease to patrol the edges. Some of them even win places in the flock, places where their lies can contaminate the grass, poison the still waters, and alienate the sheep from the Good Shepherd.

The safety of the sheep is in proximity.
Stay away from the edges. Snuggle in close to the Shepherd. Listen carefully to His voice and sing along with Him. Drink deeply from the still waters and feast on the nutrition He has led you to. There is no need to stray, no reason to starve or die of thirst, no reason to roam aimlessly through this world. The Lord is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His Pasture.

Psalm 100
Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
Psalm 23 NIV
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
Mark 6:32-34 NIV
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things
John 10:14-15 NIV
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Matthew 7:15-16 NIV
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.
John 21:15-18 NIV
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Lord Jesus, You are my Shepherd! I am safe in Your fold, secure in Your flock, and cared for in Your nearness. Sometimes Your pasture is a noisy place. I will listen carefully for Your voice today. Your call is gentle and always true. Your loving-kindness is the staff in Your hand. Guide me with it, today! We will pause and drink from the still waters and rest in green pastures. We will feast at the table You provide in the face my enemies and no shadow of any valley shall give me fear. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Walking Beside the Still Waters
Words and Music: J.D. Phifer

1. Tired from the day’s pace of living,
Weak from the chaos of sin,
I go down by the still waters,
And talk things over with Him

Walking beside the still waters,
Problems of life will grow dim.
Walking beside the still waters,
Walking and talking with Him.

2. O how I long for that morning,
Free from the chaos of sin,
I’ll go down by those still waters,
And walk forever with Him.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
For an article on things sheep should not believe: “Don’t Believe the Lies”

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 20, 2017 “Hidden”


From time to time everyone feels like he or she is socked in by heavy fog.
I have two dangerous experiences with heavy fog:

  • A Ferry across the Mississippi In the early 1950’s my family and I were taking the car ferry across the big river from Helena, Arkansas to see mother’s family in Mississippi. Before we reached the eastern bank of the river a heavy fog enveloped us. The captain of the boat could not locate the landing on the Mississippi side. I was just a little guy but it really frightened me. I’m sure the fear I saw on the adults’ faces was part of my fear. I remember fingers of light, the searchlights on the ferry, reaching into the dense cloud trying to locate the landing. We missed it several times. Each miss required another trek upstream against the power of the mighty river, to make another run. Now I understand that the night was filled with fog and the river was packed with large sets of barges pushed downstream by towboats. A collision in the fog would have been a disaster.
  • A Fog on I-40 Decades later after a Christmas trip home to Arkansas, we made the long trek back to North Carolina. We started out at midnight intending to drive all night and part of the day to get home. (I was a young man in those days!) At Little Rock a heavy fog settled over everything. The visibility was zero. Driving the speed limit with zero visibility is not easy, even for a young man. I prayed and noticed a big truck in my lane. Without getting too close to him, I could barely make out his running lights. I held that position all the way across the Grand Prairie of Eastern Arkansas. When we crossed the Big River at Memphis the fog stayed behind and the rest of the trip was under a starry, winter sky.

When it seems God is hidden…
And so it seemed to be for the Psalmist.

“How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?”

The pain in this question is not some misty fog, easily penetrated by even a candle’s slender flame. His pain is real, substantial and, dare we say it?—unjust. Yes, the truth is—the righteous suffer.

  • Even if our God is Jehovah Who Provides, sometimes we go without.
  • Even when we serve Jehovah Rapha, The Lord who Heals, we still get sick and some of us live with disease.
  • Even when we are sure of His presence, sometimes it seems like He isn’t there at all.
  • There are times when we cannot feel the peace of Jehovah Shalom, or the victory of Jehovah Nissi, or the nearness of the Hosts of Heaven than surround Jehovah Saboath, or even the precious nearness of the One called Emmanuel.

This fog is real, too.
It is no mist or misunderstanding. Wrong has happened instead of right. Others have sinned and we are hurting for it. I cannot explain this fog. Like you, and like that boat on the river and that truck guiding me through the winter night, I can only go on,

  • step by step,
  • mile by mile,
  • chugging upstream for another try at a landing,
  • calling out to Him all the while
  • trusting God all the time for a safe journey and a secure landing, even when it seems He is far away, hidden from all my senses.

Let us hear the words of the Psalmist from deep in the fog, “Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen. “

The Lord-Who-Provides will provide. Like the lights on that big truck we have a dependable light to follow. The Lord-Who-Guides will guide us. Like the brave captain of the Mississippi River ferry boat, our Captain will see us safely across any river, through any fog.

Psalm 89:46-52 NIV
How long, O Lord ? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave? O Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David? Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies have mocked, O Lord, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one. Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.
1 Peter 2:19-22; 4:12-19 NIV
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. … So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
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.
Psalm 51:10-12 NKJV
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Lord Jesus, You are my Light, my Guide, my Captain. There is no fog so dense as to hinder Your radiance, Your leadership, Your command. Though life may threaten me, You will keep me safe. When It seems You are hidden from me, I know that it is just a feeling. Your name is Emmanuel—God with Us and it is always true. When darkness closes in, I know I will see a light—Your light—to guide me.. You said You will never leave or forsake us and it is true, no matter how thick the fog may be. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Jesus Is the One
Words and Music: Adgar Pace and Gertie Rast

1. When the day is dark before you,
And the clouds are hanging low.
There is One who watches o’er you,
Ev’rywhere that you may go.

Jesus is the One, Yes, He’s the only One,
Let Him have His way until the day is done;
When He speaks you know, the clouds will have to go,
Just because He loves you so.

2. Oh, if you are sad and lonely,
Life is but an empty tomb.
Breathe a prayer to Jesus only,
He will drive away the gloom.


3. When you come to cross the river,
He will be your Friend and Guide.
You can live with Him forever,
Over on the other side.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Related Article: “The Rock Is Still Solid”

June 13, 2017 “Wilderness”


The journey of all journeys: from Egypt to the Promised Land, a journey through the wilderness.
This is the history of a people, a nation chosen by the Lord God because He loved them, chosen to be the people who would bring the Savior to a world that had itself become a wilderness. It was once a garden, a garden with a snake hiding in it. By stealth and untruth the serpent deceived the population of Eden by locating a hunger in the hearts of Adam and his wife, and feeding that hunger with poison. Cast out of the Garden, the perfect world became a wilderness for them and all their children.

Through God’s covenants with people the nation of Israel became the focus of heaven on earth. They journeyed from

  • slavery to freedom,
  • hopelessness to promise, and
  • from a pagan environment to the worship of Jehovah.

History for Israel is a metaphor for us.
We are on a journey

  • from inability as an infant to multiple abilities as an adult,
  • from  illiterate child to a reading and writing communicator,
  • from apprentice to craftsman,
  • from student to graduate, and
  • from novice to effective practitioner.

This journey isn’t easy and neither is it optional. It is in the wilderness that we “make something of ourselves.”

Or, do we?

Israel was not in the wilderness alone.
They had a tabernacle at the center of their camp. Over that tabernacle a cloud hovered, brilliant and reflective by day, never lost in the sun, and flaming at night, never even threatened by the darkness. The cloud was the manifest presence of God. When the cloud moved, they moved. When it rested, they rested.

For us, Jesus is our guiding friend, our bright hope by day and our flaming faith by night.
Today we continue the journey.

  • Our wilderness may be a desert, but we have a spring of Living Water bubbling inside.
  • It may be a mountainous trek, but we have someone breaking the trail for us.
  • If they dare confront us, seas will divide and rivers will roll back at the Word of the Lord.
  • Dangers abound in the wilderness, but angels, armed to their spiritual teeth, camp all around us.

He has extracted us from slavery, baptized us through the sea, fed us from heaven, and sweetened the bitter wilderness waters with a tree called Calvary.

Why? Because we are children of His promise, the holy nation camped in peace with Jesus at the center, the travelers from grief to grace with an unbreakable promise beckoning to us toward the wilderness horizon.

Numbers 9:15-23
On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant; and from evening until morning it was over the tabernacle, having the appearance of fire. It was always so: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they would remain in camp. … Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, resting upon it, the Israelites would remain in camp and would not set out; but when it lifted they would set out. At the command of the Lord they would camp, and at the command of the Lord they would set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.
Isaiah 40:3-5 NIV
A voice of one calling:” In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Psalm 105:37-45 NIV
He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered. Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them. He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham. He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for — that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.
Hebrews 11:29-30 NIV
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
John 16:33 NKJV
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Lord Jesus, the journey continues today. Thank you for the lighted path and for the steady lamp that guides each step. Whatever awaits me this day in my trek through the wilderness of these moments, be it an enemy, a storm, a river, a trial, an ocean, or even shifting sand lurking in my path, You, Lord Jesus, are the master of it. Whatever it may be, it comes from this fallen world and You said You overcame the world. So, in You I have peace today, peace in the wilderness. Amen.

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 that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
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 Thou wilt be my guide,
Though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo Thy 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 white,
Where I may labor through life’s short day,
For Jesus the Crucified;
So trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me,
I’ll do Thy 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

For more on thriving in the wilderness go to: “Candles in the Desert.” 

May 29, 2017


Remembering and Forgetting
Forgetting what we should always remember and remembering what is better forgotten are the twin plagues that can rob us of our heritage, our joy in each moment, and our legacy.  For this reason, the Bible instructs us both to remember and to forget.

  • We should always remember who God is in Christ Jesus, what He has done for us, and what He has promised to do.  We must never forget the darkness out of which He called us and we must always remember to choose to walk in His light.
  • At the same time we must forget the guilt of our sin for these things have been cleansed from our record in heaven. We must let the Lord heal us from the wounds of our history. God can heal our memories so thoroughly that  there is no reason to cling to hurtful things.

In other words, the Lord can help us adjust our time consciousness to remember what we should remember and forget what we should forget.

There are memories and then, there are memorials. 
A memorial is a more formal reminder of something of high importance.  We celebrate the remembrance of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays with memorial rituals.  Some of us remember other milestones like the day we gave our heart to the Lord, the home-going of someone we love, or some other life-altering event.

In the USA, we celebrate a certain day in honor of the people who fought and died to preserve our political freedom.  We simply call it Memorial Day.  Throughout the country special ceremonies are held in remembrance.  Prayers of thanksgiving are offered to God.  People are encouraged to take the day off from work to enjoy the freedom won for us by those we honor.  This memorial activity has many effects:

  • We decorate the graves of the fallen.
  • We are reminded of the cost of our freedom.
  • We are humbled to remember those who gave all to preserve it.
  • We are grateful to live in such a land.
  • We renew our personal commitments to do our part to make their sacrifices count.

In the same way, each time of morning prayer is a memorial.
God not only hears our prayers, He collects them.  They are the record of our service.  In Acts chapter 10, we find an intriguing insight into this. An angel tells a Gentile believer named Cornelius that his deeds of mercy and his prayers had come before the Lord as a memorial—a remembrance.  He was about to be involved in the spreading of the New Covenant into all the world, not just the Jewish people.

When we take time to pray each day, the effect on us is similar to the effect of Memorial Day.

  • When we humble ourselves before our victorious Hero we do not bow at a graveside, for His tomb is empty.
  • We kneel before an empty cross, the symbol of death and of resurrection.
  • We honor the Lord Jesus who gave His life for us.
  • We remember those who brought Jesus to us, so that we might know Him.
  • We are thankful to live in this Promised Land of Grace.
  • We renew our commitment to live for Jesus in this, our time of service and sacrifice.

Prayer maintains the brain.
Faithfulness to prayer keeps us from forgetting what we must forever remember while it heals the wounds of memories best forgotten.   It is one thing when we remember—it is something else when God remembers!  In prayer today and in the way we live, let us give Him something to remember!

Joshua 4:4-7
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Acts 10:4-5
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Psalm 103:2-5
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, help me to never forget! My freedom to worship You is mine because of those who gave all to secure it. The lovely sanctuary in which I worship You was by built by others. Generations before me handed down the Word of God to me, leaving their loving fingerprints on the Holy Book. Help me move out today in full remembrance of such blessings and thus fulfill my heritage. Other things are not helpful to remember. Help me, Lord, to forget these things. Remembering the right things and forgetting the rest, I walk forward into this day to serve You with joy! In Your name, Amen!

America, the Beautiful
Words: Katherine Lee Bates; Music: Samuel A. Word

1. O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain;
for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

2.  O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine.

3. O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 22, 2017


Truth be told, we are all afraid of the dark.
It varies of course from person or person, but if the darkness is thick enough, cold enough, menacing enough, it will get to us. Jesus said evil people preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. And that’s why we fear the dark—someone evil is out there in the dark lying in wait for the innocent—for people like us!

Who can say how much of our country’s economy is spent on keeping back the darkness—not just in streets and buildings and alleyways and sidewalks, but also the darkness of ignorance and injustice, of addiction and avarice, of crime and corruption?

Whatever it costs, it is worth it. The contrast between light and dark is so readily seen that we use the words as metaphors for righteousness and wickedness, for truth and deception.

Taking imagery a step further we speak of hope as light and despair as darkness. Hope, like a beam of light, splits the thick darkness of the moment. It illumines the steps we must take today and tomorrow showing clearly the hazards choking the dark path before us. Hope is the brightening sky in the east that signals then end of a long and dangerous night.

Jesus, the Light of the World
Of course this ever-present Hope has a name—Jesus, the Light of the World, the Hope of the world. My favorite biblical poet, Isaiah, describes the Hope Messiah brings: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light.” Not some flickering glimmer, but a steady beam that breaks through the fog of confusion, melts the clouds of gloom and sadness and fills us with the light of Day.

Breaking this personal light out of any basket we may have put it in, we can be fearless—“Arise! Shine! For Your Light has come! Darkness covers the Earth and deep gloom engulfs the peoples but the Lord will rise upon you.”

The psalmist trumpets the character of God with these words, “The hope of the poor will not be taken away.”

To say there is no darkness is itself darkness.
Darkness is real. Darkness is dangerous. But the Christ-follower has light within and without, a heart-light to illumine the soul and a lamp and lantern for the steps ahead. Every window of the soul we open to the Lord will be filled with light. He is not stingy with it. It is His nature—Truth, Power, Love—all in motion through the window into our darkened space. More sure than the sunrise that chases shadows across the face of the earth, His light streams to us in mercy and peace.

1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV
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. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Titus 2:11-14 NIV
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem u s from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Isaiah 9:2 NIV
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
1 John 3:2-3 NIV
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, Just as clouds may hide the sun but not remove it from the sky, circumstances may darken the day before me. But circumstances, no matter how dark, can never remove Your presence from my life. Just as the sun is fixed as the center of our planetary system, You are fixed at the center of my life; everything I have, everything I am, revolves around You. You give me light and life and, above all, hope. Like the obedient earth, tilted somewhat but spinning on its axis and unceasing it its journey around the sun, I will spin out my dreams today and run my course as You have laid it out for me. Thank You Lord, for this hope secure! Amen.

The Solid Rock
Words: Edward Mote; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.


3. His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.


4. When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 9, 2017


There are those among us who know how to get things done.
The Lord we serve certainly belongs in that group. When God establishes something we can count on it.

Early in the week, it is good to review our holdings, to remember what things have been established in our lives by the hand of God. He has established a New Covenant with us with four outstanding promises:

  1. The forgiveness of sins,
  2. A close relationship with Him,
  3. An intuition about spiritual things, and
  4. His very Word written into our hearts.

These are some of the realities established in the New Covenant:

  • We need not fear the darkness. There is a lamp for each step we take and a light for the pathway ahead. His Word is established in the heavens.
  • He has given His name as a prayer, a praise, and a powerful defense. To whisper His name, is to summon angels, to touch the hem of His garment, and to break the Alabaster jar. All who would dare oppose us, tremble at the sound of His name, or at least they should, and for sure they will.
  • He strikes the key for a song for us to sing in the night that soothes the troubled soul.
  • He has established our comings and our goings from this time forward and forevermore.
  • He has hemmed us in behind and before and laid His hand upon us.

With this partial list of all that God has established for His people, we can face the week with courage and strength. We can expect things to go well for us and if they don’t, we will not despair because we know our footsteps are ordered of the Lord and that He has plans for us to prosper in the ways that really count

The Lord has established New Covenant worship with these blessings:

  • He has established Gates of Thanksgiving—let us proceed through them in gratitude to face the day.
  • He has established Courts of Praise—let us dwell in them today, rejoicing in the Lord.
  • He has established a Holy Place of Worship, the Word, and Prayer—let every word and deed today be adoration for Him, as we boldly place our petitions before Him.
  • He has established the Holy of Holies—let us live and move and have our being in the beauty of His holiness.

Institutions may fail. Plans may go awry. Friends may fail us and foes assail us, but our God can never fail. His Kingdom is established and secure.

Remember, He knows how to get things done.

Psalm 89
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.'” The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. …The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south… Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt (them.) Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: “I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have exalted a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. No enemy will subject him to tribute; no wicked man will oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth… Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.
Genesis 17:3-8 NIV
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, …I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Lord Jesus, I have confidence in You today. The things You have established in Your New Covenant with us are unfailing. Time has not weakened them. Use has not eroded them. Like Your mercies, they are new every morning. If there is any randomness in these things, we have contributed it. Help me be intentional and faithful to You today. Don’t let my distraction or my weak will stop me short of the life You have established for me. I want to walk in Your fullness today. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song of Praise
Our Great Savior
Words and Music: J. Wilbur Chapman

1. Jesus! What a friend for sinners!
Jesus! lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

2. Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my vict’ry wins.


3 Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.


3 Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.


4 Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’ertakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.


5 Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find,
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 1, 2017


Yesterday, duty; today, privilege—these two things are not opposites. 
The dictionary definition of privilege: “…a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor: prerogative; especially: such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office.”

Our duty to God is an extreme privilege—one reserved for those who enter into the New Covenant, the Jesus Covenant.  The Bible calls our privileges mysteries: knowledge, access, and peace unavailable until Jesus completed His mission on the earth.

Our privileges are many:

  • Above all, the real and complete forgiveness of our sins,
  • The active and thorough regeneration of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence,
  • The ready access to the Throne Room of God Most High through Jesus—the privilege of prayer,
  • The amazing partnership we enjoy with God Almighty as we obey His will and our human efforts are sanctified in the natural world and amplified in the spiritual realm to advance God’s Kingdom which is coming and His will which is being done on this earth even as it is in heaven.
  • The permeating prize of the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts, and
  • The privilege of a hope beyond the reach of wrongdoers and above the temporary storms of circumstance.

Our Privileges in Christ
When we call upon Jesus in repentance and accept Him as Savior and King, the record of our sins is expunged from the heavenly books.  The spotless record of Jesus is inscribed next to our name and we stand before God as if we had never sinned.  This is privilege.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in all His power would not just visit us when we need a special touch (Oh, He does do that!) but to abide with us constantly as a holy fire fueling our life in Christ.  This is privilege.

Jesus gave us a prayer.  He told us where and when and how to pray.  He based our prayers on the character of the Father who knows our needs and has already set up answers to our petitions and set them in motion before we started praying and while we keep on praying.  This is privilege.

The Lord has called each of us to worship, Word, and witness, and He has also called us to specific tasks.  Some of these are temporary assignments and others last a lifetime.  None of these assignments is meant to be done in our own strength.  We are privileged to be guided by the wisdom of God and empowered by the Spirit of God as we work.  Such anointing is privilege.

We are called to peace, not strife, not turmoil, not tension, not fear, not dread, not doom, and certainly not gloom.  The game of life we play has an umpire—the peace of Christ.  That is what Paul meant when he told us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts—let His peace be the umpire.  Let the close calls be determined by the truth, the peace, the presence of Christ.  This is privilege.

Life isn’t fair.
Even with the Peace of Christ as the umpire, events sometimes go against us.  Sometimes we fail to live up to our privileges.  In those times, too, we have hope.  The game isn’t over.  We will win in the end.  We will reap someday if we keep on sowing the good seed.  This hope, this guarantee of a harvest is a privilege.

So, we can do our duty today, knowing how privileged we are.  The mystery hidden from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and the kings, Isaiah, and all the prophets—“Christ in us the hope of glory”—is our amazing privilege of grace.


Colossians 1:24-27
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness- the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Ephesians 3:7-12
…this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
James 3:17-18
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Lord Jesus, You made me a person of privilege. Totally without reference to my own merit, You have invited me to know You, to hear Your voice, to feel Your touch, and to be ruled by Your peace. Such is too much for me to imagine and I wouldn’t even try except that I am so desperate for You. I need you, Lord, more today than yesterday, and tomorrow will find me needing You yet again, even more desperately. Yet, Your are here—living in my heart! Your Spirit abides with my Spirit. You bring the Father near. Lord Jesus, You made me a person of privilege. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

I Need You More

Words and Music: Lindell Cooley

I need You more, More than yesterday
I need You Lord, More than words can say
I need You more, Than ever before
I need You Lord. I need You Lord.

More than the air I breathe,
More than the song I sing,
More than the next heartbeat,
More than anything.
And Lord as time goes by I’ll be by Your side
Cause I never want to go back To my old life

Right here in Your presence Is where I belong
This old broken heart Has finally found a home
And I’ll never be alone

I need You more, More than yesterday
I need You Lord, More than words can say
I need You more, Than ever before
I need You Lord. I need You Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 21, 2017


Big Brother or Guardian?
Nobody wants a “Big Brother” watching everything they do as depicted in George Orwell’s 1948 novel, “1984.” At the same time everyone wants a guardian, “Someone to Watch over Me,” as Ira Gershwin added lyrics to his brother George’s haunting tune.

So which is it for the Lord? Is He a hostile “Big Brother” or a loving, attentive, “Heavenly Father?”

“Big” he certainly is—“hostile” he definitely is not.

Children of Adam and Eve
We should not forget that we are the “apple of His eye,” meaning that God loves each of us supremely. We are the offspring of Adam and Eve who were fashioned in perfection and cared for in perfect love. They walked with the Lord in the cool of the day in a beautiful garden made for their delight.

In our fallen state, two things remain:

  1. We need fellowship with God.
  2. God desires fellowship with us.

This makes us different. All other creatures formed by His Word are free to frolic in the air, sea, and land God made for them. In His omniscience, God is certainly aware of all life and death processes on His earth.

I believe God is totally invested in us, in the human race.

  • Jesus, the Son, left the splendor of heaven choosing to dwell in the squalor of a sin-laden, violent earth because He possessed the greatest love.
  • He points the way to a Heavenly Father we should seek in the Secret Place of prayer because He already knows all of our needs.
  • The Father esteems each of us more than he does flowers in the field or birds in the air. We are the focus of His attention on this earth.
  • The Holy Spirit comes to abide in those who follow Jesus because of Calvary and the Empty Tomb.
  • He deals directly with the spirit in each of us, quickening our understanding of spiritual things and empowering our human efforts at ministry with the power of the Name of Jesus.
  • The Spirit of God gives the church miraculous gifts for worship and produces irresistible fruit in us so that we can actually live the life described in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • He lights a flame in each of us and makes all of us a shining City on a Hill.

God watches over us.
He never sleeps. He never slumbers. His eyes are always open toward us and His ears are always tuned to our hearts. We are secure because He is great. We have joy because His is strong. We have what need because He has the current list. Our lives are secure because we are the apple of His eye.

Psalm 121
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.
Deuteronomy 32:9-10 NIV
For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel.

Prayers of Confession:
Confession of Faith in the Father’s Care
(from The Book of Daily Prayer)
Look at the Birds
Matt 6:25-33 NLT (Adapted SRP)
I do not worry about everyday life — whether I have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? I look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because You, my heavenly Father, feed them. And I am far more valuable to You than they are. Can all my worries add a single moment to my life? Of course not.
Look at the Lilies
And I do not worry about my clothes. I look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if You care so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t You more surely care for me? I have enough faith to receive your constant care!
Look at the Father
So I don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? My heavenly Father already knows all my needs, and You will give me all I need from day to day because I live for You and make the Kingdom of God my primary concern. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God Will Take Care of You
Words and Music: Civilla D. Martin

1. Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

God will take care of you,
Through every day,
O’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

2. Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.


3. No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one upon His breast,
God will take care of you.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved