April 2, 2017


Surprisingly, there is beauty in holiness. 
Many tend to tense up at the sound of the word, gearing up for expectations they know they can never fulfill, demands they can never meet, and stern judgment at the end of the road.  Those concerns come with the contemplation of our attempts at holiness.  The good thing about the Good News is that Jesus fulfilled the expectations, met the demands, and took the judgment for our shortfalls.

Our subject today is not our holiness, but the Holiness of God.  This is the day the Lord has made. It is another appointed time to “give unto the Lord the glory due His name” and to worship Him “in the beauty of holiness,” His holiness.

We are so broken by Adam’s fall and our complicity in it, that we cannot imagine true holiness.

  • To be without flaw, to be completely complete,
  • to be true from the core to the surface,

is a state of being we cannot begin to understand.

However, we can pay tribute to it. 
We can confess with our lips and believe in our hearts the absolute holiness of the Lord Jesus, pristine in pre-incarnate life and unsoiled and unspoiled by more than thirty years of incarnation here on earth.  With no sins of His own to subtract from His goodness, our sins alone left their mark on His hands and feet, on His brow, side, and His back.  Yet these scars are not flaws; they in no way mar the beauty of His holiness.  Indeed, they add to the wonder of the Father’s mercy and the Spirit’s power to bring the dead back to life.

Each Lord’s Day the Holiness of God is the subject of the liturgy we present to the Him.

  • It will be heard in all three points in the pastor’s message and even in his poem.
  • This will be the appeal in every invitation and the prayer at every altar.
  • The Holiness of God will flow in the cup when we drink it and nourish us the when the bread is broken and blessed and the truth believed.

The Glory Due His Name
Oh, there is beauty in Holiness, the beauty of the One who is the originator of all beauty, the designer of all designs, the master of all mastery and the creator of creativity.  We stand in awe of Him.  We lift our hands, our lives, our voices, and our hearts to Him in adoration, gratitude, and homage.

Most amazing of all, He responds to our praise and worship.

  • He inhabits our liturgy and reigns upon our sacred actions.
  • This Almighty One gently holds us in His loving embrace.
  • His wholeness then transmits to us and we are healed.

Oh, there is beauty in His Holiness!


Psalm 29:1-2 NKJV
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Isaiah 6:1-4
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Revelation 4:6-8
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
Hebrews 10:19-22
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water
Psalm 22:3 KJV (NKJ)
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel….(Enthroned in the praises of Israel.)

Lord Jesus, I join the song of angels today, singing with all of my might of Your holiness. Let me see you high and lifted up. Let the train of Your robe cover me as I stand before Your throne in worship. Let your strength brace my knees, Your mercy bath my heart, Your peace calm my soul and Your truth bind up my mind. Your holiness is indeed beautiful, shimmering in the air of glory, not distant, but close, close enough to touch me. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

I See the Lord
Words and Music: Chris Falson

I see the Lord seated on the throne exalted
And the train of His robe fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory

Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 4, 2017


Turning Points
They are not easily forgotten though at the moment they occur their significance might not be clearly seen. After an initial season of acceptance when crowds came to marvel at His words and deeds such a turning point in the earthly ministry of Jesus happened out it the wilderness of Galilee. The day after He famously fed the multitude Jesus attempted to make spiritual sense of this material miracle. The disappointed crowds turned away from Him and the downward spiral of forsaking began its inevitable plunge toward Calvary. The crowd broke up and wandered away, still hungry but contemptuous of His message: “I am the Bread of Heaven!” They did not know they needed Him more than another fish dinner.

Heart-broken, Jesus turned to the twelve to ask what must have been a painful question: “Will you also go away?”

Peter swallowed hard as he and the other chosen ones exchanged desperate glances. He said what needed to be said. “Lord to whom would we turn? You have the words of life. You are the Christ!”

Only a Few
So a multitude forsook Him and twelve men chose to follow on with Him. This was the beginning of His forsakenness. Even his own family, except of course for His mother, turned away from Him, refusing to believe. They asked Him to leave Galilee and head south to Judea, out of their hair and no longer a family embarrassment.

How it must have hurt to work miracles that ended the pain of the possessed, the poisoned, the paralyzed, the fearful and the frail with no relief for the pain in His heart. His smiles at these joyful deliverances hid the pain inside Him at the rejection of the religious leaders.

In the Season of Lent We Seek to Share His Pain.
This season of the Christian Year invites us to read the Psalms that describe the pain of being forsaken. This is a deep sort of rejection because it comes along after one has encountered Christ—professing interest and perhaps even love. But unexpected events or unpleasant lessons rub us the wrong way and we decide to abandon Him.

The crowds, His half-brothers and half-sisters, His former patrons in the carpenter’s shop, and the leaders of His faith, all forsook Him. Some even made the unbelievable journey from follower to detractor to enemy.

In Gethsemane’s garden even His Disciples could not watch with Him, letting sleep, perhaps with their bellies full from the Last Supper, overcome them.

He was alone: forsaken.

And thus He would be until He bowed His head to give up the ghost on the Cross.

In this He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah Jesus must have memorized as a boy in the Synagogue at Nazareth. “We hid our faces from Him.”

We must not repeat this injustice today. We must turn our faces toward Him.

Isaiah 53:1-6 NKJ
Who has believed our report?…He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him… All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
John 6:61-7:5 NIV
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, …The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. … From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea… For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
…you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant,

Lord Jesus, You are no longer forsaken; You occupy the Throne of Heaven. Thousands of angels in joyful assembly sing and play the music of Your praise. In an immense gallery witnesses, some who bear my family name, join the song of the angels. It seems I can hear them now: sweet voices from earth who overcame by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of Their testimony harmonizing with the hosts of eternity. Help me always turn toward You in prayer. Help me to follow You and never again forsake You. Amen.

O for a Thousand Tongues
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Carl Glazer

1. O for a thousand tongues to sing My Great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace.

2. Jesus! The Name that charms our fears, That bids our sorrows cease,
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ‘This life and health and peace.

3. He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.

4. Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come; And leap, ye lame, for joy.

5. My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad, The honors of Thy name.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved