December 13 “Temple”

The Christmas Story is a story about worship.
Throughout history, God has met people at altars of prayer.

  • The Patriarchs of old made altars of stone to meet with Jehovah.
  • At the Exodus, God gave Israel plans for a portable sanctuary. They built it with these plans using the riches of Egypt and the skills of their own hands. God dwelt among them.
  • King David wanted to build a temple as the meeting place but that would be the job of his son, King Solomon. When the temple was finished, the presence of God filled the place.
  • Generations later because of false hearts and false worship, that temple was destroyed.
  • In less than a century, faithful rebuilders returned from captivity and made another temple as the house of Jehovah.
  • At the time of the Christmas story, King Herod was building a larger, more beautiful temple, not as a place of prayer so much as a political ploy to keep the Jews under Roman control. This would be the temple of Jesus’ day.

Generations of Priests and Levites
With their lineage dating all the way back to the smoking, shaking mountain called Sinai, the men of the tribe of Levi were chosen to be the leaders of worship in the House of God. This heritage affected different men in different ways.

  • Some saw it as a vocation—to care for the House of God and minister to the people.
  • Others saw it as a career—to advance through the system, to climb a ladder to power, prestige, and influence.

The temple in the time of Jesus was occupied by both kinds of men. Some were looking for Messiah but most were looking out for themselves.

The Time Was Coming…
Quietly, in a forgotten corner of Israel, the Messenger of a New Covenant was forming deep in a sanctuary called “Mary.” Jesus would liberate worship from the confines of “time and place” worship and usher in a New Covenant of “Spirit and Truth” worship. The meeting place of God and man would be mobile again, like that blessed tent in the wilderness. Jesus Himself would be the New Temple, His body would be the veil torn to open up a new and living way to the heart of God. Jesus, the Temple, would indeed be taken down but He would rise again in three days.

He would build something called, “the Church,” that would be His resurrected Body in the world, the Habitation of God by His Spirit. It would be impervious to the devices of hell. The tent called the church would displace the palaces of Rome and someday be pitched on every continent of the globe. Jesus, anointed to be all we could ever need, would walk the aisles of each little church with healing in every step. God meets with people at the Body of Christ. All this was about to begin as the Word became a human embryo.

The Christmas Story is a story about worship.

Scriptures:
Exodus 40:34-38 NKJV
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
2 Chronicles 5:11-14 NKJV
And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without keeping to their divisions), and the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets —indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord , saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Ezra 6:15-18 NKJV
Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.
Malachi 3:1-3 NKJV
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.
Hebrews 10:19-25 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Prayer:
Psalm 43:3-5 ESV
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Amen.

Song:
Oh, the Glory of Your Presence
Words and Music: Steve Fry

Jesus, all glorious, create in us a temple,
Called as living stones where You’re enthroned.
As You rose from death in power, So rise within our worship.
Rise upon our praise and let the hand that saw You raised
Clothe us in Your glory, Draw us by Your grace.

Oh the Glory Of your presence!
We, your temple, give you reverence.
So arise from your rest
And be blessed by our praise
As we glory in your embrace,
As your presence now fills this place.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 12 “Jesus”

Messiah has many names but one name stands above all others.

“His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  “Call his name, Emmanuel which means ‘God with us!’”

–So many names!

The angel that visited Joseph in his desperate dream said his name would be “Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus means “Savior.” Messiah’s ministry as Savior is the most important of all and the most relevant.

  • It is true that Jesus reveals who God is but if we remain bound by sin, we can only know God from a distance.
  • Jesus lived a sinless life but if we are still sinners that is just an interesting detail.
  • Jesus had a healing touch, but if the diseases of iniquity remain at work in us, His healing touch is only a fact of history.
  • Jesus commanded demons and they obeyed but if He does not wash away our sins, we remain a plaything of hell.

Jesus must be our Savior, the One who can save us from ourselves—from our sins. Without Him, we are lost forever, bound on earth, and doomed in eternity.

No wonder the angel said call Him Jesus!
In the days before the Lord’s birth in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph spent every possible hour together. He kept his shop opened as his cheerful demeanor returned. His work was excellent, as always, which kept the work coming in as ideas and going out as finished products. No one could say a word against Joseph on that account.

Mary’s increasing form was another matter. There was no hiding her condition and she was oblivious to all the whispers, some not so hard to hear. Had she no shame? Hardly. She was possessed of an endless joy! Joseph’s continuing diligence and Mary’s inexplicable joy served as a damper on the gossip—at least in public.

If people only knew the source of their remarkable behavior! It was a name, one commanded by heaven itself—“Call Him Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins!” To whisper that name was for Mary and Joseph an instant rescue from the perils of each day. It was a one-note lullaby singing them to sleep each night. Peace came with the sound of His Name—Jesus.

How would Jesus save us?
Once in a while Mary would think about the implications of how Jesus would save His people from their sins. How would he do that? What would he have to do? What would be the cost? Each of these questions was like a sword to her heart.

Joseph was troubled by passages in Isaiah that he had long ago memorized: “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities…” What would Jesus have to do to be the Savior of the World?

Quickly, at each reflection on the possible cost of it all, the beauty of the name itself would reassure their hearts. They would smile to themselves and to each other and say the name, “Jesus.”

Still today, saying that name brings a smile to each of us—“Jesus.” Why? Because He has saved us from our sins.

Scriptures:
Matthew 1:20-25 NKJV
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Philippians 2:5-11NKJV
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Prayer of Praise:
There’s Something about that Name
Gloria Gaither (adapted SRP)
Jesus, the mere mention of Your Name can calm the storm, heal the broken, raise the dead. At the Name of Jesus, I’ve seen sin-hardened men melted, derelicts transformed, the lights of hope put back into the eyes of a hopeless child. At the Name of Jesus, hatred and bitterness turned to love and forgiveness, arguments cease.  I’ve heard a mother softly breathe His Name at the bedside of a child delirious from fever, and I’ve watched that little body grow quiet and the fevered brow cool.  I’ve sat beside a dying saint, her body racked with pain, who in those final fleeting seconds summoned her last ounce of ebbing strength to whisper earth’s sweetest Name-Jesus, Jesus. Emperors have tried to destroy it; philosophies have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the earth with the very blood of those who claimed. Yet still it stands. And there shall be that final day when every voice that has ever uttered a sound-every voice of Adam’s race shall raise in one great mighty chorus to proclaim the Name of Jesus- for in that day “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” So you see- it was not mere chance that caused the angel one night long ago to say to a virgin maiden, “His Name shall be called Jesus.”- Jesus-Jesus-Jesus. There is something about that Name. Amen.

Song:
There’s Something about that Name
Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus;
There’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus,
Like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Let all Heaven and earth proclaim;
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s something about that name.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

The Christmas Story can also be found at KingdomWinds.com.

December 10 “Magnificat”

Magnificat

Sometimes we need the company of someone who understands.
After the Annunciation, Mary traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth. This 70 mile journey may have taken five days. It is inconceivable that Mary made this trek alone. Let’s imagine her father and a servant accompanied  her to keep her safe and well attended.

The Long Journey South
This extended walk included long periods of silence as her father tried to sort out the news he had received. He loved his daughter and had enjoyed a pleasant exchange of views in every stage of her life. Recent events brought down a curtain of silence between them.

As much as he admired Joseph, he loved Mary more. There were only two possibilities:

  1. Joseph had broken the law or
  2. Mary’s incredible story was true.

His mind told him that the first was the only logical answer but his heart told him Mary’s explanation was true. When he tried to talk about it, all she would do was tell the story again. He couldn’t bear to take it any further for to do so would be to accuse her. He could never look into those brown eyes and believe that she had sinned. Also, there was more evidence of the truth of what she said—the deep peace she possessed as the rugged miles passed beneath their feet. Down from the hill country of Galilee, through the city of Jerusalem, and 40 miles farther south through the hill country of Judah to Hebron, the city of the priests, nothing disturbed this peace.

He thought of Joseph, alone back in Nazareth, trying to piece his life back together. Surely no man had ever been so alone. Guilty or not, Mary’s father prayed for the man she loved.

The Arrival at Hebron
When they finally arrived at the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth things, incredible things, happened quickly.

  • Mary’s father saw immediately that Mary’s cousin, an elderly woman, was several months pregnant. How could that be? He would hear another tale of an angel and a miraculous child.
  • Something happened to Elizabeth when Mary greeted her. She almost fell down at the sound of Mary’s voice. Mary’s father felt it, too, even at a safe distance. It was like a jolt of energy deep in his heart.

They hurried into the house away from their neighbor’s eyes. Inside, the sensation continued to fill the air and their hearts. For some reason Mary’s father thought of the Shekinah Glory of God that rested on the Tabernacle in the Wilderness—the Glory of God revealed!

Elizabeth explained what was happening—a move of the Spirit of God! The child within her lept at the sound of Mary’s voice and she was filled with the Spirit of God! She prophesied calling Mary “The Mother of My Lord!”

Then Mary began to sing. As she did, all doubt departed from her father’s heart and he believed her story as he would the stories of Elizabeth and Zacharias.

For three months they remained in Hebron. Their many, many quiet conversations made up for the painful silences they had endured on the journey south.

Scriptures:
Luke 1:39-56 NKJV
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The Magnificat—Mary’s Song
And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your Word contains things that defy logic and stretch far beyond reason. Believing them requires faith. Expand my mind beyond what is merely possible to what is possible with You. Your ways are higher than my ways; they are beyond finding out. Help me hear the voice of Your Spirit within acting upon Your Word within. Lord Jesus, as Mary prophesied, “scatter my pride.” Bring down any petty throne I may sit upon. As I humble myself, prepare me for Your use and fill my hungry heart with good things. Help me to live in such a way that I magnify You! Amen.

Song
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

Words: E.S. Elliot; Music: Timothy R. Matthews

1. Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

2. Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

3. The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

4. Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

5. When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 27, 2017: “Foundations”

Foundations

Sometimes how things seem to be is not how things really are.
Our daily perspective is earthbound and wrapped in time—swiftly passing ticks on a clock hidden somewhere beyond our reach. We grasp for the good moments but often they pass away before we can safely lock them into our hearts.

Our memories, good and bad, represent a tiny fraction of the days we have lived and the moments through which we have passed.

  • The beautiful moments we capture are like jewels in our mind, shining, sparkling, with only the slightest amount of light.
  • The horrid moments of our history lurk in the shadows of memory, obstacles we trip over in the dreams of the night.

Memories of People
Along the way, we have been opposed by some and assisted by many. Calling these two rolls brings both praise and repentance.

  • “Lord thank you for____________.”
  • “Lord help me forgive__________.”

Our story continues, a new chapter with the rising of every sun and the going down of the same. Each day is just a partial collection of memories, never the whole story, a chapter, not the complete narrative.

When Foundations Begin to Shake
Sometimes from this earthbound perspective, it seems the very foundations of life are trembling and about to fall. It isn’t true but the feeling is very real. Hear the words of the Psalmist:

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

In such a moment, the poet wants to flee like a bird to the mountain and so do we. No longer earthbound, we seek a higher place of safety, a truer perspective far from the trembling foundations that threaten to collapse beneath us. What is the Lord’s answer to this heart-cry?

Remembrance.
What should we remember? Not the little library of stories that have happened to us, the bright jewels that cheer us and dark obstacles that hinder us. No we must call to mind a much bigger story—the Story of God!

  • He is the Creator of all things!
  • He is the lover of all His Creation!
  • He rules in Heaven and bends all the hosts of Heaven to our rescue and to our safety.

The foundations are safe. No one can pull down what God has ordained to stand and that includes us.

When it seems the foundations are shaking, remember Who God Is!

Scriptures:
Psalm 11
In the Lord have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me, “Fly away like a bird to the hilltop; For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from ambush at the true of heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold the inhabited world; his piercing eye weighs our worth. The Lord weighs the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence he abhors. Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; a scorching wind shall be their lot. For the Lord is righteous; he delights in righteous deeds; and the just shall see his face.
2 Timothy 2:14-19 NKJV
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 NKJV
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my Rock. I have heard Your words and I am building my house upon them. When the storm arises, as it is sure to do, You and I will stand strong. When the winds and rains and waves crash against us, we will not crumble, we will not fall. You have already taken the worst blast Hell can offer and it did not move You an inch. Thank You for Your proven strength in the storms I have to face. Lord, by Your Spirit, corral my memories, monitor my thoughts, and when my perspective slips toward despair, remind me of Who You are! –The God Who Keeps Covenant, unshakable, eternal, fixed in purpose and power, loving and true. You are my security, my foundation, and my mighty fortress. Amen and Amen.

Song:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Words and Music: Martin Luther

1. A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 24, 2017: “Vision”

Vision

The Holy Spirit enables us to see with the eyes of our spirit. 
We “see” things undetectable by the natural eye, things that are more real than vision and more substantive than solids, things existing in a place unhindered by time, wear, decay, or corruption.

This is how the believer in Jesus becomes a witness to the cross.  Years ago, the great gospel songwriter, Bill Gaither, penned these words:

I’ve been to Calvary.  I can say I’ve seen the Lord.
I’ve been to Calvary, through the witness of His Word.
Each day at Calvary, what a thrill of love divine,
Just to know that the Savior is mine.

Believers since the 1960’s have embraced this song because it is a shared experience that produces an inner vision of the cross and our resurrected Savior.  The Holy Spirit can easily bridge the span of centuries, oceans, and continents between the worshiper and the actual hill called Calvary.

The Gift of Imagination
How is this possible? The Lord has equipped us with a marvelous gift—imagination.  As children, we drift in and out of the real world available to our developing senses and our inner world available to our imagination.  Child’s play is a rehearsal for adult creativity.

The gift of imagination is really the gift on internal vision.  Imagination enables us to open our hearts and minds to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  This is much different from childhood play.  The cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the Day of Pentecost, the Throne of God and of the Lamb, the River of Life flowing from it to the healing of the nations are not figments of our imagination—they are spiritual realities.  When we envision spiritual realities we do not create them, we open our spirits to revelation from God.  Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would have such a “spirit of revelation.”  We should turn on the movie screen of our minds when we worship, read the Bible, and certainly when we intercede.

The Terrible Cost of a Missing Vision
The Book of Proverbs states that lack of vision (the NIV word is “revelation”) causes death on a large scale.  Our society is rushing toward disaster because so few people have “been to Calvary.”

Today as we meditate on the cross, let us lift our inner eyes beyond that terrible day, to  the resurrection, and to the ascension of Jesus to His Throne in Heaven.  A vision of the victorious One is the message of the church.  Peter preached it  for the first time at Pentecost.  The early church occupied a world filled with frightening, confusing visual images  They reached that world because of a shared vision of Jesus the Victor.

Scriptures:
Proverbs 29:18 KJV; NIV
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Ephesians 1:16-17
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Acts 2:22-25; 32-34
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…. and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Psalm 85:10 NKJV
Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Prayer:
From The Book of Common Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You stretched out Your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace: So clothe us in Your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of You; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary. I know this is more than the tragic tale of a young man misunderstood and struck down too soon. This is not a tragedy; it is a triumph! Open my eyes that I may see the congruence of Your great love and justice in these painful events: the perfect sacrifice that makes it possible for sins to be forgiven, bodies to be healed from disease, and tortured minds to be restored. In one sweeping vision, let me see Your great love to send Jesus to us as our Redeemer and Your great wrath against evil. Help this vision propel me forward to do Your will so that more people may come to know You. Lord Jesus, give me insight into Calvary.

Song:
Open My Eyes that I Might 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

November 12, 2017: “Adore”

Adore

Adore is a strong word.
We sing it wistfully every Christmas when somebody slows down “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Each time we do it seems to be new all over again:

“O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

“Adore” goes beyond affection to a deep desire, beyond interest to a consuming passion.  Webster’s Dictionary defines it:

  1. To worship or worship honor as a deity or as divine,
  2. To regard with loving admiration and devotion,
  3. To be very fond of…

Notice how the definitions lose intensity as they are listed.  On this Lord’s Day the ministry before us is to “worship and honor as divine.” Our liturgy (the words we say or sing) will be filled with truth about Jesus.  Our job is to add the passion so that the worship can have both truth(the Word of God and our undivided minds) and spirit(the power the Spirit and our deepest passion.) Today’s worship service will not be about the music, or the musicians, or the singers, or the preacher, or the technology—it will be totally dedicated to honoring the One True God, and Jesus is His name.

Hopefully.

Sometimes churches get off track and some of those others things take center stage.  It shouldn’t happen, everyone knows that, but it does happen.   It happens when we try to use worship to some other ends, like church growth, or outreach to certain groups.  Worship is not a means to an end, it is our purpose on the Lord’s Day!  As we worship in spirit and truth we disciple others and evangelize the lost because His presence and His Spirit makes all that happen.  Our job is to keep everything centered on Jesus!

Worship Anyway!
What should you do when you are attending a service and you sense the emphasis is wrong, the music is not sing-able, the technology is a distraction and it just doesn’t feel like worship?  What should you do?

Worship anyway!

Close your eyes and concentrate on the words.  If you find them unusable, start quoting scripture that tells you about the Lord.  This is when it would be good to have some psalms memorized!  Don’t open your Bible and read; that would be a rude political statement and that certainly isn’t worship!  If you run out of scripture just start telling the Lord how much you love Him!  Adore Him in some way—that is why you came.  That is what the day is for.

Remember that the physical precedes the spiritual.
The Sacrifice of Praise happens when we adore the Lord as a determined act of the will, not because the music makes it easy or our emotions lead us in that direction.  You will find that if you open up your heart and enter in to praise with the best you have to give, your physical effort will be blessed by the Holy Spirit and your worship will be pleasing to God.

So, indeed, come, let us adore Him today. Not because it is easy, but because we really do worship and honor the One, True, and Living God!  We adore the Lord!

Scriptures:
Mark 12:29-31 NKJV
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Psalm 31:23-32:1
Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 97:10-12
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10
As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Chronicles 21:24
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Psalm 51:15-17
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will go to Your house today for the single purpose to adore You. My affection for You will be more than affection: it will be adoration. My praise of You will be more than praise; it will be my passion. My desire for Your nearness will be more than desire; it will be desperation. I need You, Lord, so I gather with the saints to hear a word from You, to feel Your healing touch, and to give You what I have to give even if it is only a broken heart and wounded spirit. These things, the Scripture says, You do not despise. Accept my adoring praise today and share Your presence with me and all my brothers and sisters. With love and adoration, I am Yours. Amen.

Songs:
Let Us Adore/Adeste Fideles
Words and Music: Julius Chajes / G.F. Handel and Traditional

Let us adore (Let us adore)
the ever-living God (the ever-living God)
and render praise (and render praise)
unto Him, (unto Him,)
Who spread out the heavens (Who spread out the heavens)
and established the earth. (and established the earth.)
And Whose glory (and whose glory)
is revealed in the heavens above (in the heavens above )
And His greatness (and His greatness)
is manifest throughout all the earth
He is our God and there is none else.
_____________
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.

For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy.
For He alone is worthy,
Christ, the Lord.

We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory.
We’ll give You all the glory,
Christ, the Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 6, 2017: “Vow”

Vow

A vow is more than a promise—it is a pledge made that must not be broken.
Sometimes it is called “swearing an oath.” If you take a vow like this in court to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and then you lie, that is a crime. When we make a vow to God, the human law is not involved so breaking that vow is not a crime; we won’t go to jail. Keeping our vows to God yields great benefits while breaking them makes us vulnerable to the enemies of our souls.

The Psalmist, knowing this, puts our vows to God in perspective:

“I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God…”

While promises are sometimes expressions of our good intentions, a vow is a binding promise. We must be very careful of the vows we make with the Lord. To raise our hand to Him in praise is one thing; to raise our hand making a vow to Him is another altogether.

Covenantal Relationships
The ancient world into which the Bible was spoken was a world built on covenants. They were even sealed in blood, binding the covenantal partners to the agreement. In our modern world, we are more familiar with contracts. When we sign a contract it is binding and can only be broken at great cost and with mutual agreement. God’s promises to us are of two kinds:

  1. Conditional promises that come into effect with our obedience to our part of the agreement. God says, “I will do this, if you will do that.”
  2.  Unconditional promises that do not depend on us. There are some things that God is going to do regardless of what man does. Among these are the Great Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days and the Second Coming of Christ.

These two types of promises require two different responses from the believer. For the unconditional promises of God, our job is to be ready when God does what He says He is going to do. Most of our lives are spent in the realm of the conditional promises. As we do our best to fulfill our vows, the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises to us. He proves Himself to be true to His covenantal names:

  • I am the Lord Who Provides—Jehovah Jireh,
  • I am the Lord Who Heals—Jehovah Rapha,
  • I am the Lord Your Righteousness—Jehovah TsidKenu,
  • I am the Lord Who Sanctifies—Jehovah McKeddish,
  • I am the Lord Your Shepherd—Jehovah Roi,
  • I am the Lord Your Peace—Jehovah Shalom,
  • I am the Lord Who Is Present—Jehovah Shammah,
  • I am the Lord Your Banner, Your Victory—Jehovah Nissi, and
  • I am the Lord of Hosts—Jehovah Saboath.

To break a vow we have made to God breaks His heart, but He does not cast us out. He is still the God who forgives. He is the God of the second chance—and the third, and the fourth—His grace is without measure.

As this week begins, remember your vows. God will surely never forget His promises!

Scriptures:
Psalm 56 NKJV
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God! You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?
Psalm 50:14-15 NKJV
Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
Psalm 61:5-8 NKJV
For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NKJV
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NKJV
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have a full record of the vows I have made to You. Bring them to the front of my mind today so that I might attend to them. I have a full accounting of Your promises to me in the Bible. Bring them, also, to the front of my mind today so that I may live by them. The success of this day depends on both Your faithfulness and mine. Keep me true to my I vows so that might walk in Your promised victory today. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Standing on the Promises of God

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.

Refrain:
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.

Refrain

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.

Refrain

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.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 3,, 2017: “Rebuild”

Rebuild

Sometimes the only option left is to rebuild what has been destroyed.
Who can doubt the waves of destruction that roll through this fallen world?

  • Acts of nature—storms, earthquakes, floods—scream, shake, and soak until everything is toppled or crumbled to the ground or washed away.
  • Acts of people—wars, repression, injustice, terrorism—rage out of control it seems until the social structures we depend on are reduced to rubble.
  • Acts of hate—plots, subversions, lies, assassinations—strike at us from all points of the compass in business, in church, in the streets, and even in our homes.

We have all seen the reports interviewing the victims of nature’s rage standing in front of what is left vowing to rebuild. We know veterans of wars and injustice who somehow survived, rising to wage peace in the face of hate, their heads, “bloodied but unbowed.” They must rebuild. We have all tasted, either personally or in the media, the bitter strife within the family or in the workplace and in the city streets and we must conclude that the only option is to rebuild what has been damaged. We simply cannot leave rubble unattended, waste uncollected, and destruction undone—we must rebuild.

Nehemiah, the Cup-Bearer
In a privileged position of ease, Nehemiah could find no rest. He had learned that his homeland was in ruins, his people in chains, and the worship of his God was taken captive. He knew his place, his responsibilities in the palace; they did not include worries about Jerusalem, the Temple, or the ancient walls and gates. The cup-bearer could not bear this burden. Risking his life and position, he allowed the king to see his concern. Amazingly such a breach in decorum brought favor, not danger—the King empowered the cup-bearer to go and rebuild his home.

The Hidden Destruction
When disaster strikes in any form, there is a hidden danger in the path of the storm. Today we call it “the new normal.” Destruction is no longer noticeable. Ruins fade from view and weeds grow up all around the fallen structure hiding the loss in random, meaningless growth. In another form, when the debris of a huge tree fallen in a storm is cleared and the stump removed, soon there is no memory of the old, massive, graceful tree. This forgetfulness is the true destruction.

In this Secular Age
Today, secularism seeks to destroy all vestiges of Christian Spirituality beginning with the secularized believer and extending to the commercialized church.

  • A constant storm of hedonism beats against the human body, soul, and spirit.
  • A earthquake of untruth shakes the foundations of our private thoughts and public institutions.
  • A flood of evil rises to ever increasing heights, threatening to wash away even the memory of righteousness.
    What are we to do but rebuild?
  • We must rebuild our private prayer lives, spending time with God every day. We can know a rising tide of spirituality to counter that of iniquity.
  • We must rebuild our public worship so that the Lord Jesus Himself walks into every service ready to perform His Anointed Ministry of rescuing people from their sins. His Word must be the content of our message for His Story is the only hope of the world.
  • We must rebuild our lives so that everything we do honors Him—from fun to work, from thoughts to deeds, and from home to the world.

We are cup-bearers to the King! He will send us on a mission to rebuild what has been destroyed in our lives. Your home is a city of faith and you must build a wall of prayer around it. Your church is the habitation of God by His Spirit and you must restore True Worship as you gather there. There is no one else to do what He has called us to do.

Jesus, the Re-builder
The joy of Eden—walking with God in the cool of the day—was lost forever until a dark day at a place called Calvary. Jesus rebuilt that relationship from the ground up. All we have to do is believe in Him and pay attention and each day can be sweetened a taste of another Tree of Life, the cross.

Scriptures:
Nehemiah 2:1-19 NKJV
And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work. Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
Isaiah 58:12 NKJV
Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Chief Rebuilder! You are restoring my life day by day. Your carpenter’s hands are skillful and gentle. Help me add another row of bricks to the wall of faith I am building today. Help me restore some broken bit of creation today. Open my eyes to the needs around me that I can meet. Help me speak truth to counter the lies of the culture. Help me to shine like a light in this present darkness. As You continue to restore and rebuild me, help me to be also a repairer of the breach. For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Living for Jesus
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: C. Harold Lowden

1. Living for Jesus a life that is true,
striving to please him in all that I do,
yielding allegiance glad hearted and free
this is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement did give yourself for me.
I own no other master my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for you alone.

2. Living for Jesus, who died in my place,
bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace:
such love constrains me to answer his call,
follow his leading, and give him my all.

Refrain

3. Living for Jesus wherever I am,
doing each duty in his holy name,
seeking the lost ones he died to redeem,
bringing the weary to find rest in him.
Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 7, 2017 “Because”

Because

The Incarnation
Because You came to earth, I can go to heaven.
Because You were born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, I am born again by the
same Spirit.
Because You revealed the Father, I can know who God is.
Because You are the perfect image of God, I will contemplate your glory and be changed.
Because You are the Way, I will find my way.
Because You are the Truth, I will know the truth.
Because You are the Life, I will live.
Because You are the Bread of Life, I will hunger for you and be filled.
Because You are the door, I will enter in.
Because You love me, I can love others.

The Ministry
Because You are the Great Physician, I have health.
Because You calm the storms, I can live without fear of them.
Because You died on the cross, my sins are nailed there.
Because You rose from the grave, I will live again beyond the grave.
Because You reign in majesty, I can live in peace.
Because You are the Rock of Ages, my life has a firm foundation,
Because You are the Cornerstone, my church will never fall to the gates of hell.
Because You opened up the New and Living Way, I can boldly come before the Throne
of Grace.
Because You are my Shepherd, I will enjoy green pastures and still waters and even a
table of plenty before my enemies.
Because You are my Shepherd, I will walk through the Valley of the Shadow without
fear.
Because You resisted temptation, I can live in victory.

The Names
Because You are the Prince of Peace, I can rest in safety.
Because You are the Lord of lords, I will fear no leader who opposes us.
Because You are the King of kings, I will fear no system that opposes us.
Because You are the Alpha and Omega, I will live each day surrounded by You.
Because You are the Bright and Morning Star, I will endure each long night of trial
confident of the morning to come.
Because You are great, I don’t have be.
Because You are Prophet, I will be prepared for the future.
Because You are the Great High Priest, I will offer my Sacrifice of Praise.
Because You are head over all things through the church, I will set my affections on you.
Because You are the firstborn from among the dead, I will live forever.
Because You are the True Vine, I am a branch bearing much fruit.
Because You are the Refiner’s Fire and the Launderer’s Soap, I am pure in heart and I
worship you acceptably.
Because You are Immanuel, I will never be alone.
Because You are the Wonderful Counselor, I will live each day in faith.
Because You were the Sin Bearer, my sins lie far away from me at the bottom of the Sea
beneath fathoms of Forgetfulness.
Because Your name itself is a prayer, I will keep the name of Jesus on my lips.

The Grace
Because You have hemmed me in behind and before and laid Your hand on me, I can live
each moment in safety and power.
Because You have called me and ordained me, I will bear much fruit, fruit that will
remain after I am gone.
Because You sent Your Spirit, I am a witness to the world.
Because You have broken down the walls between us, I have brothers and sisters who do not look or sound like me.
Because You are coming soon, I can live in hope.
Because You are one with the Father through the Spirit, I can be one with You and the
Father through the same Spirit.
Because You are the Rock upon which my life stands, I will not fear any flood.
Because You created me, I have meaning.
Because You have anointed me, I have power and purpose.
Because You are the song of the angels, I will sing and make music with abandon.
Because You are my song in the night, I will sing with determination.
Because You drained the cup of my sins, I will drink from the cup of Your life.
Because You remembered me, I will not forget You.
Because You included me, I will never exclude You.
Because You are on the Throne of Heaven, I will walk the earth without fear.
Because You are on the throne of my heart, I am not.
Because You are the Living Word of God, I will live by Your Word.

Because Yours is the greatest story ever told, it will be my story to tell.

Scriptures:
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.
Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my reason. You are my cause and You are my effect. You are my life both here and now and there and then. You are my peace and my rest. You are my leader and my reward. Your will is my plan. Your love is my garment of praise. Your approval is my success. Because of Who You are, I can face this day and all those that follow. Because of You, Lord, everything that is good in my life is there because of You! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Because He Lives
Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither

1. God sent his son, they called him Jesus,
He came to love, heal and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives.

Refrain:
Because he lives I can face tomorrow
Because he lives All fear is gone
Because i know he holds the future
And life is worth the living Just because he lives

2. How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives,
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain day because he lives.

Refrain:

3. And then someday, I’ll cross that river.
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
And then as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of Glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Refrain:

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 6, 2017: “Champion”

Champion

Satan marshaled the might of Rome against Him with a tax, and a cruel journey, but could not stop Him. The Champion was determined to abandon Heaven for earth. Bethlehem closed its doors but could not shut Him out. A stable was enough.

The Champion was born.

All the pits and perils of boyhood came against Him but, at age 12, Jesus emerged a man, a man about His Father’s business. As a youth, Jesus was tempted as every young man is tempted, yet without sin.

The Champion was in training.

Then, as Satan slinked in the Spirit-shadows of the Jordan, Jesus plunged beneath the
waters of obedience. The Heavens opened as if to take the Champion back where He
belonged. Instead, the Spirit came upon Him as a dove and the Father’s voice was heard.

The Champion was ready.

Forty days later, He was hungry, tired, thirsty. Satan made his move.
“Eat,” he said.
“Jerusalem,” he said.
“Worship me,” he said.
“It is written. It is written. It is written,” Jesus said, and the tempter could not stay.

The Champion was in command.

For three years Satan threw everything he had at the Champion: sin, sickness, demons,
religion, politics, pride, faithless friends, hostile crowds, lies, twisted truths. Jesus handled every pitch.

The Champion prevailed.

Then one night in a garden, sweat became blood as companions slept through the Champion’s prayers. A friend’s kiss betrayed and soldiers came, one last attack by a defeated Devil. But this time, Jesus let them come. “This is the hour.” they heard Him say.

The Champion submitted to His Father’s will.

Fists, spears, shouts, thorns, a whip, trials, soldiers, nails, a cross and a sponge of sour wine on a stick. A sudden cry to His Father –“It is finished!”

The Champion was dead.

Earthquakes, lightning, thunder, darkness in the middle of the day. Weeping, fresh linen, burial spices, a borrowed tomb, a huge stone.

The Champion was buried.

Roman guards. It was over. All was secure. Hell rejoiced, flames made demon shadows dance. Captive souls despaired for their Champion. Unseen by the soldiers, a force they could never have stopped entered the tomb and the linen collapsed, empty.

The Champion was alive.

Into hell’s shadowy celebration came a figure of light. A path cleared before the shining One as He strode the paving stones of perdition with silence following him close. Jesus the Champion, stood before Satan with a nail-scarred hand outstretched.

Suddenly keys—those of death, hell and the grave—sprang from Satan’s grasp into the hands of the Champion. Prison doors surrendered to the Champion’s keys. Demons scattered like rats as Jesus led the righteous souls to the Father’s Throne Room.

The Champion had won.

Heaven took Him back. The Father proclaimed His name far above every other name. And still, the enemy roars seeking whom he may devour. But those who know the Champion do not fear. For Satan is a toothless terror. Soon the Champion will bind Him forever.

The Champion rules heaven and earth

Until then, the Champion prevails, Master of storm and sea; of sickness and circumstance; faithful to rescue those who call upon Him in faith; true to His nature and to His Word for He is Jesus—Champion of the Ages!

Soon a trumpet will bring the Champion back. We will see our loved ones again and be with Him forever for in His triumph He makes each of us a champion—A Champion for our Age!

Scriptures:
Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Revelation 5:9-14 NKJV
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my victorious King, You have won the battle for my soul, for the souls of people everywhere. Help me walk in that victory today. I step forth into this day fully armed with Your might. My head is covered by salvation and I wear the shoes of a gospel prepared. My belt is truth and my heart and lungs are protected by Your righteousness imputed to me. I hold in my hands the shield of faith, impervious to any satanic strategy and I brandish the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Your victory is mine today! Because You are the Champion, I am, too! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Victor’s Crown
Words and Music: Robert Gay

Oh the glory of Your name, the splendor of Your name
And none can compare with the power of that name
You are Jesus. You are Lord. You are God

You have won the victor’s crown.
You have triumphed over sin and death
Your name is lifted high and rings through all the earth
Every demon spirit of hell trembles when Your mighty
Name is heard

And we Your church proclaim Your victory in the world.
Oh the glory of Your name, the splendor of Your name
And none can compare with the power of that name
You are Jesus. You are Lord. You are God!
You are Jesus, You are Lord. You are God!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved