December 29 “Craftsman”

Craftsman

The Incarnation—God appearing in the flesh—has many facets of meaning.
One of these is the fact that Jesus was a craftsman, a tradesman doing business in the real world of commerce. Just as He learned His faith in the synagogue, He learned His trade as an apprentice to Joseph. He developed the necessary skills to make a living in this world. In every culture of the world where people love and follow Him, this factor draws Him closer to both the worker and the business owner, the men and women who make that culture function. He learned how to design and build things, to choose materials, to fulfill a contract, and to make a sale. He knew the long hours required to do the job right. He understood the cost of doing business and importance of a job well done. He flourished in the competitive world of commerce where the customer was always right even when he wasn’t. Best of all, he learned the joy of craftsmanship, of doing good work, of making something. It was a joy He had known before, this joy of creation. Jesus learned all of these at Joseph’s side.

The Death of Joseph
Sometime between the Lord’s 12-year old visit to the Temple and His baptism in the Jordan at about age thirty, Joseph disappears from the biblical narrative. We can only imagine the grief in the home when the man of faith, the one who dreamed of angels and obeyed their commands, was suddenly absent. What a comfort Jesus must have been to Mary and to her children. As her first born son, Jesus became the head of the family. He was no longer the promising apprentice; He was the proprietor of the carpenter shop. He had to become the mentor to James, his half-brother, as Joseph had been to Him. After long days in the shop there must have been long discussions by lamplight about family and business details that only He and Mary could handle.

Mary grew to depend on Jesus as she had Joseph. His amazing mind was of great assistance in solving problems, both in the family business and in the family itself. As much as He loved them, Jesus recognized the challenge his brothers and sisters, and Mary for that matter, faced in having Him in their lives. He was wonderful but He was different. Mary knew, if the others didn’t, that He had other work to do. His calling was to be about “His Father’s business,” that of being Savior, Redeemer, King. What did that mean? When would it begin?

A Different Craft
As Jesus dealt with the people in His life, family, friends, customers, citizens of Nazareth, and even the ever-present Roman soldiers, He was learning a different craft. He was learning to be the Carpenter of Souls. He studied people, sensing who was worthy of selection and who was not, like selecting wood for a project. He listened to people, understanding that the contents of their hearts poured forth in their speech. He studied the normal conflicts between friends and the battles between enemies. He made note of the weaknesses that brought people to ruin and the strengths that carried them through crises.

When the time came, He would leave the shop to James and the home to Mary and begin attending to His Father’s business. He would be the Carpenter of Souls, the Redeemer, the Savior. He continues that ministry today with skillful craftsman’s hands, now scarred by nails, as He makes all things new for those of us who love and follow Him.

Scriptures:
Colossians 3:17; 23-25 NKJV
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
2 Timothy 2:20-26 NKJV
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 NKJV
But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, like You, I have a set of useful skills, a life business to which I must attend daily. I have many crafts to master. Direct my mind, guide my hands, and focus my heart so that I might do Your work well in this earth. Let my work be a work of integrity, done well for the right reasons. May the work of my hands be praise to You. Thank You, Lord for Your gentle, skillful hands molding and shaping my life in Your very likeness. You are indeed the Carpenter of Souls. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

December 27 “Also”

Also

When a king speaks, he does not necessarily mean what he says.
So it was with King Herod. He told the wise men in a secret meeting that he wanted to worship the Messiah also.

It was a lie.

On the night Jesus was born, the kings told Joseph and Mary of their meeting with King Herod. They did not believe his announced intention to worship the child and they planned to return to their home by a different route. Joseph was alarmed by their caution.

After the dedication of the child, Joseph and Mary were excited about returning home. Beneath that excitement, Joseph harbored misgivings about the journey. In a dream an angel visited him to warn him not to return home but to flee the wrath of King Herod and go to Egypt. Awaking from the dream and telling Mary of the angel’s warning, the decision was made—Egypt it would be.

Called out of Egypt
How strange that the nation that welcomed and then enslaved their ancestors would now unknowingly harbor the Messiah of Israel! Yet, there was a strange verse of prophecy to this effect—“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”

Stranger still was the fact they could afford to make the journey. The gifts of the kings provided more than enough. They did not waste the gold on rich clothes and the finery of wealth; no one would suspect them to have riches tucked away.

The Rage of Herod
In a matter of days, Herod realized he had been deceived by the visiting kings. He had a rival!—some wiggling little boy threatened his golden, rotten kingdom. Rage and fear stole his sanity. He ordered the massacre of all the little boys born in that region over the last two years. This fulfilled another prophecy, one that told of uncontrolled weeping in the land. History calls this the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Months later, news arrived that King Herod was dead and his reign of terror was ended, the angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream commanding them to return home. Eventually they returned to Nazareth. For the next twelve years the Holy Family disappears into the haze of history.

Jesus the Child
We can be sure that these years were spent as an ordinary childhood for Jesus. By today’s standards than ordinary childhood was anything but ordinary. From a child, Jesus would be steeped in the words of God. As soon as He could talk He would learn to pray Shema every morning:

“Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

As soon as He could read, He began memorizing the Psalms as daily prayers. In these psalms He learned how to pray, to reach out to God with heart, soul, mind and strength. He would attend the school in Nazareth to learn from the Rabbi of the history of His people and the character of His God. His young life would be informed by truth and enriched with spirit and with these two things, He would learn to worship God. Twelve years of such a life prepared Him for the next scene in the biblical record.

Scriptures:
Matthew 2:1-23 NKJV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, while many chose to ignore Your coming into this world and did not worship You, King Herod announced a desire to join the kings in worship. This was a lie. Instead of worshiping You, he sought to destroy You. This violence against You still exists in our world today. There are people who hate You. You threaten their little kingdoms so they lie about You and strike out against Your people. Restrain them, O Lord. Empower Your people to worship in Spirit and Truth and to tell Your story in worship, in work, and in personal witness! We will tell Your story! Amen.

Song:
Go Tell It on the Mountain
American Negro Spiritual

Refrain:
Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain  \that Jesus Christ is born.
1. While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens  there shone a holy light.

Refrain

2. The shepherds feared and trembled  when lo! above the earth
rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior‘s birth.

Refrain

3. Down in a lowly stable the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 21, 2017: “Success”

Success

Success is always a measurement. 
It is not always as simple as the winning team scoring more points than the losing team.  In the movie Rocky, the hero is a tremendous success even though he lost the boxing match.  How can that be?  Because we are skillfully led to understand his life and dreams, we judge Rocky to be a success, and more than that, an inspiration.

Success breeds success, so the saying goes, and there is truth here.  We don’t like to fail.  We don’t study the lives of failures unless they ultimately succeed.  We read books and attend seminars to learn how others have succeeded because we desire success.

Success and Jesus
It is all well and good, but it is not really that simple.  For the Christ-follower success is measured in more ways than in the world’s judgment.  We forget this sometimes and become enamored with Christian leaders or artists or athletes who become famous.  It is natural for us to assume that money, fame, and excellence are surefire indications of success.  They are not, though, and we have to face it.  Our success begins and ends with the Lord Jesus.

The measurement we make is in our heart of hearts.

  • “Did we find the Lord’s plan?”
  • “Did we operate by His principles?”
  • “Did our work please Him?”

Our success is not measured in numbers or in profit; these are judgments of our effectiveness.  The measure of our success is our faithfulness to God.

  • Are we working at what He wants us to do?
  • Are we working in the place He wants with the people He wants?
  • Are we building upon the work of those who have gone before us?
  • Are we doing our absolute best to accomplish the job?
  • Do we cherish the people and respect the things God has provided for the work?
  • Are we loyal to those over us and respectful of those we lead?
  • Can the church count on us in the commitments we have made?

To be faithful is to succeed.
If we can answer yes to all of these questions, we have succeeded. If the numbers do not show increase, we will keep going.  We will not give up because we are trusting God for the increase—that’s His job!  Our job is to be faithful.

The Bible talks about three kinds of ministry:

  1. Sowing the seed,
  2. Watering the seed and the seedling, and
  3. Reaping the harvest.

The one who sows the seed is successful when the sowing is done.  The one who waters the seed and tends the plant is successful when the plant bears fruit.  The one reaps the harvest succeeds when the storehouse is full.  Each one has succeeded because he did what God asked him to do.

Because God is a Covenant Keeper, our success is guaranteed!  To feel the joy of our success, we have to measure our work by the proper standard.  Our story, too, will be an inspiration.

Scriptures:
Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 John 3:21
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Nehemiah 2:20
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
James 3:18
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 4:2-3
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Matthew 25:23
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
2 Corinthians 9:10-11
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Galatians 6:8-9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to succeed in this life, therefore, I want to be used by You to the fullest extent. You created me and placed me in these circumstances for specific purposes. Sometimes my assignment is one of sowing the precious seed. At other times You ask me to water the seeds others have sown. In the best of times I get to be a harvester, bringing in my sheaves with rejoicing. Help me to sow good seed and to sow it in tears. Help be faithful even when weariness would tempt me to ease up a bit. I know success will be mine. You told me that You have chosen me to bear much fruit and that it will be fruit that abides. Now, by faith in Your promises and with confidence in Your faithfulness, I will succeed today, or if there is some delay, tomorrow! In Your Name, Lord Jesus!

Song:
To Be Used of God
Words and Music: Audrey Mieir

1. I’ve a yearning in my heart That cannot be denied.
It’s a longing that has Never yet been satisfied.
I want the world to know The One who loves them so
Like a flame it’s burning deep inside.

Refrain:
To be used of God, To sing to speak to pray,
To be used of God, To show someone the way,
Oh how I long so much to feel The touch of His consuming fire,
To be used of God is my desire

2. When I think about the shortness Of my earthly years,
I remember all the wasted days The wasted tears.
I long to preach the Word To those who’ve never heard
Of the One who can dispel all fears.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 20, 2017: “Utility”

Utility

u·til·i·ty noun 1. the state or quality of being useful; usefulness: 2. something useful; a useful thing. 3.  a public service


The Kingdom of God is a practical place.

Each of us is highly esteemed by the Lord; He has deemed us worthy of Calvary.  Yet, not one of us is simply an ornament on the Tree of Life or a decoration on the face of the earth.  Each of us has purpose.  We are here for a reason.  We have a utility to provide to the Lord and to our fellow human beings.  We are called to be useful.

As an infant we simply existed, cooing and crying, smiling and grimacing at the pleasures and pains that came our way.  We did not make the world go round.  We made no significant contribution to society, added nothing to the wealth of the family or the nation, and provided no profit or product demanded by anyone—except those who loved us!  As a beloved child we made our parent’s world go round, made precious contributions to their lives, held great potential for society’s benefit, were an asset to the home and the country and produced joy in the hearts of those who held us dear.  Even as infants, each of us possessed utility.

As we grew to become kids, teens, and young adults, we added skills and personality to our preciousness and started being useful to those beyond our family.  The early teen years pulled us away from our parents to the passing parade of people our age who might be friends.  One of the ways to make friends is to possess utility.  We make them laugh.  We are good listeners.  We help them in many ways.  In turn, we share interests and activities, problems and fun.  Friends are friends because they are useful to each other.  The pattern for life is set.

For the believer, the spiritual element of usefulness becomes a determining factor. 
We sense that we can be useful to God.  We suspect deep in our hearts that God has a plan for our lives, something He wants us to do, a specific way He wants us to serve Him and our fellow human beings.  If our progress from child to adult is a proper one, this sense of calling will become the ruling sentiment—the controlling idea—behind our choices, from friends to fun, and from ambitions to amusements.

All is not lost.
What if those early teen years were misspent?  What if the opportunities of youth were wasted, stolen by the temptations of a shallow, live-for-the-moment culture?  All is not lost.  Redemption is the most amazing part of amazing grace.  Today, we can be useful to the Lord.  Our words can speak His truth.  Our lives can demonstrate His Kingdom.  Our skills can be anointed by His Spirit to extend His Kingdom wherever we go.

You are not an ornament on the Tree of Life; you are a branch in the Vine, useful for producing fruit.  You are not a decoration on the face of the earth; you are a vessel of honor in the Master’s house, “useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Scriptures:
2 Timothy 3:15-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
Philemon 8-11
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul-an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus- I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
2 Timothy 2:20-21
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work
1 Peter 4:9-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Romans 12:4-8
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
John 15:1-8 NKJV
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, a great source of beauty in Your creation is the beauty of usefulness, of practical utility. What is more efficient and productive than a healthy branch in a thriving vine? Thank You for drafting me into the Vine! Thank You for Your calling on my life, a call to be useful and productive . This, indeed, is a beautiful life. You spoke the words and John recorded them; let me hear them again today, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you to go and bring forth much fruit and that your fruit should remain.” Help it continue to be so today and all this week! For Your Glory! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Frances Ridley Havergal; Music: Henri A. Cesar Malan

1. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

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 30, 2017: “Productivity”

Productivity

Created to Produce
Just as peace is not passive, productivity is not optional; we were created to produce.  Adam and Eve were commissioned to be fruitful, to multiply, and to manage the life systems and resources of the earth.  When they fell into sin, God did not rescind this commission from Adam and Eve, and therefore, from us.  The result of sin was that the processes of productivity became work:

  • Women would become mothers through pain.
  • The earth would become fruitful by the sweat of the human brow.

The need to create and the drive to produce remain in the human heart, though the means of this productivity has become a thing of pain.

Spiritual Productivity
As necessary as productivity is to life, there is also a spiritual dimension to it.  Just as we are called to be productive in material things, we are intended to produce spiritual fruit.  “Bearing fruit” is the most common biblical image for personal productivity.  Jesus introduced the vivid metaphor of the Vine and the branches.  He said He was the Vine and we were the branches.  In order to bear much fruit we must remain connected to Him, just a branches must have a functioning connection to the vine if they are to bear fruit.  “Fruit” in this context means more than winning souls; it means producing what God made us to produce.  Writers write.  Teachers teach.  Builders build.  Designers design, and so on.

Facing this Week
You face this week of work with a deep desire to be productive and most likely, a pressing need to do well on the job.

  • Job assessments are a measure of the worker’s effectiveness, his/her productivity.
  • Fathers and mothers work hard to provide for their families by the value of their productivity.
  • The mechanized, computerized fields the modern worker plows still depend on the willingness of the worker to sweat—to do the work!
  • Visionaries bring new businesses into the world and the pangs of this kind of birth can last for years of 90 hour weeks before the business grows up and becomes profitable.

The good news is this:  We were made to be productive!
The same Lord who saved us from sin and hell stands ready to empower us to produce in our daily lives.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us, to give us the wisdom, the creativity and the grace we need to succeed.  When we begin to understand the theology of work as worship, we open ourselves to the continuing enablement of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life.

More than an inborn need and a daily requirement, productivity is a spiritual responsibility.  The scriptures have wonderful things to say about productivity:

  • Each of us has a productive path to walk, one laid down for us by the Lord Himself long before the wondrous week of creation. (Eph 2:10)
  • Being fruitful brings glory to God. (John 15:1-8)
  • Each of us has been hand chosen and ordained by the Lord Jesus to bear much fruit and fruit that lasts. (John 10:15,16)

Hard work is still hard work.
Bringing new life into the world is still a thing of pain.  Wringing a harvest from the earth still demands the sweat of the brow.  Hard work is the order of the day for most of us   Yet, the one who believes in Jesus is not alone in the delivery room, behind the plow, or at the office or workstation.  Jesus holds us close in each new venture.  He guides the plow and helps us pull the load as His Spirit gives us strength and wisdom, rest and refreshment as we work.

Scriptures:
Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”…Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 3:17-19 NKJV
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Colossians 1:10
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Ephesians 2:9-10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
John 15:16-17
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are The True Vine and I am only a branch, but I am a branch that can bear much fruit. You have promised me this. As You said in John’s gospel, You have chosen me and ordained me that I should go and bear much fruit and that my fruit should remain. Without You I can do nothing but with You I can do much—great things! Extend Your Kingdom through the life I live each day. I want to tell Your story with my life and work. I want to share Your love with the whole world, starting with those I meet today. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichol

1 We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

2 We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3 We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4 We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017: “Destiny”

Destiny

“Our Heavenly Father” is not a puppeteer.
We do not dangle from controlling strings attached to His manipulating fingers. The essence of the life we have received from God is choice; we choose our destiny.

This is not to say we control it for any day can bring things

  • which we did not foresee,
  • for which we did not plan and
  • with which we must deal.

Yet with each surprise, we have a choice to do the right thing or to do the wrong thing. That choice is one of destiny. When we choose to live in relationship with Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ, we walk the path He has chosen for us—our destiny. The Bible calls this, “The Path of Life.”

A Light and a Lamp
For this pathway there is a light illuminating the way ahead. The Word of God is a headlight searching the way before us, revealing hazards, sharp turns, and dangerous ravines on either side of the path. The truth of this path is not a temporary, passing truth; it is a truth that has always been true and a Word that will never cease to be true—the substantial stuff of destiny.

As if this headlight were not enough, we carry a torch, a lamp for each step. We need never to stumble for every footfall is made in the footprints of Jesus, marked by the scars in His feet. He has walked this way before us showing us how to live. The steps we take today may not be the same we took yesterday and tomorrow’s steps may be different yet again. Each step we take in the will of God is a current truth, the application of an eternal Word for the present moment. He is the torch in our hands, the lamp for our feet. He is our choice, our destiny.

Within the Mind of God
We cannot imagine how the mind of God works, independent of time, unlimited by space. He is not playing some cosmic game of chess with each of us the inanimate pieces which only move when he moves us. This game of grace is like a chess game with each piece an independent agent with a mind of its own. We have a choice but He is still the master of the game.

When we choose our destiny—His will for us for life and for each passing moment—He works everything in our lives toward our good. He sets us on a path of blessing, power, and creativity full of good works, choices to make each day that He has laid our for us from eternity past. A puppeteer He is not and puppets we are not. He is master of all time and space and he holds a plan for each of us, a destiny we can choose today.

And so it was in the Garden called Gethsemane.
Jesus chose His destiny, the arrest, the trials, the torture, the cross, the tomb, and finally, the firstborn from among the dead. His chosen destiny opened up a new and living way for each of us, a destiny we can choose every day.

Scripture:
Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 139:1-6; 13-16
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
John 15:16-17 NKJV
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

Prayer:
Lord, I do not understand everything about my freewill and Your will for me. I know that You have made with a will of my own and You have always had a plan and purpose for my life. I am not a puppet but the greatest life I could ever live is the one I would live in the center of Your will. In a very real sense, we are a team, You and I. I am the junior partner for all the power is Yours. Still You have blessed me with human ability as well as human will and You wish to utilize my humanity to do the work of Your Kingdom. What a joy to find Your will and do it! Amen.

Song:
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Traditional

1 I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2 Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3 My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

4 The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 23, 2017: “Dreaming”

Dreaming

When you go to work this morning, don’t leave your dreams at home. 
Take them with you. The work you will do today has direct impact on your dreams.  It may not seem so until you really think about it, but, as we walk the Path of Life, no moment is given without purpose.  Each day and each duty within the day has a dual purpose.

  • There is the immediate use of that block of time for the job at hand.  This is obvious and to keep your job, it is an absolute necessity.  We must keep our mind in the game, if we want to succeed.
  • There is also a long range use of our time today.  God is at work in unseen spiritual realms affecting the physical world we inhabit.  As we frame each day in morning and evening prayer, each day is sanctified for the Lord’s purposes.  If the events of the day go as planned; all is well.  If they do not; all is still well!

God’s covenantal promise is to make every day count for our eventual good because we have been called according to His purposes.

He reveals these long range purposes to us through our dreams, our inner, guiding vision.  God gives us a guiding vision of who He wants us to be and a divine revelation of what He wants us to do.  This revelation of tomorrow helps you take on the demands of the day.  When you take your phone and your computer with you out the door, don’t forget to bring your dreams along.

Dreams and Visions
For those whose work is less than fulfilling, the days can be long and tiring.  Don’t forget that the job you have but do not like is not your dream.  Husbands dream of providing for their wives.  Wives, at home or on the job, dream of a better home for their husbands, more time together, and a deeper love for each other.  Moms and dads go to work each day dreaming of a better life for each of their children

  • when they are little and their needs are so close by,
  • when they are teens and they are starting to pull away to form their own lives, and
  • when they are adults and have transformed into friends whose dreams you share.

All of these future provisions from the hand of God are tied to the work facing us this Monday morning.

For those whose daily work is what we always dreamed it would be, the days can still be long and tiring.  The challenge remains; make this day count!  Artists who are blessed to make a living with their creativity are always dreaming.  Most of these dreams will be years in the making.  Today’s work must count as another layer of preparation, another session of practice, another pre-production experiment and another step closer to the dream: the novel, the play, the screenplay, the song, the album, the exhibition, the concert, the ensemble, the role of a lifetime, and of course, “the body of work,” that grand collection of all you have created for the use of others.

There is an essential role for the Holy Spirit in our dreams.
He writes them, produces them, and projections them onto the screen of our minds.  Do not neglect the Spirit’s work in your heart.  Your dreams press meaning into your work today.  Without the guiding dream from God, you may do a terrible thing—you might waste this Monday.

When you go to work this morning, don’t leave your dreams at home.  Take them with you.

Scriptures:
Jeremiah 29:11-14 11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Joel 2:28 / Acts 2:17
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
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.
Romans 8:28-30
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 5:8-17
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You supplied me with an imagination. This means I can “see” things with my mind. I invite the Holy Spirit to heal me of wounds and evil words spoken over me that prompt any disparaging visions within me. Install in me a vision for my life that is based in Your Word and Your will. You have a plan for me; help me find it and walk in it. On the job today, show me realities that are helpful in my work. Give me vision and insight. Give me the courage to dream the dreams You have for me! Supply me with the courage to follow those dreams for Your glory. Amen.

Song:
Be Thou My Vision
Words Translated: Mary E. Byre; Music: Irish Folk Song

1 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2 Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3 Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
be Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;
be Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,
O raise Thou me heav’nward, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
be Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

5 High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys, after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 19, 2017: “Reaping”

Reaping

Few things in life come with a true guarantee. 
Reaping a harvest of good for the glory of the Lord and the benefit of mankind is one of them.  Two verses from the Bible express the inevitability of the harvest, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

  • Psalm 126 promises that the one who lives with passion for man and God and plants the Word of God, that person will doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing a great and joyful harvest.
  • Galatians promises a great harvest to those do not grow weary in doing the right things.

The promise of the Old Covenant is continued in the New Covenant.
Combining the two gives us the conditions of the promise:

  • The sower pictured in Psalm 126 is said to sow in tears.  The guaranteed reaping flows from the passionate life.  The heart that sees the harvest is the one moved by the plight of those without God.
  • The seed that brings the harvest is the precious seed of the Word of God.  Good will and positive thinking doesn’t guarantee anything but the good seed of the Word will have its affect those who hear.  Some will laugh and turn away.  Others will engage in a shallow attempt to follow God until conditions worsen and the seed planted in then comes to naught.  Still others will gladly receive the seed of the Word and it will become new life in them forever.
  • Galatians presents perseverance as the final condition.  The sower who gets the happy harvest celebration is the one who learns how to ward off weariness with rest and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

The “Doubtless” Harvest
Passion, knowledge of God’s truth, and consistent faithfulness in the work God has given us to do will “doubtless” bring a harvest of joy.  The tears we shed for the lost,

  • for the church,
  • for the pain of the world,
  • for the pain in our own hearts when others treat us the way people treated Jesus,
    will water the good soil of those who listen to us and the harvest will come.  Tears will be forgotten in the laughter of the time of reaping.

That time is more sure than tomorrow’s sunrise.  It doesn’t matter how long the night may last until that dawning of the day of reaping.  Until then, let us be passionate, full of truth, and faithful in all things.  The happy harvest is one of life’s few sure things.

Scriptures:
Psalm 126:5-6 KJV
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Matthew 13:3-9;18-23 NKJV
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!””Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the God of guarantees! Your promises are sure, irrevocable, and powerful in real life. Your truth is fixed but is also marvelous in its many applications. Help see Your Precious Seed and perhaps the fresh plowed fields where I might sow that seed. The day will come when before Your judgment seat I will lay down my harvest at Your feet—the faithful record of my faithfulness—souls won to You, deeds of mercy, acts of righteousness, words of truth fitly spoken. I want with all my heart to hear You say, “Well done!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

2 Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3 Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 16, 2017 “Effort”

Effort

Effort comes in various sizes from little to medium to large to maximum. 
Effort costs something.  Supplies of energy or brain power or will power need to match the size of the effort put before us.

To get another week started takes effort on our part.  If the weekend went well and we were faithful to rest, worship, and have some fun, the amount of effort it takes to get back to work may be small and routine.  If the weekend was more demanding than usual with extra events and maybe some long distance travel, Monday morning may take a much larger effort.  In either case, those who can shut off the alarm and turn on the energy on Monday morning will have a better week than those who spend much of the day recovering from the weekend.

For the Christ-follower, effort has a strange companion—dependency. 
This is far from the negative dependency of drugs or alcohol.  This dependency is a wonderful companionship with the Holy Spirit.   At the last supper, Jesus told the disciples wonderful things about their coming new relationship with the Holy Spirit.

  • Under the Old Covenant believers had the Holy Spirit with them when they were given specific tasks to do for God, but there was no abiding presence of the Holy Spirit because full atonement had not been made for the sins of people.
  • Under the New Covenant forgiveness of sin was real and complete because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  The human vessel could be truly cleansed from sin and fit to be the habitation of God by His Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would take us residence in them instead of just being with them.

Jesus called the Spirit by a particular name, the paraclete, meaning literally, “the one who comes beside.”

parakletos
“called to one’s side,” i. e., to one’s aid, is primarily a verbal adjective, and suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid

The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter.  He adds supernatural ability to our human effort.  We work and He works with us.  Our efforts are often located in the physical and mental realms—we work hard and think hard and believe hard with all our humanity.  The Comforter (the paraclete) comes along side to add His power to complete the task.  The Spirit is at work when we are at work.  He works in the material world and in the spirit realm, too.

By faith we choose to depend on the power of the Spirit. 
We never want to be listed with the “foolish Galatians” who thought they could finish in the power of their effort what they had begun in the Spirit.  Paul said they had been bewitched to believe such nonsense. Paul reminded the Corinthians that he deliberately chose not to depend on his considerable gifts but on the power and demonstration of the Spirit.

As this week starts, bring your “A-game,” as the saying goes.

  • Match your resources to the effort required for the job.
  • Work “smarter not harder.”
  • Do your work as unto the Lord and not unto men.
  • Learn to lean on the paraclete, the Holy Spirit who lives inside you and works alongside you in every task.

Your effort and God’s power will make this a meaningful week.

Scriptures:
John 14:15-18; 25-27
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. … But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 16:6-15
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. … when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
Galatians 3:3-4
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 2:1
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.   For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Colossians 1:29; 3:23-24
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
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Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my strength, my endurance. I will give my best to the work today, fully expecting You to come to my aid. You will make my work better, my efforts somehow charged with the power of the Spirit. My work will be a compound substance consisting of earth and heave, the human with the divine. I hold no delusion that I can do this work along; I hold a promise that You will be with me in every effort. For Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master
Words: Howard B. Grose; Music: Charlotte Alington (Claribel)

1. Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul’s fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

2. Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

3. Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved