October 12, 2017 “Leadership”

Leadership

The leader is also a member of the team.
This simple truth is so often lost in the way we do things today. The church should be led by player-coaches who are active in the contest, not just watching from the dugout.

The astounding words of Jesus about leadership only make sense when the leader realizes that the Kingdom of God has only one King.

  • Jesus wears the crown.
  • Jesus sits on the Throne of Majesty.
  • Jesus is the center of the adoration of heaven.
  • His fullness fills all in all.

The local leader must also be one who is being led. He/she must not just crack the whip, the leader must take up the traces and pull his/her part of the Lord. Leading and commanding are not the same things at all.

Top Down? Inside Out?
From heaven, the church is a top-down organization; here on earth it is an inside-out organism. In these matters the contrast between the Old and New Covenants is stark:

Under the Old Covenant:

  • The Holy Priesthood represented God to man and man to God.
  • The word of the patriarch, the judge, the king, the prophet was meant to be obeyed, not explained.
  • Most of the time leaders ascended to leadership through family connections.
  • Unquestioned power drives the Old Testament leader.
  • Violence in the maintenance the authority of the King was to be expected.
  • The leader lived a separate life in the tabernacle, the temple, the palace, the prophet’s chamber, or in the wilderness.
  • The Holy Spirit came upon leaders for specific tasks in times of need, but found no dwelling place in their hearts.

With the New Covenant:

  • All of us are Holy-Royal Priests unto the Lord; we are a Kingdom of priests.
  • The words of a New Testament leader are judged by all as the Holy Spirit affirms His voice in the voice of the leader.
  • Leaders are chosen by the will of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
  • The power of God, not the power of politics, empowers the New Covenant leader.
  • Maintenance of position is never done by violence, abuse, or coercion.
  • The Holy Spirit abides in the heart of the Leader at all times as a permanent anointing to live as well as to lead.

Today, if you take the reins of leadership, do so in a New Covenant manner.
You are not a ruler. You are not a king or queen. You are a priest, a servant, a shepherd, and a follower of Christ. Lead the way He led—in the power of the Spirit, from a humble soul, according to the truth of God, and always—always—from a loving heart.

Scriptures:
John 12:26; 15:20 KJV
If any man serve me, let him follow me… The servant is not greater than his lord…
Mark 9:35; 10:42-45
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 23:10-12
The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
2 Timothy 2:24 KJV
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men…
John 14:16-18 NKJV
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth… He dwells with you and will be in you.
Acts 15:28
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes leading the way You told us to lead goes against my instincts. It seems unnatural until I obey and do what You said to do. In that moment I sense Your joy in me and my human instincts shrink back into the place where Your Spirit sent them. Your Word makes spiritual sense, even when it defies human nature. Help me lead Your way. Lord, I pray for all my leaders. Help them to lead me well according to Your example and teaching. Help us to serve those we lead. Rebuke us when we act like lords and kings. Help us seek out the lower place, the supporting role, and to be quick with the encouraging word. Teach us to take joy in the success of others. Lead us not into the temptations of pride and position and deliver us from the evils of selfish ambition. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Make Me Like You
Words and Music: Jamie Owens Collins

Make me like You, Please make me like You.
You were a servant; make me one, too.
O, Lord, I am willing, do what You must do,
To make me like You, Lord.
Please make me like You.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 10, 2017 “Doing”

Doing

A King’s Last Command
King David, sensing death nearby, whispered to his chosen son Solomon a word of advice that would make his life a blessing.  “My son, do the work…”

Some people are good at planning things to do, but seldom get around to actually doing them.  Others talk a good job but never seem to be caught actually working.  Still others carefully time their entrances and exits when the work ends or when it is just getting started so that to the casual observer it looks like they have done something but they really haven’t done anything.  There are also dreamers who imagine themselves as productive people but their deeds are also merely dreams.

We can’t do anything about those kinds of people.  We can only make sure we are not found in their company.  If we have made plans, let us get busy doing what is necessary to achieve the plans.  If we can “talk the talk,” let’s make sure we also, “walk the walk.”  Let’s put as much thought into finding out what needs to be done and lending our strengths and efforts to the tasks as others do avoiding work.  Let’s bring our heads down out of the clouds and get our hands dirty with the work that must be done.

Wisdom for the Ages
King David’s charge to his son Solomon as the moment of this transfer of power is one of the most useful pieces of instruction in the Bible.  Twice David told his son to, “Do the work.”  This is wisdom for the ages.

When we see those we admire for their great abilities, there is more than talent on display.  We are observing the effective work of someone who has “done the work” it took to develop talent into skill.

  • Talent, the ability to readily learn to do something, is God’s gift to us.
  • Skill, the ability to do something well, is our gift to God.

One of the most amazing things about watching an orchestra play in concert is the realization that in the space of an hour or so of musical presentation, we are reaping the benefits of countless hours of lessons and practice, drills and rehearsals on the part of the players.  One doesn’t learn to play an instrument well without “doing the work.”

Faith without Works
In the New Testament the Lord’s brother warns us that our faith is demonstrated by what we do, not just by what we know and certainly not by what we say.  The apostle makes it clear that each believer has work to do for God, not to earn his/her salvation by good deeds outweighing bad ones, but by demonstrated the power of the redeemed life.  We are called to be more than good planners, exciting talkers, clever work avoiders, or useless dreamers.  We are called to me people of good hearts and good deeds.  Our hearts have been cleansed by the washing of the water and the Word and our daily deeds are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This week, do not be a hearer only; be a doer!  Hear King David whispering across the ages of time, “Do the work!”

Scriptures:
1 Chronicles 28:9-10; 20-21
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”… David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
1 Peter 3:11
… turn from evil and do good…
James 1:22-25; 2:18-19
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.
Hebrews 13:16
… do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth… Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Colossians 3:17; 23-25
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…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.
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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, all around me today, there is work to be done for You. Help me to see it and to do my part of it. Some tasks are one-time events and therefore are opportunities not to be missed. Other work is part of a longer process. These jobs won’t be finished today but the work we do today is important to the final result. Help me function as a problem solver on the job today. Give me the solutions my co-workers are looking for. Help me esteem my fellow workers as brothers and sisters. Let me be the kind of person they can count on. May the work of my hands be praise and worship unto You, today! For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

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

October 9, 2017 “Tasks”

Tasks

Tasks—things we have to do—there is no shortage of these for most of us.
Make a list of them and keep in front of you all day so you can check them as you get them done.  That makes for a successful day.  A successful day today makes for a successful week this week, so let’s get to it!

Wait.

Just as the sun rises on a new day and a new week, the compassion of the Lord rises upon us each day, new and freely flowing.  Before the day and the week get rolling, the supreme task awaits our faithfulness—prayer.

It is a simple choice:

  • Do we rush into the day because the day is rushing into us?
  • Or do we wait for the power of Christ to envelope us as we pray?

The Paraclete
The list of things to do today doesn’t change; it will be there calling, demanding our time.  What will change is us.  Will we attempt today’s tasks in our own strength or will we be assisted throughout the day by the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, our Helper who “comes along side?”

This is no small difference.

  • It is the difference between unfinished tasks and completed ones.
  • It is the difference between who we are and who we want to be.

Will the world in which we operate have to deal only with us, our sparkling personality, piercing intellect, and irresistible compassion? Or will the world have to deal with the real us—humble before God and greatly assisted by the power of heaven.  There is a huge difference!  Daily prayer connects us to the power source we need to get our tasks properly taken care of.

An essential part of prayer is the prayerful reading of the Word of God.
This is different from studying the Bible.  This is an act of prayerfully consuming the truth of God.  Daily reading of scripture as a part of faithful prayer builds spiritual understanding, strength, and endurance.  If food meals are omitted for some earthly reason, (not fasting before the Lord) it won’t be long until physical and mental weaknesses will prevent us from checking off the tasks on our list.  Our spiritual insight, strength, and stamina operate the same way; we need daily intake of the Words of Life.

There is no reason to “go it alone” today. 
The God Who Keeps Covenant has promised to be with you in every meeting, at every task, and in every relationship.  Task Number One—Prayer—opens your heart to Him on this new day.  Through the open door of your heart, God will pour in grace sufficient for any task.  Just as His mercies were new this sunrise, our commitment is renewed today in prayer—Task Number One.

Scriptures:
Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Luke 11:1-2 KJV; Matthew 6:5-13
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them…
“…when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Lamentations 3:22-24
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
John 14:15-18 NKJV
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever –the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Ephesians 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Psalm 55:16-17
But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer
From the Book of Common Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.  Amen

Song:
Sweet Hour of Prayer
Words: W.W. Walford; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
that calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father’s throne
make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
my soul has often found relief,
and oft escaped the tempter’s snare
by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

2. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
the joys I feel, the bliss I share
of those whose anxious spirits burn
with strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
where God my Savior shows his face,
and gladly take my station there,
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

3. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
thy wings shall my petition bear
to him whose truth and faithfulness
engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face,
believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my every care,
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 3, 2017 “Calling”

Calling

Following Christ
At the heart of the believer’s relationship with the Lord is a sense that He has called us to follow Him.  The promises of the New Covenant are those of a personal relationship with God.  We are not following a philosophy as best we can; we are following the Master who has called us personally to follow Him closely.  We know His voice and recognize His authority.  We trust His judgment as we voluntarily submit to His Lordship.

Daily Staff Meeting
If we choose to, we can have a personal staff meeting with the Lord each day in morning prayer.  If we listen, we can hear His voice throughout the day warning us, guiding us and revealing His great heart to us.  As the day closes and we meet with Him again for evening prayer, we sense His pleasure or His pain at the day just past.  We can feel what Jesus feels and rest peacefully in His faithfulness.

There are some things every believer is called to do:

  • To read and understand the Word of God,
  • To praise and worship the Lord Most High,
  • To witness to those who do not know Him through holy living and intercessory prayer,
  • To serve others; (even leaders are called to be servant-leaders)
  • To do good work as the Lord’s crafts-persons, and
  • To take our place in the company of the Redeemed to honor God and touch a hurting humanity.

There are also specific things the Lord calls individuals to do.

  • Some are called to make music or create some other art.
  • Others are called to teach.
  • Still others have been called to lead the church.
  • Some people are called to work in retail sales and some are called to manage businesses.
  • The Lord calls some to be involved in health care.
  • Craftspeople are called to make things and repair things.

There is no end to the possibilities of occupations the Lord has designed His people to do.  Just as King David appointed priests and Levites to make the music of worship at David’s Tabernacle. King Jesus appoints His followers to places of responsibility and blessing.  Some doubt this, saying we just need to love God, live by the Word, and do our best.  The scriptures indicate otherwise:

  • The words of the writer to the Hebrews encourage us to hear the calling of the Lord through the details of each day.
  • Jesus said His sheep would know His voice.
  • In the Revelation Jesus encourages us to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

You heard Him, too!
Just like those ancient fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and others of low estate, who heard Jesus say, “Follow me!” you have heard Him, too.  Even if your are not sure that the job you go today is one God has called you to do, you can go to that job sure that He has called you to integrity and faithfulness, and to life in the power of the Spirit.  He has appointed you to greatness today.  If He is the only one to witness your success, that is more than enough.

Scriptures:
John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life…
Hebrews 1:1
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…
Revelation 2:7
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches
1 Chronicles 16:4-5
He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel:
2 Peter 1:10-11
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Matthew 4:18-20
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
John 21:15-22
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  … Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  … You must follow me.”
Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is no voice like Your voice. It sounds everywhere: in creation, in circumstances, in the storm and in the still after the storm, even in the words of others when they are touched by Your Spirit. The two places where I hear Your call most clearly and in the Word and in my spirit, deep in my inmost part. You have promised to write the Word into my heart and that You have done. I hear Your call. It is a fixed milestone in my life; other considerations may fade, but Your call remains clear. It is the central organizing point of my life. Help me not only hear You today, but follow You as well. Following You is success, regardless of any outcome. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
A Charge to Keep Have I
Words: Charles Wesley; Music Lowell Mason

1 A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.

2 To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill,
O may it all my pow’rs engage to do my Master’s will!

3 Arm me with jealous care as in Thy sight to live,
and now Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!

4 Help me to watch and pray,and still on Thee rely,
O let me not my trust betray,but press to realms on high.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 2, 2017 “Craftsmanship”

Craftsmanship

Sweat runs down his dirty face.
There is nothing divine about it, just human sweat, the immediate product of human toil. A contract had been made and must now be honored by the craftsman’s skill and his sweat. Shops, generally, are not comfort zones. They are hot, noisy stalls where work gets done with little thought given to the comfort of the worker. Productivity is the guiding principle.

Look beyond the sweat on the craftsman’s face; look at his hands. There you find the main product of his endeavors. Something is taking shape beneath his skillful fingers. From worthless bits of material he is fashioning something useful; order out of chaos. Soon the contract will be fulfilled, the sweat forgotten in the joy of creation.

Who is the craftsman described above? The King, of course.
It is no accident that Jesus spent most of His life as a carpenter. In this he identifies with us. We are craftsmen, too. Not carpenters, perhaps, but craftsmen nonetheless. We all make things;

  • salesmen make sales;
  • homemakers make homes;
  • teachers make scholars;
  • students make grades;
  • repairmen make repairs;
  • CEO’s make salaries (and organizations); on and on it could go.

Wherever our “shop” may be located, whatever the product, we can do that work as unto the Lord.

The Bible tells us to in what I call the Colossians Credo:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,…work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…

Your “spiritual” work is more than just what you do at church.
The Lord longs to make your workplace a sanctuary, a dwelling place for Him by His Spirit. He can do that when you do your work as praise and worship unto the King. Like all worship, He has promised to inhabit it and to be enthroned upon it. And, He can make your shop a sanctuary because He has had His own.

He still has His own shop.
It is called the church. He is in the business of taking broken lives and putting them back together again. When we worship, His skillful fingers are at work, shaping us into His own image.

Scriptures
Psalm 139:13-18 NKJV
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Colossians 3:17;23-24 NIV
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
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.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I dedicate the work of my hands to You today. I consecrate my concentration to Your cause today. Inhabit the work of my hands. Be enthroned upon the thoughts and intents of my heart. Fill me with the creativity of Your Holy Spirit Who has all knowledge. Let me be a problem solver and not a problem today. As I rejoice in my work today, let that joy be my strength. May others see the craftsmanship of my life and know that You are its source. May the thoughts of my heart, the meditations of my mind and the work of my hands be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer! For Your Glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated
Words: Henri A.C. Malan; Music: Lowell Mason

1. Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, 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.

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.

4.Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use Every pow’r 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.

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.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

August 21, 2017 “Competence”

Competence

It is good to be good at what you do. 
While our calling is a gift from God, our competence is our gift back to Him.  To put it another way:

  • talent (the ability to learn to do something) is God’s gift to us and
  • skill (the ability to do something) is our gift back to Him.

The Christ-follower swims in a sea of grace.  God’s abundant blessings are everywhere around us.  If we do not maintain a constant awareness of His grace, we will take His blessings for granted and lose the humility and gratitude that form the basis of True Worship.  For this reason we must always keep the Gates of Thanksgiving in view as we do the work we are called to do.

In the 1965 film directed by Victor McLaglen, Shenandoah, the wonderful James Stewart plays a Virginia farmer trying to resist the Civil War raging back and forth through the Shenandoah Valley.  He refuses to let his sons fight and runs a loving but tense household in the absence of his wife who died years before.  He is not a believer, but she was and true to his promise to her, he leads the family in prayer before each meal.  His prayer reveals that he is much more aware of his competence as a farmer than he is of God’s grace.  He prays something like this:

“Lord, we cleared this land with our own hands.  We plowed it and planted the seed.  We harvested its bounty.  We’ve done a lot better by this land than you did when you had it by yourself.  But we thank for these blessings anyhow.  Amen.”

It is funny at first but then it is sad.   May we never be so blind that we cannot see the hand of God in our lives!  May we never take the credit for what God has done.

In the face of the requisite humility, there is work for us to do.
There is a competence that we need to develop.  This does not signal a shortfall in the grace of God.  It is a realization that God has made us to be functioning, whole, productive agents of His grace.  The work we have to do today is His work.  Our success is not in some super-spiritual laziness, leaving all the shovel work to others.  Our success is a partnership of our skill with His anointing.

Worship leaders, singers, and instrumentalists, must learn this lesson quickly if their ministries are to be lasting ones.  Music making lies in the human body and soul.  The soul comprises the mind, emotions, and memory of the musician.  These areas of skill must be taught and drilled until the subconscious mind rules the body so that the music in our souls can be released for others to hear.  At the same time, when our spirit—the God conscious part of us—connects with the Spirit of God, our music takes on a spiritual dimension.  It goes beyond sight, sound, and sensation to impact the spirits of those who hear it.  In other words, our music is anointed, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

If this is true of music, then it is true of the work you are called to do. 
Your work has fundamentals that need to be mastered.  Your thinking can be honed to greater degrees of clarity and soundness.  Your work can be anointed by the Spirit of God when you offer the Lord your competence as gift of worship.  Those with whom you work may never speak of it, but the Spirit of God in you and in your work, will be an excellent witness, a song they love to hear.

Psalm 33:1-5
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
Exodus 35:30-35
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel…and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts– to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him… the ability to teach others.  He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen…
Ecclesiastes 10:10
If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.
Colossians 3:17; 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. …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.
John 6:26-29
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Psalm 90:17
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the Psalmist asked that the words of his mouth and the meditations of heart would be acceptable to You. Today I want to add to that list, the work of my hands. You have placed me in a certain place to do a certain work. Give me the desire to develop the skills needed to excel at this work! In the words of Paul I will do this work with all my strength, as unto to You, Lord, and not unto men, and in Your powerful name. Make my work a witness to Your grace this day. Amen.

Song:
Give of Your Best to the Master
Words: Howard B. Grose; Music: 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

August 4, 2017 “Fields”

Fields

“Field” is an extremely useful noun.
Literally, there are corn fields, hay fields, bean fields, and cotton fields back home. There are football fields, baseball fields with infields and outfields, and there are soccer fields. Tragically, the list of literal fields must include battlefields.

Figuratively, there are fields of study, fields of medicine, law, and science, fields of influence, mission fields and fields of personal interest. Ironically, all of these figurative fields can also be playing fields, fields of produce, and battlefields.

The Poet reports that in his day the enemies God had plans to steal, “The Fields of God.” This is still true and it is no limited strategy for the fields of God are wide and varied. God created human beings to be productive people with many fields to till and harvest.

Just What Is the Father’s Business?
Perhaps we have been too narrow in our understanding of God’s business, that business that sent the 12 year-old Jesus to the Temple to interview the priests. Some might say this, with the intention of shutting down the conversation, “The business of God is souls.” This is absolutely true beyond any “fear of successful contradiction” as a pastor I knew liked to say. Do we really think “souls” is the sum total of God’s business? Does the Lord have just this one field?

The Lord had many fields.
Many years ago I did some teaching on ministry through the arts. I talked about bearing fruit in terms of creating beautiful works of art. Unknown to me, the pastor’s secretary was a painter. She had never connected her art to the concept of bearing fruit for God. “That was always just winning souls!” She told me. Her field of interest was painting and it was God’s field, too.

Dramatically, Jesus calls us to the harvest fields in these last days. Exactly which fields are they?

More than the traditional concepts of witnessing: going door-to-door, passing out tracts, presentational services and events, the Fields of God are where He has planted us! Our interests, our vocations and avocations, our callings and skills, our craftsmanship and creativity, our planting and harvesting, our hobbies and games, our arts and endeavors, our passions and our compassion—even our battles and competitions can be the Fields of God.

  • Many have been successfully stolen by the enemy—let’s take them back.
  • Others have been corrupted by sin—let’s reform them by the Book.
  • Some fields have grown fallow and unused—let’s plow them up and plant them again.
  • Dusty and dry, some of our own fields need a fresh rain—let’s ask the Lord to send rain.
  • Here and there one of our fields may suffer from neglect—let’s pay attention and do the work!

Then, like the word, “field,” we can be extremely useful to God.

Scriptures:
Psalm 83
O God, do not be silent; do not keep still nor hold your peace, O God; For your enemies are in tumult, and those who hate you have lifted up their heads. They take secret counsel against your people and plot against those whom you protect. They have said, “Come, let us wipe them out from among the nations; let the name of Israel be remembered no more.” They have conspired together; they have made an alliance against you:… Who said, “Let us take for ourselves the fields of God as our possession. O my God, make them like whirling dust and like chaff before the wind; Like fire that burns down a forest, like the flame that sets mountains ablaze. Drive them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm; Cover their faces with shame, O Lord, that they may seek your Name. Let them be disgraced and terrified forever; let them be put to confusion and perish. Let them know that you, whose Name is Yahweh, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
John 4:34-38 NIV
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Malachi 3:10-12 NIV
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
2 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 NIV
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 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. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Hosea 10:12 NIV
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am headed out into the fields today! You have called me to work in these specific fields. I will sow good seed in them. I will water and care for the young plants. I will tend the vines in Your Vineyard You have given me to tend. I will gently harvest the fruit of these fields. Every day is an adventure in Your fields of labor! I will be joyful in the tilling, patient in the toiling, and fluent in the telling. I will not become weary in all this well-doing for I know I shall reap bountifully if I sow bountifully and do not give up! O Lord of the Harvest, thank You for calling me into the fields! Amen and amen.

Song:
The Call for Reapers
Words and Music: James Oren Thompson

1. Far and near the fields are teeming
With waves of ripened grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming
O’er the sunny slope and plain

Refrain:
Lord of harvest, send fir reapers!
Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry.
Send them now the sheaves to gather.
Ere the harvest-time pass by.

2. Send them forth with morn’s first beaming;
Send them in the noontide’s glare;
When the sun’s last rays are gleaming,
Bid them gather everywhere.

Refrain

3. O thou whom the Lord is sending,
Gather now the sheaves if gold;
Heavenward then at evening wending.
Thou shalt come with joy untold.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

June 15, 2017 “Useless?”

Useless?

No way! It is only an illusion, a cheap trick by a cheaper magician.
Each of us has immense value and usefulness to God. Sometimes this fact of faith is easy to forget. Why?
Because we know, also, that we are broken—all of us—not just the derelict on the street corner trudging to the cover of a bridge for the night. Pride would lift us up and say that he is broken but we are whole and healthy.

Check again. We are all broken. The difference is only a matter of degree.

“Great!” You might be saying, “Where is the encouragement in that bit of news?”

While the feeling of uselessness is a powerful one, that does not make it accurate. It is a story only half-told. There is more, another act to be seen in this drama.

The Poet expressed the feeling for us:

“I am as useless as a broken pot.”

This is emotion not information.

Clay pots were the creation of the potter.
His skillful hands and whirling wheel shaped the shapeless wet clay into a useful form. Baked in the oven, the soft clay hardened into stone as the useless thing became useful in the potter’s shop.

God, of course, is the Potter of our lives and His skills range far above those of the human potter. In the earthly shop, a broken earthen pot cannot be mended; it is good only to be thrown away. Not so in our Potter’s Shop! He specializes in the reconstruction of broken pots!

Earthly “wisdom” would tell us that we are beyond repair, ruined forever.
This is the cynical, earth-bound, deterministic lie that we who have been repaired must expose. Lies like this discourage us from another attempt at reform. Our record of unsuccessful self-reform programs is dismal.

There is another brand of wisdom we need to consult, “the wisdom from above.” In our brokenness we have come to the wrong shop. We need to keep walking until we find the Potter’s Shop where Jesus works. We will find work going on here that we can’t find anywhere else—the work of restoration. Jesus rebuilds broken pots, making the useless useful again.

This is information, not emotion.

Look around you and you will see many people living useful, productive lives.
Be assured they have not always been so busy and beneficial. They were once broken to one extent or another but Jesus repaired them.

His shop is open for business today.

Scriptures:
Psalm 31
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me. Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of strength. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. I hate those who cling to worthless idols, and I put my trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy; for you have seen my affliction; you know my distress. You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly. For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed. I have become a reproach to all my enemies and to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot. … Yet I said in my alarm, “I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes. “Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried out to you. Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.
2 Timothy 2:20-22 NKJV
…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.
Acts 9:15-16 KJV
But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Jeremiah 18:1-7 NIV
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
James 3:13-18
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, to this day Your strong, carpenter’s hands bear the scars of our sin; yet they are still healing hands! You have handled me skillfully, tenderly restoring my marred and broken life. Today Your work in me will continue. I want to be pliable in Your hands, malleable beneath the gentle hammer of Your grace. I am grateful that You haven’t given up on me! With Your on-going repairs I can be a vessel unto honor, fit for Your use, Master Jesus! Amen.

Song:
The Broken Vessel
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

1. The Potter saw a vessel, that was broken by the wind and rain
And he sought with so much compassion to make it over again.
O I was that vessel, that no one thought was good
I cried Lord, You’re the potter and I am the clay make me over again today.
Then God picked up the pieces of my broken life that day
And He made me a new vessel, and washed all my sins away.

2. My friend if your broken and scattered by the storms of life
And You’ve looked in vain for the answers for all your turmoil and strife.
Just look to the Savior Who’ll save your soul from sin
And cry Lord you the potter and I am the clay make me over again today
Then let God pick up the pieces of your broken life today
He will make you a new vessel and wash all your sins away.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

How to stay “Useful” to God? “Strange Place for a Tree.”

May 12, 2017

Exaltation

To exalt something or someone simply means to lift up, to elevate.
There is no way and no need for us to raise the throne of God any higher on the heavenly pedestal.  We can never elevate Jesus beyond the level He now occupies:  King of kings and Lord of lords.   So what does it mean to “exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool” or at “His holy mountain?”

We exalt the Lord when we lift up His holy name. 
While the name of Jesus occupies the highest place, (Eph 1:15-22; Phil 5:2-11) this fallen world and the people in it constantly denigrate His name, trying to make it meaningless and best and a curse at worst.  It is our job to elevate the name of Jesus to the highest place in our thinking, in our speech, in our art, in our hearts, and certainly in our worship.  We must counter the denigration of the world with the volume, eloquence, and the spiritual power of our praise, our exaltation of the Lord’s name.

We exalt the Lord when we extol His character.
The ancient song of the Old Covenant must ring out in our worship, “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”  The same fallen world systems that denigrate the name of Jesus also constantly impugn the character of God.  We must counter those accusations with truth!  God is good; He is not evil, or distant, or unconcerned.  Jesus is the revelation of who God really is.  To see Jesus is to see the Father.  To know the power of the Holy Spirit is to know the power of the Creator.

We exalt the Lord when we proclaim His Word.
The world today occupies a contradictory position:  people deny the existence of absolute truth while at the same time they relentlessly search for truth.  Jesus is the Living Word!  Exalting Jesus lifts this one Book above all other titles.  When we boldly proclaim the real truth of God, the Holy Spirit, who is called The Spirit of Truth, propels the Word of God like an arrow to the heart of the person who doesn’t know Jesus.  His Word also penetrates the hearts of believers who are struggling in their walk with God.  A clear vision of Jesus on His Throne, and the veracity of His Word changes us!

We exalt the Lord when we tell our story of what Jesus has done for us. 
The psalmists say that we should exalt the Lord because of His marvelous deeds.

  • If He has touched your life and changed you forever— Exalt His name!
  • If He has been faithful to you in all things— Exalt His name!
  • If He has healed you, delivered you, and kept you saved, healed and delivered—Exalt His name!

When we tell our story of life without and with Jesus, our testimony exalts His name.
It is no wonder that we overcome the wicked one by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

We exalt the Lord when we tell His story.
There is simply no story like His story, no story that enters into our story, no narrative that never ends, no epic that encounters the heart, and no saga that saves the soul like the story of Jesus.  It is the story of the Love of God.  We will never will the lost with arguments and demonstrations of excellence; the story of Jesus told with the anointing of the Spirit is the power of God unto salvation for all people.

When we elevate the cross of Christ, we are telling His story.
As the permanent symbol of our faith in Him, we dare not lift up a cross with Jesus dead or dying upon it for the Jesus story does end on that hill.  We must lift up an empty cross for it tells the whole of the Good News of the Gospel:

  • Incarnation,
  • Atonement,
  • Redemption,
  • Ascension, and
  • Everlasting Kingdom

We exalt Him when we tell the truth–The cross is empty!
God save us from a half-told story and a tragic and powerless Jesus pinned to the cross!  Jesus is the victor over death, hell, and the grave!

Today is a day for exaltation, not of ourselves but the exaltation of Jesus, His cross, His story, His love, His faithfulness, His truth, His character, and for all to hear, His lovely, holy name!

Scriptures:
Exodus 15:2
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Psalm 30: 34:1-3
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. …I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
John 12:32-34
But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
Psalm 99:5; 9
Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.
Psalm 107:31-32
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
Isaiah 25:1
O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I exalt You! I award the highest place in my mind to You. I claim the deepest place in my heart for You. Compared to Your throne in heaven, these things are pitiful and petty. Yet there are what I have to give. Remind me today that Your touch makes plain things beautiful, worthless things priceless, and weak things mighty. I will exalt You today with the word of my testimony. My work shall be worship. My words will be Your praise. My mind will welcome Your wisdom and my heart your compassion. With all of my being I will exalt You this day. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Song:
I Exalt Thee
Words and Music: Pete Sanchez Jr.

For Thou O Lord art high above all the earth.
Thou art exalted far above all gods.
For Thou O Lord art high above all the earth.
Thou art exalted far above all gods.

I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee, O Lord.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 3, 2017

Skillful

Many Christ-followers are confused about skill.
We who refer to the power of the Holy Spirit as “The Anointing,” are sometimes suspicious of skill on an almost subconscious level. The last thing we want to do is try to minister “in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit.” In a blaring contradiction we also seek out those who are skillful to learn their secrets and hopefully to emulate their successes. Often we pay lip service to skill while leaning heavily on the anointing. Other believers have no trouble with skill while they scratch their heads over this talk about the anointing.

The truth is the Kingdom of God is seldom a place of “either/or” and is most often a wonderful land of “both/and.”

Learning from King David
Turning to our leadership guide, Holy Scriptures, we can see that each force has its place. In Asaph’s wonderful history lesson we call Psalm 78, he concludes with this statement about his boss, King David. “…David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

King David functioned a like potter, skillfully molding a single peaceful Kingdom out of two waring ones. He was an administrator who recognized skillful leaders, put them in charge of their part of the work, and released them to do as their skills dictated.

It wasn’t foolproof. Sometimes it worked and at other times it failed.

  • He appointed skillful musicians in charge of planning and making music for the Tabernacle he pitched on Mt. Zion and soon the whole nation was singing the praises of God.
  • He commissioned the best cart-builders in his kingdom to make a cart to transport the Ark; a dead man was the result. God had a better plan that David had to discover.

Human skill is not the enemy of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In practical fact, they are partners.

There is a partnership between skill and anointing.
The errant theology that imagines a choice between skill and anointing springs from a poor definition of talent itself. Dictionaries refer to talent as a special, natural, innate aptitude. We often call skill talent: “He is a talented trumpet player,” and so on. What we really see is skill: talent developed into skill by discipline and preparation.

  • Talent, the ability to learn to do something, is God’s gift to us.
  • Skill, the ability to do something well, is our gift back to God.

So where does that leave us?

  • We must recognize the innate aptitudes God has given us.
  • We must find His will and get about the ongoing task of learning the skills required by that work.
  • We must always lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work.

Like King David on his second and successful attempt to bring up the Ark, we can know the joy of ministering in power of the Spirit. David laid aside his kingly robes and danced before the Lord with all his might wearing the linen garment of the priests. He was dancing both in the flesh and in the Spirit.

How skillful of him!

Scriptures:
Psalm 78:56-72 NKJV
Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God…When God heard this, He was furious, And greatly abhorred Israel, So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, And delivered His strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy’s hand. He also gave His people over to the sword, And was furious with His inheritance. …Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, Like a mighty man who shouts because of wine. And He beat back His enemies; He put them to a perpetual reproach. Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. And He built His sanctuary like the heights, Like the earth which He has established forever. He also chose David His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds; From following the ewes that had young He brought him, To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
1 Chronicles 15:22 NIV
Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.
Psalm 33:3 NIV
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
Galatians 3:3-4
Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
2 Corinthians 4:7-8 NKJV
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the talent You invested in me. Thank You for the wonderful grace of teachers and colleagues of similar giftings who have taught me over the years. If I have gained any skill, I offer it back to You in praise, worship, and obedience. Help me be evermore skillful in serving You. And when I have done my best, Lord, please add the power of Your Spirit to my art, to my obedience. Don’t let my music linger at the human level of entertainment or even art. Take it deeper into the spirit of those who hear me so that a spiritual work may be done. Let me live in this partnership of skill and anointing. All for You, Lord Jesus. All for You! Amen.

Song:
Anointing, Fall on Me
Words and Music: Donn Thomas

Anointing, fall on me. Anointing, fall on me.
Let the power of the Holy Ghost fall on me.

Touch my hands, my mouth and my heart.
Fill my life, Lord, every part.
Let the power of the Holy Ghost fall on me.
Anointing, fall on me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved