Pastor Jason's Blog
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March 7, 2018, 8:11 AM

The Fear of God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Who among you fears the Lord? (Isaiah 50:10a)

Perhaps no Christian discipline is as forgotten as the idea of living in “fear of the Lord.” We are living in what has become a “no fear culture.” A couple of generations have basically grown up without any moral absolutes. The rampant relativism that has resulted feeds the “no fear” mind-set. This bankrupt ideology even launched an apparel brand that was simply called: No Fear. Tragically, even the church can be a place of no fear. Instead of the church influencing culture, all too often the culture slips into the church. And now we find ourselves living in a “no fear culture” where the thought of living in the fear of God is forgotten. Thus, Isaiah’s question is as relevant today as it was more than twenty-five-hundred years ago: “Who among you fears the Lord?” (Isaiah 50:10a).

Without having God on the throne, without having a priority to honor and glorify Him, without living in a spiritually healthy fear of Him, we are allowing the New Testament gospel to be pushed aside by the New Trendy gospel. The New Testament gospel emphasizes self-denial, but the New Trendy gospel emphasizes self-fulfillment. The New Testament gospel is focused on Christ and His life, death, resurrection, and plan for man’s redemption, but the New Trendy gospel is focused on man and his desire for comfort. The question of Isaiah will never be asked among those with a trendy mind-set.

However, a thread woven throughout the fabric of the Bible is this: every man and woman used of God walked in the fear of the Lord. Noah was “moved with godly fear” as he built the ark (Heb. 11:7). The Proverbs 31 woman “fears the Lord” (v. 30). The same is true in the gospels. The young virgin Mary praised God, whose “mercy is on those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50). In Acts, the fear of the Lord is mentioned on practically every page. We read that the community birthed at Pentecost, for instance, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…. Then fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:42-43). The epistles are filled with the same theme. Paul said we are to submit to one another “in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). And, finally, in Revelation, John told of a loud voice coming from the throne, saying, “Praise God, all you His servants and those who fear Him!” (Rev. 19:5).

So, what does it mean to live in the fear of God? Does fearing the Lord mean living in a constant state of fright or concern that if we say something or do something wrong, God will zap us with some big bolt of retribution? Nothing could be further from the biblical truth. The most common biblical word for fear means to stand in awe before God with such reverence and respect that this holy awe becomes the controlling motivation of our lives. Fearing God is to live with the conscious awareness of His presence and wanting to do nothing that might cause God to remove His hand of blessing and anointing from us. Living with that awareness makes an incredible difference in what we do, what we say, where we go, and how we live. Therefore, I ask again, “Who among you fears the Lord?”

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, we pray that our hearts would learn how to rightfully fear you. We bow before you. We surrender our hearts to you. We put you first, Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 28, 2018, 9:17 AM

Is It Right For You To Be Angry?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry? (Jonah 4:4)

When 17th-century British leader Oliver Cromwell sat for his official portrait, the one that would display his likeness for all future generations, he instructed the artist to pain him just as he saw him, “warts and all.” Since that day, the expression “warts and all” has been used to refer to a true representation of a person, to reveal the weaknesses as well as the good points. Jonah, the runaway prophet, concluded his small book in the Bible by doing this very thing in chpt. 4. Most of us, had we been writing this book about ourselves, would probably have closed with chpt. 3’s account of the mighty outpouring of revival upon the city of Nineveh. But Jonah didn’t. He added another chapter and included God’s rebuke: “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah’s wart was his spirit of resentment: he could not tolerate the fact that the Ninevites had received God’s blessings. So Jonah went outside the city and fumed with resentment. He lost all sense of perspective and wallowed in his own anger. Such anger and resentment can have devastating and destructive effects on us.

First, resentment destroys our peace. One would think that after all Jonah had been through, he would praise God for sending revival to the people of Nineveh. Instead, we read that God’s mercy “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (4:1). The word angry here means “to burn.” Jonah was fuming: smoke was pouring out his ears. Harboring resentment and anger takes away our own peace of heart.

Second, resentment diverts us from our purpose. Jonah’s pride was hurt because he felt God had discredited him. He became so self-centered that twice in chpt. 4 he said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (vv. 3, 8). His anger caused him to make decisions on a what’s-best-for-me basis. No longer was he concerned about God’s purposes in his life or in the lives of the Ninevites.

Third, resentment diminishes our productivity. Twice we read that Jonah sat down (4:5). Before, we found him taking God’s message to the streets, obeying God’s commands, and powerfully preaching His message. Yet in the aftermath we find him just sitting on a hill outside the city, half hoping it will fall. Resentment has its way of robbing us of our productivity and sense of purpose. We lose our sense of mission.

Fourth, resentment distorts our perspective. Because of his anger and resentment, Jonah lost his perspective on the goodness of the Nineveh revival. Jonah became obsessed with complaints about a small plant that gave him shade and then withered (4:6-8). It seemed that Jonah could not have cared less about the thousands of people in Nineveh who had just repented of their sin. For Jonah to sulk about a vine at a time such as this was sheer folly, but this is what resentment will do. It shifts our values and make us focus on ourselves.

Thus, God went to Jonah and asked, “Is it right for you to be angry? …Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (4:11). Jonah’s story ends there. Without ever knowing how he responded to God’s inquiry. Did Jonah carry his anger and resentment to the grave? More importantly, what will we do with any such feelings that sneak in on us?

Let us join in prayer: Father, thank you for your mercy and grace. Help me extend it to others. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 21, 2018, 7:11 AM

Jesus Is ______.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Matthew 16:13-15)

Leadership books are a dime a dozen today. Everyone has an angle. Some authors offer a key to effective leadership. Many writers have come up with a catchy title. But, basically, leaders fall into one of two categories: those who lead according to public consensus, and those who lead based on personal convictions. Those who lead according to public opinion wait until the polling data is in so they can see their constituent’s thoughts on a certain issue. Once they have this information, then – and usually only then – will they take a stand on an issue. In contrast are those individuals who lead based on personal conviction. Deep in the fiber of their being, they have convictions about what is right and what is wrong, and those convictions dictate their leadership decisions.

It was on this very point that our Lord took His disciples away from the Galilean crowds. Thousands of people had flocked to them on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, and they had been expending themselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Thus, Jesus marched them twenty-five miles north, all the way up the foothills of Mt Hermon, to the headwaters of the Jordan River. There, around a fire, they engaged in a conversation about true leadership and faith in Him.

First, our Lord asked the question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” This is a question about public opinion. This is a question of public consensus. Then He asked His disciples another question. He asked them a question of personal conviction. Jesus’ second question was personal and direct. “Who do you say that I am?” In the language of the New Testament, the “you” is emphatic: its placement at the front of the sentence gives it significance and weight. Had we been there listening to our Lord that evening, Jesus’ question would have sounded more like this: “What about you, you and you only, you and no one else, you and you alone – who do you say that I am?”

In our pluralistic culture, to say that Christ is the one and only way to heaven is akin to waving a red cape in front of a raging bull. We set ourselves up for attack when we state that Jesus is indeed the one and only way to heaven. Yet that is the truth, and we need to follow Simon Peter’s example. When our Lord asked this question, Peter immediately replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Following our Lord’s example, Peter used the emphatic you and said, “You, Lord, and You alone, You and there is absolutely no possibility of anyone else, You are the one and only Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter made this power declaration amid a pluralistic culture that was very similar to our own. What about us? What stand will we take when people ask us who Jesus is?

Let us join in prayer: Enable us, O Lord, to walk before you in holiness and righteousness to Your praise and glory. Strengthen our resolve and help us to take a stand for You. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 14, 2018, 7:01 AM

A Change of Direction

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.’ (Acts 2:37-38)

Often in the Christian experience, it is not that we don’t want to do the right thing, we simply don’t know what the right thing is to do. The question found in Acts 2:37 came in response to Peter’s proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the day when Pentecost marked the coming of the Holy Spirit. Upon hearing of the death burial, and resurrection of Jesus, people felt convicted of their sins, their “hearts were cut,” and they cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter’s pointed yet poignant one-word response was “Repent” (v. 38). Now if there was ever a lost word in our twenty-first century Christian vocabulary and the modern era of positive preaching, repentance is the forgotten word!

Although too often relegated to a dusty shelf today, repentance was the central theme of our Lord’s message. Jesus started His ministry with this theme: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17). Jesus continued to share this message in His ministry: “I tell you… unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). And Jesus concluded His ministry with that same truth: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…” (Luke 24:46-47). Sadly, repentance is among the most misunderstood and, I daresay, most ignored disciplines of the Christian life. So, what is it?

Repentance is not remorse. Repentance is not simply being sorry that we have sinned – or that we’ve been caught in our sins. Repentance is not regret. Repentance is not merely wishing the deed had never happened and regretting it. Repentance is not resolve. All of us have made New Year’s resolutions. Most of us have resolved at one time or another to, for instance, strive to live by a new set of moral standards.  We want to live life on a higher plan, but we often fail to do so because we are attempting to substitute resolve for genuine repentance. Repentance is not reform. Repentance is not simply turning over a new leaf and trying hard to reform one’s ways. So, “What shall we do?”

The Greek word translated “repent” simply means to change one’s mind. The genuine change of mind is always evidenced in three ways. First comes a new attitude. Repentance begins intellectually with a change of mind. After this occurs, we experience a change of heart, a change of affections. A change in our will, our volition, will follow, and that is evident in a change of action. Therefore, the grace of God finds us in the dark and leads us to repentance. In response, “What shall we do?” Believe upon Christ, set your mind on Him and your heart will follow, and then your actions will also.

Let us join in prayer: Dear Lord, grant me absolution and remission for all my sins, true repentance, amendment of life and the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 7, 2018, 8:52 AM

Robbing God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“‘…Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you say, “How shall we return?” Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me…’” (Malachi 3:7-10)

Suppose you asked me to write your biography. And suppose I had access to only one of your personal items to try to determine what was really at the heart of your life. I wouldn’t ask to see your diary, or your prayer journal, or even your Bible, though I might find personal notes and insights you’ve jotted down through the years. If I could use only one personal item to help me write your biography, I would choose your bank statement. Your canceled checks and debits would reveal more to me about what mattered to you. After all, Jesus’ teaching from two thousand years ago still applies to us today, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

The Lord calls us to be aware of where we are investing the gifts He gives us. So, through the prophet Malachi, the Lord asked this intensely personal question: Will a man rob God?And God immediately answered His own question: Yet you have robbed Me . . . in tithes and offerings! This is a strong accusation. When we don’t return to God what is His, it’s as though we’re robbing Him personally. Jesus Himself instructed us to “render . . . to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Most Christians would never entertain the thought of not paying their property taxes, sales taxes, or income taxes: they know this rendering to Caesar what belongs to him is right and good and required. And yet an alarming number of Jesus’ professed followers seldom, if ever, render to God the things that are God’s . . . and in the process they rob Him.

God says, “You have robbed Me.” We answer with a question: “In what way have we robbed You?” In a flash comes his reply: “in tithes” (giving 10% of our income) “and offerings” (gifts beyond the tithe). Some Christians believe the tithe is an Old Testament command with no bearing on us because we’re not under the Law. The reality is that the tithe existed among God’s people before the Law was given (Gen. 14:20). Later, when the Law was given, tithing was included (Lev. 27:30). In the New Testament we find Jesus both approving of and practicing the tithe (Matt. 23:23). Tithing is a constant practice of God’s people before, during and after the Law. Personally, I have not understood, in light of the cross, why anyone under grace would give less than those under the law. Not to mention the beautiful promise that’s tied to tithing. God says, Test me in this 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” (Malachi 3:10).

As far-fetched as it may seem, our finances generally mark the condition of our spiritual pilgrimage. We are often no further along in our walk with God than the point where we have learned to trust Him with our tithes and offerings. So, it’s worth a check-up, what do our bank statements reveal?

Let us join in prayer: Loving Father, considering your Son, help us to be cheerful givers. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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