Pastor Jason's Blog
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October 18, 2017, 8:29 AM

Rejoice In The Lord

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

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… He has made everything beautiful in its time... I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (Eccles. 3:1, 4, 11-13).

Did you catch that? Laughing, dancing, being happy and finding satisfaction are gifts from God. A lot of Christians are busy and stressed and enduring hardship without understanding the joy that comes from God, but there aren’t any great Christians like that. The Bible is full of reasons to rejoice.

Do we need to be serious about following Jesus? Of course! Does that involve great sacrifices and constant discipline? Absolutely! But amid a fallen world filled with pain and disappointment, we can rest in the absolute certainty that Jesus is coming back. We can drink deeply from his grace and his extravagant promises. And we can enjoy the gifts of God both now and forever.

Solomon wrote about enjoying God’s gifts in Eccles. 5:19-20, “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” Does that describe you? Are you occupied with gladness of heart? Are you filled with contentment from simply being alive, knowing God loves you, and seeing the opportunities he’s placed before you? Or do you find yourself looking back with regret and looking forward with anxiety – busy and stressed, focused and driven, chasing after the happiness that never comes?

Notice that these questions aren’t about being productive, making an impact, or being “spiritual.” Those pursuits are certainly important, but they aren’t evidence of contentment and joy. They can easily turn into “chasing after the wind” (Eccles. 1:17). The real issue is whether you are deeply enjoying the life God has given you. If I asked your spouse, your best friend, your parents, or one of your children if you were a happy person – someone who really enjoys life – how would they answer?

Chip Ingram notes that great Christians are focused and disciplined, making great sacrifices and taking great risks. They get a lot done, but they’re also fun to be around. They know how to kick back and have a great time. They understand that joy is the serious business of heaven.

Let us join in prayer: Father, teach me to rejoice. Teach me that it does me no good to be so busy planning to earn bread for next week that I cannot enjoy what I am eating now. Do not let tomorrow rob me of the pleasure of today. Teach me to laugh, dance, be happy, and find satisfaction. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

October 11, 2017, 6:56 AM

All Of Me

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

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1-2).

Something happens when we hear a story of great sacrifice. It’s powerful and inspiring. It triggers a deep emotional response. There’s something about the Mother Teresas, Gandhis, and Martin Luther Kings of the world that stirs up higher, more noble dreams in us. It has always been this way; it’s just how God made us. Every culture honors those who gave their life for a cause. In the church, we still look back to the early Christians who suffered at the hands of Roman emperors. The world is full of statues commemorating the sacrifices people have made for something greater than themselves.

Why do we feel such a magnetic pull toward people who make great sacrifices? What is this mystical connection between our soul and the nobility of selfless acts? The answer, perhaps, is that sacrifice is the clearest and greatest evidence of the extent of one’s love and devotion toward a person, a cause, or a thing. The measure of our sacrifice demonstrates what matters most. When we’re truly devoted to someone or something, we’re willing to make sacrifices. C. Ingram writes, “If you want to know what you really love, all you have to do is notice where you’re giving your time, your energy, your money, and your dreams… We gladly spend ourselves on what we love.”

It’s not hard to see how that principle applies to being a follower of Jesus. Whatever we have to offer, it will naturally flow in the direction of our deepest affections. The degree of our sacrifice corresponds to the degree of our love. Great Christians demonstrate great love by making great sacrifices. The Apostle Paul was intimately familiar with this kind of sacrifice. He saw it as the appropriate response to God’s mercy and an act of true worship. “I urge you,” he wrote, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices… this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Did you notice the motivation for this act of worship? It’s “in view of God’s mercy” – a grateful response that acknowledges the worthiness of God for all that he has done for us. When Paul says “to offer” our bodies as a living sacrifice, the word literally means “to present” yourself. It’s the same word used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the offering presented by the priest at the altar of sacrifice. God wants us to offer ourselves. He doesn’t just want our job, our money, or our stuff. He wants us. All of us. The tense of the verb Paul chooses here implies a moment of decision when you say, “Lord, all that I am is yours.” It is an act of complete surrender to the lordship of Christ. When Jesus said to follow him (Luke 14:26-27), this is what he intended. So, are you all in for Jesus?

Let us join in prayer: Lord, all I am, all I have, and all I hope to be is placed in your loving hands. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

October 4, 2017, 7:47 AM

Radical Faith

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

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Every Christian’s life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand a radical step of faith in order to follow the will of Christ. The difference between a good and a great Christian life is not a matter of knowledge or pedigree but of a willingness to take a radical step of faith. In nearly every aspect of your relationship with him, the Lord will bring you to the edge of a decision at which point you’ll have to decide whether to leap in the direction he’s calling you or pull back to a place that seems safe.

That means you can be a good, moral person doing what’s expected of you – reading your Bible, going to church, being a responsible spouse and parent, serving your community – but if you’re not living by faith, you won’t be very pleasing to God. All of those consistent activities are wonderful; keep doing them. But if you’re playing it safe and staying away from the scary edge of faith, you won’t ultimately please God by fulfilling his awesome, mind-blowing purposes for your life.

Chip Ingram writes, “At a critical point in each aspect of life, you will have a decision to make that pits obedience against comfort or convenience. If it’s a financial decision, you may have to choose whether to start tithing or adjust your current standard of living. If it’s your marriage, you may have to choose whether to bare your soul in counseling or let old patterns of behavior keep your relationship in a state of mediocrity. If it’s your career, you may have to choose whether to step in the direction of the calling that has gripped your heart or stay where you have a better salary and a comfortable routine. And while you usually know which direction God wants you to choose, you also know most people will think you’re absolutely crazy for choosing his will. So in addition to your comfort and convenience, you also risk your reputation – at least with some people.”

To be clear, sometimes the people who are closest to you will think you’re nuts for following God. They’ll say things like, “Why would you take your family so far away?” Or, “You’re ruining your career.” Or, “If you give all that money to your church, you won’t be able to pay your bills.” If you’re not careful, the negative words of people will eventually sound louder than the voice of God. Just remember that where there’s no risk, there’s no faith; where there’s no faith, there’s no power or joy or intimacy with God. And, ultimately, where there’s no faith, you end up with hollow religious activity, moralistic rules, and dead orthodoxy. Therefore, God calls us to live by radical faith!

Let us join in prayer: Lord, let me live only to love you, serve you in full obedience, and glorify your holy name. Give me the strength and courage to take radical steps of faith for You. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 27, 2017, 8:04 AM

Dream Big

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

“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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Acts 2:17-18a).

Great accomplishments usually begin with the pursuit of a dream. The future is shaped by the visions held dear in our hearts. There is tremendous power in a dream. When you believe a picture of the future, and that picture bleeds out of your heart – not because you have to or ought to accomplish it, but because you intensely want to – it blows wind in your sails and directs the course of your life. Believe it or not, it can also direct the course of history.

Quite a few dreams have done that, both positively and negatively. Chip Ingram notes, “Alexander the Great dreamed of ruling the world, and his conquests have shaped Western civilization forever. (Our New Testament, for example, is written in Greek because of his empire’s expansion.) Persecuted Christians and political malcontents dreamed of a land of protection and freedom, and their colonial territories in the Americas have flourished... Hitler dreamed of establishing the superiority of his race, and the resulting war devastated half the world, deeply scarred the Jewish people, and shaped the political landscape to this day. Martin Luther King dreamed of a society without racism, and his efforts helped define a movement that radically altered American culture for the better. (It’s no coincidence that King’s greatest speech is best known for this one phrase: ‘I have a dream.’)”

A dream, whether for good or for evil, whether of an individual or a group, can be a mighty influence. We see the same dynamic in church history. Paul dreamed of preaching Christ before philosophers and emperors, and the church spread throughout Asia and Europe. Hudson Taylor dreamed of reaching China’s interior with the gospel, and the underground Chinese church is flourishing today. Dwight Moody had a dream for the youth of Chicago and ended up launching a church, establishing a network of schools, and cultivation an evangelistic movement. Phineas F. Bresee dreamed of ministering to the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized of Los Angeles with a powerful message of hope and holiness in Christ, and the Church of the Nazarene was born. Those are just a few examples among the many throughout history. Great works almost always begin with great dreams.

What is your dream? It doesn’t matter if you’re seven or seventy-seven; your heart should be captivated by a vision of how to serve God and accomplish something great for his kingdom.

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, give us your Holy Spirit that we may learn what your eternal will is and frame our whole lives in obedience to it, to your honor and glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 20, 2017, 7:39 AM

Freedom in Christ

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

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ… When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations… He took it away, nailing it to the cross… Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, 13-17).

The grace of God has two dimensions. One dimension is the forgiveness of sins. The other is, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We receive the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, one who has the new heart doesn’t need any law because the Holy Spirit makes the law unnecessary. This is why Jesus said that all the law and the prophets are fulfilled in one word, love.

Paul explained, “For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). In other words, when we are filled with the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit causes us to do what the law aimed at, plus a great deal more. This makes the law unnecessary!

N. T. Wright declares, “All you need is Christ, the king. Hold fast to him and you’ll have all you need. He is the head of the ‘body’, as Paul said already in 1:18. The body gets its life from the head, through what it thinks, sees, smells, hears, eats and drinks. In the same way, the body which is the church is nourished and sustained, in all its joints, muscles and ligaments, not by embracing this or that new teaching, but by holding fast to the Head. Can you sense the sigh of relief the Colossians may have experienced on being reassured that they were already complete in Christ and didn’t need anything else, just more of what they already had? Have you ever come under pressure to ‘add’ to your Christian experience? Do you know the same sigh of relief yourself?”

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, my life, in so many ways and at so many places, seems shackled and bound. Help me to find freedom and liberty in you this day. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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