Pastor Jason's Blog
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May 3, 2017, 8:12 AM

The Prayer Closet

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

“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.’” (Matthew 6:5-6)

If prayer is the greatest achievement on earth, we may be sure it will call for a discipline that corresponds to its power. Being with Christ in the School of Prayer has its conditions and demands. It is a forbidden place to all but those of set purpose and resolute heart. The discipline curbs freedom, and drills the mind to attention. The reason so many people do not pray is because of its cost. Spending time alone with God in prayer is hard work.

Samuel Chadwick writes, “The cost is not so much in the sweat of agonizing supplication as in the daily fidelity to the life of prayer. It is the acid test of devotion. Nothing in the life of faith is so difficult to maintain... The School of Prayer is for those who really want to learn to pray.”

Those who come to learn from Jesus how to pray are true disciples. They put themselves under the yoke of Him from whom they seek to learn, and the first condition of learning is a teachable spirit. Our Lord has the authority to teach, and He Himself is Example as well as Instructor. There is no appeal beyond Him. Having asked Him to teach us how to pray, we surrender mind and heart to His teaching and yield all to the discipline of loyal and believing obedience.

Therefore, what does our Lord teach regarding prayer? One of the first things he commands is that there shall be a place of prayer. It is quite true that the whole earth is the Lord’s, and that there is no place where prayer may not be heard. Yes, God wills that we should pray everywhere. So, why does He insist upon this inner chamber and the closed door? In short, God requires authentic prayer. Hypocrites never pray in secret. Prayers that are a mere pretense require an audience. They are intended to be heard by others and they have their reward in skill of phrasing. These things do not count with God. Prayer must be offered genuinely from one’s heart to God. This does not preclude us from times of corporate prayer. Yet, neither do times of corporate prayer free us from the call to time alone in our prayer closets with God.

Let us pray together: Gracious Father of infinite love, enter and fill me and take control of every area of my life. Let my mind be as transparent as a window for letting your truth shine through. May I never be found guilty of neglecting my daily time alone with You. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 26, 2017, 8:58 AM

Teach Us To Pray

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

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1)

Can prayer be learned? Is it not of the very soul of prayer that it shall be offered in the freedom of the Spirit? Yet, John the Baptist gave his disciples a form of prayer, and the disciples of Jesus asked to be taught to pray. There were not many things they asked Him to do for them, and when they did, they were usually wrong. I wonder: Would He have given them a form of prayer if they had not asked Him? Why did they ask? In short, His own praying awoke within them a desire to pray, and when they wanted to pray they found they did not pray like Him.

The disciples felt the need of some ordered form by which they could speak out of their heart to God. Forms are easier than a creative spirit. Such praying, as those found in prayer books, help the inarticulate to expression. Such praying may be perfectly sincere, and the devout may find in provided prayers a real help to devotion, and it may be that such praying may need to be learned at the feet of instructors. For, the reality is, all praying begins with forms of prayer – such a prayer is offered below. And there is hardly a soul who does not remember the simple, earnest prayers repeated at the mother’s knee with reverent wonder and joy.

Yet, while there is a time to learn and repeat those prayers which have been authored by others, there is also a call for us to sincerely poor out our own hearts to God. The secret of Elijah’s power in prayer (James 5:17-18) was that he “prayed in his prayer.” That is the translation given in the Authorized Version. The NIV says, “He prayed earnestly.” The ESV declares He prayed “fervently.” The Greek text literally states that he prayed with prayer; he prayed in his prayer. That is to say, he really prayed his prayers. He did not say prayers; he prayed in praying. His whole personality was in his supplication. He fervently meant what he said. Can that kind of prayer be taught? And do we really offer those kinds of prayers?

It is the fervent, earnest prayer that prevails. Prayers are measured neither by time, length, nor by number, but by intensity. Psalm 63:1 declares, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

Let us pray together: Gracious Father, thank You for the stirrings in my mind and the longings in my heart. They are a sure evidence that You are calling me into prayer. Help me to live out Your calling to genuine, personal, humble prayer and communion with You today. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 19, 2017, 9:09 AM

God and Prayer are Inseperable

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

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7)

All religions pray. God and prayer are inseparable. Belief in God and belief in prayer are elemental and intuitive. The ideas may be crude and cruel in some primitive parts of the world, but they belong to the universal intuitions of humanity. The teachings of the Old Testament is full of the subject of prayer. Everywhere you turn there are commands and encouragements to pray, and the great stories of deliverance and victory, experience and vision, are all examples of prevailing prayer.

In the New Testament, all the crisis in the life of our Lord were linked with special seasons of prayer, and His teaching set forth wonderful assurances to those who pray. He laid down the laws of prayer, though He never sought to explain its mystery. Prayer was not a problem to Him. Yet, the two parables He told about prayer are not very acceptable to those who pray. There is something alien to the spirit of prayer in likening God to a heartless judge (Luke 18:1-8) or a sleepy friend that doesn’t want to be bothered (Luke 11:5-13). God is neither. Those two parables were not spoke as representative of God, but to illustrate the reward of persistence.

The basis of prayer is our sonship. Prayer is possible and reasonable because it is familial. It is natural for a child to ask of its father, and it is reasonable for the father to listen to the request of his child – especially a good and persistent child. In Matthew 7:9-11 Jesus declared, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Samuel Chadwick has written, “There are many problems about prayer, but the lie outside the fact and experience of prayer, and apart from praying there is no solution of them. Prayer is a fact of experience, and though all the ages the testimony of those who prayed has been that God hears and answers the prayer of His children.”

Let us pray together: Gracious Father, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 12, 2017, 8:04 AM

As I Have Loved You

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

Many times the last thing a person says before he or she dies takes on a very special significance. It is as if the very essence of that individual is somehow summed up and compacted into a single message. I imagine this is how the earliest disciples felt about the last words of Christ. During their final meal, they were all at the table with Jesus. And then came those final words, "A new commandment I give to you; love one another" (John 13:34a).

There is actually nothing original or new in the mandate to “Love one another.” This commandment goes back much, much further than the Last Supper. It is a constant theme in the Old Testament. And Jesus had certainly repeated those words during his earthly ministry. What, then, was so special or nuanced about this final mandate? I believe it was the qualifying phrase that Jesus added. He said they were to love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34b). In other words, the unique way Jesus had incarnated the ancient ideal was to become the pattern of how His followers loved one another. So, "How did this One, who became what we are, so that we could understand more fully who God is, actually love?"

St. Augustine gives us two clues as to how Jesus loved. He once observed that Jesus loved each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world to love. Jesus never failed to focus on the unique in each human being. Second, Jesus loved all as he loved each. The way he loved was not only individualized, but it was also incredibly universal. Jesus was never filled with contempt or disdain. Even when the words Jesus spoke assumed a note of harshness, it was because of a concern he felt for those he addressed. They were never words of hatred. We must never forget that the opposite of love is not anger or hostility but indifference. Jesus never turned away from another as if what happened to that one made no difference to him.

St. Augustine's words are a wonderful description of that unique way Jesus loved and invites us now to love one another. He loved each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world to love, and he loved all as he loved each. Additionally, the good news for every one of us to hear today is not only that we are loved by God in this marvelous way, but also that this is our deepest identity and is a way we can choose – by the power of God’s Holy Spirit – to live our lives. You and I, with the help of God's unfailing grace, can grow into the wonder of loving each one as if there is none other in all the world to love and loving all as we love each.

Let us pray together: O God, thank you for giving your Son as atoning sacrifice for my sins. May your perfect love for me move and challenge me to be a person of perfect love for others.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 5, 2017, 10:57 AM

Who Loved Me!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May His matchless love overwhelm you today! May His love fill and flow out of you always. Unfortunately, some of us never get beyond the vague notion of a benevolent power working in and through the world. God’s Word expresses a more satisfying viewpoint as it sets forth the love of God in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:20c declares, “…the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Scripture reminds us that love is individual. “Who loved me” – we could never be content with a love that had no focus. A good will that is so infinitely diffused that it touches everywhere in general and fails to touch anywhere in particular is no more than sentiment. Love is a real, measurable, comprehensible thing. A ray of light can be analyzed. It is composed of several distinct and recognizable colors – red, violet, orange, etc. Likewise, love can be resolved into its constituents and shown to include such elements as sympathy, yearning, and goodwill. If these do not show themselves, we may conclude we’re dealing with something other than real love.

A love that is not specific and personal can never meet man’s deeper spiritual cravings. A love that cannot in its last analysis be reduced to an individual regard for me – and a pity for me, and a goodwill toward me, and a willingness to suffer and sacrifice for me – is not the love that my soul longs for and requires. This truth is illustrated in our relations with each other. A young man is said to “fall in love” with a girl. That means he cherishes for her a special affection and partiality. A general goodwill and kindliness would never serve as strong enough motive for being joined in wedlock. Love must be individual and exclusive, or it will never warrant the sympathies and toils and sacrifices which the marriage relationship requires.

So it is with the love of God in Jesus Christ. It is infinitely general, and yet at the same time intensely specific. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). “Who loved me and gave himself for me.” As previously noted, love may be analyzed and shown to include various elements. The cross is the prism that accomplishes this wondrous analysis. Through the cross we see divine compassion, forgiveness and self-sacrifice in action. Let it sink in: You are truly loved by the Father! And “love so amazing, so divine” deserves our truest, most tender devotion in return (2 Corinthians 5:15). May it be so!

Let us pray together: O God, you are the Giver of all good gifts. I desire to praise your name for all the expressions of your love for me, for giving your Son to die for my sins, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. May I receive and reflect your love today. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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