Pastor Jason's Blog
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April 11, 2018, 7:29 AM

Do You Love Me?

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

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ (John 21:15a)

What do you do when you’ve blown it? Simon Peter had been so proud when he boasted that he would never betray the Lord (Matt. 26:31-35), but Peter’s pride inevitably turned to shame: he did betray Jesus. For several days Peter’s disappointment in himself had been playing over and over in his mind. How he wished he could go back in time!

So, what do you do when you’ve failed? Do you find something to occupy yourself, to take your mind off your failure? That’s what Peter and a half-dozen other disciples did – they went fishing. All night they fished . . . with absolutely zero success. At morning light they heard a familiar voice from the nearby shore: “Throw your net on the right of the boat and you will find some” (21:6). They did – and they did! Peter, always the impulsive one, didn’t wait for the others. He plunged into the sea, swam to shore, and saw the crucified and risen Lord . . . alive! Together they had breakfast on the beach. Jesus looked at him and asked, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?” (v. 15).

How one answers this question is most important issue of life. For Simon Peter, this day marked a new beginning. Coming to grips with this question enabled him to realize his potential, which he had lost sight of after his devastating failure, after he had denied knowing his Savior. This question enabled Peter to recognize anew his purpose and to realign his priorities. A fresh encounter with the Lord Jesus will bring a new beginning to any of us who come face-to-face with the question, “Do you love Me more than these?” It is never too late for a new beginning. Just ask Simon Peter.

The bottom line for Peter – and for us – is whether we truly love the Lord Jesus. He still asks us today, “Do you love Me?” After all, as Jesus stated in the Great Commandment, loving the Lord Jesus is our primary purpose in life (Matt. 22:37-38). But what strikes me about this encounter between the Lord and His sometimes follower is not just what Jesus said, but what He didn’t say. He didn’t say to Peter, “Some friend you turned out to be. I had you figured all wrong. You are just all talk. You failed. You let Me down after boasting so often and so loudly about how faithful you would be at the crisis hour.” No, Jesus looked at Peter and simply asked, “Do you love Me?” Three times in rapid succession, He asked to same question. He was giving Peter three opportunities to counter his three denials that he even knew Jesus, statements he had proclaimed at dawn a few days earlier. It was a new day!

Loving Jesus is our primary purpose and doing so affects all other issues in life for our good and His glory. Fresh encounters with the living Christ will enable us not simply to realize the potential that is locked within us, but also to recognize afresh and anew our primary purpose in life. It is never too late for a new beginning! The Lord is still waiting on the shore. Do you truly love Him?

Let us join in prayer: Loving Father, take my lips and speak through them; take my mind, and think through it; take my heart, and set it on fire. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 4, 2018, 8:10 AM

Heavenly Heart Burn

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

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. (Luke 24:13-17)

For three years Christ’s disciples had followed Him, learned from Him, and ministered with Him when suddenly this season came to an abrupt and crashing conclusion: Jesus had been viciously executed and His body thrown into the darkness of a tomb. All His disciples had forsaken Him and fled, making their way back to their respective homes. Two of those followers headed home to Emmaus, a village seven miles west of Jerusalem. As they began their journey, their walk toward the sunset was descriptive of their emotions. As they walked, they said to each other, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21). But they had buried that hope in the damp, dark tomb.

Then suddenly the resurrected “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them,” but they “did not know Him” (24:15-16). After this incredible encounter, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and he vanished from their sight” (24:31). And their response? “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (24:32). O. S. Hawkins has stated that we pride ourselves on our brilliant minds: many know the nuances of theological truths. We pride ourselves on our benevolent hands: commendable social actions abound. But what we really need are burning hearts that only come when we listen to Him on the road. How can we acquire this heavenly heart burn? The answer is the same for us as it was for those two men walking to Emmaus. We must listen as Jesus speaks to us by His Spirit and His Word.

The disciples revealed their hearts were on fire because “He talked with us along the road.” Jesus did the talking! They poured out their disappointment, and then they listened. Their hearts didn’t burn when they talked. The two were still feeling sad and dejected. Likewise, many people today talk to Jesus in prayer, and they finish as disappointed and depressed as when they began because they have one-sided conversations. Their hearts were set on fire when they stopped talking and started listening to Jesus through His Spirit.

These two disciples’ cold hearts were set on fire when Jesus revealed the meaning of the Scriptures to them. The Bible is a sealed book until Jesus’ Spirit opens it to us. Those who do not know God can gain head knowledge about Him from the Bible, but they can never gain spiritual knowledge. As they journeyed together Jesus “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (24:27). The word expound suggests translating something out of a foreign language, and the Bible is like a foreign language to anyone who does not walk in the spirit of Christ. We must listen as Jesus speaks to us through His Spirit and His Word.

Perhaps you are walking, as these two disciples were, with hopes dashed and dreams smashed. Stop. Look. Listen to Jesus’ Spirit through His Scriptures. And you too just might walk away with your own heart burning within you.

Let us join in prayer: Dear Lord, let me open my heart and will to your healing, cleansing power. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 28, 2018, 7:48 AM

Watch and Pray

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

“Then [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ …. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ (Matthew 26:40-41)

For three years Jesus had spent virtually every hour with His small group of disciples. They had listened to Him speak the greatest words of truth and life ever spoken, and they saw Him practice perfectly everything He preached. They had watched Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and walk on water. He had poured Himself into them, preparing them to take His gospel to the whole world. Now, the midnight hour had finally arrived, and the time to step forward as the perfect Lamb of God had come. Into the darkness of Gethsemane’s garden He took Peter, James and John. They clearly saw on His face that “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (26:37). Jesus even admitted to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (26:38). Jesus, who had already done so much for His disciples, made this simple request in the hour of His greatest need.

Knowing His death was but hours away, Jesus went only a few steps before He dropped to the ground and started to pray: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (26:39). After a while, Jesus returned to the disciples – and they were sound asleep. Can you believe it? Asleep . . . and in His greatest hour of need. Then came from Jesus’ mouth this piercing question: “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (26:40).

Upon hearing this, the disciples undoubtedly thought of the words of the prophet Isaiah. Seven hundred years earlier Isaiah had spoken of the importance of watching and praying. In the ancient days, watchmen were posted on the city walls twenty-four hours a day. Watching for any trouble, they provided security to the people. They had divine assignments. They were never to be silent “day or night.” Likewise, Peter, James, and John had the opportunity to provide Jesus with physical security as well as the spiritual security during this hour that He prayed. The disciples could have alerted Jesus to anyone entering Gethsemane, and more importantly, the disciples could have prayed for strength, courage, and peace. But the disciples did neither; they slept.

Listen again to the sorrow in Jesus’ question: “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” Isn’t it time we who name Jesus as our Savior and Lord took seriously this question? When, in so many places, the heart of the church has turned to stone and the pulpit is simply a dispensary of human thought; when so many of our educational systems are citadels of anti-Christian propaganda and blatant humanism; when the media loudly and persistently calls our children to godless lifestyles; when too many believers are quietly tolerating a dying civilization; and when at least some of us are hearing our Savior ask, “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” – when all this is happening, isn’t it time for us to watch, to pray, and to cry out to God like Isaiah, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!” (Isaiah 64:1).

Let us join in prayer: Father, keep us alert and prayerful. May we not fall into temptation. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 21, 2018, 8:05 AM

Do You Believe This?

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

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever live and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26)

It was a sad and somber day in Bethany as Jesus stood in the midst of the brokenhearted family and friends at the grave of Lazarus. From His lips came an astonishing claim: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26a). Then Jesus looked into their faces – just as He looks into our hearts – and asked life’s bottom-line question: “Do you believe this?” (v. 26b). The resurrection is what sets our Lord apart from a thousand other gurus and self-proclaimed prophets who have come along through the centuries. The question, “Do you believe this?” is what drives any responsible hearer to either accept or reject the Christian faith.

Since we obviously have no audio recordings or videos of our Lord’s words, it causes one to wonder what words Jesus emphasized in His question. Perhaps Jesus emphasized the you in order to drive home the fact that one’s salvation is a very personal and individual matter: “Do you believe this?” When it comes to saving faith in the finished work of Christ, what matters is not what my mother or father, husband or wife, or anyone else believes. It is a personal matter. I have known some who pinned all their hopes of eternal life on someone else’s faith as though they might eventually benefit by some sort of spiritual osmosis. Yet, the real question, however, is “Do you believe this?”

It could be that He emphasized the word believe and asked it thus: “Do you believe this?” He was not asking his hearers if they were giving intellectual assent to his claims. He wanted to know if they would actually put their total trust and faith in His words. It is one thing to know the gospel story intellectually. It is one thing to attempt to conform ourselves to the resurrection by trying to take up a new set of moral standards externally. It is even one thing to reason and argue in the defense of the gospel. But the real issue for Jesus was – and is – one of faith: “Do you believe this?”

Or, it may well be that Jesus placed the emphasis on the last word in the question: “Do you believe this?” Do we believe what? Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die! Do you believe this?” Do you believe this – Jesus’ claim to deity? Using the words “I am” captured the attention of those around Him. When Moses asked the voice from the burning bush to reveal His name, God simply instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:13-14). When Jesus said, “I am,” all those listening recognized it to be an affirmation of His deity. The most fundamental belief of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth is God Himself. “Do you believe this?” There are lots of questions in life. But there is only one big question in death: “Do you believe this?” You can settle the answer now, once and for all, by joining Martha in her response: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27).

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the hope of eternal life I have in Jesus. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 14, 2018, 7:44 AM

Do Not Worry

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

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it will never get you anywhere! Our pressure-packed world offers countless opportunities for anxiety, anguish, and worry. No wonder many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worrying. Friends, God does not merely frown upon worry; as O.S. Hawkins points out, He expressly forbids us to worry. With this in mind, the following four principles may help us more easily resist the forbidden fruit of worry.

1. It’s foolish to worry. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus encouraged us to look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant crops or gather a harvest. They don’t build barns or storehouses. The Father simply feeds them, a fact that prompted Jesus to ask His listeners. “Are you not of more value than they?” (6:26). Instead of using a great soaring bald eagle to illustrate this truth, Jesus spoke of the little field sparrows: “Not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father” (10:29). These tiny birds – two were sold for a single copper coin – are vastly inferior and of far less value than you and I. So, it makes sense that our Sovereign Lord, who provides for the birds, will also provide for our needs.

2. It is futile to worry. Not only is it sheer folly to worry, it is also futile. To help us realize this, Jesus asked, “Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27). The psalmist reminded us that our days on earth were already numbered before we lived a single one of them or drew a single breath (Psalm 139:16). So, what will worry do for you? Absolutely nothing! Worrying has never solved a single problem. In fact, it has complicated and compounded many of them.

3. It is frustrating to worry. In Matthew 6, Jesus turns our attention to the lilies growing wild in the fields that “neither toil nor spin” (v. 28). They don’t punch a time clock or worry about how they look or what they wear. Specifically, he calls us to “consider… how they grow.” Growth remains something of a mystery: How does a tiny seed ultimately become a beautiful flower? How does a speck of protoplasm, undetected by the human eye, become a human being with all the intricacies of a circulatory system, respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system, and the like? Jesus wanted us to remember that the same God of glory who watches over those lilies watches over you and me. Focus on Him. Worry will never take you anywhere except to frustration.

4. It is faithless to worry. Jesus was very direct: “If God so clothes the grass of the field… will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30). This gentle rebuke reminds us that worry is a lack of faith in God’s promise to protect and provide for His people. The real test of our spiritual maturity is not so much our actions as our reactions. Worry is not just foolish, futile, and frustrating. The most damaging aspect of worry is that it reveals our lack of trust in God and His promises.

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving and creating me. Help me to trust you through all the seasons of life. Teach me not to be anxious about anything. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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