Pastor Jason's Blog
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January 11, 2017, 12:00 AM

Making Space

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful start to the new year. I am excited about all that God is doing in our midst. May we continue to draw close to Him and one another as we set aside space in our lives for encountering the risen Lord.

As I was contemplating these things I was reminded of an old hymn - “Near to the Heart of God.” In it we are encouraged with the following: “(v. 1) There is a place of quiet rest, Near to the heart of God; A place where sin cannot molest, Near to the heart of God. (v. 2) There is a place of comfort sweet, Near to the heart of God; A place where we our Savior meet, Near to the heart of God. (v. 3) There is a place of full release, Near to the heart of God; A place where all is joy and peace, Near to the heart of God.”  We need space in our lives for that place.

Hebrews 10:19-22 declares, Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

How long has it been since you truly made time in your life to draw near to God? Do you even know where to look for such a space? It may be closer than you think. Thomas Howard writes: “Somehow we have gotten swept into a millrace, and its nonstop flailing and thrashing just to keep ourselves from drowning. The sheer necessities of modern life sweep us farther and farther from any sense that it is all hallowed, really. What are we to do? There are various things we could do no doubt. We could resign ourselves to the millrace and abandon any thought of anything but the flailing. Or we could take some drastic step like moving to a farm in Vermont or an island in the Aegean, hoping thereby to find some peace and quiet where we would be able to recollect ourselves and to things right. A third possibility would be to accept the fact that life comes tumbling at us nowadays but that it is nonetheless possible for us to see our daily routines as proceeding among the hallows, so to speak; and by stirring up in our minds the things that we vaguely acknowledge anyway, to begin to hallow those routines by doing once more what men have always done with thing to hallow them; namely, offering them up in oblation to God, as literally as Abel offered up sacrifices from his ordinary routine of work.”

Let us pray together: Father, let me seek and find you in the place of prayer. May your presence become so clear to me that I will also recognize you in all the places I may be today. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

January 4, 2017, 8:19 AM

The Inner Life Renewed

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we enter another new year I want to challenge you to make room in your daily routine for the disciplines of the inner life: prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and fasting. There is no better time than now to make some changes in our daily routines. Think about it and be honest. How much time have you been spending each day in prayer? In reading the Scriptures? In meditation upon the things of God? When was the last time you fasted a meal? I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I want to post my answers to any of those questions for public consumption.

Faithful practice of the inner disciplines requires a concerted effort on our part. Are we willing to take the steps necessary in the arrangement of our daily comings and goings to experience the presence of God in new and fresh ways? To be clear, rearranging our schedules as they presently stand is a hassle. It will require us becoming uncomfortable with what has been comfortable for too long. The hassle with being a better manager of our time is making the decisions about what is now most important and what is no longer important. The good news is that if we will ask God what he’d remove if it were his life, he’ll gladly tell us.

Psalm 25:4-5 declares, Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Again, we read in Psalm 43:3-4a, Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.” Before we can traverse the mountain of God we must first be led in the inner places by the Lord Himself.

Commenting on this subject Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: Since mediation on the Scriptures, prayer, and intercession are a service we owe and because the grace of God is found in this service, we should train ourselves to set apart a regular hour for it, as we do for every other service we perform. This is not “legalism”; it is orderliness and fidelity…. We have a right to this time, even prior to the claims of other people, and we may insist upon having it as a completely undisturbed quiet time despite all external difficulties…. Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?

Let us pray together: O Christ, when I look at you I see that you were never in a hurry, never ran, but always had time for the pressing necessities of the day. Give me that disciplined, poised life with time always for the thing that matters. For I would be a disciplined person. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 21, 2016, 9:27 AM

The Faithful One

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we approach the wonderful day in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the faithful One who declared, “Not my will, but Thy will be done (Luke 22:42),” may we likewise commit ourselves to complete submission and obedience to the will of our Heavenly Father. And may we do it even and especially when life does not make sense.

Whenever I ponder the story of Jesus’ birth I am always amazed at the level submission and obedience that is displayed in the life of Jesus’ young teenage mother, Mary, to the will of God. There was much she did not (nor could she) understand about Gabriel’s announcement that she was pregnant. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). God was up to something - as He often is - beyond human comprehension. Yet, despite all she did not and could not understand about God’s purposes and plans, Mary faithfully declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to be as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Wow! Let that sink in! Oh, that my response to the paradoxes of life would be as faithful! “Lord, whatever you’re up to… I’m in!”

Obedience is the key that opens the door for Christ’s entrance into our lives. To the one who obeys, and thus opens the door of their heart to receive the eternal gift, God gives the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of Himself, to be in them, and lead them to the understanding of all truth. But what do we do if that level of faith seems beyond our grasp at the present? Great question! I’m glad you asked.

In response, Thomas R. Kelly writes, “Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter submission and openness toward him. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, ‘Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. Be Thou darest. Thy will be done.’”

As we consider the example of Christ, His mother, and the saints who have gone before us, may we enter the New Year boldly declaring with them, “Not my will, but thy will be done in us.” If a decade and a half of pastoral ministry has taught me anything it is that the real difference between Christians who are growing and ones who are not is the matter of obedience.

I invite you to pray the following with me: O Jesus! who has taught us that not all those who say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only such as do the will of your Father, whose lives correspond with their belief, grant us a truly Christian spirit, a Christian heart, and guide us in the paths of a Christian life. Grant that I may become detached from all things and in all things seek you alone. Grant that I may direct all my knowledge, my whole capacity, all my happiness, and all my exertions to please you, to love you, and to obtain your love for time and eternity. Amen.

Have a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 14, 2016, 9:43 AM

Frosty Musings

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today I would like to revisit a theme we began exploring last week: celebrating the present. The sad reality is we spend much of our lives in anticipation of some time that is yet to come: a vacation, a day off, a weekend, a day when things are “better” than today. “This too shall pass,” we say. The result of all our wishful dreaming is we miss the joy of the present. God forgive us! May we begin to celebrate breath and water and food and the joy of now. Don’t let artificial light and city streets keep you from noticing sunsets and sunrises, from experiencing the majesty of a crisp starlit night and the beauty of the sun peeking through an ice-covered branch.

The Apostle Paul reminded us in scripture of the power of carefully observing and celebrating God’s amazing creation. He declared, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, NIV). Could it be that many have become atheists, even Christian atheists, simply because they have not opened their eyes to the presence of God in the most “mundane” of moments.

The Season of Advent is not merely a celebration of the birth of Christ. Nor is it merely the anticipation of Christ’s return. It is also a powerful reminder of Emmanuel – God with us (even now during single-digit temperatures)! I must confess that today I was guilty of asking my office manager, “Is it summer yet?” instead of celebrating the beauty of God’s wonderful snow-covered creation. Clyde Reid once penned the following:

Celebrate the temporary - Don’t wait until tomorrow - Live today.

Celebrate the simple things - Enjoy the butterfly - Embrace the snow

Run with the ocean - Delight in the trees - Or a single lonely flower - Go barefoot in wet grass.

Don’t Wait - Until all the problems are solved - Or all the bills are paid.

You will wait forever - Eternity will come and go - And you - Will still be waiting.

Live in the now - With all its problems and its agonies - With its joy - And its pain.

Celebrate your pain - Your despair - Your anger - It means you’re alive.

Look closer - Breath deeper - Stand taller - Stop grieving the past.

There is joy and beauty – Today - It is temporary - Here now and gone.

So celebrate it - While you can - Celebrate the temporary.

I invite you to pray the following with me: Father, it is so easy for me to live automatically, so that nothing touches me or moves me. Give me the fullness of living in the now. In the name of your Son, who loved children and flowers and people, I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 7, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Gift of the Present

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we continue our journey to the manger in Bethlehem may we be ever aware of the sacrament of the present moment. May we never forget that every moment on earth is a gift from God. Too often we miss the blessing of the present because our eyes are set upon some far off land. Like a child eagerly longing for Christmas morn it can be tempting to wish the present away. Yet, as Psalm 118:24 declares, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Are you rejoicing in the present moment – God’s gift to you?

Alan Watts once used a royal comparison for our moving around. A king and queen are the center of “where it’s at,” so they move with easy, royal bearing. They have no place to “get.” They have already “arrived.” Looking deeply at our lineage, we see that we are of the highest royal line: the royal image of God is in us – covered over, but indestructibly there. We need rush nowhere else to get it. We mainly need to attentively relax and dissolve the amnesia that obscures our true identity. The supernatural can and does seek and find us, in and through our daily normal experience: the invisible in the visible. There is no need to be peculiar in order to find and experience the mighty and joyous Presence of God. The Magi were taught by the heavens to follow a star; and it brought them, not to a paralyzing disclosure of the Transcendent, but to a little Boy on His mother’s knee. Let that sink in!

Jean-Pierre de Caussade states: “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest each moment, an immense ocean which the heart only fathoms as it overflows with faith, trust and love. The whole rest of creation cannot fill your heart, which is larger than all that is not God; terrifying mountains are mere molehills to it. It is in his purpose, hidden in the cloud of all that happens to you in the present moment, that you must rely. You will find it always surpasses your own wishes. Woo no man, worship no shadows or fantasies; they have nothing to offer or accept from you. Only God’s purposes can satisfy your longing and leave you nothing to wish for. Adore, walk close to it, see through and abandon all fantasy. When the present terrifies, crushes, lays waste and overwhelms the senses, God nourishes, strengthens and revives faith.”

I invite you to pray the following with me: Father, give me eyes to see and a heart to respond to all which will come to me this day. Forbid that I should miss its graces by looking ahead to some tomorrow. Let me accept the newness each moment brings with awareness and gratitude. In the Name of the One who makes all new I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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