Pastor Jason's Blog
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November 30, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Sound of Silence

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we enter into this Season of Advent I want to challenge you to practice the discipline of silence – the discipline of watching and waiting for Christ’s coming in our hearts and lives. May we faithfully reject all that would cause us to rush through this season without hearing His voice. May nothing take precedence in our lives above knowing, experiencing and living out the life of Christ. He is the One who has come, is coming even now, and will come again.

A key factor in our ability to know and experience Christ’s advent is our willingness to practice the habit of silence in His Presence. As we noted this past Sunday, it is for this very reason that the Scripture is ripe with calls to this discipline. Psalm 37:7 declares, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 46:10 challenges us, “Be still and know that I am God.” And again, we find in Ecclesiastes 3:7b, “[There is…] a time to be silent and a time to speak.” To put it another way, how can He speak to us if our mouths are always moving? How can we enjoy His Presence if we are constantly on the go? Sadly, many believers flee from this discipline.

M. Basil Pennington writes: “Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self – the false self – and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves.”

Friends, will you freely put yourself in the “time-out chair” during this Advent Season? Being still before the Lord is challenging, but it need not difficult. At least not as difficult as we make it out to be. In the simplest of terms, silence is the practice of stillness under the Word of God. It is nothing else but waiting on God’s Word and coming from it with a blessing. As Pennington declares, “Silence is the very presence of God – always there. But activity hides it. We need to leave activity long enough to discover the Presence – then we can return to activity with it.”

I invite you to pray the following with me: O God, God, my Father, I have no words, no words by which I dare express the things that stir within me. I lay bare myself, my world, before you in the quietness. Brood over my spirit with your great tenderness and understanding and judgment, so that I will find, in some strange new way, strength for my weakness, health for my illness, guidance for my journey. This is the stirring of my heart, O God, my Father. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 16, 2016, 8:01 AM

Thanks Giving

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we sojourn through this season of thanksgiving together, may we ever be mindful of the many great and precious gifts we have in Christ Jesus. In response, may we also be some of the most grateful and generous people on the face of the earth.

As a pastor, one of the most common questions I receive is regarding my thoughts on tithes and offerings. “How much must/should I give,” they ask. Some come genuinely wanting to know what is expected and/or appropriate. Others come with ulterior motives. The question is not a new one. In fact, in response, Jesus had much to say about giving. Mark 12:41-44 declares that, on one particular day, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’” Wow! Can you imagine Jesus commenting to others about your giving habits?

Reinhold Niebuhr made the following comment about the discipline of tithing: “I would suggest that you commit yourselves not to tithing but to proportionate giving, with tithing as an economic floor beneath which you will not go unless there are some compelling reasons.”

None of us has to be an accountant to know what 10% of a gross income is, but each of us must be a person on his/her knees before God if we are to understand our commitment to proportionate giving. Proportionate to what? Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of one’s family? Proportionate to one’s income and the demands upon it? Proportionate to one’s sense of security and the degree of anxiety with which one lives? Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer? Proportionate to our sense of justice and of God’s ownership of all wealth? Proportionate to the desire in our hearts that the local church would flourish and impact our community for Christ? Proportionate to our sense of stewardship for those who follow after us? And so on, and so forth. The answer, of course, is in proportion to all of these things.

I invite you to pray the following with me: Heavenly Father, you give to me with a lavish hand, you do not withhold from me of your great grace and mercy. Let me live and serve you also with a generous heart. In the name of your Son, who gave his all. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 9, 2016, 7:57 AM

Servant of All

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the same spirit that lived and reigned in Christ, live in you. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. That, I suppose, raises a good series of questions. What was the mind of Christ? What attitude did he maintain? And can we mirror such an attitude in our own lives?

In response, the Apostle Paul declares in Scripture, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:4-11, NLT).

Jesus has clearly shown us the way we are to live. We are called to lay down our lives. We are to give our lives away in service. Instead of lording over our neighbor, we are to be a servant of all (Mark 10:42-45). This is a constant theme throughout the Bible. Galatians 5:13 implores us, “serve one another humbly in love.” Again 1 Peter 4:10 declares, “Each one of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.” This leads me to ask: How are you serving your fellow brother and sister today?

Henri Nouwen writes: “The mystery of ministry is that the Lord is to be found where we minister. That is what Jesus tells us when he says: ‘Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’ (Matt. 25:40). Our care for people thus becomes the way to meet the Lord. The more we give, help, support, guide, counsel, and visit, the more we receive, not just similar gifts, but the Lord himself… Living this truth in our daily life makes it possible to care for people without conditions, without hesitation, without suspicion, or without the need for immediate rewards. With this sacred knowledge, we can avoid becoming burned out.”

I invite you to pray the following with me: Heavenly Father, I ask you to enable me to gladly do the work to which you beckon me. May I do it as a servant of Christ doing the will of God from my heart. May you be glorified in the way that I serve and minister to those around me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 2, 2016, 7:56 AM

Compassionate Living

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of all compassion (2 Cor. 1:3) fill you with compassion. May the love that moved Christ to the cross overwhelm your heart today. May this same love flow out of you and impact a needy world.

In Scripture we are implored to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32) and to “clothe yourselves with compassion” (Col. 3:12), but what exactly does compassionate ministry look like in action? Frederick Buechner has tried to describe it in this way, “Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Thus, to be compassionate is to walk a mile in another’s shoes. It is to see a need and then be moved in our guts to do something about it. This was the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ.

The Savior looks with compassion on his people. He could not rest satisfied with the few who had heard his call and followed. He shrank from the idea of forming an exclusive little club. Unlike many religious leaders, he had no desire to withdraw his disciples from the vulgar crowd and initiate them into the monastic life, hidden away from the masses. As Bonhoeffer states, “He had come, he had worked and suffered for the sake of all his people.” He loved and ministered to all and subsequently sent his followers to go out and do the same (John 21:15).

Norman Cousins writes: “Compassion is not quantitative. Certainly it is true that behind every human being who cries out for help there may be a million or more equally entitled to attention. But this is the poorest of all reasons for not helping the person whose cries you hear. Where, then, does one begin or stop? How do you choose? How to determine which one of a million sounds surrounding you is more deserving than the rest? Do not concern yourself in such speculations. You will never know; you will never need to know. Reach out and take hold of the one who happens to be nearest. If you are never able to help or save another, at least you will have saved one.”

I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Loving Father, teach me to love and care for those that need you today. Those who are passed over and do not feel love unless I love them for you. May Christ’s love for others be felt through me today. In your name and by your power I pray these things. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

October 12, 2016, 8:20 AM

God Over Everything

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord be the center of our lives today and always. May His kingdom, His heart, His passion, be that which consumes us fully. As those who have been called out unto His good and pleasing purposes, may we desire nothing more than Him and His divine will for our lives. May we truly hallow His holy name.

Many of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer and the declaration “Hallowed be thy name,” but do we really pause to consider what it is that we are pronouncing in these words? When we say “Hallowed be thy name,” we are praying, “May the whole of my life be a source of delight to you and may it be an honor to the name which I bear, which is your name. Hallowed be your name.” Ray Stedman has rightly observed that we find the same thing in the prayer of David’s at the close of one of his great psalms: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

The trouble is that though we declare, “hallowed be thy name,” we so frequently know there are great areas of our lives that are not hallowed. There are certain monopolies which we have reserved for ourselves, privileged areas which we do not wish to surrender to God, where the name of our boss or the name of our loved one or the name of our bank account or some other name means more to us than the name of God.

Hannah Whitall Smith writes: “Oh, be generous in your self-surrender! Meet his measureless devotion for you, with a measureless devotion to Him. Be glad and eager to throw yourself headlong into His dear arms, and to hand over the reins of government to Him. Whatever there is of you, let Him have it all. Give up forever everything that is separate from Him. Consent to resign from this time forward all liberty of choice. Glory in the blessed nearness of union which makes this enthusiasm of devotedness not only possible but necessary.”

I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Eternal God, my Sovereign Lord, I acknowledge all I am, all I have is yours. I humbly thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed upon me – for creating me in your own image, for redeeming me by the death of your blessed Son, and for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, through Christ I pray. I humbly submit my whole life into your care. Amen.

You are Loved
Pastor Jason Stevens

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