Pastor Jason's Blog
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October 5, 2016, 8:21 AM

Confess Your Sins

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust you are having a blessed start to your week. Wasn’t that a fabulous Friend Day this past Sunday?! I was greatly encouraged by the numerous first time guests and the positive response to the message. It is truly wonderful to know that we are the sheep of His pasture! May you be encouraged today in the realization that you are not alone in your spiritual journey. We’re in this together! With that in mind, as we journey together, may God give us grace once again to recover the discipline of confession that we may be partakers of its many benefits, including our very holiness. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). 

The Scripture is clear, our healing is tied to our willingness to confess our sins and pray for one another. Yet, few engage in this practice. “What if I share too much?” “What if others are shocked by my confession?” “What if I choose to be transparent and the community of faith turns their back on me?” Our fears of rejection and condemnation overcome us and the result is we neglect this vital practice all together. What a travesty! Engaging in mutual confession brings an end to pretense. It helps us to remove the mask of self-righteousness. Our loving Heavenly Father knows this and thus He is calling into being a church that openly confesses its frail humanity and knows the forgiving and empowering grace of Jesus Christ.

Richard Foster writes: “Confession is so difficult a discipline for us partly because we view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We come to feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We could not bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy. But if we know that the people of God are first a fellowship of sinners we are freed to hear the unconditional call of God’s love and to confess our need openly before our brothers and sisters. We know we are not alone in our sin… In acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals.”

I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Dear Lord, grant me absolution and remission for all my sins, true repentance, amendment of life and the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit. Help me to live in transparency with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me also not to look in righteous indignation upon others as they live confessionally with me. Amen.

You are Loved!
Pastor Jason Stevens

September 28, 2016, 10:27 AM

Spiritual Disciplines

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21). May we willfully choose to practice the spiritual disciplines (prayer, mediation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, etc.) as well as the denial of self that we might experience and know our Heavenly Father in an intimate way.

There are no two ways around it, denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion: but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing His disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him: we are not treading in His steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him (A.C. Outler). The Lord has provided everything necessary to equip us for the Christ-life. We, however, must be willing to engage in those equipping practices. Therefore, what practices/disciplines will you pick up that you might know Him?

Annie Dillard writes: “God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things. Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these things; not at all. God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things – unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him."

I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Lord, let my life be orderly, regular, temperate; let no pride or self-seeking, no covetousness or revenge, no little ends and low imaginations pollute my spirit and unhallow my words and actions. Let my body be a servant of my spirit and both my body and spirit be servants of Jesus, doing all things for your glory. Amen.

You are Loved!
Pastor Jason Stevens

September 21, 2016, 12:00 AM

Come Follow Me

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As you navigate the trials of life, The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). Praise be to God! He will lead you through, but you must follow. 

The Lord’s constant invitation throughout Scripture is “follow me.” Whether it’s Abraham leaving Haran for Canaan, or Moses and the Hebrew people leaving Egypt for the Promised Land, or the Nehemiah and those who were once held in captivity leaving again for Jerusalem, or Jonah leaving for Nineveh (via the belly of a great fish), or the disciples leaving their nets and tax collector’s booths, or Paul leaving his old ways, or Timothy leaving the comforts of home to be a missionary in faraway places. “Come, follow me,” the Lord declares. Yet, sadly, as obstinate sheep, we often dig our heels in and refuse to be led. To do so is to deny ourselves the comfort that only the presence of our Good Shepherd can afford.

There is no greater place to be than in the center of God’s divine will. If we will allow Him, He will guide us, despite our uncertainties and our vagueness, even through our failings and mistakes. When surrendered to His will, He leads us step by step, from event to event. And this, my friends, is a tremendous comfort in a world of uncertainty. Hannah Whitall Smith writes: “You must remember that our God has all knowledge and all wisdom, and that therefore it is very possible He may guide you into paths wherein He knows great blessings are awaiting you, but which to the shortsighted human eyes around you seem sure to result in confusion and loss. You must recognize the fact that God’s thoughts are not as man’s thoughts, nor His ways as man’s ways; and that He who knows the end of things from the beginning alone can judge of what the results of any course of action may be. You must therefore realize that His very love for you may perhaps lead you to run counter to the loving wishes of even your dearest friends.”

With this in mind, I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Father, you alone know what lies before me this day, grant that in every hour of it I may stay close to you. Let me today embark on no undertaking that is not in line with your will for my life, nor shrink from any sacrifice which your will may demand. Suggest, direct, control every movement of my mind; for my Lord Christ’s sake. Amen. 

You are Loved!
Pastor Jason Stevens

September 14, 2016, 12:00 AM

Don't Be Anxious

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. May His peace guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Be not anxious!” Declares the Lord, yet fear cripples the lives of many today – including many within the church. Terrorism. Financial ruin. Crumbling marriages. Wayward children. Health concerns. Pending elections. Natural disasters. On and on the list goes. Like waves of a tsunami, fears crash into our minds leaving desolation in its wake. 

It is into the worst of these scenarios that our minds can concoct that the Lord breaks in and declares: “Fear not! For I am with you.” Do we believe that? Do we honestly and wholeheartedly believe that God – the One who created all things and holds them together – is big enough to handle whatever it is that is pressing in on us today? Thomas á Kempis writes: “To preserve peace in time of trouble our will must remain firm in God and be ever directed towards Him, that is, we should be disposed to receive all things from the hand of God, from His justice, and from His bounty, with humble submission to His blessed will. Good and evil, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, consolation and dryness, temptation and tranquility, interior sweetness, trials, and chastisements, all should be received by the soul with humility, patience, and resignation, as coming to us by the appointment of God. This is the only means of finding peace in the midst of great troubles and adversities.

Take heart my friends! Take your stand on the power and trustworthiness of Almighty God, and see how quickly all difficulties will vanish before a steadfast determination to believe. Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith which may begin by mighty effort, will end sooner or later by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul. In closing, I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: O God! Who is able and willing to assist me, what grounds have I not to place my whole confidence in you, to throw myself into the arms of your providence, and wait the effects of your bounty? You have care of all. I will therefore give myself up entirely to you, live always in your presence, and ever guide myself by you fear and love. It is this grace I now ask of you, the God of my heart, and my portion forever. Grant me to weigh well and to follow your admonition: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Amen. 

You are Loved!
Pastor Jason Stevens

September 7, 2016, 12:00 AM

He Speaks

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I think of you. May you ever be strengthened in your inner being by drawing closer to our precious Heavenly Father through the reading, studying and applying of His Holy Word.

You are reading the Word of God, aren’t you? If not, I want to encourage you to get into the habit. Make no further delay. Be rid of all excuses. There is no other exercise that will have such a profound impact on your life today and your destiny tomorrow. It is nourishment for your very soul and without it we surely starve. Indeed, Jesus declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Regrettably, many Christians are dying of hunger due to the sheer laziness of the undisciplined life.

Frederick Buechner writes: “We are to hear. All of us are. That is what the whole Bible is calling out. ‘Hear, O Israel!’ But hear what? Hear what? The Bible is hundreds upon hundreds of voices all calling at once out of the past and clamoring for our attention like barkers at a fair, like air-raid sirens, like a whole barnyard of cockcrows as the first longs shafts of dawn fan out across the sky. Some of the voices are shouting, like Moses’ voice, so all Israel, all the world can hear, and some are so soft and halting that you can hardly hear them at all like Job with ashes on his head and his heart broken… Somewhere in the midst of them all one particular voice speaks out that is unlike any other voice because it speaks so directly to the deepest privacy and longing and weariness of each of us that there are times when the centuries are blown away like mist, and it is as if we stand with no shelter of time at all between ourselves and the one who speaks our secret name. Come, the voice says. Unto me. All ye. Every last one.”

Will you accept His gracious invitation? Will you feast at His table today? Just think of it: What would happen to APCN and to our homes if we – the Body of Christ – would more deeply believe the truth – God speaks! God speaks to me! Speaks to us! Come, let us partake of these wonderful words of life. If you need help finding a Bible reading plan, just let me know. There would be no greater joy for me today than to help you get plugged into God’s Holy Word. In closing, I invite you to pray the following prayer with me: Dear Jesus, this day do not let me forget that I cannot live by bread alone, that like you I must have words from the mouth of the Father. May your Divine Word find its proper place in my life today. Amen. 

You are Loved!
Pastor Jason Stevens

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