Pastor Jason's Blog
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May 23, 2018, 8:42 AM

Is any one of you sick?



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

“Is any one of you sick?” (James 5:14)

James wrote to believers who had fled Jerusalem under great persecution, and his letter is amazingly relevant to modern Christianity on several points. He, for instance, called on the church to be in touch with the hurting world that is all around us. We live in the midst of a world of hurts. Hearts are hurting. Families are hurting. Have we looked around us lately? People are not simply sick physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually sick. Thus, we find ourselves asking an extremely pertinent question: “Is any one of you sick?” Hawkins writes, “Perhaps no other ministry in the New Testament church has seen as much perversion as the church’s healing ministry. While many involved may have wonderful intentions and pure hearts, some healing ministries have too often been a vehicle for a few to build their own personal financial kingdoms offering false hopes of healing to any and all.”

Here in James 5, we find the only directive in Scripture concerning praying for those who are sick. He asks, “Is any one of you sick?” The key to understanding this question is the word sick (ἀσθενέω). James chose a word here in Greek that means “without strength” or “to be weak.” Erroneously, we often assume that only physical sickness is involved. However, the word can include those who are weak in body, in soul, or in spirit. Note the next verse where James said, “The prayer of faith will save the sick” (5:15). Here the word sick (κάμνω) means “to grow weary.” James was writing to those who had “grown weary” in the struggles of life, those “scattered abroad” (1:1) in the great dispersion. They had been forced to flee their homes and their jobs. Tempted to give out and give up, they were weary and weak. What do you do when you are “weary” and “without strength”?

James’s proposal is for those who are weak and weary to “call for the elders of the church” (5:14). Did you notice that the initiative is to be taken by those who are sick themselves? Anyone who has ever served as a pastor has more than once heard, “No one ever came to visit me when I was (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) sick.” But, according to James, the onus is on the one who is sick to take the initiative to call for the elders. In response, the elders are then instructed to pray over them and anoint them (5:14). The prayer that is to be offered is “the prayer of faith” (5:15). Prayer for any kind of healing must always be offered according to God’s Word and His will. This verse is not a carte blanche for getting whatever we want. Healing is a mystery wrapped up in the counsel of God’s own will. Some say all can be healed if they just have enough faith, yet God did not remove Paul’s “thorn” when he asked (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Rather, the promise is, “The prayer of faith will save (σῴζω) the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (5:15). When it comes to healing, we don’t always get exactly what we want, when we want, but we can trust the One who always has our very best interest at heart. Indeed, ultimately, the healing we all need is not merely a physical healing, but to be saved and raised up on the last day. Therefore, if instead of hearing God say, “Yes,” if He says, “My grace is sufficient,” then indeed His grace shall be sufficient for whatever we face. Either way, when we are weak and weary, we gather the church, we pray the prayer of faith, and then we trust God’s will and His way.

Let us join in prayer: Jehovah Rapha, heal us, save us, raise us up on the last day in Christ. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens




May 16, 2018, 9:10 AM

The Fruit of Faith



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

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14)

Throughout Christian history, people have tried to pit Paul, with his emphasis on grace, against James, with his emphasis on works/fruit. O. S. Hawkins observes that the apparent conflict has been presented like the main event of a heavyweight prizefight: “In this corner, wearing the grace trunks, is the apostle Paul. And in the other corner, wearing the works trunks is James, the half-brother of Jesus. In some Christian circles, the prizefight continues two thousand years later. Let’s get inside the ring and see if we can determine the winner.

ROUND ONE: PAUL ON THE OFFENSE. Paul begins with a left jab: he says, “For by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). He plunges right into the fight insisting that salvation is God’s work, that salvation is “by grace.” God’s gift of salvation is not in response to any of our human efforts. It originates with Him, not with man. Our salvation is by grace; “the gift of God” (v. 8), a blessing freely given by the Father, a blessing that can never be earned. Paul insists that salvation comes “through faith, and that not of yourselves” (v. 8). Salvation is God’s work, and it must be accomplished in God’s way, which is through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). James seems to be on the ropes.

ROUND TWO: JAMES COUNTERS. James stands his ground. He is now toe-to-toe with Paul. He counters, “A faith without fruit is a false faith.” More specifically, James asks, “What good is it if you say you have faith and have not works? Can this kind of faith save you?” (James 2:14). With lightning speed, he keeps coming: “Faith without fruit is not only a false faith; it’s futile.” Then James issues this challenge: “You say you have faith. Show me! Even the demons believe and tremble” (vv. 18-19, paraphrased). James stands his ground. He continues, “Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is DOA, dead on arrival” (vv. 20–26, paraphrased).

THE FINAL BELL: When the bell rings, both Paul and James are still standing. In fact, they are actually hugging each other. Then, at the same moment, they grab the other’s arm and lift it high in victory. They both win! How? Because in the final analysis, these two men of God are saying the same thing. Paul is saying what James is saying: “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works!” (Eph. 2:10). And James is saying what Paul is saying: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a). The teachings of these men of God complement each other; they are not contradictory. Paul was primarily writing to the Judaizers. In response, Paul emphasized the primacy of faith. James, on the other hand, was writing primarily to people who went to the far extreme of grace and insisted that they could live any way they wanted as long as they “believed.” Thus, James’s emphasis was on what our Lord called the fruit of our faith. So, faith and works walk out of the ring arm in arm. That is as it should be. Works are never a requirement for our salvation; works are the result of our salvation. Yes, it is faith alone that saves, but faith that saves is never alone! The question is not whether faith can save us or not, but whether a faith that never produces what our Lord called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Eph. 5:9) can save us.

Let us join in prayer: Loving Father, enable me to gladly do the work to which you beckon me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens




May 9, 2018, 7:38 AM

So Great A Salvation



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

“How shall we escape [eternal punishment] if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)

The writer of Hebrews asks a penetrating question. It is closely akin to the question asked of us by our Lord in Mark 8:36, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” At issue here is salvation and whether we will spend eternity with God or apart from Him. God has provided forgiveness and salvation to whosoever will come to Him in repentance and faith. It is the free gift of eternal life. The Scripture speaks of it as “so great” a salvation. This is God’s gracious provision for us!

While salvation is a great provision, it also comes with a great and potential peril. We will either escape or encounter that peril depending on our response to God’s gift. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” There are three words that describe the response of every person toward the gospel: reject, accept, or neglect. Some individuals have flat-out rejected the gospel message. They have consciously and deliberately refused the gift of eternal life. Other people have accepted the free gift of eternal life offered them through Jesus Christ our Lord. They have heard the gospel message, believed it, received it by faith, repented of their sins, and trusted in His finished work to save them. Finally, some individuals see themselves in a sort of spiritual no-man’s land. They have neither rejected the gospel, nor have they accepted it. They are among the vast throng who have neglected the divine offer of salvation; they have simply put off the decision for the present. They are deceived into thinking they can merely consider the issue at another time.

The writer of Hebrews warned that our hearts can become hardened (Heb. 3:8) by such neglect of the gospel. The apostle Paul added that those who repeatedly neglect Jesus’ invitation to eternal life can “lose all sensitivity” (Eph. 4:19) to the gospel. The Greek word found here is the same from which we derive our English word callus. Every time God calls us to decide and we postpone our decision, the callus on our heart gets a bit thicker. In time, our hearts can become so hardened that there comes a time when we no longer can sense Him. That hardened heart is the great peril of neglect.

Perhaps there is someone reading these words at this very moment who would never neglect paying their bills or running their business or studying for class. Somehow, tragically, some think it is different with the spiritual matters of the soul. Hell is full of people who had good intentions of one day seriously considering and even accepting Jesus’ invitation, but they never seemed to get around to making spiritual matters a priority. God offers you and me salvation. And not just salvation, but so great a salvation! How shall we escape eternal separation if we neglect it? Only three roads lie before us. You can take the road less traveled and accept the gospel. You can take the road some travel and flat-out reject it. Or, tragically, you can continue on down the road and neglect the gospel to your own eternal peril. If so, what will it profit you, even if you gained the whole world, to lose your own soul in the end. Remember, not to decide is to decide! Call on God . . . right now! Say with Simon Peter, “Lord, save me.” For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, grant me absolution and remission for all my sins, true repentance, amendment of life and the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens




May 2, 2018, 10:12 AM

God is for us!



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

“If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b)

It has often been said that when it comes to the Bible, a text without a context becomes simply a pretext. In Romans 8:31 the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is preceded by the question, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” Thus, before we can accurately answer the question of Romans 8:31b, we must address what “these things” are that Paul mentions. The wonderful news just preceding Romans 8:28-30 is that we have a God who is watching over us and who is also at work for our good. Paul prefaced the questions of v. 31 by saying: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son...”

Then the apostle asked, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” And he answered with another question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The obvious answer? It doesn’t matter who may be against us when Almighty God himself is for us, for he is always at work watching over us and providing for us. We find this wonderful truth wrapped in the package of one of the most quoted verses in all the Bible: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We do not wish, or think, or hope. We know that God is watching over us and working on our behalf! Not only that, but we also know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. God’s Word does not say “some things” or “many things” or even “most things.” The Bible says, “in all things.” Yes, even unfair things – like Joseph being held in an Egyptian prison – and awful things – like persecution and martyrdom.

Now, I can already hear the question from us Wesleyan-Arminian Nazarene folks, but what about that word predestination in the text? Are we predestined? Well, Yes AND No. Predestination is not only about what God does behind the scenes to draw us to Christ but also about the free grace that gives us the freedom to make responsible choices. And it is about the keeping grace in which we stand as those justified by faith (Rom. 5:1-2). Renowned Nazarene theologian William Greathouse writes, “Pauline predestination is not an abstract concept. It concerns God’s decision to take the initiative: to love us before we even had a thought about him, to remain faithful to the faithless, to offer forgiveness to the unrepentant, to justify the ungodly, and to sanctify the unholy. Such relentless grace will prevail; God’s love will not let us down. Predestination affirms that God plans in advance and that he acts purposefully to achieve these plans. God knows where he wants his creation to go and how he wants it to get there. He has assured the success of his plans by taking the initiative in Christ to provide the more-than-sufficient means to the final destination he has in mind: Christlikeness.” God has a glorious plan. He has predestined us for great things! The question is, will we put our faith and trust in him? Will we work with him or against him? His glorious promise is for those who choose, with their free will, to love him.” The Lord Almighty is for us? Are we for him?

Let us join in prayer: Father, I’m yours! Accomplish your great plans in and through me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens




April 18, 2018, 9:56 AM

Revive Us Again



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

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6)

In a few short days, we will be holding revival services with evangelist Michael Adams. Unfortunately, even though revival services are held, many times a real, genuine “revival” does not break out. I believe this lack of revival occurs, not because the preaching is bad, and not because God doesn’t desire for revival to break out amongst His people, but rather because those holding the services are not willing to practice the keys to revival! Revival is not just merely another church meeting. You can put a sign outside the church that says: “Revival next week,” but that does not mean “revival” will take place. Revival can’t be programmed. Revival is not just a working up of emotions. You can’t bring revival by singing a lot of songs real loud or by singing the same song a hundred times. Revival is not just the powerful words of a special speaker. Revival does not come merely because some fiery preacher in a new suit, with eloquent words, gets behind the pulpit.

So, what is revival? Revival is when God’s people earnestly seek Him and then God visits His people, cleanses them, and refresh them. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out and times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” This is exactly what happened to the early church as is recorded in the book of Acts. When revival happens, the church will be full of people and those people will be full of God. The experience in the book of Acts should be normative for the church. In other words, what we read about happening to the church in the book of Acts should be happening in the church today. I believe the book of Acts is not about how the church once looked like in its extra-ordinary days. Rather, I believe it is describing how the church should look in its average, ordinary, Spirit-filled days. Days like today!

Do we believe that what happened to the church in the book of Acts should be happening today? Sadly, what we see in church today is so subnormal, that normal would feel abnormal. We have become so used to subnormal, that if normal ever showed up, we’d have a board meeting that afternoon to see what we could do to stop that from ever happening again. What we sometimes call extra-ordinary, ought to be ordinary in the Kingdom of God.

So, what are some of the keys to revival breaking out in a church? How did the early church earnestly seek God? What did seeking God in the New Testament look like? In Acts 2:42-47 we read that they devoted themselves to the following practices: the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, to prayer, to giving to anyone as they had need, and to praising God. The result of their devotion to these practices, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Are we willing to earnestly seek God by likewise devoting ourselves to such practices?

Let us join in prayer: Eternal God, you have been the hope and joy of many generations, and who in all ages has given men the power to seek you and in seeking to find you, grant me, I pray you, a clearer vision of your truth, a greater faith in your power, and a more confident assurance of your love. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

 


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