Pastor's Blog
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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

 




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


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