Pastor's Blog
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August 22, 2018, 6:54 AM

Unstoppable Force

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

“They never stopped…” (Acts 5:42).

Gamaliel was right in his comments in Acts 5:21-42. If God is not in the Christian movement, it will fail. If He is, to oppose it is to oppose God, and “fighting against God” is ultimate folly (v. 39). You might as well forbid the sun to rise, the tides to flow, as to forbid evangelism in Jesus’ name. Prison, flogging, martyrdom all failed to check the surging gospel work of the early church. “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men,” reads verse 39. “They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news,” reads verse 42. In between, stern orders from the court, reinforced with savage beating, from which the Christians went away “rejoicing”! Let’s look at this unstoppable force.

First, an unstoppable power. Verse 30 declares, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead.” The fathers had experienced the mysterious and mighty power of God at work in their lives: witness the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the return from the Captivity. But all earlier interventions and deliverances pointed forward to this greatest of all events – the resurrection of Jesus who had died for the sins of the world. What sin and the grave cannot stop is unstoppable power indeed.

Second, an unstoppable people. Verse 39 announces, “You will not be able to stop these men.” Others had been stopped. Theudas and Judas the Galilean are given as examples – brave men who “led a band of people in revolt.” But they were killed, their followers dispersed, and “it all came to nothing” (vv. 36-37). But these Christians – “they never stopped”! What made them different? The answer is found in verse 32: “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” What made the difference? First, “The Holy Spirit” – the very life and power of the risen Lord – indwelled their hearts and energized their lives as witnesses to Jesus. They were not on their own! Second, obedience! “We gave you strict orders,” said the Sanhedrin. “We must obey God rather than men,” answered the apostles (vv. 28-29). Orders from God, to which they were loyal, made those early Christians invincible. The measure of our effectiveness will be the measure of our obedience to God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Third, an unstoppable proclamation. Verse 42 states, “Proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” “The gospel,” Paul said, “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). When God’s good news is preached, things happen. Despite the stubborn opposition of blind men, sinners hear the message and turn to Jesus, finding the joy of forgiveness and the peace of reconciliation. The content of that “good news” is “Jesus is the Christ.” When John the Baptist was asked who he was, he answered, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). That is every man’s confession – I am not the Deliverer. I cannot save myself or anyone else. Every man, that is, but Jesus! He is the Savior of the world. He has purchased our freedom from sin with the blood of His cross. And so, they couldn’t be stopped – not by jails, or stones, or threats, or floggings, or even death! They were an unstoppable people, filled with an unstoppable power, making an unstoppable proclamation. What they were, we can be! However, that will require that we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and obey Him!

Let’s pray: Almighty Father, may we be fully surrendered and an unstoppable force for You! Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 15, 2018, 7:50 AM

After They Prayed

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

“After they prayed…” (Acts 4:31).

Evangelism and prayer were linked together in the Early Church. They did not depend upon their training and techniques to insure success. Neither can we, for talented and trained people with well-organized and well-advertised programs can fail. There are some things that only happen after we pray. Our dependence must be upon God. Before we raise our voices in witness, we need to raise our voices in prayer. Let’s see what we can learn from Acts 4 to guide our prayer and evangelism today.

First, the object of their prayer: “Sovereign Lord” (v. 24). The Sanhedrin represented the power structure of Jerusalem. But Christ’s disciples were convinced that, contrary to all appearances, God ruled. The Creator – “You made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them” – is in charge of history. If God was in charge there, fulfilling His prophetic word (vv. 25-28), He was also in control of their situation. We need to recapture this undaunted faith in the Almighty One.

Second, the content of their prayer: “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (v. 29). They were threatened, and they knew the Sanhedrin meant business. But they did not ask for release from their assignment, only for courage to carry it out in the face of threats. “Boldness” occurs several times in Acts, always in a context of witnessing and persecution. People unwilling to risk and speak do not need courage. The enemies of the Lord had stretched out their hands to harass and hurt. Now the disciples prayed that God’s hand may be extended in help and blessing. They prayed that God would give them the power to be bold for Him.

Third, the results of prayer: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (v. 31). Power is not an abstract quality. It is the Holy Spirit, himself, living in and working through the followers of Jesus Christ. “In the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14) Jesus preached, taught, and healed. In the power of the Spirit must His people do the work of the Kingdom. The Spirit generates boldness – the moral courage that defies threats because a lost world must hear of the Savior’s love and power. The Holy Spirit speaks “the word of God” through our lips. Our formulas of thought are never the answer to man’s deep spiritual needs. It is God’s Word that convicts, heals, and redeems. The Holy Spirit is committed to the gospel. He came to testify of Jesus. And in the power of His indwelling the Church is likewise committed to the “word of God.”

How like our own situation was that of the Early Church! We too are surrounded by the lost and the hurt who desperately need Jesus. We too are threatened by those who believe themselves in control of things and who protect their vested interests by opposing the gospel. We too have access to God, the true Sovereign, who can work in and with us to the glory of his “holy servant Jesus” (v. 30). We too can be filled with the Spirit, furnished with boldness to speak for Christ, and thus assured of success in our mission. “They raised their voices together in prayer to God” (v. 24). Come, let us do that same thing! Until we pray, nothing can happen. After we pray, anything can happen!

Let us join in prayer: Sovereign Lord, enable us to speak your word with great boldness. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 8, 2018, 8:50 AM

No Other Name

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

“There is no other name” (Acts 4:12).

In Acts 4:1-12 we discover that Peter went to jail for preaching Jesus Christ to “the people.” Brought before the court, he preached Jesus Christ to “the rulers.” (vv. 1, 8). When I was growing up, we used to sing a chorus, “Everybody ought to know who Jesus is.” That is how Peter felt about it, so wherever he was he preached Jesus. The reason for his zeal is made clear by the text: “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” In other words, no one else can do what Jesus does! No other name can save. “No other name.” Let’s think about this exclusive claim.

First, “No other name” has such power to heal. “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth… this man stands before you completely healed” (v. 10). Peter’s words to the court recall his words to the cripple: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (3:6). Walk he did, and more than walk. He leaped for joy and praised God as a gawking crowd looked on! Peter could have invoked the names of every doctor in the Roman Empire, and that crippled beggar would have been still on his seat, not on his feet. But Jesus has proved His power to heal in countless cases through the centuries, and He is just the same today.

Second, “No other name” has such power to arouse hatred. Verse 2 tells us that certain Jewish leaders “were greatly disturbed” because the apostles were preaching and teaching Jesus. His name may delight many, but it disturbs others. Jesus has been the most deeply loved and the most fiercely hated name in history. He insisted that people were for Him or against Him. He frankly admitted that He was a divider of families. Some praise His name in song and prayer. Others breathe that name in curses and blasphemy. Down through history people who hate His name have launched their “stop Jesus” campaigns, but all have failed. Ancient Jew or modern dictator, no ruler can defeat Him. How they have tried! Dr. Salk invented a polio vaccine and was given a Nobel prize. Dr. Jesus healed the sick and was given a cross. He evokes the hatred and wrath of those who will not repent of their sins. We might as well learn the lesson that Peter learned – when you follow Jesus, you meet opposition.

Third, “No other name” has such power to offer hope. “Salvation is found in no one else” (v. 12). Call the list of the wealthiest people on earth. No redeemer is found among them. Warren Buffet’s fortune cannot save. Call the roll of politicians. No deliver is found among them. The president’s policies cannot save. Call the names of all the great educators. No savior is found among them. Harvard’s wisdom cannot save. Call the top scientists. No rescuer is found among them. Einstein’s theories cannot save. Their achievements may help to civilize; but only Jesus, crucified and risen, has power to redeem from sin and reconcile to God. Only His name is vested with saving power. Only He offers a future and a hope to our perishing world. “By what name?” the court asked. The question is, “Who can heal and save?” “There is no other name,” the Scripture affirms. Only Jesus can heal and save. The Resurrection means that “there is no other name… by which we must be saved.”

Let us join in prayer: Grant me, O Lord, heavenly wisdom, that I may learn to seek you above all things, and to understand all other things as they are according to the order of your wisdom. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 1, 2018, 7:31 AM

Repent and Turn to God

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

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19).

In Acts 3:11-26 we read that a crippled beggar was suddenly healed. Shouting and jumping, he entered the Temple. An astonished crowd gathered, and Peter, alert to opportunity, began to preach. The gist of his message: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead” (v. 15). The Crucifixion, as the crowning sin of man, and the Resurrection, as the power of God, which overcomes sin – these are the two hinges from which the door of salvation swings. This salvation was foretold and fulfilled: “This is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets” (v. 18). The merciful provision of God to save is for “all peoples on earth” (v. 25). That brings it down to us today. Therefore, let’s think about the possibilities created for us by the risen Savior.

First, because He lives, repentance is possible. “Repent!” The word points to a change of mind that produces a change of life – a turning from sin to God. Humanity is helpless within themselves to do this about-face. They do not sufficiently feel the weight of sin. They do not sufficiently desire the peace of God. But the Cross exposes sin in all its ugliness. There hung the unblemished Lamb of God in our stead, bearing our sin, and the judgment against sin which we deserved. The empty tomb assures our stricken hearts that the power of God is greater than the forces of evil: “When God raised up his servant, he sent him … to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (v. 26). The Cross tells us that we must repent; the vacant tomb tells us that we can repent.

Second, because He lives, conversion is necessary. “Turn to God!” The resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of the New Creation. God’s ultimate purpose is “to restore everything” (v. 21). There is a whole new world coming! And we will be part of the new world being created, or part of the old world being destroyed. It is heaven or hell, to put the matter bluntly. The risen Jesus is the touchstone of human destiny. He is the prophet of whom Moses spoke, whose words determine the outcome of every human life. “Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off” (v. 23). Conversion to Christ or abandonment to destruction – these are our only choices!

Third, because He lives, forgiveness is offered. “So that your sins may be wiped out.” In the cross of Christ a sacrifice of atonement was made for our sins. The Resurrection assures us that God has accepted that offering. When we identify ourselves by faith with the crucified and risen Jesus, our sins are forgiven for His sake. God has found a way, in the words of Paul, “to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). God cannot dismiss sin lightly. He cannot just forget about it. He must deal with it in a way that violates neither His holiness nor our freedom. Because of the Cross, God can and does offer you forgiveness today. “By faith in the name of Jesus” (v. 16) the crippled beggar was healed physically. “By faith in the name of Jesus” you can be healed morally. Your sins can be forgiven. Your life can be turned in a new direction. Your future can be assured in the new world coming. “God … has glorified his servant Jesus” (v. 13) by the Resurrection. Let Him glorify His servant Jesus by your salvation from sin and living wholly for Him!

Let us join in prayer: O God, I open my heart and will to your healing, cleansing power. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

July 25, 2018, 8:12 AM

Holy Habits

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

“As his custom was...” (Acts 17:2)

We are all creatures of habit. This is good, for habits save time and make work efficient. Imagine the time wasted if you had to debate and decide each morning which shoe to put on first. But habits are perilous, too, for on them depends character and destiny. The Apostle Paul was a creature of habit. In the Scriptures we are told, “As his custom was...” The habits of Paul disclosed in Acts 17:1-9 are habits vital to effective Christian living. Let’s briefly look at what that passage reveals about the nature of Paul’s routine.

First, his custom was churchgoing. “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue” (17:2a). A similar statement is made about Jesus: “On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). Both the Lord and one of His foremost disciples regarded faithful attendance at worship services to be an indispensable part of life. Sadly, I’ve heard professing Christians declare that they didn’t need the church. To them religion is purely a matter of private and individual relationship to God. That idea may be pagan, but it isn’t Christian. John Wesley insisted that the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion, and he was right. The church is a body, and no member can survive in isolation from the others. Amputate your thumb and your body will survive, but the thumb will die.

Second, his custom was Bible reading. We read “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (17:2b). One must be deeply acquainted with the Bible to effectively reason from it. Paul had lived in the pages of his Bible, pouring over them, inquiring into them, reflecting upon them. The Bible is not an end in itself. From the Scriptures Paul was “explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (17:3a). Scripture was created in the providence of God as a witness to His Christ, and especially to the meaning and power of His crucifixion and resurrection, the saving acts of God. Healthy Christians must be committed to the study of the Word.

Third, his custom was Witness-bearing. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ” (Acts 17:3b). It was a habit of Paul to proclaim Jesus as Savior, sometimes through preaching and teaching in worship services, but just as often in the informal settings of job, home, and market – wherever life touched life. Those who do so will win others. We read in verse 4 that “some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.” There is no thrill like knowing God has used your witness to reach people for His kingdom. But witness-bearing has its risks. All will not believe, and some react in anger and hostility. Jealous Jews recruited a mob of “bad characters” (17:5) who threw the city into an uproar and tried to assault the Christians. Yet, we must risk hostility and rejection in order to win some for Christ.

What are your habits? If someone were to record your customs what might they observe about you?

Let us join in prayer: O God, sanctify my body and soul, my thoughts and my intentions, my words and actions, that whatsoever I shall think, or speak, or do, may be by me designed for the glory of your name, and by your blessing may it be effective in your work. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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