Pastor's Blog
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March 28, 2018, 7:48 AM

Watch and Pray

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

“Then [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ …. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ (Matthew 26:40-41)

For three years Jesus had spent virtually every hour with His small group of disciples. They had listened to Him speak the greatest words of truth and life ever spoken, and they saw Him practice perfectly everything He preached. They had watched Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and walk on water. He had poured Himself into them, preparing them to take His gospel to the whole world. Now, the midnight hour had finally arrived, and the time to step forward as the perfect Lamb of God had come. Into the darkness of Gethsemane’s garden He took Peter, James and John. They clearly saw on His face that “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (26:37). Jesus even admitted to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (26:38). Jesus, who had already done so much for His disciples, made this simple request in the hour of His greatest need.

Knowing His death was but hours away, Jesus went only a few steps before He dropped to the ground and started to pray: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (26:39). After a while, Jesus returned to the disciples – and they were sound asleep. Can you believe it? Asleep . . . and in His greatest hour of need. Then came from Jesus’ mouth this piercing question: “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (26:40).

Upon hearing this, the disciples undoubtedly thought of the words of the prophet Isaiah. Seven hundred years earlier Isaiah had spoken of the importance of watching and praying. In the ancient days, watchmen were posted on the city walls twenty-four hours a day. Watching for any trouble, they provided security to the people. They had divine assignments. They were never to be silent “day or night.” Likewise, Peter, James, and John had the opportunity to provide Jesus with physical security as well as the spiritual security during this hour that He prayed. The disciples could have alerted Jesus to anyone entering Gethsemane, and more importantly, the disciples could have prayed for strength, courage, and peace. But the disciples did neither; they slept.

Listen again to the sorrow in Jesus’ question: “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” Isn’t it time we who name Jesus as our Savior and Lord took seriously this question? When, in so many places, the heart of the church has turned to stone and the pulpit is simply a dispensary of human thought; when so many of our educational systems are citadels of anti-Christian propaganda and blatant humanism; when the media loudly and persistently calls our children to godless lifestyles; when too many believers are quietly tolerating a dying civilization; and when at least some of us are hearing our Savior ask, “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” – when all this is happening, isn’t it time for us to watch, to pray, and to cry out to God like Isaiah, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!” (Isaiah 64:1).

Let us join in prayer: Father, keep us alert and prayerful. May we not fall into temptation. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 21, 2018, 8:05 AM

Do You Believe This?

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

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever live and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26)

It was a sad and somber day in Bethany as Jesus stood in the midst of the brokenhearted family and friends at the grave of Lazarus. From His lips came an astonishing claim: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26a). Then Jesus looked into their faces – just as He looks into our hearts – and asked life’s bottom-line question: “Do you believe this?” (v. 26b). The resurrection is what sets our Lord apart from a thousand other gurus and self-proclaimed prophets who have come along through the centuries. The question, “Do you believe this?” is what drives any responsible hearer to either accept or reject the Christian faith.

Since we obviously have no audio recordings or videos of our Lord’s words, it causes one to wonder what words Jesus emphasized in His question. Perhaps Jesus emphasized the you in order to drive home the fact that one’s salvation is a very personal and individual matter: “Do you believe this?” When it comes to saving faith in the finished work of Christ, what matters is not what my mother or father, husband or wife, or anyone else believes. It is a personal matter. I have known some who pinned all their hopes of eternal life on someone else’s faith as though they might eventually benefit by some sort of spiritual osmosis. Yet, the real question, however, is “Do you believe this?”

It could be that He emphasized the word believe and asked it thus: “Do you believe this?” He was not asking his hearers if they were giving intellectual assent to his claims. He wanted to know if they would actually put their total trust and faith in His words. It is one thing to know the gospel story intellectually. It is one thing to attempt to conform ourselves to the resurrection by trying to take up a new set of moral standards externally. It is even one thing to reason and argue in the defense of the gospel. But the real issue for Jesus was – and is – one of faith: “Do you believe this?”

Or, it may well be that Jesus placed the emphasis on the last word in the question: “Do you believe this?” Do we believe what? Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die! Do you believe this?” Do you believe this – Jesus’ claim to deity? Using the words “I am” captured the attention of those around Him. When Moses asked the voice from the burning bush to reveal His name, God simply instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:13-14). When Jesus said, “I am,” all those listening recognized it to be an affirmation of His deity. The most fundamental belief of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth is God Himself. “Do you believe this?” There are lots of questions in life. But there is only one big question in death: “Do you believe this?” You can settle the answer now, once and for all, by joining Martha in her response: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27).

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the hope of eternal life I have in Jesus. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 14, 2018, 7:44 AM

Do Not Worry

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

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it will never get you anywhere! Our pressure-packed world offers countless opportunities for anxiety, anguish, and worry. No wonder many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worrying. Friends, God does not merely frown upon worry; as O.S. Hawkins points out, He expressly forbids us to worry. With this in mind, the following four principles may help us more easily resist the forbidden fruit of worry.

1. It’s foolish to worry. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus encouraged us to look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant crops or gather a harvest. They don’t build barns or storehouses. The Father simply feeds them, a fact that prompted Jesus to ask His listeners. “Are you not of more value than they?” (6:26). Instead of using a great soaring bald eagle to illustrate this truth, Jesus spoke of the little field sparrows: “Not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father” (10:29). These tiny birds – two were sold for a single copper coin – are vastly inferior and of far less value than you and I. So, it makes sense that our Sovereign Lord, who provides for the birds, will also provide for our needs.

2. It is futile to worry. Not only is it sheer folly to worry, it is also futile. To help us realize this, Jesus asked, “Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27). The psalmist reminded us that our days on earth were already numbered before we lived a single one of them or drew a single breath (Psalm 139:16). So, what will worry do for you? Absolutely nothing! Worrying has never solved a single problem. In fact, it has complicated and compounded many of them.

3. It is frustrating to worry. In Matthew 6, Jesus turns our attention to the lilies growing wild in the fields that “neither toil nor spin” (v. 28). They don’t punch a time clock or worry about how they look or what they wear. Specifically, he calls us to “consider… how they grow.” Growth remains something of a mystery: How does a tiny seed ultimately become a beautiful flower? How does a speck of protoplasm, undetected by the human eye, become a human being with all the intricacies of a circulatory system, respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system, and the like? Jesus wanted us to remember that the same God of glory who watches over those lilies watches over you and me. Focus on Him. Worry will never take you anywhere except to frustration.

4. It is faithless to worry. Jesus was very direct: “If God so clothes the grass of the field… will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30). This gentle rebuke reminds us that worry is a lack of faith in God’s promise to protect and provide for His people. The real test of our spiritual maturity is not so much our actions as our reactions. Worry is not just foolish, futile, and frustrating. The most damaging aspect of worry is that it reveals our lack of trust in God and His promises.

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving and creating me. Help me to trust you through all the seasons of life. Teach me not to be anxious about anything. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 7, 2018, 8:11 AM

The Fear of God

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

“Who among you fears the Lord? (Isaiah 50:10a)

Perhaps no Christian discipline is as forgotten as the idea of living in “fear of the Lord.” We are living in what has become a “no fear culture.” A couple of generations have basically grown up without any moral absolutes. The rampant relativism that has resulted feeds the “no fear” mind-set. This bankrupt ideology even launched an apparel brand that was simply called: No Fear. Tragically, even the church can be a place of no fear. Instead of the church influencing culture, all too often the culture slips into the church. And now we find ourselves living in a “no fear culture” where the thought of living in the fear of God is forgotten. Thus, Isaiah’s question is as relevant today as it was more than twenty-five-hundred years ago: “Who among you fears the Lord?” (Isaiah 50:10a).

Without having God on the throne, without having a priority to honor and glorify Him, without living in a spiritually healthy fear of Him, we are allowing the New Testament gospel to be pushed aside by the New Trendy gospel. The New Testament gospel emphasizes self-denial, but the New Trendy gospel emphasizes self-fulfillment. The New Testament gospel is focused on Christ and His life, death, resurrection, and plan for man’s redemption, but the New Trendy gospel is focused on man and his desire for comfort. The question of Isaiah will never be asked among those with a trendy mind-set.

However, a thread woven throughout the fabric of the Bible is this: every man and woman used of God walked in the fear of the Lord. Noah was “moved with godly fear” as he built the ark (Heb. 11:7). The Proverbs 31 woman “fears the Lord” (v. 30). The same is true in the gospels. The young virgin Mary praised God, whose “mercy is on those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50). In Acts, the fear of the Lord is mentioned on practically every page. We read that the community birthed at Pentecost, for instance, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…. Then fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:42-43). The epistles are filled with the same theme. Paul said we are to submit to one another “in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). And, finally, in Revelation, John told of a loud voice coming from the throne, saying, “Praise God, all you His servants and those who fear Him!” (Rev. 19:5).

So, what does it mean to live in the fear of God? Does fearing the Lord mean living in a constant state of fright or concern that if we say something or do something wrong, God will zap us with some big bolt of retribution? Nothing could be further from the biblical truth. The most common biblical word for fear means to stand in awe before God with such reverence and respect that this holy awe becomes the controlling motivation of our lives. Fearing God is to live with the conscious awareness of His presence and wanting to do nothing that might cause God to remove His hand of blessing and anointing from us. Living with that awareness makes an incredible difference in what we do, what we say, where we go, and how we live. Therefore, I ask again, “Who among you fears the Lord?”

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, we pray that our hearts would learn how to rightfully fear you. We bow before you. We surrender our hearts to you. We put you first, Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 28, 2018, 9:17 AM

Is It Right For You To Be Angry?

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

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry? (Jonah 4:4)

When 17th-century British leader Oliver Cromwell sat for his official portrait, the one that would display his likeness for all future generations, he instructed the artist to pain him just as he saw him, “warts and all.” Since that day, the expression “warts and all” has been used to refer to a true representation of a person, to reveal the weaknesses as well as the good points. Jonah, the runaway prophet, concluded his small book in the Bible by doing this very thing in chpt. 4. Most of us, had we been writing this book about ourselves, would probably have closed with chpt. 3’s account of the mighty outpouring of revival upon the city of Nineveh. But Jonah didn’t. He added another chapter and included God’s rebuke: “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah’s wart was his spirit of resentment: he could not tolerate the fact that the Ninevites had received God’s blessings. So Jonah went outside the city and fumed with resentment. He lost all sense of perspective and wallowed in his own anger. Such anger and resentment can have devastating and destructive effects on us.

First, resentment destroys our peace. One would think that after all Jonah had been through, he would praise God for sending revival to the people of Nineveh. Instead, we read that God’s mercy “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (4:1). The word angry here means “to burn.” Jonah was fuming: smoke was pouring out his ears. Harboring resentment and anger takes away our own peace of heart.

Second, resentment diverts us from our purpose. Jonah’s pride was hurt because he felt God had discredited him. He became so self-centered that twice in chpt. 4 he said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (vv. 3, 8). His anger caused him to make decisions on a what’s-best-for-me basis. No longer was he concerned about God’s purposes in his life or in the lives of the Ninevites.

Third, resentment diminishes our productivity. Twice we read that Jonah sat down (4:5). Before, we found him taking God’s message to the streets, obeying God’s commands, and powerfully preaching His message. Yet in the aftermath we find him just sitting on a hill outside the city, half hoping it will fall. Resentment has its way of robbing us of our productivity and sense of purpose. We lose our sense of mission.

Fourth, resentment distorts our perspective. Because of his anger and resentment, Jonah lost his perspective on the goodness of the Nineveh revival. Jonah became obsessed with complaints about a small plant that gave him shade and then withered (4:6-8). It seemed that Jonah could not have cared less about the thousands of people in Nineveh who had just repented of their sin. For Jonah to sulk about a vine at a time such as this was sheer folly, but this is what resentment will do. It shifts our values and make us focus on ourselves.

Thus, God went to Jonah and asked, “Is it right for you to be angry? …Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (4:11). Jonah’s story ends there. Without ever knowing how he responded to God’s inquiry. Did Jonah carry his anger and resentment to the grave? More importantly, what will we do with any such feelings that sneak in on us?

Let us join in prayer: Father, thank you for your mercy and grace. Help me extend it to others. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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