Pastor's Blog
Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22   Entries 41-45 of 109
January 17, 2018, 10:07 AM

On Mission?

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6).

Who are we, and what are we to do? It is vitally important that the church routinely consider these questions. I believe the answer is revealed in the beginning of the book of Revelation. Before we get to the answer, let’s first consider what Dr. D. M. Gunter II says we, the church, are not.

We are not a social club. Although building good relationships and living in community with each other is part of our mission, part of our purpose, and biblical, we are not a social club. We are not a service club. Although we are to care for the needs of each other, to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, to tend the sick and help the helpless, and to visit the prisoner and house the homeless, we are not a service club. We are not a historical society. Although we have our traditions and creeds and build on the foundation that was laid by our spiritual ancestors, we are not a historical society. We are not a sales organization. Although we want to introduce people to Jesus Christ and see the kingdom of God grow and increase, we are not “selling” a gospel or “closing deals” for Jesus. That’s not our identity. That’s not our main purpose. So, who are we and what is our purpose?

Our existence is “christocentric.” The church is Christ centered. The “grace and peace” is “…from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead…” (Rev. 1:5). Jesus is the one who freed us. He is the one who made us. The church is to be focused on Jesus Christ, to be centered on him. Our character is to be like Christ. Christ freed us from our sin so that we could live in right relationship with him and so that we could be transformed into his image. He has made us to be a holy kingdom (Rev. 1:6a). We are a different culture from the rest of the world, with a different way of living. So, who we are is a Christ centered holy kingdom. We are His possession (Rev. 5:9).

As His possession, our mission is to be his priests. “[He] has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…” (Rev. 1:6a). A priest serves by connecting people and God. That is their role. You and I – the church – are called to serve as priests. We are to be a holy kingdom and our mission is to reconcile people to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20). We are to be a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) that helps reconcile that which is lost. That is who we are and what we are to do. Are we doing it?

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask you to enable me to gladly do the work to which you beckon me. May I do it as a servant of Christ doing the will of God from my heart. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 20, 2017, 8:13 AM

Healthy Christ-esteem

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

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, NIV)

The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned in all his letters, not only with doctrinal purity, but behavioral consistency between belief and action, convictions and character, piety and personality. Throughout his writings he persistently and decisively deals with the problem of people who name Christ as Lord but have not allowed Him to transform their hearts – their personalities and character disorders. The last line, “having a form of godliness but denying its power,” means believers who have the outward trappings of rites, rituals, and rules of religion, but in areas of their lives have denied the Lord’s transforming power. All of the character and personality disorders Paul lists out are a denial of the power of the Lord to break chains and radically change lives.

As we consider the inventory Paul provides, I pray that you and I will have the honesty to see areas in which we need to change and that we would be given the courage to ask the Lord to transform what needs to be changed. When you come to a category that does not apply to you, praise the Lord that you are not troubled by that. But dare to be boldly courageous. Make “I will be absolutely honest with myself and the Lord” your motto in the areas that are a problem to you.

For example, let’s consider the first character disorder on Paul’s list: “lovers of themselves.” The fundamental problem Paul focuses on here is misdirected love. The self is meant to be the container and transmitter of the Holy Spirit, not the object of worship instead of God. The problem is self-centeredness. This is a sin we often tolerate in ourselves and suffer stress from others. Self-centeredness must be seen for what it is: apostasy, the departure from loving God to undue, obsessive, and eventually compulsive focus on ourselves: what we want, how others treat us, our rights, our feelings. It is the opposite of healthy Christ-esteem, loving ourselves as loved by Him.

Self-centeredness turns us inward on the self as worthy of worship; Christ-esteem fills the self with love for God; for ourselves as forgiven and saved by His grace; and then turns us outward to live sacrificially for others. Self-centeredness can ruin marriages, debilitate friendships, disrupt churches, and wreak havoc on entire communities. Now it is not for me to tell you if self-centeredness is ever your problem, but you can. And if you do, and if you ask for the Holy Spirit to redirect your worship away from self to the Lord, He will help you do just that – if you truly want Him to.

Let us join in prayer: Speak, Lord, for your servant hears. Grant me ears to hear, eyes to see, a will to obey, a heart to love; then declares what you will, reveal what you will, command what you will, demand what you will. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 13, 2017, 8:59 AM

Faithful In Suffering

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

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead… that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.” (2 Tim. 2:8-9, NRSV)

Scripture calls us to be faithful, even in the midst of suffering. In order to receive the full impact of this passage, we need to understand the particular kind of suffering Paul said he was enduring. The word for suffer in verse 9 is kakopatho (kako – evil; pascho – suffer). This is a very strong word, indicating the influences of evil or Satan himself to use what happens to us to try to induce us to question God’s faithfulness in the management of our lives. We become vulnerable when a physical, emotional, or relational difficulty causes us to wonder if the Lord has forgotten us.

“Why did this happen?” we ask. “What is the Lord up to in permitting this to happen?” we demand. A prolonged illness, relentless pain, grief, strained or broken relationships, misunderstanding of the motives of others, or feeling misunderstood, problems that pile up, etc., – all can bring us to the edge of doubting the goodness of the Lord. We suffer the temptation to question His love for us. Added to all this, we’ve all been upset by the thoughtlessness, carelessness, or just plain pigheadedness of people. Why does God allow their derisive and divisive words and actions?

To help us in our journey, Paul gives us some things to remember. “Remember… Jesus Christ” (2:8). Remember the Incarnate Christ who lived among us in human flesh. Remember the images He used to teach us of faithfulness. Remember the Christ who forgave those who didn’t seem to deserve it, who gave shalom to the distressed, and communicated hope to the disheartened. Remember the cross and the resurrection. Remember Jesus, the faithful One. When we relive Calvary, we realize what an awesome revelation of God’s faithfulness the resurrection was and is.

Another reason Paul could survive and remain faithful in suffering was because he had a gospel. Paul had an evangel – a gospel, good news, truth he had experienced and spent his life communicating to others. Jesus Christ became Paul’s purpose and passion. This gospel kept him going. He had exciting news to share. What would you say is your gospel? What is the good news according to you? We all have a gospel. What Christ means to us personally and our personal application of His message, death, resurrection, and reigning power to all of the demands of life become our gospel. People around us are reading the gospel according to you and me all the time. When they look at us may they see a gospel of love and faithfulness in all circumstances.

Let us join in prayer: Father, I thank you for this day, for what it shall bring, opportunities, life, hope, strength. And for what it may take away. Teach me to trust you in the comings and goings of life. In the name of your faithful Son, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 6, 2017, 10:51 AM

Wait On The Lord

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

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

The Scripture challenges us to be a people who wait upon the Lord. But, if we’re honest, not many of us like to wait. We’re not ones to slow down in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, especially at this time of the year. However, did you notice the progression of the text: wait, receive courage, and go forward with strength. Without resting in the Lord our impatience causes impetuousness. Our greatest errors and strained relationships come when we have lost touch with the Lord’s inner guidance and wisdom.

In the Psalms we are encouraged to “Be still, and know that I am God” (46:10). It is only trough patient waiting that we can know God and thus know our true place in the universe. He is the one who can tell us the reason for our existence, our place in the scheme of things, our real identity. It is an identity we can’t discover for ourselves, that others can’t discover in us – the mystery of who we really are. How we have chased around the world for answers to that riddle, looked in the eyes of others for some hint, some clue, hunted in the multiple worlds of pleasure and experience and self-fulfillment for some glimpse, some revelation, some wisdom, some authority to tell us our right name and our true destination. But there was, and is, only One who can tell us this: the Lord himself. And He wants to tell us, He has made us to know our reason for being and to be led by it. But it is a secret He will entrust to us only when we ask, and then in His own way and His own time. He will whisper it to us not in the mad rush and fever of our striving and our fierce determination to be someone, but rather when we are content to rest in Him, to put ourselves into His keeping, into His hands.

Frederick W. Faber expressed how we must wait for God. We must wait long, meekly, in wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the old and dark. We must wait, and He will come. But God never comes to those who do not wait. It is in the waiting times that our most creative thoughts and plans are formulated. Instead of rushing headlong in our own impatience, the Lord is able to tell us what are the next steps and how we are to move forward in His strategy for us and the people around us. Christ’s strength gives us patience. We could never produce it on our own strength, in the quantities that are needed in our families, our church, and our world. But we do have access to an unlimited stockpile of patience, when the fruit of the Spirit of patience gives us courage to live on His timing and act with His power.

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

November 29, 2017, 6:52 AM

Take Up His Yoke

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

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden in light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus invites us to come to him and experience rest. He also tells us how He proposes to impart this precious gift. He offers an exchange of yokes. Investigation into Eastern methods of plowing helps us to understand what Jesus meant by the yoke. Mosaic law forbade an old and a young ox to be hitched together in an ordinary yoke. This was because the young animal could not pull his part of the burden.

The phrase “unequally yoked” comes from this. A training yoke was required by law. The heavy end of the yoke was the burden of the stronger, older beast. The experienced ox kept the furrow straight and, under the reins of the plowman, moved forward. All the younger beast had to do was to keep parallel with the stronger animal; if it pulled away, ahead or behind, its neck would be rubbed raw in the yoke. The trainee had to give up the right to lead in order to keep pace with the trainer. The lead ox must take the lead and the responsibility for the burden. Now it begins to dawn on us what Christ meant when He offered us his yoke as a source of freedom… and patience.

Christ carries the heavy end of the yoke. He pulls the burden for us. We must give up our wills to Him. Patience is developed in the school of Christ. We are yoked with Him to discover how to live with His guidance, strategy, and timing. Impatience involves running ahead, pulling off in our own direction, or stomping our feet in petulant pouting. Patience is developed through keeping a parallel pace with the Master. The cadence of His perfect will in our lives sets the rhythm for a life of peace.

We all know what it is like to be rubbed raw by our own impatience. We have all tried to accomplish our goals with only our own strength; and equally defeating, we have tried to do His work in our strength. It will not work. We become impatient when we want to do what we want, when we want it, and with whom we want it. Who has not bashed down a closed door while an open door stood nearby, with the Master inviting us to follow him inside?

To be in a training yoke with Christ means several magnificent gifts are offered to us. (1.) He carries the burden! (2.) We can give up responsibility of running the universe. (3.) We can learn to be “gentle and lowly in heart.” And, (4.) we can experience rest for our souls. Won’t you take up His yoke today?

Let us join in prayer: Lord, I am yours; I do yield myself up entirely to you, and I believe that you do take me. I leave myself with you. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will, and I will only lie still in your hands and trust you. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22   Entries 41-45 of 109