Pastor's Blog
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November 15, 2017, 8:33 AM

Fully Committed

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

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel… I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:8-12)

Starting in verse 9 of the first chapter of his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminds the young leader of who he is, to Whom he belongs, and for what he was destined. Astounding assurances are communicated. Timothy, like Paul, was singled out to receive grace and a holy calling before time began, he had experienced new life in Christ, and he had been entrusted with the gospel, the good news of Christ’s life, cross, resurrection, and reigning power. The Lord had a purpose and plan for Timothy’s life and in response, Timothy needed to make a commitment like Paul’s. Note carefully that Paul says, “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (1:14). Timothy was to learn from the apostle’s example the true meaning of an unreserved commitment, and in turn his commitment was to keep what was committed to him.

There are two aspects to a dual commitment: what is committed to us, and what we commit to the Lord. The Greek word translated as “committed,” paratheken, literally means a deposit committed to another person’s trust for safekeeping. In Paul’s time there were no banks, so there was no more trusted duty than to keep the responsibility of another person’s valuables. An equally high trust was to allow a person to invest your money for you and then return to you the interest earned. The Greek word for “keep,” phulaxai, means to guard against robbery or loss. It also implies investment at high return. The words “committed” and “keep” are linked closely together. Paul has committed his total life unreservedly to Christ. It is as if he were saying, “There’s no doubt in my mind about Christ’s reliability. I know him personally and have learned that He is able, has all power, to multiply my effectiveness in whatever I completely turn over to His control.” Then to Timothy he says, in essence, “Multiply what the Lord has entrusted to you with unreserved willingness.”

This is how the dual commitment works. When we commit our lives and needs and concerns on a daily basis to the Lord, He entrusts them back to us to do what He wills with His constant guidance and power. Specific things that are committed for us to do and be become clear. Then we commit ourselves to obedient follow-through. In response, the Lord commits to us His faithfulness, guidance, and the power of the Holy Spirit. We are never left to struggle on our own. Dual commitment begins when we make our initial commitment, but it must be repeated daily in the challenges and opportunities committed to us by the Lord. What will you do with what has been entrusted to you?

Let us join in prayer: Father, thank you for the precious gifts that you have committed unto my care, including Your Son and Your Spirit. May I faithfully commit my whole life to you in response. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 8, 2017, 8:22 AM

Fan the Flame

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

“… fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

The apostle Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote his second letter to Timothy. While awaiting execution, Paul had on his mind the future of the church. He particularly was concerned about Timothy, his son in the faith and the leader he had left in charge of the church in Ephesus. Timothy had been converted to Christ on Paul’s first missionary journey. It was on his second missionary journey that Paul enlisted Timothy to be a part of his missionary posse as he moved around Galatia, Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor. Eventually Timothy was left in charge of the church at Ephesus.

Ephesus was an important city and it was dominated by pagan worship in the Temple of Diana. It was not an easy place to be a Christian or a leader of the church. Timothy experienced this first hand. This reality wore heavily upon him as the days passed. In time, Paul discerned the diminished fires of passion in him. “Therefore, I remind you,” Paul wrote Timothy, “to stir up the gift of God which is in you.” In his admonition Paul used a double-compound Greek word, anazopurein. This Greek word means “to billow into flame,” “to rekindle.” The gift (charisma) of God that Timothy was to stir up to flames again was the Holy Spirit. When Paul initially laid hands on Timothy and prayed for him, the young leader was set aflame with passion for Christ, love for people, and courage for leadership. Fellowship with Paul, Silas, and Luke kept the flames ablaze as they traveled together.

A few years later Timothy was a lonely leader in Ephesus and he needed a rekindling of the red ember within him. We are given a hint of the cause of the dampening of the flame in his heart by what Paul went on to write to him: “God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7). The Greek word for fear here is deilias, meaning “caution,” “reserve,” “timidity,” or “cowardice.” A spirit of delias limits what we are willing to attempt to only those things we are sure we can pull off on our own strength, rather than by the Holy Spirit’s power. The fires within our souls get smothered by negative thinking and quenched by feelings of inadequacy. The fires burn down because of life’s demands.

Life has a way of dampening the fires of excitement and enthusiasm. We burn down as our energies are sapped, our reserves are depleted, and our hopes smolder. People pressures get us down; problems pile up; worries and anxiety pour cold water on the previously blazing coals. “Stir up the fires!” Paul urges. “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” Our spirits were created to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, not a spirit of delias. The Spirit of God gives us the power to do what Christ calls us to do: to love, forgive, share our faith, endure the pressures of daily life, and battle for justice in every realm of life. So, what fills your heart today? A spirit of fear? Or the fire of the Holy Spirit?

Let us join in prayer: Lord, quench all fear in me and set my heart ablaze for You and Your kingdom!

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 1, 2017, 7:54 AM

Discipline Yourselves

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

“…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV).

Benjamin Franklin once said that if you take all your good habits and subtract all your bad habits, the result is your contribution to society. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? What we have been trained to do, whether good or bad, defines to some degree our benefit to the people around us – and to the kingdom of God. We need to grasp the fact that the sum of our good and bad habits will dictate who we will become. The kind of man or woman you will be in five, ten, or twenty years from now will be determined by the habits you have today. You can habitually learn to be kind, to think great thoughts, to be generous, to make great sacrifices, and so on. Those characteristics don’t come accidentally. You have to cultivate a lifestyle in which those things can occur and become second nature.

This may sound more like a psychological technique than a scriptural imperative, but the Bible is clear that discipline is a godly means of grace. Scriptural growth and spiritual greatness come to us through our recurring practices. Habits create a framework that God fills with his grace. They become the highway on which grace is delivered.

In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, instructing him in his pastoral role. He encourages him not to be afraid but to exercise his gifts of leadership. Then he tells Timothy to “have nothing to do with worldly fables.” “On the other hand,” he writes, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). The world “discipline” can also be translated “practice” or “exercise.” It’s the same word we get gymnasium from, and it conveys the idea of going into training. And this is why it’s important, Paul says: “Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8).

Godliness is profitable for eternity and it comes in large part through discipline. In other words, when we approach our spiritual life like an athlete in training and develop the habits of godliness in the same manner that a weight lifter increases his strength, the consequences last forever.

Let us join in prayer: Lord, let my body be a servant of my spirit and both my body and spirit be servants of Jesus, doing all things for your glory here. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

October 18, 2017, 8:29 AM

Rejoice In The Lord

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

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… He has made everything beautiful in its time... I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (Eccles. 3:1, 4, 11-13).

Did you catch that? Laughing, dancing, being happy and finding satisfaction are gifts from God. A lot of Christians are busy and stressed and enduring hardship without understanding the joy that comes from God, but there aren’t any great Christians like that. The Bible is full of reasons to rejoice.

Do we need to be serious about following Jesus? Of course! Does that involve great sacrifices and constant discipline? Absolutely! But amid a fallen world filled with pain and disappointment, we can rest in the absolute certainty that Jesus is coming back. We can drink deeply from his grace and his extravagant promises. And we can enjoy the gifts of God both now and forever.

Solomon wrote about enjoying God’s gifts in Eccles. 5:19-20, “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” Does that describe you? Are you occupied with gladness of heart? Are you filled with contentment from simply being alive, knowing God loves you, and seeing the opportunities he’s placed before you? Or do you find yourself looking back with regret and looking forward with anxiety – busy and stressed, focused and driven, chasing after the happiness that never comes?

Notice that these questions aren’t about being productive, making an impact, or being “spiritual.” Those pursuits are certainly important, but they aren’t evidence of contentment and joy. They can easily turn into “chasing after the wind” (Eccles. 1:17). The real issue is whether you are deeply enjoying the life God has given you. If I asked your spouse, your best friend, your parents, or one of your children if you were a happy person – someone who really enjoys life – how would they answer?

Chip Ingram notes that great Christians are focused and disciplined, making great sacrifices and taking great risks. They get a lot done, but they’re also fun to be around. They know how to kick back and have a great time. They understand that joy is the serious business of heaven.

Let us join in prayer: Father, teach me to rejoice. Teach me that it does me no good to be so busy planning to earn bread for next week that I cannot enjoy what I am eating now. Do not let tomorrow rob me of the pleasure of today. Teach me to laugh, dance, be happy, and find satisfaction. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

October 11, 2017, 6:56 AM

All Of Me

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

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1-2).

Something happens when we hear a story of great sacrifice. It’s powerful and inspiring. It triggers a deep emotional response. There’s something about the Mother Teresas, Gandhis, and Martin Luther Kings of the world that stirs up higher, more noble dreams in us. It has always been this way; it’s just how God made us. Every culture honors those who gave their life for a cause. In the church, we still look back to the early Christians who suffered at the hands of Roman emperors. The world is full of statues commemorating the sacrifices people have made for something greater than themselves.

Why do we feel such a magnetic pull toward people who make great sacrifices? What is this mystical connection between our soul and the nobility of selfless acts? The answer, perhaps, is that sacrifice is the clearest and greatest evidence of the extent of one’s love and devotion toward a person, a cause, or a thing. The measure of our sacrifice demonstrates what matters most. When we’re truly devoted to someone or something, we’re willing to make sacrifices. C. Ingram writes, “If you want to know what you really love, all you have to do is notice where you’re giving your time, your energy, your money, and your dreams… We gladly spend ourselves on what we love.”

It’s not hard to see how that principle applies to being a follower of Jesus. Whatever we have to offer, it will naturally flow in the direction of our deepest affections. The degree of our sacrifice corresponds to the degree of our love. Great Christians demonstrate great love by making great sacrifices. The Apostle Paul was intimately familiar with this kind of sacrifice. He saw it as the appropriate response to God’s mercy and an act of true worship. “I urge you,” he wrote, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices… this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Did you notice the motivation for this act of worship? It’s “in view of God’s mercy” – a grateful response that acknowledges the worthiness of God for all that he has done for us. When Paul says “to offer” our bodies as a living sacrifice, the word literally means “to present” yourself. It’s the same word used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the offering presented by the priest at the altar of sacrifice. God wants us to offer ourselves. He doesn’t just want our job, our money, or our stuff. He wants us. All of us. The tense of the verb Paul chooses here implies a moment of decision when you say, “Lord, all that I am is yours.” It is an act of complete surrender to the lordship of Christ. When Jesus said to follow him (Luke 14:26-27), this is what he intended. So, are you all in for Jesus?

Let us join in prayer: Lord, all I am, all I have, and all I hope to be is placed in your loving hands. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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