Pastor's Blog
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October 4, 2017, 7:47 AM

Radical Faith

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

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Every Christian’s life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand a radical step of faith in order to follow the will of Christ. The difference between a good and a great Christian life is not a matter of knowledge or pedigree but of a willingness to take a radical step of faith. In nearly every aspect of your relationship with him, the Lord will bring you to the edge of a decision at which point you’ll have to decide whether to leap in the direction he’s calling you or pull back to a place that seems safe.

That means you can be a good, moral person doing what’s expected of you – reading your Bible, going to church, being a responsible spouse and parent, serving your community – but if you’re not living by faith, you won’t be very pleasing to God. All of those consistent activities are wonderful; keep doing them. But if you’re playing it safe and staying away from the scary edge of faith, you won’t ultimately please God by fulfilling his awesome, mind-blowing purposes for your life.

Chip Ingram writes, “At a critical point in each aspect of life, you will have a decision to make that pits obedience against comfort or convenience. If it’s a financial decision, you may have to choose whether to start tithing or adjust your current standard of living. If it’s your marriage, you may have to choose whether to bare your soul in counseling or let old patterns of behavior keep your relationship in a state of mediocrity. If it’s your career, you may have to choose whether to step in the direction of the calling that has gripped your heart or stay where you have a better salary and a comfortable routine. And while you usually know which direction God wants you to choose, you also know most people will think you’re absolutely crazy for choosing his will. So in addition to your comfort and convenience, you also risk your reputation – at least with some people.”

To be clear, sometimes the people who are closest to you will think you’re nuts for following God. They’ll say things like, “Why would you take your family so far away?” Or, “You’re ruining your career.” Or, “If you give all that money to your church, you won’t be able to pay your bills.” If you’re not careful, the negative words of people will eventually sound louder than the voice of God. Just remember that where there’s no risk, there’s no faith; where there’s no faith, there’s no power or joy or intimacy with God. And, ultimately, where there’s no faith, you end up with hollow religious activity, moralistic rules, and dead orthodoxy. Therefore, God calls us to live by radical faith!

Let us join in prayer: Lord, let me live only to love you, serve you in full obedience, and glorify your holy name. Give me the strength and courage to take radical steps of faith for You. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 27, 2017, 8:04 AM

Dream Big

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

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Acts 2:17-18a).

Great accomplishments usually begin with the pursuit of a dream. The future is shaped by the visions held dear in our hearts. There is tremendous power in a dream. When you believe a picture of the future, and that picture bleeds out of your heart – not because you have to or ought to accomplish it, but because you intensely want to – it blows wind in your sails and directs the course of your life. Believe it or not, it can also direct the course of history.

Quite a few dreams have done that, both positively and negatively. Chip Ingram notes, “Alexander the Great dreamed of ruling the world, and his conquests have shaped Western civilization forever. (Our New Testament, for example, is written in Greek because of his empire’s expansion.) Persecuted Christians and political malcontents dreamed of a land of protection and freedom, and their colonial territories in the Americas have flourished... Hitler dreamed of establishing the superiority of his race, and the resulting war devastated half the world, deeply scarred the Jewish people, and shaped the political landscape to this day. Martin Luther King dreamed of a society without racism, and his efforts helped define a movement that radically altered American culture for the better. (It’s no coincidence that King’s greatest speech is best known for this one phrase: ‘I have a dream.’)”

A dream, whether for good or for evil, whether of an individual or a group, can be a mighty influence. We see the same dynamic in church history. Paul dreamed of preaching Christ before philosophers and emperors, and the church spread throughout Asia and Europe. Hudson Taylor dreamed of reaching China’s interior with the gospel, and the underground Chinese church is flourishing today. Dwight Moody had a dream for the youth of Chicago and ended up launching a church, establishing a network of schools, and cultivation an evangelistic movement. Phineas F. Bresee dreamed of ministering to the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized of Los Angeles with a powerful message of hope and holiness in Christ, and the Church of the Nazarene was born. Those are just a few examples among the many throughout history. Great works almost always begin with great dreams.

What is your dream? It doesn’t matter if you’re seven or seventy-seven; your heart should be captivated by a vision of how to serve God and accomplish something great for his kingdom.

Let us join in prayer: Almighty God, give us your Holy Spirit that we may learn what your eternal will is and frame our whole lives in obedience to it, to your honor and glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 20, 2017, 7:39 AM

Freedom in Christ

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

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ… When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations… He took it away, nailing it to the cross… Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, 13-17).

The grace of God has two dimensions. One dimension is the forgiveness of sins. The other is, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We receive the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, one who has the new heart doesn’t need any law because the Holy Spirit makes the law unnecessary. This is why Jesus said that all the law and the prophets are fulfilled in one word, love.

Paul explained, “For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). In other words, when we are filled with the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit causes us to do what the law aimed at, plus a great deal more. This makes the law unnecessary!

N. T. Wright declares, “All you need is Christ, the king. Hold fast to him and you’ll have all you need. He is the head of the ‘body’, as Paul said already in 1:18. The body gets its life from the head, through what it thinks, sees, smells, hears, eats and drinks. In the same way, the body which is the church is nourished and sustained, in all its joints, muscles and ligaments, not by embracing this or that new teaching, but by holding fast to the Head. Can you sense the sigh of relief the Colossians may have experienced on being reassured that they were already complete in Christ and didn’t need anything else, just more of what they already had? Have you ever come under pressure to ‘add’ to your Christian experience? Do you know the same sigh of relief yourself?”

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, my life, in so many ways and at so many places, seems shackled and bound. Help me to find freedom and liberty in you this day. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 13, 2017, 6:50 AM

Loved Poured Out

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

“God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

It is not enough to shun evil and do good at all opportunities. It is not enough to seriously use all the means of grace given unto us with a sincere design and desire to please God. The great question remains for each of us: Is the love of God poured out in my heart? Does my heart cry that He is my all? Is He truly my delight? And, is it written in my heart that those who love God love their neighbor also? Go further: Do I believe that Christ loved me and gave Himself for me? Do I have faith in His blood? Do I believe that the Lamb of God has taken away my sins and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea, giving me redemption through His blood, even the remission of my sins? Does His Spirit testify with my spirit that I am a child of God?

John Wesley declared, “Let no one persuade you to rest short of this prize of your high calling. Cry day and night unto Him who, ‘while we were without strength, died for the ungodly’; until you know Him in whom you have believed and know that you are indeed altogether a Christian. Then, being justified freely by His grace by the redemption that is in Jesus, you will experience that blessed peace with God through Jesus Christ and know the love of God poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit!”

A mark of those who are born of God is love, which is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “Because you are sons,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6). By this Spirit, continually looking up to God as their reconciled and loving Father, believers cry to Him for their daily bread, for all the things needful, whether for soul or body. They continually pour out their hearts before Him, knowing they have those petitions they ask of Him. Their delight is in Him; He is the joy of their hearts. The desire of their soul is toward Him; it is their great satisfaction to do His will.  They love God as their Savior. They love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. They are so joined unto the Lord as to be one spirit. Their souls hang upon the Lord Jesus and count Him the chief among ten thousand.

Do you now believe? If so, the love of God is now poured out in your heart. You love Him, because He first loved us. And because you love God, you love your brother and sister, also. And having love, peace, and joy, you also have long-suffering, gentleness, fidelity, goodness, meekness, temperance, and all the other fruit of the Spirit. In a word, you have whatever dispositions are holy, heavenly, or divine. If you truly believe, His love is being poured out into your heart by the Holy Spirit.

Let us join in prayer: Our Father, help us this day to do everything you have commanded us to do wholeheartedly, with goodwill, and with true love for your service, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

September 6, 2017, 7:54 AM

Freed From Sin

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

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? …For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:1b-2; 6-7).

When we have the true, living faith by which we are born of God from above, a fruit that cannot be separated from this grace is power through the Spirit over willful sin of every kind, over every evil word and action. Wherever the blood of Christ is by faith applied to a heart, it purges the conscience from dead works. The writer of Hebrews declares, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

The blood of Christ gives power over inward sin also, for it purifies the heart from unholy affections and tempers. “How,” said the Apostle Paul, “shall we,” who by faith “died to sin live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:2). For “our old self is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (v. 6). “For sin shall not be your master… You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (vv. 14, 18).

The Apostle John asserts the same privilege of power over outward sin: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Some say, this means that we are not to commit sins habitually. But, to be clear, that word is not in Scripture; and who are we to modify the Word of God? God plainly says, no true child of His “will continue to sin” and we add the word habitually? This comment swallows up the text, takes away the whole meaning and spirit of the passage, and leaves only a dead letter. By this human trickery the precious promise is utterly lost, and the Word of God is made of no effect.

No! Let Scripture speak for itself. The Word clearly goes on to declare, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). God has not called us to a sinning religion. He has called us to be free of all that once held us in chains. With the hymn writer we declare: “Finish then Thy new creation; Pure and spotless let us be. Let us see Thy great salvation, Perfectly restored in Thee.”

Let us join in prayer: Enable us, O Lord, to walk before you in holiness and righteousness to your praise and glory. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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