Pastor's Blog
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April 19, 2017, 9:09 AM

God and Prayer are Inseperable

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

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7)

All religions pray. God and prayer are inseparable. Belief in God and belief in prayer are elemental and intuitive. The ideas may be crude and cruel in some primitive parts of the world, but they belong to the universal intuitions of humanity. The teachings of the Old Testament is full of the subject of prayer. Everywhere you turn there are commands and encouragements to pray, and the great stories of deliverance and victory, experience and vision, are all examples of prevailing prayer.

In the New Testament, all the crisis in the life of our Lord were linked with special seasons of prayer, and His teaching set forth wonderful assurances to those who pray. He laid down the laws of prayer, though He never sought to explain its mystery. Prayer was not a problem to Him. Yet, the two parables He told about prayer are not very acceptable to those who pray. There is something alien to the spirit of prayer in likening God to a heartless judge (Luke 18:1-8) or a sleepy friend that doesn’t want to be bothered (Luke 11:5-13). God is neither. Those two parables were not spoke as representative of God, but to illustrate the reward of persistence.

The basis of prayer is our sonship. Prayer is possible and reasonable because it is familial. It is natural for a child to ask of its father, and it is reasonable for the father to listen to the request of his child – especially a good and persistent child. In Matthew 7:9-11 Jesus declared, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Samuel Chadwick has written, “There are many problems about prayer, but the lie outside the fact and experience of prayer, and apart from praying there is no solution of them. Prayer is a fact of experience, and though all the ages the testimony of those who prayed has been that God hears and answers the prayer of His children.”

Let us pray together: Gracious Father, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 12, 2017, 8:04 AM

As I Have Loved You

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

Many times the last thing a person says before he or she dies takes on a very special significance. It is as if the very essence of that individual is somehow summed up and compacted into a single message. I imagine this is how the earliest disciples felt about the last words of Christ. During their final meal, they were all at the table with Jesus. And then came those final words, "A new commandment I give to you; love one another" (John 13:34a).

There is actually nothing original or new in the mandate to “Love one another.” This commandment goes back much, much further than the Last Supper. It is a constant theme in the Old Testament. And Jesus had certainly repeated those words during his earthly ministry. What, then, was so special or nuanced about this final mandate? I believe it was the qualifying phrase that Jesus added. He said they were to love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34b). In other words, the unique way Jesus had incarnated the ancient ideal was to become the pattern of how His followers loved one another. So, "How did this One, who became what we are, so that we could understand more fully who God is, actually love?"

St. Augustine gives us two clues as to how Jesus loved. He once observed that Jesus loved each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world to love. Jesus never failed to focus on the unique in each human being. Second, Jesus loved all as he loved each. The way he loved was not only individualized, but it was also incredibly universal. Jesus was never filled with contempt or disdain. Even when the words Jesus spoke assumed a note of harshness, it was because of a concern he felt for those he addressed. They were never words of hatred. We must never forget that the opposite of love is not anger or hostility but indifference. Jesus never turned away from another as if what happened to that one made no difference to him.

St. Augustine's words are a wonderful description of that unique way Jesus loved and invites us now to love one another. He loved each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world to love, and he loved all as he loved each. Additionally, the good news for every one of us to hear today is not only that we are loved by God in this marvelous way, but also that this is our deepest identity and is a way we can choose – by the power of God’s Holy Spirit – to live our lives. You and I, with the help of God's unfailing grace, can grow into the wonder of loving each one as if there is none other in all the world to love and loving all as we love each.

Let us pray together: O God, thank you for giving your Son as atoning sacrifice for my sins. May your perfect love for me move and challenge me to be a person of perfect love for others.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

April 5, 2017, 10:57 AM

Who Loved Me!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May His matchless love overwhelm you today! May His love fill and flow out of you always. Unfortunately, some of us never get beyond the vague notion of a benevolent power working in and through the world. God’s Word expresses a more satisfying viewpoint as it sets forth the love of God in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:20c declares, “…the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Scripture reminds us that love is individual. “Who loved me” – we could never be content with a love that had no focus. A good will that is so infinitely diffused that it touches everywhere in general and fails to touch anywhere in particular is no more than sentiment. Love is a real, measurable, comprehensible thing. A ray of light can be analyzed. It is composed of several distinct and recognizable colors – red, violet, orange, etc. Likewise, love can be resolved into its constituents and shown to include such elements as sympathy, yearning, and goodwill. If these do not show themselves, we may conclude we’re dealing with something other than real love.

A love that is not specific and personal can never meet man’s deeper spiritual cravings. A love that cannot in its last analysis be reduced to an individual regard for me – and a pity for me, and a goodwill toward me, and a willingness to suffer and sacrifice for me – is not the love that my soul longs for and requires. This truth is illustrated in our relations with each other. A young man is said to “fall in love” with a girl. That means he cherishes for her a special affection and partiality. A general goodwill and kindliness would never serve as strong enough motive for being joined in wedlock. Love must be individual and exclusive, or it will never warrant the sympathies and toils and sacrifices which the marriage relationship requires.

So it is with the love of God in Jesus Christ. It is infinitely general, and yet at the same time intensely specific. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). “Who loved me and gave himself for me.” As previously noted, love may be analyzed and shown to include various elements. The cross is the prism that accomplishes this wondrous analysis. Through the cross we see divine compassion, forgiveness and self-sacrifice in action. Let it sink in: You are truly loved by the Father! And “love so amazing, so divine” deserves our truest, most tender devotion in return (2 Corinthians 5:15). May it be so!

Let us pray together: O God, you are the Giver of all good gifts. I desire to praise your name for all the expressions of your love for me, for giving your Son to die for my sins, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. May I receive and reflect your love today. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 22, 2017, 8:16 AM

Eyes of Compassion

Church Family,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord give us eyes full of grace and compassion. May our hearts burn with a holy desire to make a positive impact upon the lives of our community for Jesus Christ. May we refuse to be hardened to the condition of our world and stand idly by as it falls deeper and deeper into the pit of despair.

Think about it: What do you see when you look at our community? Better yet, how long has it been since you looked upon our community with eyes of compassion? In Matthew 9:36 says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he was moved to compassion, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The grammatical structure of this passage makes it quite clear that the compassion of Christ upon the crowd was the result of something else. “When he saw the crowds, he was moved to compassion”; or, to translate the Greek sentence quite literally, “Having seen crowds, he was moved with compassion.” The one thing was the consequence of the other. His pity sprang forth from His perception. Jesus’ compassion on the masses was the result of His vision.

Anybody who has two eyes in their head can see a crowd when there is a crowd to be seen. But can they? That is the very point. If seeing depends simply on the possession of two sound eyes, how is it people see so differently? How is it the very same sights produce such differing impressions? How is it that when the sun rises some people see just a disc of fire, but a poet-painter sees an “innumerable company of the heavenly host crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty’”? Nothing could be shallower or falser than to suggest that what we see depends on these two eyes of ours. Vision is not a faculty of the physical organ of sight solely.

What a person sees depends not simply on their eyes, but on their mind, their imagination, their heart. Without imagination and a heart to look through those eyes, they will not perceive.

Rev. J. D. Jones wrote, “Our Lord was moved with compassion by the vision of pain and sorrow. He suffered with every sufferer. It was from this infinite compassion of His for pain and suffering that nearly all his deeds of power sprang. His miracles were the product of His pity… We are no followers of His unless the vision of those same wrongs stirs us up also to compassion.”

Let us pray together: O Father, give me your eyes. May I see what you see today and then respond in faithful action. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 15, 2017, 8:43 AM

Because He First Loved Us

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the love of God be evident in you and in all you to do and say today. May we not only be recipients of God’s grace and charity, but may we also be quick to extend it to others as well.

The surest sign of a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is a heart that is growing increasingly in love. In fact, the Scripture declares in 1 John 3:11, 14 “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another… Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Loving one another, as God loves us, is not merely an option. It is a command. To refuse to be a people marked by holy love is to remain in a state of darkness.

1 John 4:19-21 declares, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has not seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us the command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty straightforward to me. So, think about it: Is God’s holy love being reflected in you today? How are you treating one another? Are your thoughts, desires and preferences beneficial for others?

John Wesley once wrote, “Our Lord said, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If any ask, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ we reply, ‘Everyone in the world; every child of His who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh’ (see Hebrews 12:9). Nor may we exclude our enemies, or the enemies of God and of their own souls. Every Christian loves these also as himself, even as Christ loved us. If you would more fully understand what manner of love this is, consider St Paul’s description of it (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8). It is long-suffering and kind. It does not envy; it is not rash or hasty. It is “not puffed up” – not arrogant – but makes the one who loves the servant of all. Love does not behave indecently but gives all men and women their due. Love does not seek its own advantage, only the good of others that they may be saved. Love is not provoked to sharpness or unkindness to anyone. It thinks no evil. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. It covers all evil which it knows of anyone. It believes all good things of others and puts the most favorable construction on everything. Love hopes whatever is for the best of anyone and endures whatever the injustice, malice and cruelty of others can inflict.”

Let us pray together: O Eternal God, my Savior and Lord, I acknowledge that all I am and all I have is yours. I pray that you will surround me with such a sense of your infinite goodness, that I may return to you all possible love and obedience, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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