Pastor's Blog
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March 8, 2017, 9:34 AM

Perfect Love

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May His perfect love be reflected in us today. May we, as a church, reflect His true holiness in all we do.

The Church of the Nazarene considers herself a “holiness church,” but what exactly does that mean? Holiness is first and always about love. Anything else is a rabbit trail. We often will speak of holiness as living with power, or as living without sin, or as a baptism of the Holly Spirit, but in its purest form holiness is a matter of love. It’s about reflecting God – who is love.

God is love and perfect love is evident in all He does. In fact in Scripture we learn that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  We also learn that we are called to reflect/imitate this God of perfect, self-sacrificing love. 1 Peter 1:15-16 declares, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Yet, what exactly does holiness – perfect love – look like in real life for us?

Jesus best sums up holy living when he called us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Whenever one says they love God and neighbor, and means it, they have turned a corner in their religion, and that reality will be apparent in their daily living.

Steve Deniff observes, “There are three instances in the Gospels where someone is said to love Jesus, and in each instance love is expressed differently. So while true love may have many expressions, these three episodes provide a baseline from which our love may be measured. The first episode takes place in the house of a good Pharisee named Simon. There a woman pours out her love on the feet of Christ (Luke 7:36-50). The second episode takes place only hours before Christ’s death when the tells his disciples to show their love by obeying him (John 14:15). The third episode takes place on the shores of Galilee after the Resurrection, when Jesus answers Peter’s affirmation (“Lord, you know that I love you”) with the command to feed Christ’s sheep (John 21:17).” Thus, perfect love is most clearly demonstrated in us when we 1.) spend ourselves completely in pursuit of Christ, 2.) place His will and desires above our own, and 3.) feed/care for His sheep. So, how are we doing in each of these areas today?

Let us pray together: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your perfect love. Bring us rest and renewal, through Christ our Lord, I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

March 1, 2017, 9:09 AM

Lenten Journey

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today marks the beginning of the Lenten journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter. This 40-day trek (minus Sundays, which are days of celebration) through the wilderness of self-denial is a reminder of the call to humbly submit our whole lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. As the Word of God says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The Lord is our true sustenance. He alone can satisfy the longings of our soul. Without Him we can be fat on the things of the world, yet suffering from awful malnutrition.

If you have never participated in a Lenten fast, I invite you to open yourself to this powerful time of repentance, reflection and seeking. Through this journey, we can deepen our awareness of God’s forgiveness and purifying presence. The call to a holy Lent is an open invitation to humble ourselves before God and seek Him above all else, as we follow in the steps of Jesus all the way to Calvary – where Jesus laid down his life in the ultimate act of love and self-denial.

Through this season of fasting, prayer, repentance and seeking we are invited to slow down the pace of life and meditate upon the works of the Lord. We are called to stop the insanity of our modern day living and remember the works of our Lord. Psalm 143:1, 5-6 declares, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness . . . I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” The Lord, our God, is faithful. We can trust Him. We can rely fully upon Him. The provision we find in His body and blood is sufficient for us. For these reasons, we fix our eyes on Jesus.

The call to fix our eyes on Jesus is a call to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). St. Clement wrote the following in his Letter to the Corinthians: “Let us fix our thoughts on the blood of Christ, inasmuch as its outpouring for our salvation has opened the grace of repentance to all mankind.” What a powerful and beautiful reminder of what we are called to celebrate not only on Resurrection Sunday but also on every day throughout the year.

Let us pray together: Father, grant me forgiveness of what is past, that in the days to come I may with a pure spirit, do your will – walking humbly with you, showing love to all, and keeping body and soul in sanctification and honor, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 22, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Hunger for God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we journey together may we be fully committed to denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus (Matthew 16:24). May we hunger and thirst, not for the things of this world, but for the sustenance that only our Lord can provide (Matthew 5:6). May we be willing to engage purposefully in the discipline of fasting that we might know God in a deeper way (Joel 1:14).

Fasting is an issue with which many Christians wrestle, including as to whether the Scripture makes it obligatory upon all Christians. Although many passages of Scripture deal with this subject, there is one that stands out. It’s found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus declared, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18). It is as if there is an almost unconscious assumption from the Lord that fasting will be a part of the faithful Christian life. Yet it’s not required.

In other words, Jesus says, “When you fast…” He seemed to assume believers would fast, and what was needed was instruction on how to do it properly. Yet, at the same time, we must also realize that those words, “When you fast,” do not constitute a command. Therefore, although Jesus did not say “If you fast,” neither did he say, “You must fast.” He simply said, “When you fast…” Jesus assumes we would fast and that when we do it should not be a public spectacle. He then concluded by stating that when it’s done properly “your Father… will reward you.” So, what would such a fast look like? Ponder Gilliland states: “On the matter of fasting, all you need to do is to follow the inner promptings of the Lord. There is no set pattern in all this. It may be that for a day, or a longer period, you will want merely to pass up some part of a meal – desert, or something else that you enjoy and you’d like to give it up… It may be that God would only direct you to fast one meal. Or one day. The important thing is… why you are fasting.” May it be for no other reason than to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him.

Let us pray together: You know, O Lord, to how many sinful allurements, interior trials and dangers we are exposed, both from natural and violent inclinations to evil, our unceasing hatred to good and the assaults of temptation. How shall we be able to resist such powerful enemies, if you do not assist us? It is to you we raise up our hearts and our minds. It is to you we look for assistance to keep us from yielding to temptation and to preserve us from perishing. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 15, 2017, 12:00 AM

Friends for the Journey

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the great joys of the Christian pilgrimage is walking it along with spiritual partners. It is important to note that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Thus, as He exists in Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we too are called to exist in fellowship with Him and one another. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We dare not go at traverse these paths alone.

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for the spiritual partners God has placed in my life. There is strength found in a close circle of spiritual friends that otherwise cannot be known. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” It should not be surprising to us that there is strength in numbers. Yet, sadly, many Christians deny themselves such a cadre of spiritual partners.

Tilden Edwards once declared: “Unless we are particularly heroic or saintly persons, each of us needs a relationship with at least one other person who also seeks and trusts the simple way, the Simple Presence. Such a ‘spiritual friend’ can be enormously supportive to us, and we to them… Just knowing that someone else is struggling for the simple day with you, whether or not you speak together often, is encouraging. You feel a little less alone, a little less tempted to fall mindlessly into complicating traps… When someone else knows and cares, then we pay that much more attention to what we’re doing.” I can attest I have found this true in my own life.

The Scripture tells us that David and Jonathan enjoyed such a friendship (1 Samuel 20:42). No matter what trial or temptation they faced, they knew they did not face it alone. There was one who always had their back. They knew they had in each other+ one who would stick closer to than a brother. Who is that person in your life? To whom are you that person? Christianity, after all is a religion of love; and not self-love but love of one’s brethren and neighbors in Christ.

Let us pray together: O God, you have made us for fellowship, and have given us the power both to help and harm our fellows, grant us the wisdom to know what is their good, and the ready will to help them to attain it. Heal those we have wounded, strengthen those whom we have failed, grant us all your healing grace, and make our fellowship to be your family, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

February 8, 2017, 9:23 AM

Thy Kingdom Come

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the one thing we desire be for God’s kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. May nothing be more attractive and desirous to us today than knowing Christ and living in the center of His will.

I suppose this would be a good place for us to pause and consider what is that we are truly seeking first and foremost. Is the Lord, our God, the number one pursuit of our lives? Do we really want Him and what He wants? In Matthew 6:33 Jesus declared, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When a man or woman truly abides in Christ there are many, many things he or she never wills to ask: they do not want them. And if Christ’s words are abiding in them – all of Christ’s words – you can be sure that they will not ask for a whole category of things. When Christ’s words are in the soul, a wish that the secular heart grasps after is no longer even interesting! When we truly abide in Christ, when our union with Him is complete, then His desires and ours are one. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we ought to examine where we stand today.

Glaphre Gilliland declared: “Why do we tend to seek other things first… and want God to be added later? We seek success… and want God to endorse our goals. We seek acceptance… and want God to provide the cheering section. We seek increased income… and want God to be the bonus. We seek vindication… and want God to take our side. We seek happiness… and want God’s smile of approval. We seek health… and want God to dispense an instant cure. As we mature in our relationship with the Lord, our goals change. But we don’t realize that our pattern often remains the same! We seek to be useful… and want God to bless our busy activities. We seek to be helpful to others… and want God to tag along. We seek to be spiritual… and want God to applaud. We tend to use God instead of seek Him. We want God to do our bidding more than we want Him. What percentage of our prayers are for our own comfort? To fulfill our fantasies? Where do we ask for God’s will? Isn’t it usually at the end of the prayer… as a closing benediction… sometimes almost as an afterthought? I wonder how this all wise God of ours feels about being brought in at the conclusion and asked to bless the plan? What a waste to rely on our wisdom, when God’s wisdom is available!”

Let us pray together: Grant me, O Lord, heavenly wisdom, that I may learn to seek you above all things, and to understand all other things as they are per the order of your wisdom. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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