Pastor's Blog
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December 21, 2016, 9:27 AM

The Faithful One

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we approach the wonderful day in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the faithful One who declared, “Not my will, but Thy will be done (Luke 22:42),” may we likewise commit ourselves to complete submission and obedience to the will of our Heavenly Father. And may we do it even and especially when life does not make sense.

Whenever I ponder the story of Jesus’ birth I am always amazed at the level submission and obedience that is displayed in the life of Jesus’ young teenage mother, Mary, to the will of God. There was much she did not (nor could she) understand about Gabriel’s announcement that she was pregnant. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). God was up to something - as He often is - beyond human comprehension. Yet, despite all she did not and could not understand about God’s purposes and plans, Mary faithfully declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to be as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Wow! Let that sink in! Oh, that my response to the paradoxes of life would be as faithful! “Lord, whatever you’re up to… I’m in!”

Obedience is the key that opens the door for Christ’s entrance into our lives. To the one who obeys, and thus opens the door of their heart to receive the eternal gift, God gives the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of Himself, to be in them, and lead them to the understanding of all truth. But what do we do if that level of faith seems beyond our grasp at the present? Great question! I’m glad you asked.

In response, Thomas R. Kelly writes, “Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter submission and openness toward him. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, ‘Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. Be Thou darest. Thy will be done.’”

As we consider the example of Christ, His mother, and the saints who have gone before us, may we enter the New Year boldly declaring with them, “Not my will, but thy will be done in us.” If a decade and a half of pastoral ministry has taught me anything it is that the real difference between Christians who are growing and ones who are not is the matter of obedience.

I invite you to pray the following with me: O Jesus! who has taught us that not all those who say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only such as do the will of your Father, whose lives correspond with their belief, grant us a truly Christian spirit, a Christian heart, and guide us in the paths of a Christian life. Grant that I may become detached from all things and in all things seek you alone. Grant that I may direct all my knowledge, my whole capacity, all my happiness, and all my exertions to please you, to love you, and to obtain your love for time and eternity. Amen.

Have a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 14, 2016, 9:43 AM

Frosty Musings

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today I would like to revisit a theme we began exploring last week: celebrating the present. The sad reality is we spend much of our lives in anticipation of some time that is yet to come: a vacation, a day off, a weekend, a day when things are “better” than today. “This too shall pass,” we say. The result of all our wishful dreaming is we miss the joy of the present. God forgive us! May we begin to celebrate breath and water and food and the joy of now. Don’t let artificial light and city streets keep you from noticing sunsets and sunrises, from experiencing the majesty of a crisp starlit night and the beauty of the sun peeking through an ice-covered branch.

The Apostle Paul reminded us in scripture of the power of carefully observing and celebrating God’s amazing creation. He declared, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, NIV). Could it be that many have become atheists, even Christian atheists, simply because they have not opened their eyes to the presence of God in the most “mundane” of moments.

The Season of Advent is not merely a celebration of the birth of Christ. Nor is it merely the anticipation of Christ’s return. It is also a powerful reminder of Emmanuel – God with us (even now during single-digit temperatures)! I must confess that today I was guilty of asking my office manager, “Is it summer yet?” instead of celebrating the beauty of God’s wonderful snow-covered creation. Clyde Reid once penned the following:

Celebrate the temporary - Don’t wait until tomorrow - Live today.

Celebrate the simple things - Enjoy the butterfly - Embrace the snow

Run with the ocean - Delight in the trees - Or a single lonely flower - Go barefoot in wet grass.

Don’t Wait - Until all the problems are solved - Or all the bills are paid.

You will wait forever - Eternity will come and go - And you - Will still be waiting.

Live in the now - With all its problems and its agonies - With its joy - And its pain.

Celebrate your pain - Your despair - Your anger - It means you’re alive.

Look closer - Breath deeper - Stand taller - Stop grieving the past.

There is joy and beauty – Today - It is temporary - Here now and gone.

So celebrate it - While you can - Celebrate the temporary.

I invite you to pray the following with me: Father, it is so easy for me to live automatically, so that nothing touches me or moves me. Give me the fullness of living in the now. In the name of your Son, who loved children and flowers and people, I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

December 7, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Gift of the Present

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we continue our journey to the manger in Bethlehem may we be ever aware of the sacrament of the present moment. May we never forget that every moment on earth is a gift from God. Too often we miss the blessing of the present because our eyes are set upon some far off land. Like a child eagerly longing for Christmas morn it can be tempting to wish the present away. Yet, as Psalm 118:24 declares, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Are you rejoicing in the present moment – God’s gift to you?

Alan Watts once used a royal comparison for our moving around. A king and queen are the center of “where it’s at,” so they move with easy, royal bearing. They have no place to “get.” They have already “arrived.” Looking deeply at our lineage, we see that we are of the highest royal line: the royal image of God is in us – covered over, but indestructibly there. We need rush nowhere else to get it. We mainly need to attentively relax and dissolve the amnesia that obscures our true identity. The supernatural can and does seek and find us, in and through our daily normal experience: the invisible in the visible. There is no need to be peculiar in order to find and experience the mighty and joyous Presence of God. The Magi were taught by the heavens to follow a star; and it brought them, not to a paralyzing disclosure of the Transcendent, but to a little Boy on His mother’s knee. Let that sink in!

Jean-Pierre de Caussade states: “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest each moment, an immense ocean which the heart only fathoms as it overflows with faith, trust and love. The whole rest of creation cannot fill your heart, which is larger than all that is not God; terrifying mountains are mere molehills to it. It is in his purpose, hidden in the cloud of all that happens to you in the present moment, that you must rely. You will find it always surpasses your own wishes. Woo no man, worship no shadows or fantasies; they have nothing to offer or accept from you. Only God’s purposes can satisfy your longing and leave you nothing to wish for. Adore, walk close to it, see through and abandon all fantasy. When the present terrifies, crushes, lays waste and overwhelms the senses, God nourishes, strengthens and revives faith.”

I invite you to pray the following with me: Father, give me eyes to see and a heart to respond to all which will come to me this day. Forbid that I should miss its graces by looking ahead to some tomorrow. Let me accept the newness each moment brings with awareness and gratitude. In the Name of the One who makes all new I pray. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 30, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Sound of Silence

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we enter into this Season of Advent I want to challenge you to practice the discipline of silence – the discipline of watching and waiting for Christ’s coming in our hearts and lives. May we faithfully reject all that would cause us to rush through this season without hearing His voice. May nothing take precedence in our lives above knowing, experiencing and living out the life of Christ. He is the One who has come, is coming even now, and will come again.

A key factor in our ability to know and experience Christ’s advent is our willingness to practice the habit of silence in His Presence. As we noted this past Sunday, it is for this very reason that the Scripture is ripe with calls to this discipline. Psalm 37:7 declares, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 46:10 challenges us, “Be still and know that I am God.” And again, we find in Ecclesiastes 3:7b, “[There is…] a time to be silent and a time to speak.” To put it another way, how can He speak to us if our mouths are always moving? How can we enjoy His Presence if we are constantly on the go? Sadly, many believers flee from this discipline.

M. Basil Pennington writes: “Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self – the false self – and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves.”

Friends, will you freely put yourself in the “time-out chair” during this Advent Season? Being still before the Lord is challenging, but it need not difficult. At least not as difficult as we make it out to be. In the simplest of terms, silence is the practice of stillness under the Word of God. It is nothing else but waiting on God’s Word and coming from it with a blessing. As Pennington declares, “Silence is the very presence of God – always there. But activity hides it. We need to leave activity long enough to discover the Presence – then we can return to activity with it.”

I invite you to pray the following with me: O God, God, my Father, I have no words, no words by which I dare express the things that stir within me. I lay bare myself, my world, before you in the quietness. Brood over my spirit with your great tenderness and understanding and judgment, so that I will find, in some strange new way, strength for my weakness, health for my illness, guidance for my journey. This is the stirring of my heart, O God, my Father. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

November 16, 2016, 8:01 AM

Thanks Giving

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we sojourn through this season of thanksgiving together, may we ever be mindful of the many great and precious gifts we have in Christ Jesus. In response, may we also be some of the most grateful and generous people on the face of the earth.

As a pastor, one of the most common questions I receive is regarding my thoughts on tithes and offerings. “How much must/should I give,” they ask. Some come genuinely wanting to know what is expected and/or appropriate. Others come with ulterior motives. The question is not a new one. In fact, in response, Jesus had much to say about giving. Mark 12:41-44 declares that, on one particular day, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’” Wow! Can you imagine Jesus commenting to others about your giving habits?

Reinhold Niebuhr made the following comment about the discipline of tithing: “I would suggest that you commit yourselves not to tithing but to proportionate giving, with tithing as an economic floor beneath which you will not go unless there are some compelling reasons.”

None of us has to be an accountant to know what 10% of a gross income is, but each of us must be a person on his/her knees before God if we are to understand our commitment to proportionate giving. Proportionate to what? Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of one’s family? Proportionate to one’s income and the demands upon it? Proportionate to one’s sense of security and the degree of anxiety with which one lives? Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer? Proportionate to our sense of justice and of God’s ownership of all wealth? Proportionate to the desire in our hearts that the local church would flourish and impact our community for Christ? Proportionate to our sense of stewardship for those who follow after us? And so on, and so forth. The answer, of course, is in proportion to all of these things.

I invite you to pray the following with me: Heavenly Father, you give to me with a lavish hand, you do not withhold from me of your great grace and mercy. Let me live and serve you also with a generous heart. In the name of your Son, who gave his all. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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