Posts from the ‘Posts’ Category

Jun 14 2011

John Robert Stevens and Azusa Street

Last wednesday, Gary Hargrave spoke a message titled “Pentecost: This is That.” The title comes from Acts 2:15, when Peter explains that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of what Joel had spoken of 700-800 years prior, saying “this is that which Joel spoke of.” The main point of the message was that we should have a passionate hunger to see the fulfillment of God’s promises in our generation—right here, right now—just as those believers experienced on that day of Pentecost.

Gary’s message got me thinking about the brief mention I had made in an earlier post about the legacy of John Robert Stevens stretching at least as far back as the outpouring of the Spirit at Azusa Street in the early 1900’s. The moving of God at Azusa Street was characterized by the receiving of the Holy Spirit, visible manifestations of the Father’s presence, healings, and various miracles. Those who were a part of the Azusa Street outpouring experienced a fulfillment of God’s promises, and it was initiated by their intense seeking of the Lord. Stevens wrote about this:

When we look at what happened at the barn-like building on Azusa Street where the Spirit of the Lord fell in Los Angeles, we see an amazing picture of people who sought God. The emptying out took place—the heart-searching, the seeking, the tarrying before the Lord.*

The people who experienced the reality of God’s presence being manifest in this earth at Azusa Street saw a fulfillment because they were desperately seeking it with all their heart. There is a simple clarity in the fact that those who seek the Lord find Him. The Scriptures state this in very plain language: “…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29). This was the reason Stevens constantly taught that believers needed to wait on the Lord and seek Him on their own. The hunger that initiates His appearing goes beyond church and beyond services – it is a lifestyle of seeking Him.

This is the core principle behind the events at Azusa Street, and it is the core principle behind the meetings with God that we have—or do not have—today.

  • *John Robert Stevens, "Why Do People Change Churches?" 1980
    *John Robert Stevens, "Why Do People Change Churches?" 1980
    Excerpt from the This Week "Why Do People Change Churches?" by John Robert Stevens, Copyright © 1980 by The Living Word, a California non profit Corporation. Used by permission.

 

Jun 7 2011

The Legacy of John Robert Stevens

John Robert Stevens passed away on June 4, 1983.

A few days ago, I was thinking about Stevens on the anniversary of his passing, and I realized that there is a difference between talking about legacy and talking about history. A legacy intimates that there is something real that can be passed down from generation to generation. A history, on the other hand, is just a knowledge of past events.

I believe that John Robert Stevens left behind a legacy, which can be seen, felt, touched.

Personally, I know that I stand in Stevens’ legacy. My father received great things from God through Stevens. And I believe that I continue to receive great things from God through my father, through Gary Hargrave, and through the Word that John Robert Stevens left behind. That’s a legacy, not a history.

I searched in Stevens’ messages for that word legacy. That’s how I found the previous quote I posted, in which John discusses the legacy of victory that we have in Jesus Christ. I love the use of that word here, because the authors of the Bible—and therefore, God Himself—seem to place a great emphasis on legacy. The entire New Testament opens with the genealogy of Jesus!

There is something tangible in the concept of a legacy. Jesus Christ lived on this earth and changed the entire history of this universe by his decisions and actions. How incredible is it to think that Jesus includes us in that legacy! If all we have is a history of Jesus, that knowledge does nothing to spur us to live our lives differently. If we see the legacy of Jesus, then we feel a first-hand inclusion into a different reality that He opened up for us to walk into. As II Corinthians 5:17 tells us: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” That’s an experience of legacy, not history.

And in following the example of Jesus, there are many men and women of God who have left us a legacy. Hebrews 11 is known as “the roll call of faith,” because it lists all the ones who left a legacy of believing God and His Word. There are also great men and women in the history of the Church who have left us a legacy of wisdom and understanding. These are the ones who created the spiritual realities that we stand in today. They are also the ones who left us some legacy items which are true problems, but that’s a different topic!

If we choose to open our eyes, the proof of the tangibility of legacy is all around us. This is very different than history.

So in reflecting upon the death of one great man of God, John Robert Stevens, I cannot help but sit in awe of the things I’ve inherited through his legacy. This even connects me to the ones whose legacy Stevens drew upon in his lifetime, including those who ushered in the outpouring at Azusa Street.

If all we have is a history, then we lack the true impact of the lives of those who built what we stand in today. However, if our eyes are opened to see a legacy, then we carry the purpose and effectiveness of those— like Stevens—who followed God’s voice in their lives and created the ongoing fulfillments that culminate in the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father.

And now excuse me while I figure out how to change the name of this blog…

 

May 20 2011

Finding a Father

In the last quote I posted (below), John Robert Stevens was discussing the need for a Father. I believe I’ve already written about how much of a spiritual father John Stevens was to so many people, so I don’t really feel the need to discuss that.

What hit me about this quote was how Scriptural it is. Jesus Christ was the example to us of a Son who learned Who He was by relating to His Father. He said that He only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19-21). However, this principle is also true on a very natural level. Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with a father in the home are better off emotionally, psychologically, and economically than those growing up without a father.

The reason why having a father is so important, as John states, is that it helps a person discover who they are. It is difficult to figure out who you are on your own. I believe that good fathers have an ability to help a child learn who they are and to help them reach that potential. Obviously the Heavenly Father does this in an immeasurably greater way.

As John Robert Stevens states in that quote, it is hard for people to take their place without the encouragement and protection of a father. The great thing about a good father is that they are there to help when you get into trouble. When you feel the covering of a spiritual father’s love, there is no fear in stepping out to attempt things.

So if you are struggling with yourself, maybe you need to find a father. Or, perhaps you need to re-engage your spiritual father in a deeper conversation than you are comfortable with. Either way, John Stevens illuminates an answer here for each person. John Robert Stevens rocks.

 

May 5 2011

I Will Follow You Today

That last quote I posted is perhaps the simplest definition of the kind of relationship with God that John Robert Stevens lived and taught. The chief focus is on what God has said in leading us; but it must be today that we hear His voice—everyday.

It is not enough that we heard God speak yesterday. The Father always has new steps for His children. New things for them to learn, new things for them to do. So we take a cue from John Robert Stevens and ask the Lord anew, each day, to speak to us.

And when we hear His voice, we follow.

 

Apr 30 2011

Experiencing Divine Love

As I was reading the previous quote from John Robert Stevens, it made me realize how feeling God’s love for people is really a direct experience with God. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but it has been very true in my own life. In feeling God’s love for people, and loving them with His love, it creates deep experiences with God for me personally.

Another thing Stevens is teaching me here is that our love for one another is not merely a human emotional response; there are times when our love is actually a witness of the Holy Spirit to the Father’s love!

Perhaps all of this this seems too basic, but I can draw a pretty radical conclusion to all of this: if you want a meeting with God, just determine to open your heart to love someone with His love. Simple.

 

Mar 21 2011

In my last post, I discussed the deeper side of John Robert Stevens’ teaching on worship. This week I wanted to share a humorous quote about the same topic.

A service has missed its point when you wish you could crawl off in a corner someplace by yourself because you are being distracted from the Lord. Have you ever been in a worship service where you felt you would like to get away from it so that you could meet with God?*

The context of this quote is the idea that we can’t make a habit out of our worship. The moment we start singing a song by rote is the moment we’ve lost our focus on the Father. That’s a very simple and important principle that we should all be very aware of about our attitude toward worship, and I love John’s sense of humor about it.

If you feel like you’ve got to leave a church service in order to meet God, something is not quite right! However, correcting this issue is every person’s responsibility in a service, because together we all create the atmosphere to worship our Father.

  • *John Robert Stevens, "Are You Aware of Him?" 1982
    *John Robert Stevens, "Are You Aware of Him?" 1982
    Excerpt from the This Week "Are You Aware of Him?" by John Robert Stevens, Copyright © 1982 by The Living Word, a California non profit Corporation. Used by permission.

 

Mar 17 2011

Leading a Church Service

I have been working on a class for Shiloh University recently called Leading a Church Service. We are using a great deal of material from John Robert Stevens to form the curricula, and it is being such a cool exposure to the depth of understanding that John had regarding how to lead people into the presence of the Lord. Repeatedly, in numerous instances, he emphasizes that the goal of the leader of a church service is to bring the people in the presence of the Lord. The focus should never be on the leader, but on the congregation’s relationship with the Father.

Currently, I am writing on the lesson concerning leading worship. I found this great quote from John in the assigned material:

So much of worship is based upon the Scriptures that give us access to God. Worship is not a struggle into His presence. Worship is a faith that stands in His presence because He has made a living way of access for us to do so (Hebrews 10:19-22). Worship becomes bold, but very reverent.*

When I read this, I couldn’t help but feel so clearly how much struggle we usually put into our worship. We feel like we have to strive to get into the presence of the Father. But this is in direct opposition to the Scripture referenced here:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way . . . and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith . . . (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

The carefully chosen words here reveal how we should truly feel toward the Father: confident in our relationship with Him, in full assurance of faith in His love and acceptance of us. This is the basis of our worship, according to John Robert Stevens: the knowledge that we have access to the Father. When we approach worship from that perspective, we find a new reality of His presence.

  • *John Robert Stevens, "Are You Aware of Him?" 1982
    *John Robert Stevens, "Are You Aware of Him?" 1982
    Excerpt from the This Week "Are You Aware of Him?" by John Robert Stevens, Copyright © 1982 by The Living Word, a California non profit Corporation. Used by permission.

 

Jan 19 2011

Dissatisfaction

One of the things I see throughout John Robert Stevens’ written word is his constant determination to reach into the next thing God had for him.

The unfortunate side effect of living that kind of lifestyle is a nearly-consistent feeling of dissatisfaction.

I might have broached this topic before, but since it had recently come up for me personally, I thought I might write about it again. This dissatisfaction is something I had been feeling in my relationship with God, but I couldn’t point to anything that was “wrong.” There was no difficult situation that was getting me down. Finally, I realized that I was just hungering after more of God!

In a message called Contented or Discontented? Stevens read out of Philippians, and then wrote:

Press in—press in—press in—is the emphasis. You cannot be happy with what you have attained spiritually; there must be hunger in your heart. You will not attain more spiritually if there is discontentment in your spirit. You will not be fruitful for the Lord if there is discontentment in your spirit.*

What an interesting dichotomy involved with having a relationship with the Lord. The only time we feel content is by doing the will of God. But the only way to get to that fulfillment day-by-day is to be constantly driven toward Him through an uncomfortable hunger.

So if you’ve been feeling a little discontentment recently, don’t blame your circumstances. See if there is something more that God has for you. He is the only thing that can change that deep dissatisfaction.

  • John Robert Stevens, "Contented or Discontented?" 1972
    John Robert Stevens, "Contented or Discontented?" 1972
    Excerpt from the This Week "Contented or Discontented" by John Robert Stevens, Copyright © 1972 by John Robert Stevens & The Living Word, a California non profit Corporation. Used by permission.

 

Jan 11 2011

Partake of the Life of God

One of the things that I love about John Robert Stevens is that he was not religious. I use the term religious to describe the way that many humans relate to God primarily out of rules and regulations. As I quoted earlier:

I was raised in a religious background, and I remember how we were taught that we were supposed to read our Bible for 15 minutes a day, pray for 15 minutes a day and witness to somebody for 15 minutes a day—if we did all that then we would never lose out with God. I was about fourteen or fifteen when I realized: “It doesn’t make any difference how much I read; it’s how much I digest that counts.” That has been the secret of my life. After that revelation to my heart, it didn’t matter to me whether I read half a verse or whether I read a whole book. I read until one thing happened: I began to partake of the life of God.*

I believe that this attitude is the antidote for the common “Christian guilt” that often occurs. We shouldn’t focus on checking boxes on our spiritual to-do list, but instead seek God until we find Him. Of course, this is sometimes a tricky proposition, because you never know how much seeking you will have to do! It’s easier to read the Bible for 15 minutes a day, rather than reading it until you hear the voice of the Lord.

And all of life is like this, really! It’s always easier to make a relationship with God into a list of rules—and I have to admit that the Bible might even seem to encourage this. However, to borrow a phrasing from Christ for my own purposes (which is usually a very unwise thing to do, so please forgive me), “The promises of God were made for man, not man for the promises of God.” (Mark 2:27) This is the difference between religion and relationship. And it’s a big difference.

Bottom line: John Robert Stevens rejected the religious approach to God and was a firm advocate for a daily relationship with Him. I’m nearly positive that I wouldn’t be a believer if it weren’t for this attitude that was imparted to be by John through my father.

  • *John Robert Stevens, "Eat it and Digest it," 1982
    *John Robert Stevens, "Eat it and Digest it," 1982
    Excerpt from the booklet "The Unfolding, Part 1" by John Robert Stevens, Copyright © 1982 by The Living Word, a California non profit Corporation. Used by permission.

 

Oct 28 2010

A Personal Reflection on John’s Faith

This is the third and final post of my father’s recollections of John Robert Stevens. Here are the first and second posts.

My dad spoke about one of his personal experiences that showed him that John was a man of God.

I read through the Bible when I first came into Haiku Chapel on Maui. I read it cover to cover several times. I would read something that God would make alive by revelation, and more often than not, the next thing I heard from John—whether by tape or teaching manuals—I would see him talking about the exact revelation I had seen from the Scriptures. There was confirmation after confirmation in my own heart toward John and his integrity in the Word.

I know John’s teachings enough to know that this is something he respected in my father, that he had his own relationship with God, and that’s why he was able to recognize the voice of the Lord from John.

My father continued, talking about how John mentored people and saw ministries trained through hands-on experience.

He brought a lot of us young 20-somethings into Christ’s fold. He turned us loose and had a total faith that we could do what God wanted us to do. That was a whole different way of moving than the seminary route. There was faith to produce God’s outcome.

John opened the doors for people’s ministries. It’s not as if we had training or theological backgrounds. What we had was faith, and his covering. He was willing to trust God in sending people out. Jesus sent His disciples two-by-two and instructed them. The disciples hadn’t gone through any training, Jesus just sent them out with faith and authority and covering.

There’s a Scripture about being all things to all men. That is the mark of an apostolic ministry. He was able to minister to people where they were, and trust God to move on it. He trusted God that there would be a resulting response to his faith.

Gary Hargrave has told me personally that there was a time when John Robert Stevens’ ministry was growing very fast. He had more churches than experienced pastors to lead them. So, as my father described, John had to have a faith that God would be the provision and lead the young ministries. My father was one such ministry, pastoring Grace Chapel of South Gate, and Grace Chapel of Honolulu. I’ve had many people come up to me and tell me how much my father blessed them and changed their lives. Some have even said that he saved their lives. If it weren’t for John Stevens and his faith in God, none of that would have happened!

I want to thank my father for sharing his experiences. He is my hero and I love him very much.

 

Oct 19 2010

New Website

I’ve been working with Gary Hargrave, Marilyn Hargrave, and Rick Holbrook extensively over the last few months to create a new website about John Robert Stevens. It just went live today!

It was an absolute honor for me to be a part of the project, and I think it turned out really great.

Check it out:

John Robert Stevens

 

Sep 29 2010

The Realm of Spirit

This is the second installment of posts based on an interview I did with my father about John Robert Stevens.

One of the things my father talked about was how John opened the realm of spirit as an important reality for the Christian:

I came from a background of an awareness that there was a lot more to this existence than just the physical expression. And the Christianity that I had known had pretty much ignored that fact. John knew there was a spiritual world. And he was able to function in both worlds—a world of theology and doctrine, as well as another world of gifts and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

This is so important. Just tonight in service at Grace Chapel of Honolulu, I talked about the realm of spirit and how Christ expects His believers to be active in the spirit realm. Christ says that His Kingdom is not of this world, and that we need to seek first the Kingdom (John 18:36; Matthew 6:33). The only way to seek the Kingdom is by doing so in the spirit, simply because it exists in the realm of spirit. We can do this because our spirits have come alive with Christ, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. (Romans 8:10; I Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:6).

Stevens’ stance was that we can’t just know about God. We have to have real experiences with Him. And as it says in the Scriptures, God is a spirit, and anyone who wants to worship Him must worship in the spirit (John 4:24). John was instrumental in opening up these concepts to Grace Chapel of Honolulu, and to the entire Living Word Fellowship. It is because Stevens was willing to say that the Bible is not just a theory, but an absolute reality, that I am able to learn how to function in the realm of spirit. Christ brought our spirits to life for a purpose, and that purpose isn’t to just wait around to go to heaven.

My father continued:

There’s more to Christianity than going to church, sitting in a pew, and singing a hymn. There’s another dimension because God is Spirit, and John was very relatable in opening that up somehow, and making what I knew to be true, and opening up the Scriptures to reveal the truth.

This is the John Robert Stevens who changed my father’s life.

This is the John Robert Stevens who inspires me to seek first the Kingdom.

 

Sep 28 2010

John’s Relationship With God

I recently spent some time in Los Angeles, and had a chance to talk to my father about his recollections of John Robert Stevens. This will be part one of a series of posts about topics from that conversation.

One of the things my father said concerning John is that “he had a relationship with God that was palpable.” I love this turn of phrase. The way my father described it is that when you were around John you could feel the connection he had with God emanating from Him. John spent time with God. He didn’t just talk about God, or study God; he waited on the Lord, prayed, and put everything else on hold in order to cultivate a true relationship with Him. My father continued in this vein:

It was impressive to watch him move in the Spirit, but that’s not all he did. He was personable and relatable and Scripturally sound. It was always evident that John had a love for God and a love for the people. That’s what drove him. He had an anointing and a commission.

The combination of all these facets of John’s personality is what draws me to his teachings. It’s not just the fact that he was so important to my parents, or that he founded the church that I pastor. When I hear him speak in a recorded sermon, I can feel his love for God. It was so simple, but so foundational. And instead of just having a love for God in his heart, he actually did something about it and ministered it to the people around him.

Once again, we hit this bottom-line description that what drove John Robert Stevens was his love for God and his love for the people. So cool.

I will try to write more from this conversation soon.

 

Aug 30 2010

Thoughts on Being Aware of the Lord

Researching John Robert Steven’s life, I’ve discovered so many things that he was interested in; so for him to say that he discarded his hobbies just shows how much he let go of in order to follow the Lord fully (see the previous quote).

He loved photography and film. He loved music and history. He loved to tell jokes and loved to laugh. He set himself to serve the Lord with all his heart, but no one would say that it was to the detriment of his vivacity and personality. And in all of these things that he loved to do, he never let them distract him from an awareness of God. To me, this is a great balance, but it all must start with God.

John said, “I do not think that anything is greater than coming into an awareness of the Lord.” And this is what I want to apply in my life. God is first, and everything else is second—at best! If an awareness of God is our foremost desire, then everything else in our lives will fall into place.

This is why John Stevens is such a great example to me. He never forsook his first love, and everything he did lined up to his relationship to God. However, it never robbed him of his joy for life! This is how we know we’re doing it right: the joy of the Lord and the joy of life must be present, otherwise I would say that our awareness of God is lacking. If we know God, we will have His love in our hearts. As I John 4:8 says,”The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

 

Aug 25 2010

Thoughts on John’s Intensity

I think that the previous quote from John Robert Stevens really captures the intensity for the Lord that John had. I recently discussed the spiritual hunger for God that characterized his life. Now this quality of intensity is another trait that really defines who John was.

He referred in the quote to the story about King Joash, who was overwhelmed by his war against Syria. Elisha told him to strike the ground with his arrows. While Joash did what Elisha told him to do, he only did it three times. Because of this, he only won three victories against Syria, and was eventually overcome.

The point of the story was that while King Joash walked out the Word of God, he did it without a true intensity. Because of that, the fulfillment he saw was very limited.

This is exactly the opposite of the passion that I feel from John in his writings, and the intensity I hear in his sermons. There was a fiery quality that every believer should have—and not just when things seem to be going well.

It’s one thing to believe the Word of God, and it’s quite another to pursue the fulfillment of that Word with an intensity of faith. Many people believe the Word of God, so I’d say that it’s not too impressive of an attribute. I mean, Joash believed the Word of God, otherwise he wouldn’t have been obedient. But that belief, in itself, didn’t get him very far.

So now I want to gather together in my mind all of the things of God that I have believed for and see if my intensity to see them fulfilled has waned, or has even died off completely! If so, it is not difficult to reach back into God and find the ember of my heart sparked once again by and for His Word.