The Unique Joy of Corporate Fasting

Joy & fasting – should those two words be in the same sentence? Isn’t fasting hard (you said that Pastor Jared)? Don’t you need to keep digging (you said that too)? Despite the truth that fasting IS hard and sometimes you need to keep digging – fasting together with a whole group (corporately) is ALSO a joy! Let me explain . . .

The Bible talks about and shares examples of corporate fasting a lot (Judges 20:26, 1 Sam 7:5-6, 2 Sam 1:12, 2 Chron 20:3, Jer. 36:9, Isaiah 58, Daniel 9, Esther 4:16, Joel 1:14, 2:15 Ezra 8:21-23, Neh. 9:1, Jonah 3:5, Acts 13:2-3, 14:23). Check those out if you want to dive in deeper. And here’s what Isaiah 58 says at the end of the chapter, after he’s thrown down on their false fasting, and thoroughly taught them true fasting . . .

14 then you will FIND YOUR JOY in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in TRIUMPH on the heights of the land and to FEAST on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” FOR the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa. 58:14)

After we have fasted together correctly, then what’s next? JOY!!! TRIUMPH!!! FEASTING!!! Why? How is that possible? What is the trigger for the joy, the winning, and the feasting? The last phrase of the verse of course, “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

This is why you need to come to First Wednesday tonight. God is going to speak in and through you, and us all together. What God is sharing with you will be confirmed and made richer by what God is sharing with others. We are going to have a time tonight where we ask, “What is God saying to you?” Then we’re going to watch as God confirms His words over and over again to us! And then . . . JOY. And then . . . TRIUMPH. And oh yeah, we can eat after that too – haha. Most of all, we will feast on the inheritance that God had given us – the spiritual inheritance – His words and His works in us. Some would say we’ll “Feast” on the faithfulness of God. Hmmmm, maybe we should write a song about it (oh yeah, we did!).

If you Don’t Hit Water . . .

I’m sure there are few things more frustrating than back-breaking digging a well that produces no water. As we are praying and fasting these days, getting ready for our First Wednesday Gathering (tomorrow night, 7 PM – be there), the Lord directed me to ask, what happens if we come up dry? What happens if you, in the middle of praying right now, don’t feel like you’re hearing? Or don’t sense the breakthrough? Or God even seems absent from your prayer times? The answer is simple . . .

Keep digging. If you’re digging a well, and you don’t hit water, either 1. You haven’t dug deep enough or 2. You need to dig another whole in a little different spot. But if you’re thirsty and the alternative is your family dying because you don’t have access to clean water, the answer is never to give up. The answer is KEEP DIGGING. Spiritually we are thirsty, and in our present culture, without the Living Water of the presence and work of God Himself through His Holy Spirit, we will die. There is no other option – we must keep digging. Keep praying, keep looking in God’s face, keep listening for God’s voice, looking for His pictures, tuning yourself to His way of communicating. We MUST HIT WATER.

Digging will feel hard while you’re in it, it has to, it’s not rewarding otherwise. It’s not impactful or meaningful otherwise. However, when your boots first get wet, and it’s time to get out of the hole, and see what you’ve got – IT’S ALL WORTH IT! God is THE Spring of Living Water – He will provide us with fresh water AND now is the time to keep digging. It will be worth it. David said in essence – I will not offer the Lord that which cost me nothing (2 Sam 24:24 & 1 Chron 21:24). It’s time to dig, feel the cost, and trust God that the payoff will be worth it.

Digging a Well is Hard

As I looked for the above ^^^^^ picture, the normal photo sites I go to had zero pictures of anyone physically digging anything. ZERO! Those sites are from Americans and Westerners (Western Europe & Australia/New Zealand), where it seems that we’re allergic to hard physical labor. Or at least we DON’T HONOR HARD WORK – Wow, that’s sobering. Modern Westerners no longer honor hard work, we no longer see it as something to aspire to, we no longer see the dignity or nobility in it. That realization was sad, but not surprising. The Western World, however, only makes up 10% of the global population. The Majority World (the rest of the world) has a much better understanding of hard work, and if they’re smart, they still honor it.

As an aside, do not trust a news outlet that says, “the rest of the world is saying . . .” because most of the time they’re only referring to the 10% and ignoring the 90% (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, South America). The 90% is more Christian in ethics and worldview now than the 10%, so our media doesn’t like them. The picture above is from a global missions site (of course). To the main point . . .

Digging a well is hard. What we’re doing these days through prayer and fasting for revival is not meant to feel good. It’s meant to open up something in our spirit that will produce life giving water forever. There may be some digging involved, BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT!

So here’s the challengeembrace the hard work of seeking God during a time of prayer and fasting. Use every hunger pain as a reminder to look in God’s face. Feast on the Word of God. Feast on the faithfulness of God. Enjoy the presence of God. Then when it’s done, we’ll all wipe our brow together, and take a look at what God wants to do!

Cut Through the Noise

We hear a symphony of mayhem right now. Every newscast, politician, and influencer are screaming at us to be outraged. Be outraged at this person, cancel that person, shout over those people, donate to this cause. There’s a battle on every hill, and little discernment on which can be fought and won. Energy runs thin, motivation grinds down. They’re stealing your life, they’re stealing your voice, they’re trying to drown God’s voice in you.

But Holy Spirit will NOT be silenced, “God’s Word is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9)! He’s in you, He’s revealing the Bible to you more, He’s declaring Himself through worship environments, through words in the gatherings, through His voice in your Spirit. TUNE IN, BE ENCOURAGED and “let the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Speak to your soul, and tell it, “Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42:11). AND . . .

CUT THROUGH THE NOISE! Your voice, or even better, Holy Spirit’s voice through you cannot be silenced, and cannot be chained. You don’t need to fight every battle, you certainly don’t need to win every battle, but you do need to stay in the fight. Let Holy Spirit direct you when and how to engage with the battle. His precision, His supernatural leading, His words, His hope in you can absolutely cut through the noise. Put on His armor (Eph 6:11-18), your weapons are better, and ultimately, you can’t lose. With Holy Spirit praying through you, your voice has eternal reverberations.

Take a moment right now, lay down any tension or aggression, listen for God’s voice. How does He want to cut through the noise today?

Praying for the Afghan People

If you’re like me – you don’t even know how to pray. 39 million people, 7,411 miles away across two oceans (either direction), customs I don’t understand, people I’ve never met. But yet my heart breaks for the Afghan people. So this week I spoke to a former missionary, a friend of our family, who spent 30+ years in neighboring Pakistan. I cannot name him and have to paraphrase what he wrote, because it would be dangerous to many of his friends and contacts still there in the region. Here are some of the things he said, I believe they’ll give perspective, some peace, and clarity for prayer . . .

  1. He outlined 50+ years of suffering for the Afghan people, stressing that they are survivors. When they saw that the US would pull out, they quickly traded payoffs for surrender, because that was their only chance for survival. They are just looking out for themselves – with payoffs, deals, practically – for their lives, families and tribes.
  2. Their sorrows are ongoing. Many who sided with the US will be murdered, they’re already disappearing. Young unmarried women are being taken as wives for the soldiers in horrific abuse, worse than death.
  3. Kings rise and kings fall. God our King, can handle terrorists, tyrants, big talkers in powerful places, and all who would echo their tales in the media. “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” (Isa. 33:6 NIV)
  4. Here’s how we can pray – that God would restrain the sin instincts of the human heart. That He would continue to reveal Himself as He has been for many years to many individuals, and give them peace, so that they’re not consumed by fear.

Let’s pray right now, together. Father, in Jesus name, we know that you love the Afghan people. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your heart for them in this moment. I declare peace in so many of their hearts, a revelation of your Son Jesus, and for supernatural restraint on all those who would hurt them. I bless them in Jesus name, and declare that your glory would be revealed even in these times. Amen.

A Picture Speaks . . .

I immediately felt crazy. I stood there bewildered, he was bewildered, and there was no relief. I felt like God had given me a picture of an easel in the middle of a room. So I shared it, but then God gave me zero spiritual insight as to what it meant, so I didn’t make it up, I just went silent . . . 2 YEARS went by, not hours, days, weeks, nope . . . 2 YEARS!

I had forgotten about it, I hoped he had too. But I saw him again, and he said, “you know that picture of the easel you gave me.” “Nope, don’t remember.” So he reminded me, and then added, “We didn’t know what house to buy that week, but the one house had an easel in the center of the room, so we bought it, it was awesome!Wow! Praise God!

PICTURES is one of the primary ways God speaks in the Bible. In fact, in the prophets, visions and dreams are used by God just as much as words. Check this out . . .

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9)

So, a picture speaks . . . a thousand words, or in God’s hands, a multitude of words! What if God wants to speak to you through pictures today? Take a minute right now and ask God for a picture.

Irreversible

“If you can see yourself doing anything else . . . you should do it.” Gee, thanks for the pep talk Dad (also known as Pastor Dr. Stepp). Was I crazy for talking about going into ministry? Did my dad not want me being a Pastor? Did he know something I didn’t know? Yes, no, and definitely YES! Later, after thinking, praying and wrestling with what wise Dr. Stepp had said, I came back to him, “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, I truly believe that God has told me to spend the majority of my time doing something of eternal value.” So, he sat down with me, and then, … we began to talk. Here’s what my dad knew . . .

“God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:29 NIV) My dad knew that if I was truly CALLED to full-time vocational ministry, there was NOTHING he or anyone else could say or do to talk me out of it. My dad knew that my resolve to serve God had to be rooted fully in God . . . not in him, not in glamour, not in people-pleasing, or in an emotional moment. The ONLY motivation to serve God that would last was the authentic gifting and calling of the living God.

Here’s where it comes to you – EVERY BELIEVER is called to serve God, to love and serve people, to love their family well, and to be generous like God. These giftings and callings are irrevocable, irreversible – you might as well lean in, because they’re not going away. God might have even spoken more specific calling to you also. It’s time to lean in tenaciously to God’s CALLING on your life, and to stir up the GIFTINGS on your life (2 Tim 1:6). Take a moment with God right now, let him remind you of His purpose for you – it’s irreversible!

Never be lacking in . . .

“Zeal for your house consumes me” (Psalm 69:9 & John 2:17) Noah, Deborah, Elisha, David, Mary, Samson, Paul, Samuel, Lydia, John the Baptist, John the Beloved, Ruth – what do these heroes of the Bible have in common with George Whitfield (Great Awakening), St. Patrick, William Seymour (Azusa Street Revival), Charles Finney (2nd Great Awakening), Maria Woodworth Etter, Smith Wiggelsworth, John G. Lake, Kathryn Kuhlman, and many more? These individuals hold many significant ultimate commitments in common, and were all used mightily by God. But there is an element that also cannot be overlooked in all their stories . . . ZEAL!

Zeal, passion, fervor, ardor, fire, intensity, drive, excitement – all of these mark individuals
God chooses to move through. Paul commands this, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Rom. 12:11 NIV) The two Greek words there spoude (haste, speed, urgency, zeal) and zeontes (fire, boil, seethe, burning zeal, spiritual glow) . . . they are both extremely animated words, with kinetic, frenetic (even violent) imagery attached. This means 2 things for us . . .

  1. Stoke the flame of passion in your life
  2. Funnel your passion toward serving God

God is calling you to be passionate, but NOT just for any old cause, or selfish desire (which are the things we tend to expend passion on). God is calling you to be passionate for Him! Stoke the FLAME zeontes of passion for God, there must be a URGENCY spoude of mission for God and His Kingdom. Don’t worry about wildfire, God can handle that (and He has been). The Spirit of God is shouting in your spirit, “JESUS! ABBA! REVIVAL!” Respond. Take a moment RIGHT NOW  to set your heart and emotions on the person of God, on lost people coming to God, on God doing what only He can do, God’s voice, His pictures, His heart, His Church, His world. Fuel passion for God right now and never be lacking in ZEAL!

Holy, Wholesome & Happy

“The holy, wholesome and happy truth about Jesus,” some phrases stick with you on accident, some experiences lock into your memory oddly, some songs hang in your head like an earwig for no reason, but some phrases hang on by design. My dad, Dr. Jack Stepp used the above phrase so many times while I was growing up that today not only do I remember the phrase, but I can remember his inflections and the smile on his face as he said it. This was by design, and I’m so grateful for it – it shapes my thinking about the gospel of Jesus.

Gospel means “good news”, and I am SOOOOO thankful that the central concept of our faith is good news! “But first . . . Thankfulness!” – Thank God for the good news of Jesus right now! Good news means that Jesus can help your happiness meter too! “[Believers] ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:46) A sincere heart is a wholesome heart, a heart that is authentically innocent (not ignorant), purposefully wholesome and clean before God.

Then there’s holyset apart for God. This is the baseline for being in with Jesus, a part of the kingdom of God. Saying, “God, I’m yours, above all others, I’m turning toward you in truth, Jesus.” Hebrews says this, Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) We NEED to see the Lord, and the starting point is holy, the meat is wholesome and the reward or icing is that it’s also happy.

The holy, wholesome and happy truth about Jesus is a triumvirate of awesome that you should get deep in your spirit too. Ask God right now, “Do you want me to grow in the holiness, wholesomeness or happiness of Your truth today? How can I grow in you?” Then listen.

Celebrating without Jealousy

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)

Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice and the Holy Spirit caused John to do a jig (“skip” in Greek) inside Elizabeth. You mom’s can relate – haha. Elizabeth is overwhelmed with the feeling of Holy Spirit working in her and immediately prophesies – immediately speaks words of life over Mary and over the baby.

Who we choose hang around will determine the words that are spoken over us! That’s why it’s important to be in church and to be a Life Group – and to do life with people who are looking to build up our soul. Elizabeth’s prophecy . . .

In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my LORD should come to me? (Luke 1:42-43)

Did Elizabeth know that Mary was pregnant? Nope – Mary barely knew Mary was pregnant. God showed Elizabeth – that’s a Word of Knowledge. Now think about this – Elizabeth Not Only immediately knew that Mary was pregnant – but she immediately knew that Mary’s miraculous baby was WAY MORE IMPORTANT than her own miraculous baby! And SHE CELEBRATED WITH HER – there was zero jealousy – complete celebration . . .

Why? Because Elizabeth realized – God’s plan is bigger than her! Celebrating without jealousy is available to you today with God. Get close to God, understand His heart for the people in your life and START TO PARTY! Your party is one moment with God away.