Soaking in . . .

Soaking in . . . the sun, a bathtub, sweat, grape-seed oil, chocolate, ice cream (I know it got weird – haha)??? Soaking in what, Pastor Jared!?!? Before we get there, at the most anxious point of my life – the point where, as a 28 year old, I ended up getting many stress tests, had heart palpitations and genuinely my deepest desires did not line up with my actions. I got inspired to sit with God and say nothing. Truth be told, I was so fried and burnt-out that I couldn’t bring myself to say anything – yet it WAS SO HARD! My mind was racing, I just wanted to fidget and talk and fret, anything but sit and be . . . with . . . God! So I let my mind race, and then I wrote down all the things it raced to, then I set them aside, my fingers and feet got tired from fidgeting eventually, then my heart rate slowed, my senses heightened, distractions started to fade . . . and finally . . . I don’t know what happened next, because I fell asleep . . .

Haha, no joke, fell right asleep, but I woke up and chose not to reengage with the frenzy in my head, but instead stay . . . with . . . God. Finally, I knew again that God was with me, His peace was palpable, His nourishing presence was all around and through me, restoring my heart and my emotions, draining the knot in my chest of its power, my skin started to relax, the acidic feeling in my mouth started to dissipate, the lump in my throat loosened. It was just my Father and me – and I didn’t need to say anything, or do anything, or pledge anything, or sing anything . . . I could finally just be . . . with . . . God.

That moment made me a junky for soaking in the presence of God. I love it, can’t get enough. If you experience God that way truly, even just once, I promise you’ll get hooked. All of your life rhythms will benefit from those moments with God.

Tomorrow night, in our First Wednesday Gathering we’ll talk about practicing the presence of God and do a spiritual exercise to help you learn to soak in God’s presence. You’ll want to be there at 7 PM, full kids and youth ministry happening too! This will be refreshing and life-changing – you might just become a junky like me (hint – you want that).

Ask for More

“The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it.” (2 Kings 3:19)

This quirky little story, in 6 verses illustrates clearly a King of Israel with misplaced passion. King Jehoash is weeping to the prophet Elisha about his armies (2 Kings 3:14), but then when it’s time to participate in Elisha’s strange prophetic pantomime, Jehoash gets skittish and dispassionate, striking the ground only 3 times as a prophetic demonstration of beating the enemy in battle. Was this a strange thing for Elisha to ask of the King? Definitely. Did it also demonstrate Jehoash’s overall lack of passion for Yahweh? Absolutely.

Jehoash striking the ground thrice (I feel British writing that), illustrated clearly boredom and malaise in his walk with God, which were only symptomatic of his greater disobedience to Yahweh and affection for falsehood (2 Kings 13:11). Jehoash had a form of godliness, but was unwilling and un-passionate to participate fully in the prophet’s powerful moment.

There’s a time when God demands you ASK FOR MORE – a time of increase, progress, growth, harvest! If you have a history of boredom and malaise in your walk with God, or disobedience, you’ll only participate in God’s prophetic declaration to the extent of your passion. In other words, be passionate for God and His words in this season or you’ll miss the increase and blessing He’s declaring for you in the next. However, if you stoke the flame out of season, when the season of growth and blessing comes – you will ask for more – and God will give it!

I sense that for you – this is the season to ASK FOR MORE. So go ahead, participate in the strange prophetic pantomime (haha), get out the arrows and strike the ground until you can’t strike anymore. The strange prophetic pantomime for us right now, I believe, is the continual request that God’s been leading me to ask people to the altar and receive prayer for more of God. Our job is to passionately respond each time, and watch as God gives the increase in our life!

You’re Built For . . .

“I saw a snake (that’s Satan) and a giant sword came down cut the snake into a bunch of pieces (that’s the Word of God)!” When my boy Jaren (10 yrs old), gets pictures from God they’re most often violent. They often involve intense struggle, and God winning! It’s easy to think,” oh he’s 10 he’ll grow out of it,” and I’m sure he’ll get more varied pictures from God someday, but I’m 37 and I still haven’t grown out of the rhythm of struggle and the need for God to gain victory in my life!

Truth – you’re built for struggle! AND you’re built to lean on God’s power and win! You were PROMISED struggle by Jesus, “In this world you will have trouble.” (Not one of my favorite promises to “Amen” to) And you were promised ultimate victory, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33 NIV) You were given weapons (Eph. 6:10-18), and you were told they’re different BUT they win (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

God is declaring to everyone in a struggle today – Use your other-worldly weapons – God’s truth, righteousness, peace, faith, God’s Word, prayer, the blood of the lamb, declaring testimony. God has already declared ultimate victory. Partner with God’s kingdom, knowing that any defeat is temporaryGod can’t lose in you!

This Surprising Truth about Jesus is in Almost Every Story in the Book of Mark

Laying on the floor, eyes closed, incapable of movement – I heard a symphony of noises all around the room: loud praying, yelling, singing, “More, Lord” repeatedly (the same prayer that sent me to the floor without anyone touching me), BUT ALSO WEIRD ONES – someone roaring like a lion in one corner, someone else acting like they’re giving birth behind me, someone barking like a dog in the other corner, and laughter not like someone told a good joke laughter – but rather embarrassing, uncontrollable laughter – loud and awkward. Those sounds were accompanied by abnormal movement – shaking, jerking, doubling over, gyrating like electrocution happened. And ALL OF THAT would have freaked me right out and caused me to scream “fakers”, except for the UNDENIABLE work that God was doing in me . . .

As I laid paralyzed, God began to speak to me and confirm in specific and unavoidable ways many things He’d been telling me about my future and ministry. On the screen of my imagination, He flashed vision after vision of things He had for me and I would do for Him. Those things ALL HAPPENED, His words ALL came true. 25 years later I still remember many of those words, visions and fulfillment.

If you want to call it emotionalism or excessive – you’re entitled to that opinion. You’d be wrong though. Were there people who embellished a little – maybe – but when God shows up undeniably in your life you might freak out too! There’s excess in every Gathering of believers from the beginning, but in a move of God, we get our excesses out IN THE OPEN so we can grow from them and learn, rather than all the private sin of other believers

Also in a move of God those excesses are the exceptions that prove the authentic work of God in people’s lives. I know God was moving and HE was aggressively and consistently pushing me OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE and that’s what brings us to Jesus (sorry it took me a minute to get there – haha) . . .

Throughout His life, Jesus aggressively and consistently pushes people out of their comfort zone. As we’ve studied Mark (and throughout the rest of it – I’ve read ahead – hehe) this is one thread that’s not going away. Jesus was a pusher. Jesus militantly crushes barriers in which people were personally and spiritually comfortable. He only and always broke down the barriers that who would separate people from God. Personal space – crushed. Self-righteousness – crushed. Earthly thinking – crushed. Doubt in His power and goodness – crushed. Every time. He aggressively pushed people into a place of encounter with God!!!

Jesus is STILL aggressively pushing people out of their comfort zone and into authentic encounter with God!!! Ask Him, HOW AM I TOO COMFORTABLE? When I come to church, what are my next steps toward encounter with You? In my prayer time right now, Holy Spirit please invade my comfort zone and bring me into Your growth!!!

What if Water Baptism Means Resurrection?

When you come up out of the water, all you might FEEL is wet. That’s ok. You don’t need to feel this, you simply need to walk in obedience. Water Baptism is symbolic AND supernatural! The need to make it one or the other is a false division. Every baptism in the Bible is tied directly to supernatural encounter with God . . .

  • John’s for repentance – Mark 1:4-5
  • Jesus’ for identity – Mark 1:9-11
  • Day of Pentecost (Holy Spirit encounter AND water baptism) – Acts 2:37-41)
  • Philip’s miracles & baptisms in Samaria (Acts 8:5-13)
  • Ethiopian Eunuch’s supernatural encounter & baptism (Acts 8:36-38)
  • Paul’s encounter with Christ & baptism (Acts 9:1-19)
  • Gentiles speaking in tongues & water baptism (Acts 10:47-48)
  • Jailor’s supernatural deliverance & baptism (Acts 16:27-34)

Bottom line – when you get water baptized you’re going to encounter God! It’s God’s will for every believer to have a meaningful baptism. But I have to go one step further, the significance of water baptism is no less than the death and resurrection of Jesus Himself that YOU NOW PARTICIPATE IN! . . . We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  (Rom. 6:4 NIV) What does that mean? The resurrection power of Jesus lives in you! What does THAT mean fully? I think it will take us way into eternity to unpack it, but I know it’s good, so good.

If you haven’t been water baptized, this is your next step – this Sunday is your day! Come and celebrate with others this Sunday, the worship, the teaching, the Gathering & the water baptisms – it’s going to be a party!

Ramping Up

What if Holy Spirit isn’t dependent on your energy level? What if He’s not limited by your abilities? What if your soundness of mind or spirals of thought can’t ruin His day? What if your level of momentum at this present moment cannot stall out His unstoppable forward movement? What if He’s not as impressed with your shortcomings as you are? What if you became more impressed with His ability than your inability? And . . .

What if Holy Spirit is RAMPING UP His work in your life and your world? I could answer all those questions for you, but you know the answer. I want to challenge you to KNOW the answer (so deep in your soul that’s it’s unshakeable in your heart, words and actions). How do you get there? Meditate on God’s ability in you and your world. You may feel like you’re stuck, or drowning, or moving backwards, but know this – Jesus completely understands AND He is, in NO way, stuck or drowning, or moving backwards! Every real transformation, real breakthrough, every miracle – Holy Spirit did it AND He remembers how to do it. He doesn’t have amnesia and He’s ramping up His work in your life and in your world. That’s God’s word for you.

One challenge – read back through the above questions and statements as many times as it takes to get them deep in your spirit! “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6 NIV)

2 HUGE Reasons Rahab’s Scarlet Ribbon Matters to You

I hear the word “Scarlet” and almost immediately think of “The Scarlet Letter” the famous book by Nathaniel Hawthorne that used a bright, red, letter “A” to brand someone’s sin. Yikes! That color needs redeemed for sure, and Rahab’s story goes a long way to exactly that . . .

Rahab’s scarlet cord out of the window of her house on the wall of Jericho was a statement of faith in God and faith that God’s people Israel would keep their word. It meant salvation not just for her, but for her whole family! It parallels the red blood of the lamb that was on the doorposts of houses so that the angel of death would Passover the houses. Because of her scarlet cord the army passed by her house, and what’s more God Himself designated her for salvation, even preserving her house in destruction of the wall. The scarlet cord parallels the blood of Jesus, which now washes your sin and my sin so that eternal death passes us over and instead we’re marked for salvation. This is why this matters for you . . .

  1. The blood of Jesus that washes sin is NOT a disgrace for you – it is your source of hope, cleansing and salvation. Just like Rahab’s cord, the scarlet blood of Jesus is a symbol of God’s goodness in your life. When spiritual death looks at you, it sees His blood and has to pass over!
  2. When you demonstrate your faith, by carrying a Bible, marking your house with Scripture, wearing Christian shirts, listening to the Bible and Christian music, talking about God’s goodness to you – you are telling the enemy he has no claim on you and inviting the work of God in your life!

So redeem the image of the blood of Jesus in your heart right now. Realize His hope, cleansing and salvation again. Also, boldly make plans to demonstrate your faith today.

Why would Anyone get Their Doctorate?

Just so no one misses – I have ATTACHED my Doctoral Project “Making the Supernatural Normal: Mobilizing the Local Church to Move in the Power of God Outside its Doors” – Instructions for reading this are at the end.

I’m glad you asked – haha. I don’t know why ANYONE would get their doctorate, I’m sure there are lots of nerdy motivations. I do know WHY I DID, and I think it might help you sift through your own motivations.

I did NOT pursue this because . . .

  • I need to be called Doctor
  • My dad did
  • There’s a pay raise involved (there’s not in ministry, plus doctorates are expensive, so no, not a factor)
  • I want to run for political office (yeah, no)
  • I need more letters behind my name – the letters for my degree are Dmin (Doctor of Ministry) – say the phrase “Pastor Jared has a Dmin” out loud you’ll get why this isn’t a factor – haha.

I chose to get my Doctorate BECAUSE . . .

  • God led me to
  • I knew I had gaps in my knowledge
  • I love to learn, I’m a lifelong learner, even though this is a “terminal” degree (sounds morbid), this is not the end for me.
  • I knew our church would benefit from this
  • Being called “Dr. J” sometimes is a perk – haha.

Now, here’s a little bit of the HOW of getting a Doctorate . . .

  • Full support from my amazing wife Jessica!
  • I’m a nerd – consuming and giving knowledge of God energizes me
  • Support/understanding from my kids, and also extended family
  • Support from Journey Life Church staff, board & church family
  • Perseverance – LOTS of perseverance
  • God’s help

Finally, attached is my Doctoral Project “Making the Supernatural Normal: Mobilizing the Local Church to Move in the Power of God Outside its Doors”. Let me set expectations for reading this (if you’d like to) . . .

  1. It’s academic – after 52 stages of editing (no joke), my voice is not clearly in the text. It’s ok. The content is great, it’s all there, but it has an academic voice. This also means it’s not meant to grab you or necessarily be an interesting read. It’s an informative read, with lots of research and documentation.
  2. Some people you may know are in it. Names are named, testimonies are cited – it’s fun! Find the Easter Eggs!
  3. Chapter 2 (tracing redemptive supernatural events through the Bible) is partially in my appendix (apparently 90 pages is too long for a chapter – haha). So to trace the entire thought there are times where the appendix is referenced and you might want to jump there, then jump back.
  4. Pay attention to the bibliography. It’s a veritable who’s who of people who are writing on the supernatural right now.
  5. I’m writing this in an interesting book form also. I’m UNDER CONTRACT through Supernatural Truth Publishing to write the book of the same name that will be story based, gripping, inspiring and practical (with discussion/refection questions and supernatural exercises after each chapter). My goal with this book is to write something my wife would WANT to read – haha! This book will have my voice thoroughly throughout.

Making_the_Supernatural_Normal_Jared_Stepp_Doctoral_Project

What is victory?

“I got to tell her that I couldn’t do that, only God could heal her hand!” Juliana (my 9 yr old), says excitedly to me at 10 PM last night. “Whaaaaa!!??!! That is so awesome!!!! . . . Now, it’s time to go to bed.” Kids always seem to pull out the best conversation AFTER bedtime – haha. At school her friend was telling her about her sprained wrist, and she told her how they had prayed for mine on Saturday and it was healed (power in testimony!). So her friend said, “You can pray for mine if you want.” God is so good! That’s a win!

So what’s the difference between a win and a victory? Ultimately, we are seeking victory. Wins are awesome, but they’re also momentary. With God, what is the victory? Here’s some insight . . .

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. . . . This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 Jn. 5:2,4 NIV)

To love Father God, His Son and from that place to love His kids, builds our faith and that is the victory. However, I’ve had wins that caused me to celebrate a little too much in MY heart and not continue to press in to HIS heart. There was nothing wrong with the win, but my response to it did not produce victory – and that’s the difference. God will want to give us more wins, when we are stewarding those wins to drive us deeper into His heart. I have had losses that demoralized me and I didn’t dive deeper into God’s heart either. Neither the wins or losses are as important as how we are stewarding them. Are we allowing both wins and losses to push us deeper into God’s heart? Because that is the victory. We can live in a state of victory with eternity written on hearts (Eccl 3:11) as we do that.

So, celebrate the wins, learn from the losses and use both as motivation to dive deeper into God’s heart – that’s the victory.

Do you feel God?

Snot everywhere, tears spitting out with the convulsions of grief, joy, hope and embrace that filled my soul and that was just at the “box of chocolates” line in Forrest Gump – haha. Sometimes our feelings can get triggered by the silliest things, and then don’t get triggered when they should, and we feel like a lifeless robot. For better or worse lifelessness is life without feelings. God created us to experience life with our five senses (six, if you count sense of direction – but mine left the moment GPS came around – haha), and our emotions. Our bodies are wired for compassion and elation, for anger, sadness and profound contentment.

So, when was the last time you felt God? I sense (haha) a couple of you tensing up just reading that J. Here are some thoughts as to why that is, and how we let God win in our senses . . .

God is not a feeling. God is love (love isn’t feeling either – haha), but He’s bigger than love – love serves God’s desires. Therefore our feelings also submit to God and His Word. Feelings can be deceptive (Jer 17:9).

God is greater than your feelings. John 3:20 – it’s a thing. God owns that area too and He will operate in our feelings areas more when we align ourselves with His purpose there.

God works in your feelings. You’ve experienced God before in this way – there was a rush of happy tears for freedom or sorrow for sin or joy that caused you to move out of your emotional box with [insert response – laughing, shouting, jumping, clapping, dancing]. These kinds of responses are normal all over the Bible – Jesus had them, the apostles had them, and everyone who interacted with them did. Feelings can provide a gateway for God to work (Prov 21:2, Phil 4:7).

When we don’t feel God that doesn’t mean He’s not around, and when we do feel Him that doesn’t mean we’re super Christians. So open your whole being to God and you will feel Him. He’ll prove that He’s here, that He’s on your side, that He’s love, and if you ask He’ll probably give you words and marching orders that move you beyond feelings. So open your whole being to God right now, quiet your mind, ask Holy Spirit to come, and stay there until you’re ready to take Him with you.