Do it Again

Lights turned out on 300+ kids in the middle of our worship set, no sound. I’m almost the only adult in the room (my worship team was teenagers, and the other camp counselors were in a counselors meeting)! Kid’s camp was about to get WILD! It was like instantly the blood pressure went up for everyone in the room – panic mode was loaded and ready! . . .

But God . . . had been BURNING IN MY HEART exactly what needed to happen next. I put my guitar down, and started yelling out over the crowd of 1st-6th Graders, “God’s wants to do something awesome right now, who in the room has pain or sickness right now?” About 70 hands went up. “Everyone else go to someone with their hand up and start praying for healing. Don’t pray wimpy prayers . . .”

About 15 minutes later the adults started filtering back into the room (they were a little bewildered). Lights had come back on, and there was a line of children coming up to the stage and telling about how God had healed them that morning. That morning Jesus healed 100% of the kids who were sick or in pain! Not one left with sickness or pain that day! Jesus is amazing! Only Jesus! That was the Pennsylvania-Delaware AG District Kid’s Camp of 2015 on the Thursday in July, 4 days before I preached at Journey Life Church for the first time.

I say all that to say, “Lord, do it again!” That’s the phrase that the word “testimony” implies – “do it again.” My HEART BURNS day after day for God to do what only He can do. Holy Spirit remembers how to do it and He’s energized by that prospect too. Join me in testifying and in praying, “Lord, do it again!”

Thanksgiving and Christmas meet here . . .

These two wonderful holidays that people like to separate and even pit against each other. Besides eating till our buttons pop, and we regret all our life choices. There’s a more important thing these holidays have in common . . .

Psalm 107:8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Then right before Christmas, Mary sings . . .

Luke 1:53 [God] has filled the hungry with good things

Evidently, filling hungry bellies SHOULD be a part of our Thanksgiving and our Christmas celebrations. But what does the Scripture say – GOD is the one who fills hungry bellies. He gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8:18), to pay for food, and the ability to prepare and eat it – so God gets all the glory, “whether you eat, drink or whatever you do – do all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

So when you’re sucking down your favorite Thanksgiving treats this week – PRAISE GOD, and wear the stretchy pants, and make wise choices, and start a workout plan, but mostly praise God!

Saturate this . . .

Have you ever needed extra, EXTRA assurance from God? Have you ever KNOWN for sure that you heard from God, but you’re still freaking out about obedience? Gideon relates. He’s hiding. An angel shows up – he immediately questions the angel! (Judges 6:13) Then again (6:15). Gideon asks for a sign (6:17), then another (6:37), then ANOTHER (6:39) – “Saturate this fleece . . . saturate the ground, not the fleece.” God knew Gideon was freaking out. In fact, in chapter 7 God gives Gideon a fourth sign for free (7:9-15)!

Does God know that we need assurances? Does He know we wrestle with insecurities when it comes to our life and the supernatural? Of course. Will He give your FOUR SIGNS like He did Gideon? Maybe. I do know this – God likes to SATURATE PEOPLE more than He likes to saturate fleeces. That’s what baptism issaturation, full immersion. There’s water baptism, and Holy Spirit baptism. The fun part about Holy Spirit baptism is that you STAY SATURATED! You walk around soaked with the power of Holy Spirit.

So here’s the prayer, “Father, saturate me in your Spirit, so that everyone around me can see and experience You through me. Not for my good, but for Yours and for Your world, in Jesus name. Amen.”

Feeling God . . .

“You all are addicted to feelings! It’s all emotionalism with you Pentecostals!”Well, phooey on you too, you jerk faces!” – is what I said in my head. But not out loud, because that would have played in to their point (I was thinkin’ – haha). Those kinds of accusations make you think – should we FEEL GOD!?! Are emotions wrong in faith and spirituality!?! The answer is yes (we should feel God) and no (emotions are NOT wrong in faith). Here’s why . . .

The Bible is FULL OF EMOTIONS and emotional responses to God! The word “heart” lev (601x’s in Hebrew OT) and kardia (156x’s in Greek NT) are emotional words. There’s lots of dancing in Scripture, shouting, crying out, falling on knees and face, lifting hands, clapping, laughing, crying, etc. Read Psalms and see if you can get through 3 verses without emotional language. Read prophecies (about 1/3 of the Bible) and see if they don’t quickly tug on your heart. Jesus’ teaching focused on heart language first before doctrine. In fact, it’s fairly obvious that the Bible is full of more emotions than it is doctrine – that sounds controversial, but it’s really not. Take an honest inventory.

Here’s the bottom line – I would charge that people who DON’T seek to feel God are following their lack of emotions rather than the Word of God. The Bible is an emotional book, BECAUSE we are emotional beings. The Bible comes to the mind through way of the heart. Jesus healed or prophesied BEFORE he taught in most cases, and so did the apostles. I’m not saying that we should be addicted to emotions. I’m not saying that we just need to go from one Holy Spirit fix to the next, like Holy Spirit junkies. The Word of God can stabilize us in times where the feeling is not there. However, if my experience doesn’t line up with the Word of God, then it’s my experience that’s wrong, not the Bible. The Bible is overwhelmingly full of emotional responses to God and His works – we’re allowed to seek to be more like God in this way . . .

Here’s how – ask God right now, “God, is there an area of my emotions I’ve been holding back from you? God, I open myself up to you, to work in EVERY part of me right now, in Jesus name. Amen.” Then stay in God’s presence . . . just . . . stay.

The Antidote to Legalism . . .

Can we all agree that legalism isn’t helpful? Laws for the sake of laws in the church, trying to save people from themselves has a long history of overuse. That said, we are TERRIBLE at restraining our sinful impulses in the modern church. Why is that? What is the healthy way to approach living for Jesus, restraining sin, embracing right actions? The answer is simpler than you think, however, I don’t hear anyone talking about it, or connecting it as the antidote. So this is coming to you by revelation from the Lord, I believe . . .

Self-control is the antidote to legalism, the prophetic opposite, God’s designed way for us to live for Him, restrain sin, and embrace right actions. Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit! Self-control or self-discipline is one of the primary ways God wired you to fight sin. Here’s the difference – legalism says, “this worked for me, so every person everywhere MUST now do this, or else they’ll be punished.” Legalism then uses Scriptures that are designed by Holy Spirit to train our conscience and discernment with the Holy Spirit as a hammer to demand compliance. Legalism doesn’t work (Col 2:20-23). Self-control, on the other hand, is RELATIONAL. Self-control works in perfect harmony with the PERSON of the Holy Spirit, Who guides you into appropriate and specific guardrails, restraints, goals and directives that motivate rather than mandate right living.

Self-control says, “God has called me to a system of guardrails, goals and directives, let that inspire you to get to know Holy Spirit for yourself and develop your own guardrails, goals and directives!” Legalism says, I’M restraining myself and doing all of this, so you HAVE to also, and if you don’t you’ll be punished!” One is healthy, relational and motivational and the other is demoralizing and condemning. Now let me be clear, there ARE categories of things that God has specifically asked all Christians everywhere to do or not do in the Bible (ie. the 10 commandments, the sexuality laws, love one another, and SO MANY others). However, we err, if we think EVERYTHING falls in that category. Then, we’re not reliant on Holy Spirit for guidance daily, which is what is REQUIRED of us (John 10:27).

So here’s the antidote . . . ask Holy Spirit for the proper guardrails, restraints, goals and directives to motivate yourself to right living. YOU NEED THESE! Don’t neglect this! Then by example and through love you GET TO motivate others to seek Holy Spirit too. So do it, right now, ask God, “What guardrails, restraints, goals and directives do I need today to motivate right living?”

Also, COME THIS SUNDAY where we’re going to break out these very matters of conscience in fuller detail from Romans 14! This may be the most practical message you ever experience!

Apple Spider

“Say apple spider, Jolena” “Noooo, it’s apple cider” “[sing-songy] apple spider” “NO, apple cider” “[disappointed] ahhhhh.” My older kids were desperately trying to get their baby sister to mispronounce “cider” in the way that she used to when she was 3. But 5 year old Jolena wasn’t having it, to the great disappointment of her siblings. Because as amusing and cute as her little mistake was, Jolena knew that there comes a time to grow up. She’s fully capable of doing it right, and thus refuses to fall back into the old habit.

Spiritually, there comes a time for us to grow up too. When we see the truths of God’s Word clearly, we can’t fall back. For instance, salvation is 100% by grace through faith. So then, you never have a place for spiritual pride again. Also, God loves you and likes you, He smiles when He thinks about you. Once you know that, you never have to dwell in rejection again. Or, God still does supernatural wonders through humans. Once you know that, you can’t go back.

What truth from God do you need to own and live in today? Take a moment right now. Ask God, “What truth do I need to own and live in today?”

What if rain means . . .

What does a cloudy, rainy day mean to you? Overcast, dark, threatening skies, humidity, frizzy hair. What mental/emotional state does it put you in? . . . If your answer is “not good” then you have a lot of company. Psychology researchers have established a link between rainy overcast days and feeling down. However, that kind of gloom is a fairly modern invention (since we’ve been able to stay inside and not have to work the land for food). Now, LET’S REFRAME it. In the Bible rain is almost always a sign of blessing from God. (Lev 26:4, 2 Chron 7:13, Amos 4:7, Hosea 10:12, Isaiah 45:8, 55:10, Jer 5:24, 14:22, Job 5:10, Joel 2:23, Matt 5:45, Acts 14:17, James 5:17-18, etc.) Why? In the ancient world, rain means food. No rain, means starvation. People were constantly looking to the skies.

So what if rain means … blessing, food, the favor of God? What if, instead of seeing our frizzy hair and a threatening sky, we saw the promise of what would come next? Look past the moment – understand that THE HARVEST IS WORTH ALL THE GLOOMY DAYS THAT IT TAKES. What if the clouds, turmoil, storm and mud that our nation and your family is going through right now is just the necessary precursor to the harvest that God wants to bring? Then it’s time to ask the “Lord of the harvest to send out workers” (Matt 9:38). It’s time to be ready to be sent to invite people into God’s kingdom.

If You’re Happy and You Know It . . .

If you’re happy and you know it . . . “sing songs of praise!” (James 5:13) Yep, it comes right out of the Bible. Singing praise to God should be a physical manifestation of the happiness that God has given you. But I can’t sing“Make a joyful noise to the Lord” (Psalm 100:1). God’s command doesn’t require talent – just noise. Being on the worship team requires talent though, haha. But talent is not a prerequisite for singing or happiness before God. And the Bible implies that the two go together.

Like Buddy from the movie Elf, “I’m singing, I’m in a store and I’m singing, I’m in a store and I’m singing!” What if singing praise to God can unlock a new level of joy in your heart? The Bible contends for this, and commands it (at least 29 times) why? Because singing has the ability to make your heart happy. It’s not always the same for listening to music, there’s something about using your built-in instrument, your voice, and connecting it to the living God. That’s why God says if you’re happy, sing songs of praise.

Get an upgrade of joy right now. Sing to God. Who cares who’s around? God wants to lift your heart today.

Why do we Eat Ham?

“Why do we eat ham?” Hearing this question from a Jewish friend took me back a second. I mean, bacon makes almost everything better (except cupcakes – don’t put bacon in cupcakes!) But the Old Testament command not to eat pork is well documented (Lev 11:7, Deut 14:8-10). Why did Christians turn? What made us hungry for the sweet meat? Well, the origins are supernatural – that takes us to Acts chapter 10 and the Apostle Peter in a trance (no, this isn’t eastern mysticism, this is a way Holy Spirit can speak) . . .

Peter’s trance contained a sheet let down from heaven with pigs and other unclean animals on it. God told Peter to eat, Peter argued with God, then God said, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15) This scene repeated THREE TIMES for Peter (because God knows we’re stubborn). The greater meaning was the Peter was supposed to accept non-Jews into the faith. But it was also interpreted in Acts 15 to mean that Christians could eat any food.

So what does this mean for us beyond a savory BLT sometimes? To me it means, whatever I’ve experienced in the supernatural . . . THERE’S MORE! God has more creative ways to speak than I could imagine. God likes to show off supernaturally more often than even my capacity to receive it from Him. AND some of the ways God speaks are really weird, and even repetitive. So enjoy your pulled pork tacos, and remember that God wants to do supernaturally beyond what you can ask or imagine.

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!).