“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.

Reliving the Drama

The dimly lit hallway outside the Operating Room, was the scene of my biggest PTSD moment, AND God’s biggest triumph in me. The last sound I heard was my son’s flat-lining machines, after Jessica’s womb had collapsed on him. The frenetic scene that had preceded that of Nurses screaming and Doctors running, had now melted into an eerie peace – once the doors of the OR had shut and I sat alone in the hallway praying, almost by instinct, in the Spirit with all my soul.

My anguish morphed slowly from anxiety-pulsed nervousness, to intense Spirit-led intercession, to a moment that changed everything. I heard in my spirit (not my ears) the sound of my son crying, and it was beautiful, and my anxiety melted into peace as the presence of God enveloped me. 20 minutes later as I sat in supernatural peace, and I heard with my ears (not just my spirit) the sound of my son crying from deep inside the OR. Then I was crying, then I was praising God! My son is alive today, because of God’s miraculous power, that was the third time God kept him alive miraculously to that date.

Even recalling that story my heart races again, my eyes well up with tears, my spirit soars with gratefulness to God. God is SO good! Here’s what God wanted me to tell you today – relive the drama of the God moments in your life – when you were saved, healed, baptized in the Holy Spirit . . . ANY moment where you knew beyond a doubt that God is real and He’s on your side. Relive that drama right now. It’s the best kind of drama you could live in. Live FROM that place of God’s victory in your life today. Happy . . . Thanksgiving!

Too Far from Danger?

Gunshots every night was not the generally advisable environment to keep 40+ teenagers! Yet there we were, in San Quintin, Mexico on the Baja California Peninsula, sleeping in little places beside migrant worker camps that were revolting. Thank God, I had youth pastors who were willing to take us TOWARD the danger rather than away! Each day we would split into 4 groups, divvy up food (like a yummy oatmeal) for about 100 kids, split up and drive to different migrant worker camps to feed hungry kids. My group pulled up to a large, ominous fenced in area that day. No one in sight. We thought it was a dud. But no sooner had the gate been opened for us, that kids started pouring out of shanty houses, it seemed like they were just spawning out of the desert sand itself. There was a sea of kids there. We had 100 servings of food, their parents were the ones shooting and revolting the night before – this was NOT GOOD!

As a 14 year old, I still knew what to do – we prayed, “God, you see these kids, multiply this food so THEY can be blessed AND we don’t die.” Then a 15 year girl and I (who I might or might not have had a crush on), began to spoon out the food into the cups. We both felt in our heart, and agreed to give out the same amount of food we would have for 100 kids. So we did generous servings, and went through 700 cups that day (cups don’t go bad, we had lots of those). Every child ate and was satisfied, and we even had food left over. The exhilaration of that moment obscured my hand cramps, as we powered through. That girl and I KNEW what God had done, every one there was witness to it. God loved those kids so much that He wanted to bless them, He loved us so much that He wanted us not to die, and He loved His reputation so much that He wanted these kids to have a good first experience with Christians!

Some of us are too far from danger to be a threat to the enemy, to be a rescue for the world, or to invite undeniable encounters with God in our life. So when you feel the nudges of the Holy Spirit to step closer to someone in need, maybe the danger filter needs to lose. Who can you reach out to today? How does God want to crush your comfort zone?

What if God’s Kingdom can still move forward?

The world stopped for a virus. The world has seemed to stop for the American election (although it really didn’t). So what’s happening with God’s Kingdom, with the Church? What’s possible? Where do we go from here?

Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing” (Matt. 11:12). In other words, God’s going to win no matter what. God’s plan is moving forward, His kingdom is bigger than a virus or an election! Be encouraged and receive God’s peace right now.

God’s kingdom is moving forward at Journey Life Church! Watch the above video ^^^^^ to catch further vision for our Journey Forward Building addition. Pray and consider whether God would have you commit to give toward Journey Forward.

God’s kingdom is moving forward in your life too – let me know how I can pray for you and declare God’s kingdom in greater ways in your life.

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!

What if There’s More . . . Hugs?

One of my favorite moments as a father is when my kid saunters over and asks to be in my arms. There’s something about those arms outstretched even if their grubby, and the nose that nuzzles in the neck even if it’s . . . ummmm. . . gross. By far most of the time, I will welcome my child no matter who else I’m talking to, or how important my tasks are. That moment of embrace blesses me.

Jesus never fathered physical children on the earth, yet we see this scene twice within 30 verses (Mark 9:36, 10:16) Jesus taking a child in his arms, and then many children in his arms to bless them. I don’t know if there was a good Greek word for hugs back then, but that’s the scene that’s described. Jesus taking up in these children in an embrace, putting his hand on them and prophetically blessing their future. Grubby fingers, snotty noses, the least important people on the planet – Jesus embraces them and blesses them!

What if there’s more hugs? What if the example of Jesus means that we can receive that kind of embrace from Him also, even with our grubby fingers and snotty noses? Come to Jesus RIGHT NOW, be embraced by Him, receive His prophetic declarations of blessing for your future. What if you should give more hugs and prophetic blessings too? Who can you bless today?