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!).

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.

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!