The Most Important Skill in Developing Discernment with God

“I’m not crying, you’re crying,” as happy tears run down both our faces. Remember I’m a sympathetic crier – haha. God had given me a picture of a flower (a Jack in the Pulpit, to be exact). Then I described what I felt like God was saying through that picture and it hit so deeply to the heart that water works started and so much long-term fruit as well. 5 years later it’s still bearing fruit. So, how did I know God was speaking to me? Why was I confident that I was sharing something from God and not just my head? The short answer – discernment. Discerning between spirits (1 Cor 12:10) – human spirit, demonic spirits or Holy Spirit.

If you’ve felt like you heard from God before in your life – you’ve used this gift. It may have been direction from God – He led you to your spouse, or to a job, or to our church, but it produced good fruit in your life, therefore, you have reason to believe it was God, not you. It may have been a picture from God that gave you hope when hope seemed lost – fruitful. This may possibly be the most important skill in my journey of developing discernment with God. That skill is . . .

Reverse engineering a fruitful encounter with God. What!?!? Let me explain . . . You feel like you hear from God. You try something based on that. It produces good fruit. Maybe amazing fruit. That means you have reason to believe that this encounter with God was genuine.

How do you reverse engineer a fruitful encounter with God? I would start with a few questions when looking back on the time that you received the word or picture from God that produced good fruit.

  1. How did I feel at the moment I received that communication from God? Take a snapshot in your spirit of that moment, remember the sights and sounds around it.
  2. What, that day, led up to that encounter with God? How was my day going before the encounter? What had I done, said? How had I spent my time?
  3. What, in that season of life, led up to that encounter with God? How was my prayer life, church life, Bible study, etc.? How was my heart? How recently had I repented of sin?

When you see clearly the circumstance that spawned authentic encounters with God in the past in your life, that will give you clues as to how to repeat them. It will also help you to discern ahead of time better when they’re happening again. This speaks to your personal history with God. I cannot pray and impart this to you. You have to forge this in your own prayer life. This is a pursuit I intend to continue growing in the rest of my life personally.

Pray this prayer with me, “Lord, I want to hear and know Your voice. God, that Your voice would be so clear and obvious to me that I would catch it the first time, and act on it, giving Your goodness away to my world. Train me Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.”

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!”

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.”

Revival’s Secret Sauce . . .

“ARE YOU SAVED, SANCTIFIED, AND FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST!?!” I can still hear the preacher yelling, or even singing (thanks Carman – haha), from revival atmospheres years ago. Most people understand saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, but . . . what is sanctified again? It’s a big churchy sounding word. And this concept has been a part of nearly every revival that I can track all the way back into the book of Acts. Sanctified means Saint-ified, or becoming a saint, becoming set apart for God. The process of becoming set apart and holy only unto God. It’s a necessary part of the Christian life. In fact, it’s assumed in the Bible that this is happening to Christians . . .

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV)

What does this mean? Holiness. “Ooooohh, that’s not a popular word today Pastor Jared. Didn’t that word get canceled or something?” Not by actual Christians it didn’t! Cause it’s in the Bible . . . a lot. So does Holiness mean, no makeup, bow ties or dancing legalism? NO. Holiness means that we look more like Jesus today than when we first believed! And here’s why it’s been a part of every revival that I have studied – because you and I NEED the transformational, miraculous power of Holy Spirit to become holy! There’s no other way. Everything in us and our culture pushes against becoming more like God – ONLY through the specific powerful working of the Holy Spirit are you going to be formed more into image of the Son of God.

But it’s worth it, and it’s simpler than you think. Pray with me right now, “Holy Spirit, in what specific way do you want to make me more like Jesus today?” Then listen. Then respond.

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.

In my heart for more than a year . . .

The message that I spoke Sunday from Romans 13:1-7 has been in my heart for more than a year! Why? Because I’ve heard this Scripture abused over and over ad nauseum by Christians and non-Christians alike, by anyone who will parrot it. I wanted to add balance to the discussion. My prayer is that through this teaching our people will be delivered from a NEED to comply, AND from a NEED to NOT comply. Ultimately, we have to follow Jesus first! If you need any prayer or discernment for your particular situation, our staff and prayer team would love to partner with you on that.  Catch the message replay here.

I’ve also attached the handout from Sunday’s message with my (much requested) translation of Romans 13. A couple thoughts about my translation . . .

  1. Yes, I am qualified to translate from the Greek & Hebrew (M.A. in Advanced Biblical Languages & an earned Doctorate).
  2. This is my take on the translation, I am NOT infallible or inerrant (God’s Word in the original languages is infallible & inerrant).
  3. The translators 99.95% of the time do an amazing job! They are men and women of God who believe the Bible is infallible & inerrant and are doing their best before God to communicate God’s Word as accurately and helpfully as possible. I know some of those who worked on the translation teams personally. Bottom line – you can trust that God’s Word will speak to you and give you life every time you pick the Bible!
  4. No, I am not able to translate the entire Bible personally. I’m called to Pastor first, and that takes the majority of my time – I need to stay in my lane of calling – haha.

I love and bless you all in Jesus name! Be strengthened and encouraged! Jesus is coming soon!

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 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.

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!

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!!!