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!”

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.

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!

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.

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!).

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?

Irreversible

“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!