Deny His name…I don’t think so!

I was recently asked by a public relations leader to open a large event with prayer, and my initial thought was wow what a great opportunity to represent Christ. However, right after that thought I was asked not to say the name of Jesus anywhere in my prayer. I could say God, but I could not say the name of Jesus. They wanted it to be open interpretation for any name.

So I find myself sitting at a table with a group of corporate leaders asking me to pray, but to pray without mentioning Jesus. I told them I wasn’t the right person for what they wanted. I told them Jesus was a nonnegotiable. Jesus was automatic.

I can see how some people may say to go ahead and pray because you know who you are praying to; however, my conviction was that I was being asked to deny Jesus before this group of leaders. I would not and will not do that. I am not ashamed of His name. If I would have agreed, I would have been saying that there is more than one name. There is only one name above all names, and that name is Jesus!

Sometimes it’s not outright persecution that you face, sometimes it doesn’t put you in any sort of jeopardy, sometimes its just a sneaky little attempt by the enemy to get you to devalue, lessen, and deny the name of Jesus. An attempt to get you to ignore your convictions.

Don’t overlook these things, in fact always identify them and use them as opportunities to proclaim His name!

God is for you, and I am for you!

There is one thing I haven’t heard….

I am naturally a driven, and ambitious person. I have something in me that likes to conquer mountains, and achieve. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there have been times in my life when I have struggled with the desire for more achievement, and more things for my own namesake. That’s not a good thing when you desire to live a kingdom first life. It creates an inner struggle. I’ve made bad choices, and contradictory decisions because of it. This life isn’t about my own name, it’s about His name.

The unchecked desire for more things for ourselves turns into a lust for more. There is a word for that, and that word is greed. There are several Greek words in the New Testament for greed, and when you put them all together they describe someone who becomes willing to trample on other people in order to pursue their lust for more things.

This is obviously not the kind of people that we want to become, yet I have a theory that the majority of people would say that they do not have any issues with greed, or we will even say covetousness. Let me explain why I have this theory.

First of all let me present the limiting factor to what I am about to say. I have only been a pastor for about 5 years, and at this particular point in time I probably have more influence in my place of employment than I do in our church campuses. With that being said, over a 5 year period in the church, and at work ( I teach at a small college for those of you who do not know) I have had numerous people come to me and tell me they have some type of struggle that they would like pray or direction for. People have told me they struggle with anger, depression, loneliness, lust, pornography, anxiety, lack of faith, lack of belief, and just about every other thing you can think of; however, there is one thing no one has ever told me they struggle with and that is greed.

Why is that? It’s not shame if we are willing to admit anything else. We all struggle with a number of things, so why won’t we say it if we struggle with greed. Could it be because we really don’t think we a have a problem with it? Could it be that we learn to live life with an agenda to pursue more, and that it is normal, and moral. Could it be that our preconceived perspectives were formed in such a way that some of the things we do are not thought to be trampling on others?

I was born in America, I am already privileged. I already have more, yet I have wanted even more. How much more do I need? Is my house big enough, or does it need to be bigger? Some people don’t have a house. Is my car nice enough, or do I need a newer one? Some people will never have a car. Do I make enough money, or do I need to make so much that I can rent a mansion for $400,000 per month like some other people do?

The things are not the problem. They are amoral. This is not an attack against things. It’s not bad to have things, success, or any of that. It’s a good thing. However, our heart and attitudes towards those things can be a problem. This is a challenge to look inward and do an assessment. Internal growth with fruit as evidence, is better than external growth. External things are temporary, but if you are saved then you are eternal. You are not trying to be eternal, you are not going to be eternal when you die, you are already eternal right now. Your body may not be, but you are.

If I do a self check, do I want more in order to build my name, or I do I want to build His name? Do I want more people to know Levi, or do I want more people to know Jesus? Do I want to win more people to my side, or do I want to win more people to His side?

Pride combined with greed is a very deceptive, and a very dangerous thing. A kingdom son combined with stewardship is a very powerful thing. It’s all His, but if I am being truly honest there have been times when I have tried to make it mine.

Sometimes it’s hard to look inside, especially when we don’t like what we see. Sometimes it’s hard to admit, and sometimes it’s hard to change. However, Jesus said follow me and I will make you. If you keep following Jesus, and keep putting His kingdom first He will make it right in you!

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

My wife asked me a very important question…….

I cry when I watch some movies, and I cry when I read some stories. It’s kind of crazy because I’m not really known as being someone who cries. However, I can easily be overwhelmed by movies, or reading stories.

My wife asked me a really important question one day. She asked me why I cry during these movies or stories, but I hardly ever cry in real life moments. I honestly could not answer her when she asked me that. I may not be one to cry a lot, but I do think a lot, and this was a question that needed to be answered.

It really took me a while to sort through this question to find my true answer. After I got through all of the influences and filters that I have in my life, and got to the root, I discovered that I cry because I am getting the whole picture. If not the whole picture at least are very large portion of it. For example, when I watch a movie where I can see someone begin with less than nothing, struggle, fight, and finally make it, I get overwhelmed. You see these whole lives (or large portions of life) of love and loss, failure and success, triumph and tragedy. I find it to be emotional, and inspiring.

However, in real life there are so many times with so many people that you don’t get to see it all. I may not be moved by emotions because I only see or feel the moments, but that doesn’t change their story. It doesn’t erase their tragedies, and triumphs. It’s all there, I just don’t see it.

We have a very limited ability to look at someone and see the whole movie of their life. We have a very limited ability to look at someone in the moment and see everything they are going through. In fact we can’t.

None of this means I am right to not feel emotions in real life moments. It means I am wrong to not get close enough to be capable of empathy.

So many times we make judgements about people, and we have never watched the movie of their life. If we knew, we could never say what we say and think what we think about them. May times we would be overwhelmed by their story.

Jesus would set aside His agenda because of His compassion for people. I encourage you to sit down with someone this weekend, and just let them tell you their whole story. Cry about the tragedies, and celebrate the triumphs.

I may not know very much, but I do know that how we relate to, and treat other people is very important in living a kingdom first life.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

 

“Follow ME”…..Jesus

Jesus says those exact words approximately 19 times in the four gospels. He also says it many other times in different ways. This is so important on our journey in this life. You will never find yourself on the wrong path if you always follow Jesus.

We can be very easily distracted by the cares of the world, and we sometimes end up pursuing those things rather than following Jesus. I know this is true because I have looked up, and realized I was on the wrong trail. We sometimes pursue people over Jesus, and that can also get us off track. (Not to mean we should not follow people)

People know in part, see in part, understand in part, prophesy in part, interpret in part, and so on. Hermeneutics is very important, but it doesn’t take care of the issue of “in part”. Prophets are very important, but it is still in part. What this means is that I can place 100% statements on very little, and the same is true for everyone else. I can’t be so arrogant as to say my interpretation of something is the one and only 100% truth or fact.

However, you can place 100% on Jesus. You can follow Jesus with 100% trust that you will not end up at the wrong destination. Leaders and followers, mentors and mentees, fathers and sons, all of those things are important; however, if you follow me I can’t guarantee you that you will make it to your ordained destination. No one can. Only Jesus can. However, This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow people.

There are numerous ” apostle Pauls” out there that you can follow as they follow Christ. I would go as far as to say if you haven’t found one yet, you should. However, you follow knowing that Jesus is the final word, and you follow them in such a way that they can lead in grace, meaning you are not making them Jesus and they are allowed to make mistakes even if they are the ones that are leading you.

I could say follow me as I follow Jesus, but to me one of the most important things I can ever say in all of the various scenarios of life is to follow Jesus. Be in such a close relationship with Him, that you know the way He wants you to go when the twists and turns come. If you aren’t sure which way you should go, just hang out with Him until it becomes clear.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Own it as if…………an exhortation for you

At this point in my life, I have learned that there are things that happen in life that you do not ask for, and were outside of your control. You do everything right, or at least to the best of your ability, but things still happen. It’s a fact of life even as a Jesus following Christian.

However, your position as the steward does not change whether things are going great, or when everything has fallen apart. When “life” has happened, even if you did nothing wrong to cause it, you have to own it as if it was all your fault.

What I mean by that is that wherever you land after the event, you have to get up, take responsibility and begin (maybe better said, continue) to steward things from where you are at. Stand in your faith with confidence, be a good steward with what you have where you are at, be thankful for the growth that comes with the hard time, and start the climb.

Because of His word, I have confidence that faith pleases God, He rewards good stewards, and He has great plans in store for you.

People may or may not be around to help, but the one who has given you every spiritual blessing in heaven will be. If you will fully own it, and have faith that God is fully for you then I know you won’t stay where you landed forever. You may be there for a season, but God will use it as a springboard (the bigger the fall, the more compression on the spring) to propel you beyond where you were before.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Take a look at your motivations…..they can tell you a lot.

Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”

We will look at this through the action of helping impoverished countries. Regardless of the motivations, the actions will look the same. This means you can do right things for wrong reasons. This means you can do things that look good, but inside it is for your own benefit rather than doing something simply for the benefit of others. This is a self interested motivation. This isn’t kingdom first motivation, or being like Jesus motivation.

So for example, there are a lot of entities that exist that have mission statements that have to do with with helping impoverished countries. That seems like a really good, and noble thing, it seems like a kingdom centered mentality in it’s mission, and even looks the part in it’s action. However, a lot of these entities (not all) have self interested motivations. They gain more in their actions than the ones they say they exist to help. Lets say it this way, the entity puts an amount of money or goods into a country, and they do it in a way that everyone can see it; however, at the same time, they are extracting even more money from the country but they do it in such a way that nobody sees it. For example for every $2 worth of goods they put into a country they extract $20. They don’t truly care about helping, they care about their own self interest; furthermore, they know they can continue to do it because the action looks good.

Why am I saying this? Don’t we expect the government, and corporate greed to do these things by now? I’d say we probably do. I’m saying it because there are a lot of those entities that have Christian titles that are doing this very thing in all kinds of ways. This is not Christ like behavior, or motivation. Where do I come up with this stuff? I am doing a research project on why Christianity and church attendance is declining in America. I am not really coming up with it, I am just going through the research. Why do I want to write about such a negative thing? Because there are wolves in sheep clothing, and I hate seeing people that are already fighting an uphill battle being taken advantage of, not just in the specific example, but in all the ways that it happens.

People can say what they want, and make things sound good; however, the King nor His kingdom is selfish. The King and His kingdom is not about treating people in such a way. The King and His kingdom values others above ones own self. The Father valued you so much that He gave it all for you, and He didn’t extract anything from you in return, or even ask anything of you, except to love Him and love others. Jesus loved so much that He died for the ones that were crucifying Him, and all He asked was that the Father forgive them because they didn’t even know what they were doing.

Serve others simply because you value them, and not to get something in return. More importantly serve others simply because of your love for your Father, and being more like Him when you grow up.

God is for you, and I am for you!