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!

 

“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!

 

Why we remain in familiar places…..

Many times we tend to stay in places that are familiar to us, and never change, grow, or move forward. It is very easy for us as people to become stagnate in our life. What started out as a wonderous journey becomes a life of going with the flow, doing what is easiest, doing what we are told we should do, or just giving up and living a life of inaction. But why do we do that? Why did Israel want to return to slavery in Egypt after they were delivered? Why did Peter return to fishing after Jesus was crucified?

I think two of the biggest factors are fear, and pain. Israel was afraid of Pharoah, and death. Peter was dealing with pain. We do the same thing in our life. When we encounter something we are afraid of we shrink, and back away instead of moving forward. At the thought of dealing with things that cause us pain we shrink, and back away instead of moving forward.

Fear and pain will cause you to be stagnate if you let them, but they can also catapult you forward if you move through them.

I used to have a great fear of public speaking, but now I do it everyday, and it energizes me, and brings me joy. I had to do it while being afraid the first several times; however, after I continued to move through it I started to enjoy it, and it became a part of who I am.

When most people exercise they back off when they start to feel a little pain, and most people do not get the results they want when they exercise, and so they quit. You have to push through the initial onset of pain in order to convince your body to come back stronger. (Disclaimer: obviously there are types of physical pain you should not push through)

The same concept is true with internal pain. There are a lot of people who are falling apart internally, and a lot of times the reason is that it causes them a lot of pain to talk about the subject, and deal with the emotions, and so they just keep it in. The problem with that is that the fruit of your life cannot grow with all of those weeds. However, if you push through the pain, and deal with those things they can become fertilizer in your life, and help produce better fruit than you ever have.

God is love which is the opposite of fear, not hate. 1 John 4:18 says that there is no fear in love, and perfect love drives out all fear. If you are trusting God you have nothing to fear, you can walk in victory, and you can have rest for your soul.

If you are following Jesus, He is always taking you forward into the next place He has for you, and transforming you. Move forward, even if it might be painful. Take the path less traveled, even it looks scary.

God is for you, and I am for you!

Blessing and favor….What does it look like?

What does blessing and favor on your life look like? How do you know that you are blessed, or that God has placed His favor on you? How can people look at you, and know that you are blessed?

I can tell you that the vast majority of people will relate it to money, and assets. Both personally, and externally when looking at someone else. You see someone with a lot of money, and you think they are blessed. You get a new car, you thank God, and post it on Facebook saying you are blessed. We see people living in big homes, and we think the favor of God is on them.

Sometimes it really is the favor of God. Sometimes they are taking advantage of people, and doing things they shouldn’t be doing in order to have those things.

The big question for this post is….Are the people who don’t have the things we normally equate to blessing, and favor blessed? For the people who are doing what God has asked them to do, the answer is 100% yes. Don’t just equate material things to blessing, and favor. God is so much bigger than that.

Sometimes the people who are being pressed down the most are the most blessed. I’m talking about the people who when you look at their life externally it looks like all hell is breaking loose, and their life is falling apart. God’s favor is on them in a tremendous way. You have to be pressed down, and shaken before you can run over with blessing. You have to be broken all the way down before you can be built back up into something new, and better.

When I went through basic training years ago I learned this lesson without knowing it. In the first half of basic training the drill sergeants beat you, break you down, and make you feel utterly defeated; however, it is only for the purpose of rebuilding you into a better soldier than you ever could have been before.

How can you know if God’s favor is on you? Ask yourself….Is He pressing me? Is He shaking me? Is He building me?

In the sermon on the mount Jesus tells us who the blessed people are. He talks about internal growth, not external things. Is He making you humble? Is He making you hunger, and thirst for righteousness? Have you been in a place of mourning? Not I, but Jesus says you are blessed. Those that have been in places where they needed mercy, are merciful to others. Those that have been in places of mourning, comfort others.

If you will follow Jesus no matter what might happen, or what it looks like, you will be blessed.

He is for you, and I am for you! He is only pressing you so that He can establish you!

 

Follow Jesus

This is from Matthew 4:18-22. You can read it here.

There is a difference in being called, and answering the call. Just because Jesus calls for you, does not mean you respond and follow. When He calls He gives you the opportunity to respond, but you are the one that has to go to the call. Jesus is always calling you throughout your life. He calls you from one place, to another place, to another place, etc. He never stops calling you, but not everyone answers the call. Jesus said whosoever will come, let him deny himself and follow me. So anyone can answer the call. The rich or poor, healthy or sick, CEO or unemployed, young or old, it does not matter; however, not everyone will follow because not everyone is willing to deny their own dream, their own wants, or what they had in their own mind to follow the call which put simply is to follow the one who calls.

The first disciples were out living their everyday life just as we do when Jesus came along, and called them saying follow me. Jesus called, and the response from the disciples was to immediately follow Him. They immediately left their families, friends, jobs, their whole life to follow Jesus. They gave up anything and everything to answer the call. This is what the rich young ruler did not do. He got the same call, it just looked a little different because he lived a different life. Jesus said sell your stuff, and follow me; however, the young ruler went away sad because he was not willing to give up his security to follow Jesus. The call to follow, and actually following are two different things. Are you willing to give it all up to follow Jesus? Jesus said in the same parable of the rich young ruler that those who do will be repaid many times over in this life, and have eternal life in the age to come.

Encounters with Jesus seem to cause immediatelies. These disciples immediately left everything. When Paul had his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, he immediately began to preach Jesus Christ. When you have your own encounters with Christ it can cause immediatelies in your own life. You may immediately be saved, baptized, healed, set free, or have some other victory. Encounters with Jesus will change you, and that is the next point.

Jesus told these disciples, I will make you. If you do respond to His call then He will make you. This is a continuous transformation process that is not always easy. It will be uncomfortable because He is changing you. As long as you are following, He is changing and making you. If you follow Jesus He can make you a godly person, spouse, and parent. He will make you victorious. He will make you who He has called you to be whether that is a missionary, apostle, CEO, or small business owner.

Jesus told these fishermen that He would make them fishers of men. He just took what they did, and brought them into alignment with Him. He is more concerned about who you are becoming, than what you are doing. The skills, lessons, and everything else they learned as fishermen were just preparation for what He was calling them to step into. However, He took them from a place of comfort and moved them into uncertainty.

Jesus looked at Peter and basically told him that even though he had been a fishermen all of his life, He was changing his name, making him a preacher, and the foundation of His church. You may be scared, you may think it’s too big, you may think you don’t know how, and you may say you can’t, but if you will FOLLOW ME and TRUST ME then I will make you.

He’s not calling you to do something that you think you can do. He’s called you to do what He has placed in you to do, and to cry out to Him knowing that you can not do it without Him. He is calling you to do something that requires you to look to Him to carry you. He is going to lead you into situations that challenge you greatly, and make you cry out for Him because He is changing you. Peter wasn’t a water walker until he was greatly afraid with waves crashing into his boat thinking that he was staring at a ghost. However, there was a call. Jesus simply looked at him and said COME. Peter immediately got out of the boat and walked on the water, and when he got out in the middle between the boat and Jesus he became distracted by his fear, and he called out to Jesus who picked him up out of his struggle. Jesus may let you sink so that you can learn the lesson, grow, and be changed; however, He will never let you drown.

Answering the call, and following is your job. Making you is His job. All you have to do is follow, and let Him. You don’t have to try to make yourself anything. In reality that is one of our biggest problems as people. We try to be autonomous and create our own dreams, visions, and life stories, but if you are following Jesus you left all that in the boat the day you dropped everything to follow Him. He will make you who He has called you to be. Trust and follow the only one who knows the beginning from the end. His plan for you is better than anything you can come up with, and He will make into someone better than you could ever envision.

Follow Jesus, and live your life Kingdom first!

Levi