Levi Lusko - Yes, Chef
A table built for one. A table for one. That was a rare thing. I remember working at a restaurant, one of my first jobs was at a restaurant, and it would be rare when I would be walking by the hostess stand and see the hostess or host was out doing something. I was a busboy, and shout out all the busboys out there. Yes! I'm convinced everybody in their life should have to work at a restaurant at some point. It will make you a better human being. But I would occasionally be the host and just do my part. It wasn't my job. But it was my part of the team to just see someone if they needed to be sat. And I would, how many in your party? And it would be a rare thing, I would hear table for one. And this was 1998, 1999, so it was a different century.
So that wasn't as common. And if I did hear that, I would usually see a newspaper or a crossword puzzle or a book. They were going to sit by themselves and do that. And it wasn't something you saw very regularly. Of course, now it's fairly common. A study was done just before the pandemic, and I can't even imagine just how different it's all going to be when they are able to analyze how many dog years have transpired by way of culture in the last few. But this was quoted in the Washington Post and published just prior to the pandemic, that pointed out that the amount of people who eat out alone is increasing year over year. If you take the amount from the 1960s to the 1990s, it tripled in that time. And 2018, '19, the amount of people eating up by themselves now accounts for over 50% of all meals eaten in this country. Half of all meals eaten are done at a table for one.
And of course, there are lots of reasons for this. There's the fact that there's drive thrus on restaurants, the buildings that exist now where you can just drive-through and get food, and the speed of life and commitments and so much going. Just going to grab it on the go. I'm even going to eat. I'm just going to have a meal replacement bar, a meal replacement smoothie, and just go, go, go, go, go. And the kids got soccer and this over here, and working multiple jobs, got this long commute. So you know, it's going to be a table for one. I'm going to eat this meal and I'm going to do so by myself, turning what for almost all of human history has been a communal activity into a solitary activity, into an activity where I'm now going to take in this food as though it was just a human version of a gas pump, just going to get the gas in, replace the meal, and do so.
That's a big deal that 50% of all meals eaten will be done by ourselves in the coming year on average. And I think, of course, the protein aspect of it aside, it is to ignore what is actually intended to be a part of the experience, that there's so much more that takes place when you eat than just the food being onboarded. That there's much more that you're missing that can't be replaced in a bar, that can't be replaced in a shake. And the science, of course, is pretty emphatic and pretty eyebrow raising. We know, of course, how bad loneliness is for you. They say the physical toll on your body of living a lonely life is the same as if you smoked 15 cigarettes a day. And relatively within the lifespan of many of us listening to this message, we've seen culture kind of change its stance on smoking. And it's eyebrow raising when you do get on an old airplane and see ashtrays everywhere. Like this, in what world was that just a thing? I was just smoking. Like I've got my baby here. We're smoking.
When I was a kid, when you go to a restaurant, they would say smoking section or non-smoking? And that was pretty normal. And so we've seen in our lifetime people get hip to the fact, like hey, you know what's weird? Sucking on the back of the exhaust pipe of your car is bad for you. And so is smoking. And everyone was like, oh yeah, it seems positively primitive and quaint, the notion of smoking. We know it was all bad for you. But to think about living a lonely life, an increasingly disconnected life, which not only are we going at the fast clip that we all are, but there's also the fact that all of us carry around the full unbridled power of the internet at all times with us in our back pocket. So when I was a busboy, I would see the novel or the Sudoku or the crossword puzzle, but I sure wasn't seeing everyone walk in with no need to be bored because in our day, while you're eating alone, you literally, you see it every restaurant. You see it propped up, literally eating my food there sitting at the bar, and I'm watching the show, I'm watching the game, right?
And so people are eating alone and feeling connected to lots of different people. Because while I'm eating, I'm scrolling, and I'm kind of quasi connected to a bunch of people. But I'm actually increasingly disconnected on the inside by way of a powerful life giving community, and missing out on what is meant to be a part of the table beyond just calories I'm taking in to deal with the calories that I'm expending on any given day. But the memory, the relationship, the vulnerability, the power of what actually comes across to the table. And so where many of us are going to know, even if we do smoke, no, I shouldn't because I know it's bad for me, many of us are completely unaware of the fact that the toll loneliness is taking. And studies have been done, and a recent one just published by Harvard Health, little known college, that found solo dining leads to, is correlated to increased heart disease.
Just eating by yourself is not good for your heart. And the power of a table to enhance a life, well, that's been well documented. Just Google it. You'll find if a child is to eat five to seven meals at a table with their family, let's take away the mom and dad guilt. The studies actually show it doesn't even have to be home cooked food. It can be drive-thru food that you put on the table. And the TV can be on, right? It's a low bar. Mickey D's with the freaking TV on. And those meals count. And in a week of which there should be three meals a day, I would think, for everybody at the table. Oh no, I intermittent fast. I get it. I do too. But if you were to sit down five to seven times with your kids, what are they going to find?
Well, I wrote down a little list of some of the findings. Your child will be expected to do better in school, better grades, be a healthier eater with a less likelihood of developing obesity, less likely to have premarital sex, lower rates of teen pregnancy, less likely to develop an eating disorder, lower rates of depression, and they will have a more extensive vocabulary than their counterparts who do not sit at the dinner table with their family five to seven times a week. It's a pretty easy way to impact and to bless your child. But on the other side of that, take a child who eats at a table a meal with their family less than three times a week, they are more than twice as likely to develop a dependency on drugs alcohol and to develop an addiction to cigarettes as well.
So clearly, there's a lot more is communicated and given into the human spirit than just food when you sit down at a table. And what's true of a life is also true of the church. I believe one of the most beautiful illustrations of what grace is and what the church is and really the heartbeat of the series is that the church is a table, a table propped up by a cross. And we should not view what we receive from that table as merely a solitary exercise, merely what we get out of it. Because if I sit down at the table alone, table for one, it's transactional, it's what I need, it's me. But when we have the idea of a table, it's meant to be ever expanding into the highways, into the byways, into the other villages, where there's that spirit and that sense of the table must be full. The house must be full. There's room for more. We can create more space. Well, then we're doing what the Bible says. We're realizing it is not good for a man to be alone.
And I'll tell you something, that's a verse that you can put on my tombstone. It is not good for a man to be alone. And that's why I'm just so thankful that I'm not single anymore. I met this girl right here, Ms. Jennifer Lusko. And so here you have one, and you have now two. And so for me and my house, I mean, there's community, there's power. And God made us in His image. He's in relationship with Himself. And so here now is this table getting bigger, from a table for one to a table for two. And as we began Fresh Life Church back in 2007, there was the mentality, and has been the driving heartbeat, that we don't lead a church and develop a culture where it's all just looked at through the lens of what do I get out of it. As I come to the church, as we welcome you in, that we're not welcoming you into a church that's a table for one mentality. What can I get out of this church? How can I get blessed out of this church?
But that we're actually moving you to your full potential in Christ by inviting you into a lifestyle of seeing a bigger table as a better thing, seeing more seats at the table and other blessings for more people and continuing to fight for that mentality. That we would say, hey, listen, we're going to take this table and we're going to get down and find the snap under there, and we're going to go ahead and expand it. And we're going to be in more cities, and we're going to be in more places, and we're going to do more things, and we're going to invite you to be uncomfortable. And we're going to say, hey look, it's not enough just to preach in Calvary. We're going to fight for Whitefish and Billings and Missoula and Bozeman and the state and other states and online. We're going to continue to fight for there to be a sense of, hey, listen, it's amazing you're here.
Let's reach more people. Let's do more things. You got gifts. You've got a part to play. Let's make more seats at the table. And that's what you're at this week. As we come to 2022 and with all this behind us, history of expansion going back 15 years and coming to another year and saying, hey, Golden Spike and Spitfire Fund, and Wild Blue Yonder, and Blood and Thunder, and Compass Rose, and 2020, and multiply and let it be, and a chance for us to end a year saying, it's amazing what God has done, praise God for all that. But who's hungry for more? Who's thirsty for more? Who wants to see God build a bigger table? That those might find life and liberty in Christ. And with every new leaf and with every new chair, we see new stories. This leaf represents Michael from Bozeman, Montana, who started coming to the church at the invitation of a friend in 2016. Describing his life before that, he was in a dark place, didn't know Jesus, was going through difficult seasons and felt lonely. And God began to change his spirit and change his life.
In January of 2022 he went all in. By April 10th, he got baptized in our church. He says that baptism was the most chaotic, nervous, and peaceful moment of his entire life. I love it. You know you're on the right track when it's chaotic, nervous, but strangely peaceful. Bent but not broken. Hard pressed but not destroyed. Hello, preach the gospel, somebody. Right? That's that leaf. And we fight for, again, more leafs to be added. This one represents Angie from Sharpsburg, Georgia, part of our church online. She's got a student in our Fresh Life Leadership College right now. She says she's been impacted by how Fresh Life is training up her daughter. She says to you, Fresh Life, thank you for leading well, for leading with integrity, for leading people to Christ for his glory. And she says to Jennie Lusko Fight To Flourish sermon series, and in particular the mantra I was born for this has become sort of her all encompassing way of looking at life. She knows she was born for this.
That's fruit to your account. We add another leaf. A leaf from Othello, Washington. This one's from Lisa. Lisa says she had watched our teachings before after hearing about Fresh Life when I preached at her church as a guest preacher. So those random Sundays when I'm not here, and you're like, oh, how annoying, you're not here. Well, shut up. In Jesus' name. She said after hearing me speak she started watching our teachings, and one day heard that I had written a book called Through The Eyes Of A Lion and she pushed purchase on the order, having no idea the next day her 10-year-old son was going to tragically die. And she would forget all about the fact she had bought that book the day before.
Until it randomly a few days later showed up in the mail and was a lifeline for her through the crisis of grief. She says, and I quote, pastor Levi and Jennie have been guides for me through the intensity of the grief of losing my son. And she says to you, Fresh Life Church, thank you for your online presence so people like me can learn, grow, be equipped and be encouraged in our walks with the Lord. I say it's worth it to put another leaf down at the table and to have a mentality of expansion and sacrifice and risk so that there can be more seats at the table. This leaf represents Mason. Mason lives in Whitefish, Montana. 13 years old. Went to a Movement Conference this summer, and says it has changed my life. I've planted my roots deeper into God.
So thank you, Fresh Life, for hosting Movement Conference, because my life will never be the same. Church, I say that's why we are going to continue to fight to be a youth led movement, to invite in the next generation, to understand their full potential, and to always have the mentality it's great that you're here. Now get to work. It's great that you got a blessing. Now let's do something. Come on, let's start serving. Because there are people to reach. There are battles to fight. There are chains to snap. There are scales to fall. There's salvation to see. Stories. These are all stories. Because when we say numbers like 22,000 and 209 countries and this 25 million times people have watched the teaching, that's so impersonal. We need to remember every single story, every single statistic has a name, has a soul, has a story. Stories just like this one.
When I was a kid, I had a relationship with God. I was a believer, but didn't always practice it. I guess there was a time I didn't know exactly what group I kind of fit into. As a teenager, I dealt with the bullying thing kind of a lot. It led to a lot of fights. And I was somewhat of a fighter and everything. And when I started drinking, I got a new group of friends, and I fit in with these guys and it was cool. I'd say I'll do more things. And it was awesome at the time, I thought. I didn't know, just like a year and a half turned into kind of a drinking problem. I was getting threatening phone calls from a guy. And I took him serious, you know? They were death threats and everything. And the first time I hadn't been drinking and probably handled things a lot better, for sure, but it was the next night I was at a bar. And it was a bar known to serve minors.
I was only, I was 18 for less than two months at this time, and just got way intoxicated and didn't even know it. Got the same phone calls and everything. But this time, I armed myself with a shotgun. And it was actually somebody that didn't have anything to do with it that saw me with the shotgun, ran at me and tried to disarm me. And during that struggle, went off and killed him. Yeah. So then I'm in county jail, and I'm thinking like I'm charged with deliberate homicide. And I'm trying to tell them, like this wasn't a deliberate homicide, you know? And I just never thought it would stick. I was like, man, the truth will come out, you know? That was definitely my hope. And I took it to trial and everything. And ended up getting convicted of the deliberate homicide. 2019 Fresh Life Easter.
That was my first Fresh Life. To me, it was about death being defeated, and maybe wasn't quite what I was expecting to hear and everything. But it was just really powerful. I knew I was going to keep coming back. One of the messages that really helped me out because I still remember and I still go back to it was Levi's message. It was good deeds in a naughty world. One of the things I remember, he was quoting someone else. Levi was quoting someone else. But he said the best revenge is to live well. And that's, I mean, I still, I think about that every day. And that's one of the reasons why I'm trying to do so well right now. I think that's why I am doing well. When I was getting ready to come to pre-release, I knew that every place there's a pre-release, there's also a Fresh Life campus. So I just I knew I was going to keep going to Fresh Life. It's my church. It's where I'm going.
I remember the first time I met Tom walking down the stairs into our space. And there was just a smile on his face. Tom introduced himself, told me he was at the pre-release. But there was just this undescribable joy in his heart. And then he began to share a little bit of his story, of how he'd gotten to go to church in prison. And that's where he found out about Fresh Life. And so he knew when he got to Great Falls, he was going to find us and get connected. Without knowing any more of his story, I would never have known that that young man had ever been in prison. I was locked up for my 20s. I missed out on my 20s. But it doesn't feel like it. I truly don't feel like, I don't focus on that. I don't feel like I missed out on my 20s. I don't feel like I did all that time. They say God restores, to me like literally impossible to restore time taken away from me like that. But that's exactly how I feel right now.
I feel like God has restored those years. It's all about the people. It's all about the people at the church. And that's what I love. And that's why I keep coming back. They are definitely, definitely not judgmental. And it's like not even an issue, my prison experience and everything. That's not what they're interested in. People come from all different backgrounds. You never know when someone walks down where they're coming from, what they're doing. I love the fact that when people come in, the biggest feedback we get is, wow, that is such a welcoming place. Just feels like family. And that's exactly what Tammy and I felt. I heard a quote from a friend recently that when she has guests over at her house, she said that everyone who puts their feet under her table is family. And I was like, that's my new quote.
I want to be that for everyone that comes into my house, whether it's in my home or in our church home, that everyone who puts their feet under our table is family. I'm as a church calling us to pick a fight. Let's go pick a fight with some captivity in prison. Let's go pick a fight take some new ground. Let's build a new building. Let's do something new. Let's stretch. We could just stay here, heaven, heaven, help us. We could just stay where we're at. We never need to do any of these things. Man, I wonder if Levi, when he had his dream, if he just ever pictured anyone having the success like I've had and everything, like the desire. Because I'm sure glad he did. I'm glad he did that. And because the people gave, that dream came true and everything. But it's like, man, and now look what that's led to. It's like that's why I'm here. Who is the next name?
And is there a price tag you can put on the next name of someone whose life is going to be changed. Because Tom's just, he's the beginning of what God's doing through Tom's life. How many more people are going to be impacted by a young man like that who wants to spend the rest of his life helping people. That's the vision. That's the heartbeat. That's the prospectus. You get those texts from friends. I want to talk to you about an investment opportunity, which depending on that person either causes you to roll your eyes or to like, hey, yeah, let's talk. Right? Because if it's someone you trust, who doesn't want to, I mean, if any of us could go back in time and invest in Airbnb, if anybody of us could go back in time and invest in Apple or get the Google stock before it was crazy. I mean, obviously we want to be... we don't want to miss out on great investment opportunities.
Jesus said do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. He's giving us investment strategy principles. He's saying don't just invest in silly things like being super wealthy on Earth, because when you die, what then? If it's not been sent ahead, that's it baby. I mean, it wouldn't be a thing that we would have to concern ourselves with if death wasn't so successful. But the statistics on it are really impressive. I checked again this morning, it's one out of one, right? So if you're not going to die, it's no big deal. Just be rich on Earth. But if you are, then you want to have a plan, an investment strategy that reaches beyond the grave. Long term investments, right? Set it and forget it type of investments, where we'll talk about heavenly currency, having something waiting for you when you get there a reward given to you by your King when you stand before him.
This is what we're talking about. I want to talk to you about an investment opportunity. And that's why we mailed out these envelopes. That's why we mailed out these gifts. That's why we mailed out this little kit with some of the dreams that we would love to say yes to. Half a million dollars of outreach opportunities, building permanent facilities for all of our locations, dorms for our Fresh Life leadership. These are things, by God's grace, we will do. Just you and I get to set the speed and the pace at which they take place, at which they happen. Here's the vision laying it out there. And then our church and our church online family, all of us get to say how quickly or how slowly do we do these things. Well, we'll keep chipping away at it regardless of how long it takes. I'll just be up here yelling at you, same time next year you'll find me, until we get it done. And I'm just saying, it's worth it for the sacrifice so we can see a bigger table set so we can explain grace to people who need to have that explained to them.
So that's what today is about. If you're new, welcome to our church. We welcome you here. Please feel no obligation to give. Though of course, if you catch the bug and feel the fever and want to be, to not miss out on this as well, you're fully welcome. By the way, none of those stories I just shared you can give to. You can't give to reaching people we've already reached. So congratulations if you were giving in '17, '16, '15, '14, '13, right? That's how we were able to reach all those people I mentioned. But here's the good news. We want to reach more people. And that's what today is about. Today is about the future. Today is about the vision, and between now and year end the chance for us to say what we believe about what God wants to do and what we want to experience in our own lives, as it is Jesus said more blessed to give than to receive.
And so we'll ask the question in just a moment. What does that blessing look like? But I want to anchor our time before we in person get to come and give our gifts. And it's just been so encouraging to me coming to this again, because we're hearing from people who are like calling the accounting department, wanted to make sure they have it set up toward Fresh Life in their estate and with the crypto stuff and the stock stuff. And I mean, we've had the weirdest things. People put car keys in a title deed in the box before. We had a walk around the parking lot figuring out which car they gave. But it just is an exciting time, where we're like in the book of Acts, watching people really put their money where their mouth is so the gospel can go into the whole world. This is what this is about. It's about hungry people being fed. It's about naked people being clothed. It's about the gospel being preached to the poor. Until the end comes, we want to be about what Jesus said we ought to be about.
So that's what, we're anchored in scripture. So let me anchor our time of generosity today with John 21. I love this chapter. I love it a lot. But let me just read it without comment, and then we'll just come around it for a Minute. Jesus has risen from the dead. Awesome. Just by way of context, he was dead, wait for it, not dead anymore. And the church said? Amen. Awesome. That's called Easter. After these things, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberius. And in this way, he showed himself. Simon Peter, Thomas called the twin, Nathaniel of Cana and Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. It makes me laugh that he got greedy with the details at the end. Like we've been given everything we need to know and who the other people are related to. He's like, and two more. He's like, who are they?
We even learned Thomas's nickname. But I can't get the identity of these two anonymous fishermen. One commentary I read said maybe he left the other two seats empty in the boat because the author wants all of us to picture ourselves in the story. Pretty good. Pretty good. Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing. They said to him, we are going with you also. They went out and immediately got into the boat. And that night, they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore, yet the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, children, have you any food? Just what any fisherman wants to get asked after getting skunked. How to go fishing. But it's worse, because the way in the Greek he phrased his question, he assumed the answer was negative. Basically, what he said to them was, you didn't catch any food, did you?
And then he called them, children, which is a very unique word in the Greek that actually means like homeboys or dudes or like bros. One commentary F. F. Bruce wrote, he d and it's like so clunky to hear him talk to me. He said, Jesus was saying boys. My boys, how are we doing? You didn't catch any food, did you? And notice their one word answer. Like not that they're bitter about it, but they're a little salty. They answered him, no. But thanks for bringing it up. While you're at it, would you like any lemon juice to be rubbed into our wounds? And he said to them, remember, he's on the shore. They're on the boats. Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. So they cast. And now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore, that disciple whom Jesus loved, that's John describing himself, OK?
It would take a fleet of psychologists to unpack this guy's issues, all right? He wrote the book, but it's like always talks about himself in the third person. This constant drama with Peter. The one who Jesus loves the most said to Peter, it is the Lord. Now, when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he had removed it, and plunged into the sea. It makes sense that he was fishing in his wife beater. But to get fully dressed and then jump in the water. This does not make sense. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about 200 cubits dragging the net with fish. And as soon as they had come to land they saw a fire of coals there and fish laid on it and bread. Jesus said to them, bring some of the fish, which you have just caught. Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, 153.
The text is implicitly trying to communicate how buff Peter was. His physical brawn. Literally. Because to drag a net with 153 fish, it's saying this is not a guy who's a weakling. This is a guy who he does not skip leg day, OK? Strong. And notice this detail. And although there were so many, 153, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, come and eat breakfast. All you intermittent fasters, listen to Jesus tell you to eat breakfast. Yet none of the disciples dared ask him, who are you, knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed himself to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. First time without Thomas, second time with Thomas. Now while they're fishing. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these? He said to him, yes Lord.
You know that I love you. He said to him, feed my lambs. He said to him again a second time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? He said to him, yes, Lord. You know that I love you. He said to him, tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me? Peter was now grieved because he said to him the third time do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you. Jesus said to him, feed my sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger you girded yourself and walked where you wished. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This he spoke signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when he had spoken thus, he said to him, follow me.
Then Peter turning around saw the disciple whom Jesus love following, who had also leaned on his breast at the supper. And he said, Lord, who is the one who betrays you? Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, but Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, if I will that he... you have to be like in a mom voice. If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me. If I want him to stay up till midnight and you go to bed at 8:00 when I tell you to, right? Every sibling needs to know what the other sibling is going to get to do before they're willing to do the thing they were told to do. Because otherwise it's not fair. Then because of this interaction, this saying went out among the disciples that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he would not die. Jesus said to him, he has to set the record straight, if I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?
Now John finishes his book. This is the disciple who testifies of these things and wrote these things. And we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. Amen. You've read a whole chapter of the Bible. Come on, your week's already off to a smashing start. I love this story because of the way it helps us frame Peter's life for the rest of his life, which is exactly 30 years. 30 more years Peter will live. And he already has the gift of knowing exactly how he's going to die. Because here in this chapter Jesus told him. But what Jesus gives Peter is a gift, because he's allowing him to not be left with the haunting memory of his denial of Christ standing by a fire.
For we are told that Peter, standing by a fire warming his hands on the night Jesus was arrested, the night Jesus was betrayed, and the night Jesus was abandoned by all the disciples, that Peter tried to be close to Jesus because he wanted to do something with this brawn. That's why he had cut off an ear in the garden. And so warming himself by a fire, a very unique word, a word that's only used two times in the entire book of John for a fire, and is very rare in all of the Bible for fire. It's a kind of a fire that has coals that composes. It's not a wood fire. It's a coal fire. So warming himself by a coal fire, Peter famously denied that he knew Jesus three different times. Now, you're one of those disciples of Jesus. No man, I don't know who you're talking about. Right?
Now remember, at the Last Supper Jesus had told Peter, be clothed with humility. Wear this apron. Wear this apron that will protect you. Your apron will be your armor. You guys all should lead with humility. Like me, the greatest of all, I should be sitting at the table feasting as the VIP of all VIPs. And yet I've gotten up to wash your feet. I'm a servant. You should be likewise. Be warned, the enemy is trying to get you. Peter, he's trying to sift you as wheat. You're going to deny me three times.
Now, what was Peter's response? You don't know what you're talking about, God. Have you seen these muscles? I pity the fool that tries to make me tonight. In fact, he says, he totally just flips on all these other disciples. Like these other idiots probably will. But not me. I'm your guy, ride or die, right? He says basically all these other little idiots better run, better run faster than the bullets from my gun. Because I, Jesus, will die with you. I'll come back with my shield or I'll come back on it. 12 minutes later, I don't even know the guy. Never met him. Never heard of him. A little serving girl, weren't you one of the followers of Jesus? Shut up little girl. No. Fake mustache and glasses disguise. Big old bulging fisherman muscles. The rooster crows twice. He had already denied Jesus thrice.
And the Bible says that that exact moment of the rooster crowing, Jesus was being led from one trial to another. And they caught eye contact. Maybe even as he was cursing, I've never met Jesus. I would never follow that idiot. Jesus walks by. The Bible says Peter went out weeping bitterly. And imagine being left with that memory of fire every time you smelled smoke. Smell and memory are so linked that you can't help but having certain smells trigger certain things. Certain perfumes take you back to certain seasons. They ratatouille you. And that's part of the power of food, because a large percentage of the power of food comes from the smells. And that's why Thanksgiving, it all brings us back, right?
Jesus in his mercy does not leave Peter with the memory of that first fire. For just before his ascension to heaven, he comes and seeks and searches and finds the disciples. He finds Peter, and he makes sure, the text tells us that when they finished fishing, they came ashore and they noticed that Jesus had kindled a fire, a fire of coals. He made sure it was the same kind of fire that Peter had denied him by. And he gives Peter this beautiful moment where he cooks for him. He's chef Jesus. The text literally says, He served them breakfast. Come and eat. Come and dine. His first words to the disciples, come and see. And these, his final words before ascending to heaven, come and eat.
And so sitting by a fire, there's no mistaking it. The symbolism is glaring. Three different times he asked Peter, do you love me? One for each of the denials. And he lovingly each time not only restores him, but returns to him the jersey that Peter said he didn't want anymore. Three times he eats with Peter, who had turned on him. And he was communicating a lot more through the food than just the calories. Because in that culture, to eat with someone was to become one with them. What was the number one criticism Jesus got during his earthly ministry? Come back two weeks from now. We'll talk about it. It had to do with food. Because in that culture, to eat with you meant I'm becoming one with you. We're sitting together. And what I eat comes into my body and into your body. So there's a unity to food. There's a power to food.
And so Jesus eating with Peter was making sure he knew, you're still wanted. You're still needed. I don't care how big your failure was. Come back to the team. Feed my sheep. I still want you to lead. I still have a part for you to play. There's still grace for you, grace bigger than your biggest failure. I love this text, because Peter said good night in failure, and Jesus says good morning with new grace, with mercies that do not fail, with compassion that doesn't run out. So this table of grace is not just a get out of free card, get out of jail free card, where you come and get saved, and no, don't ever do those naughty things again. Because we're going to fall. We're going to fail. We're going to mess up. Knowing the truth, knowing better. We said we'd never do it again. And then we slip.
And what do we find? We find the second fire. We find the second fire. We find an invitation to be sons and daughters of the second fire. The fire that says, I still love you. I'm not ashamed to be called your Lord. Yeah, you blew it. Yeah, you acted it in such a way that made people not want to know me. Yes, it was a bad witness, and yes, you blew it. But guess what, come back to the second fire. Let's have second breakfast. Let's have third breakfast. Let's have, he told us his ethic on forgiveness is something like 70 times 7. Come on, anybody today thankful that he is calling you to that second fire? And it will be that memory that's left as the last fire before Jesus is sent. So if anybody's wondering about where you stand having walked with Christ at one point but backsliding and falling, and I can't believe I did this and I made a mess, he says come and eat. Come and sit. I will still be your Lord, I will still be your Savior. In my arms.
What does the hymn say? There are 10,000 charms. I got magic for you. I got salvation for you. I got healing for you. I got hope for you. So what are we to say to his invitation, to chef Jesus's invitation? Here's the two words we should say. Yes, chef. I've watched enough cooking shows to know that's something to say, right? Yes, chef. We've watched The Bear. We've seen Gordon Ramsay. We watched these things. They never said that at Chili's where I worked, right? It was, yes, line cook, you know? Yeah, Jose, was as much as we got. But there are lingo. There's lingo to being in a restaurant. Behind, right? I still can't walk around a blind turn without saying corner, compulsively, because that's just restaurant speak, right? But yes, chef, is what we hear in a high end restaurant. Yes, chef. Yes, chef. That idea of a pecking order. The idea of, yes, the idea of honor.
I love that. And I love that here, Jesus literally is cooking breakfast for his disciples who blew it. And what should they say to him with whatever he asks? It's the same thing that I believe we should say to God as we bring our offering today, as we bring of what we've been given that we've set aside for this monumental time in history. Yes, it's the recession or whatever it is. Yes, inflation whatever it is. A declaration of our faith in God, our gratitude, and our sense of God is about to do something and I'm not going to miss out on this investment opportunity. Yes, chef. What is he calling you to do? Now, it's not, the question is what is he calling me to do? I'm accountable to him for that.
I shouldn't be asking what is she called to do? What is he called to do? God, what are you calling me to do? If I look at your gift, I could think, oh, mine's bigger than hers. Or I could be intimidated, what's the value of mine? She's got so much more, right? As though it was just one or two really gifted people that makes the big difference, as opposed to what it truly is, the history of this church, a lot of people all with what they've been given saying, yes, chef. I'll do my part with what you've given me to do, with the influence that I have. And what are we saying yes to? So we're going to wind this down and have the chance to do this. But what are we saying yes to?
I wrote seven things down. I took my little table thing that has all the half million dollar of dreams for outreach partners and millions of dollars beyond how we would spend it to build campuses and permanent facilities and dorms and all the different things. I wrote seven different things I'm saying, yes chef, to in this demonstration of dependence on God, this faith, this offering. The first thing is a new identity. They're all from the text. Remember, Peter, it's interesting, if you've read Luke 5 before, you're like, wait, didn't this happen once before. Didn't Peter get a miraculous catch of fish? And then when he came to Jesus at the beach, he said, get away from me, Lord. Depart from me, Lord. I'm a sinful man. Get as far away from me as you can. And Jesus said, follow me. Follow me. And Peter left his nets and followed him.
So what's all this I'm going fishing stuff? It's much more than just a leisure activity or hobby. Fishing for Peter was how he saw himself. And so when he in his mind had failed Jesus fatally, there was no hope in still preaching the gospel and being a fisher of men, which is what Jesus invited him into. So he thought, I'll just go back to my old identity. Because I no longer can be a son or daughter of the King. There's no way I can still do that. But Jesus was saying, are you kidding me? It was never about you. It was about what I did for you. So if you're willing to receive grace, I'm willing to keep cooking as long as you'll keep eating. And so Peter was saying, I still have my new identity. I still get to have that mantle. I get to be a son of the second fire. Which is why I think, by the way, that he jumped into the water with his mantle on. Because it's a unique word that's only used one time in all of the Bible right here in the Greek.
But we get a hint as to what it means when we see the story of Jonathan giving his mantle or his robe to David. When they translated that from the Hebrew to the Greek, they chose this exact word, which is a fisherman's cloak or an upper cloak. That's how they describe Jonathan giving his mantle of authority to David in the Greek when they brought it across. Which tells us about the language. There was something significant about this word for a cloak. Peter kind of saw it as my mantle of being a son. Like the Prodigal Son who got the father's finest robe, even though he had blown it. It was associated with this second fire. I'm being called to breakfast. I'm never laying this down again. I had cast it off before. But this is now, this is who I am. I'm not going to see myself as a fisherman for fish. I'm going to see myself as a fisher of men.
Now, for you and for me, we are all tempted to do what Peter did, to view your identity and your activity as one and the same. But let me just tell you something. My greatest days, I don't see myself as a pastor being who I am. It's what God's called me to do. Who I am, son of the second fire. Who I am, child of the King. Who I am, saved by grace. What God calls me to do, praise God for anything any of us ever get to do. But who you are, baker. Who you are, PE teacher. Who you are, investment. I run a hedge fund. Who you are, nothing on this earth is big enough to describe who you are. Only your relationship with God should define that. And then everything you do should be about fishing for men, in some way or another. So that's the first thing we're saying yes chef to, a new identity, that we just get to be kids of the King.
Number two, the blessing of God. The blessing of God. I find it interesting that, by themselves, how many fish did the professional fishermen catch? Zero times did they catch fish. Luke 5, John 21. By themselves, they caught nothing. But when Jesus was added to the mix, and they're willing to obey what he told them to do, even though it seems stupid and seemed like there's no way that can work, all of a sudden there's fish everywhere. So many fish, boats are sinking. So many fish, nets are bulging. What are we trying to understand? When we follow God by faith, even though it shouldn't make sense, there's more than enough. Welcome to tithing. Welcome to the journey of generosity. Oh, Levi. You're imposing not on the text. That's not, that's not there. Yeah. Actually, this text is an entire passage about generosity. Just not like you think. Because you think generosity is you giving something to God. Generosity is what God's done for you and you responding to him saying, you've done more for me than I could possibly imagine. This is my way of showing you.
So this text is the second fire generosity of God. And in response is us giving as a way of responding. And when we do that, even though it feels like I don't know how this is going to work. There's ambiguity into it. Yeah, welcome to the ambiguity of following God before we get to the clarity. Thank you, Tim. Right? Right. What do we find? We find all over the Bible promises, promises like Malachi 3. Malachi 3, which says bring the tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. What do I tithe? I want there to be food on the table. I want to put food on the table for the hungry people around the world. And if you have that mentality, try God in this. I love that He says try me in this. It's almost like, hey, you've seen what not being generous has done.
So now check it out. See what could happen if you were. See what could happen if you tithe, if you gave. See if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such, say it with me, blessing, that there will not be a room enough to receive it. Sounds like a bunch of fish in the net to me. How about 2 Corinthians 9, because I'm going to need a New Testament reference, pal. We're not Old Testament Christians. All right. Paul's telling the Corinthians church how to get ready for an offering that was coming. And he said, so let each one of you give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly. Oh, I guess I got to do something. For God loves a? Cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
All the fish swimming into the net that we need for the thing. But I believe the blessing of God in response to our being generous, though I know for a fact because I've lived it and I've heard so many of you talk about, I took God at his word, I began tithing. It was hard and scary. Because I thought I needed 100% of my money. But 90% of your money and the blessing of God in your life goes further than 100% and you're on your own. That's what I've discovered. That's just, don't get mad at me. Don't hate me. I'm just the messenger, OK? That's just the Bible. But I've experienced. It I've watched it in your life. But I also with all my heart believe this. I believe it's not just about material blessings and even the peace and invisible things that come into your life. I believe it's a capacity blessing.
The text points out, though there were so many fish, and it's implied the nets should have broken, they did not. I believe for a blessing in the coming year on your capacity, that things that should take you out won't. That things that would wipe you out can't. That there's an almost like a peace beyond understanding. Like I don't know how I'm doing as well as I'm doing. I'm going through it. I'm hard pressed. But somehow I'm blessed. I believe there's a blessing on capacity. You'll be able to handle things you otherwise couldn't with the blessing of God on your life. That's why whenever I have the chance and the honor of talking to newly grieving parents, which I get to a fair bit, and they say, Levi, what do we do? Jennie, what do we do? We just lost our child, drunk driving accident, overdosed, suicide, bookshelf tipped over in their nursery. What do we do? What do we do? And I can smell the grief on them. There's the smell of grief.
If you're around enough, you can smell it. I always tell them, not the first thing out of my mouth. There's always a hug and a moment and all the things. But then I always say at some point, make sure you're tithing if you don't. And there's always this weird, like exactly like you're responding. Like what do you.... why? Why? What does tithing do if not link your heart up to heaven where more than anywhere else you want to be right now? Yes. I have not missed one, we have not missed one chance to tithe on one cent since Lenny went to heaven. Because to me, there's nothing I want more than my heart linked up to where my baby girl is. The blessing of God on our lives. The new idea. I think I got five more. This is going to be a spinoff sermon series at some point. It's too good. I just jotted down this whole thing.
The right use of influence, number three. Peter said, I'm going fishing. And what did the other disciples say? We are going with you. He was using his influence poorly, because Christ had called them away from that. But leaders lead even when they're leading in the wrong direction. So even outside of God's will, you're still going to lead and influence people. So when he gets to the second breakfast, when he gets to the second fire, now he gets to use that influence and lead the disciples in the proper direction. But when he's in a bad way, he's still leading. And so will you. You'll use your gifts for yourself. You'll use the things you have in your life for, listen, the bigger the gift, the longer the shadow.
And the dark side of that will be the harmful influence of those things. It will manifest itself as manipulation, where it should be charisma. And evangelistic spirit, you'll do it for yourself. You'll do it in a way that will harm other people. But you get to, like Peter, start using it in the right way. We are going with you. It's crazy. I wish I could talk to you about how different Thomas and Nathaniel were, because they both came. Thomas doesn't believe anything. He won't believe the Resurrection till he puts his hand on Jesus's aside. Nathaniel hears something about a fig tree. He's like, I'm in. So Peter's got this ability to lead people of very different backgrounds. And that will make him great in God's hand, but harmful when he's outside of God's will. What a great thought to use your gifts for good things.
Number four, true greatness, which is always serving and not just consuming. What did Jesus say to Peter every time? He said, do you love me? Feed my sheep, tend my sheep, serve the table. Listen to me, and if I had $1 for every time I bumped into someone who used to go to our church, and he says, I stopped going because I started going to a different church because they offered this and they offered this and I get more of this from my family. We get more, I very rarely hear someone say, I stopped going to the church because this other church had more opportunities to serve. Never heard of it. Not one time. It's always what I can get out of it. This church had better napkin rings. This church had better candles. I love the taste of the communion juice at this church.
I'm telling you something, we're not going to lead a church where we pamper to Christians. We're going to lead a church where we're going to fight for nonbelievers to know their worth in Christ. And we're going to call you to serve at the table. The true greatness comes when he says, you want to be restored? You got that second fire blessing? Amazing, now tend my sheep. Take care, put a napkin on your arm, and put an apron on your waist, and start leading. And start serving. And start feeding. And start contributing. And start doing something. Make a difference. How many people in heaven are thinking about you? How many people who are not going to hell anymore have you to thank and are giving and are serving? It should all be to plunder hell and to fill heaven. Amen? I'm not sorry. I'm not even sorry. I'm not sorry. If that's too blunt, get over it. You're wrong.
Number five, sacrifice. What are we saying yes to? Yes, chef. Sacrifice. I want to be forgiven. I want to follow God. You're going to have your arms stretched out. Stretching. He was telling him you're going to die on the cross, which historically 30 years later Peter did. But a stretch is a part of yes, chef. A breaking point. So I'm going to ask you between you and God, is your gift that you brought this weekend, does it take stretch for you to give? If it doesn't, it's not a sacrifice. And you should want to give God sacrifice. If you won't feel it, there's no sacrifice. So if there's no pinch, there's no faith. So there's little blessing.
The sixth is undivided attention. We're saying yes, chef, to undivided attention. Jesus said, Peter I want you to die on the cross for me. Peter said, what about John? Back to the first fire. Jesus said, bro. What does it matter if I want Him to live for 2,000 years until I come back or 3,000 years till I come back or however long till I come back? What does it matter? If I want him to glow green at night and walk on wood, does it matter? Is that going to make your blessing any smaller? Follow me. We're saying, yes, Chef, to not comparison.
Here's, I wish, I'm running out of time. Peter was consumed by do I love Jesus more than John, James, Thomas? Jesus never wanted him to love him as much as them. He just wanted Peter to love Jesus as much as Peter was capable to. Your gift doesn't have to be big to make a big difference or to bless God's heart. Because it's not bigger or as big as. It's just does your gift show that you love Jesus as much as you can. Undivided attention. So powerful. So life changing. Thank me later. You're like, I didn't even realize that my life was changed by just that one idea. Undivided attention, eyes on Jesus.
Number seven, and we're done. A never ending story. We're saying, yes, Chef, to a never ending story. It's why John ended his book the way he did. He's like, guys, I did my best, 21 awesome chapters. But I could have written all the books in all the world to try and tell you what Jesus is actually doing. Because there's so much happening, and we're a part of the kingdom. We're a part of everything he's doing in the world, even though we just do our little part. Because it's a really big table on a really big planet. And as you follow me, you're a part of everything I'm doing in the whole world.
So when we say, yes, chef, when we say, I'm in, I'm a part of a team, right? Chef is French for chief. It's where we get chef from. Only I like how it got shortened, because there's no "i" in chef. Come on. You like that? There's no... what about... what about... there's no "i" in chef. Just say, yes chef. No buts. No quibbling. No qualifications. And that's the kind of challenging, uncomfortable, terrifying life I want to be a part of. And that's what Fresh Life is meant to be. Amen? Amen. Bow your heads. Close your eyes:
Father, thank you for your goodness. Is there anybody who today says, thank you for the second fire. Just raise your hand up. Thank you for that second fire. Thank you for the fire of grace. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Oh Holy Spirit, we sense you moving in our midst, wanting to heal, wanting to save, wanting to work, scales falling, chains breaking. Your kingdom coming. Lord, thank you that when we pray to you, you're not far away. You're here. It's not a long distance call. You can put your hands down.
Is there anybody today who's never made a decision to follow Jesus, but you want salvation. You want peace. You know you're going to die and you want heaven, you want God, you want Jesus. And it's not about what you do. It's about what He did on the cross for you. If that's you I'm describing, say this with me. Church family, pray with us:
Dear God. Dear God. Please come into my heart. Please come into my heart. Make me new. Make me new. I give myself to you. I give myself to you. In Jesus' name.
In fact you I'm describing and you just prayed that prayer dedicating or rededicating your life to God, I want to give you space to nail that decision down by shooting your hand up into the air, raising your hand up. So I'm going to count to three. And when I get to three, I want you just to raise your hand up. Church online, you right there can put a hand emoji, or right, I'm in right there as we give this decision moment. One, two, three. Shoot your hands up. Shoot your hands up. Praise God, praise God, praise God. All across our church, church online, God sees you. God loves you. God knows you. We're celebrating with you.