AlongTheWay

“Engaging Heaven” - James Levesque - AlongTheWay 118

July 18, 2022 John Matarazzo / James Levesque Season 1 Episode 118
AlongTheWay
“Engaging Heaven” - James Levesque - AlongTheWay 118
Show Notes Transcript

James Levesque’s life was a tragedy. His father was in prison and his mother didn’t want him, she even paid to abort him before he was born but God had a call on his life stronger than the Devil’s desire to take him out. He called down fire from heaven on himself and his life was forever changed. Now, the unlikely pastor has planted multiple churches and ministries, he’s written books and podcasts, and his life story was even featured in Forbes magazine. Hear how James Levesque’s life went from Tragedy to Triumph and there is more to come…

James Levesque

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James Levesque:

And so when God said that to me, I got I got a fresh motivation. I went back out on the streets. Two days later, I got a phone call from an attorney in the area, this attorney so and so I'm looking for James Libtech. I thought, oh, Lord, could my pass catch up with me? Yeah, I'm like, Man is this church scandal over yummy. Said is James live back there. I said, you haven't seen him. He saw I need to know you. I'm, I'm attorney. So and so when I've been watching you. I had the phone in my ear. I said, Well, I've been watching you.

John Matarazzo:

Welcome to along the way. I'm John Matarazzo, your host and fellow traveler. Thank you for joining me along my way as I try to become more like Jesus every day. The goal of along the way is to identify the moments in life that Jesus really is walking with us and trying to get our attention. But just like the disciples along the way to amaze us, we are missing those moments that our hearts are burning within us. I want us to be able to identify those moments, learn from others and apply those lessons to our lives, so that we don't miss the blessings that God has for us along the way in our life journey. James novex life was a tragedy. His father was in prison for murder, and his mother didn't want him. She actually even paid to abort him before he was born. But God had a call on his life stronger than the devil's desire to take him out. James called down fire from heaven on himself and his life was forever changed. Now the unlikely pastor has planted multiple churches and ministries. He has written books, he has podcasts, and his life story was even featured in Forbes magazine. In this episode, you're going to hear how James the Vex life went from tragedy to triumph. And there is so much more to come. I'll get to our conversation in just a moment. But as always, I want to thank you for listening to along the way. I hope that you like what you hear and subscribe. Please rate and review along the way on Apple podcasts or wherever you're listening. All of my socials and contact links are in my show notes. And you can check out all of my episodes and join my email list on my website along the way dot media, I would love to hear from you. I also have a Patreon page if you want to help me to continue to put out these along the way episodes. If you'd like to become a supporter simply go to patreon.com/along the way to select the level. The link to become a supporter is also in my show notes. And now here's my along the way conversation with James Lovak. Well, James Novick, it is awesome to have you on along the way. We connected just a couple of weeks ago at the Shawn Foyt rally when he was here in Orlando, during the protest about, you know, what Disney has been doing and kind of their how they're taking a stand against the parental rights act that was just passed here in Florida. And so you actually helped Sean with the planning of this event. But our history goes back a little bit before because in 2019, I think it was, yeah, it would have been 2019 You were a guest on The Real Life program back in Pittsburgh when I was a producer there. And I've been wanting to have you on my podcast ever since then. So it is a pleasure to invite you on along the way. So thanks so much for being here. Oh, man,

James Levesque:

John, so good to reconnect again. And it was great seeing you a couple of weeks excited to do the podcast.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah. So James, I just kind of want to get right into it. Like your story is it featured in a an article in Forbes magazine. And I just read that there's so many things that we need to talk about that I just want to like, get into it. I don't want to waste any time. So I want to hear how God has led you along your way to where you are today. I mean, you're you're now a pastor, and been a pastor, but God's moved you from one part of the country to another part of the country. You had a very interesting upbringing. But let's just dive right into it. Who is James Novak? And how did God bring you to where you are today?

Unknown:

Yeah, I think you know, I mean, ultimately, Man, I'm really just a lover of Jesus. I mean, you know, God has been so real to me. And you know, there was nobody in my family ever knew the Lord. You know, I'm basically a first generation Christian. And one thing I realized is that man loving Jesus is everything. You know, I'm reminded of Peter, it was a pretty sad story in the end of John where it said he went back to fishing. I mean, it's I don't ever want to do and John 21 Jesus is making him breakfast and Peter dives in after him in the water you know, this this moment where he's looking Jesus in the eyes. And what Jesus said was, you know, did you go back to casting logical back fishing? It's not what he said what he said is, Peter, do you still love me? And you know, for me, man loving Jesus is just really who I am. You know, I guess when you don't have much in me and I didn't come from much that I just feel like loving Jesus is everything and so you know, It's not even trying to be like a humility answer, man. I just love God. I love the Holy Ghost. I love the Lord. Yeah. And so in my core man, I'm just you know, I'm a street preacher that loves Jesus man.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. And you feel very comfortable on the streets preaching, because you really came from the streets. Can you take me back to how you grew up? I mean, I just read that your mom even changed your name at five years old? Like, let's go back that far, bro. Because this is yeah, there's so much there to unpack.

Unknown:

Yeah, it's crazy story, man. I was. I was born in New London, Connecticut. Not in great circumstances. You know, I never really knew my real dad. He kind of killed people and did some horrible things. And the first two years of my life, I was brought up in a battered women's shelter. We had nowhere to live my mom, it was me. The funny thing is, abortion became legal in 79. I was born at the end of 79. You know, my mom would later tell me that she paid for my abortion legit. And when she went to sign the papers, you know, she's not really this religious woman, either, if anything, the Catholic Church kind of excommunicated her, you know. And as she was going to sign the papers, man, to abort me something said to her, You can't do it to this child. No, my mom was older. Even in those days, she was probably like, 43, you know, and in my real dad was probably like, 18, but I didn't know who he was. And, and she just felt like, as I was in her stomach, you know, that there was something in her that said, you can't do it, you know. And so, you know, born in pain, I mean, the end of the day, streets are painful, right? That life is not to be glorified, but I just grew up without, I mean, just nothing, you know, my earliest memories were, you know, not not having enough now and never having a school lunch, you know, never, you know, never having money, never having anything wearing the same clothes for years, you know, just everything that comes with being poor in that kind of environment. And it's really not a spiritual environment, either. You know, right. My earliest memories, man, I remember going to an Awana program. When I was like, you know, I think it was like eight. And because that's what they pick, the bus would come around the projects to pick the kids up. And I remember the night that I got kicked out of a water, you know, and they brought me home to my mom who I knew would just be drunk to somehow try to tell her she was deaf. My mother was born deaf. Somehow they wanted to tell my mom that I was never allowed back in church again, that crazy. And so saw a lot of pain growing up, no one really had a dad. I remember the first time I think it was like seven or eight. I walked across the street, a car pulled up window rolled down and was a drug dealer. And he said, Hey, man, you want $100? I mean, what kid doesn't want $100 To this day? Yeah, really. So you got to bring bring this package up the road to this building this number, and give it to this man. And then you come back, I'll give you $100. And that was like, the first time that you know, I saw a drug deal. I didn't really know what it was, but I wanted the money, you know. And so it's interesting, because, you know, starting, I remember reading the parable of the minus you know, I mean, think about they came to Jesus and said, how do we become great? And who a weird man because he will they wanted to see the kingdom now. I'm sorry. They came to him and said that when he they said, great, he said, Change be like children. They said, How do I see the kingdom now? Man, this dude started going into a story about the parable, the minus some were given five. So like, what's the point? You know? And the point is faithfulness with what you have. And I realized something man, I realized when I read the parable of the mind is when I really read about the parable of the talents, like most people focus on the one that got five. Man, I was blessed on the one that got one. Why? Because it says in the book of Matthew, that he gave the talents, each according to their own abilities. Like think about that. So I felt like if I got one talent growing up, then I have an ability to maximize it. So you know, if you've been given 10, then that's your responsibility. But I don't feel like I was given a lot of talents in life. I feel like but when I read that story, I felt like, Man, I could, you know, maximize and be faithful with what I have, you know?

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, definitely. So tell me about like how you you just talked about, you're dealing drugs, essentially, at eight years old. That had to lead to some some big trouble there.

Unknown:

Yeah, I think you knew, I mean, growing up, it was kind of like, it was it was twofold, though, man, because that one? Well, you know, one minute you really look up to the drug dealers. I mean, I remember, you know, I remember driving in their cars and looking at all the money they had, you know, they had a lot of money. I remember one day my friend got busted for selling drugs out of a restaurant, he got bagged, and then he called me one day and wanted me to go get his money for bail. And essentially, I had to go in his mom's house in the basement, remove a brick and pull out 100k I mean, it was just a crazy life. And but I'll tell you what's real. I mean, in Everything you can imagine, I mean, watching, you know, at 12 I saw somebody getting stabbed and, and, you know, they're bleeding grabbing onto my leg as I was walking home from school, you know, just shut them off. So you see all you know a lot lot of domestic things, you see a lot of drugs, you see a lot of your friends, moms and dads are on crack and you see all this kind of pain, you just add, at a young age, you start to try to form like, what does this all mean? You know what I mean? Yeah. And I remember, I remember doing drugs one time, we were all in a circle again. Hi. And I remember, I wasn't even a believer, we're all passing a bloggin Hi. And I'm looking up to these dudes. And I just asked a question. I said, guys, man, I got a question. What's the point of this life? Like, where are we going, guys? Is the goal to get our moms out the hood? Is the goal to buy expensive cars and have girls because I'm thinking in my head, where's the end game in this? I was looking at 72 year old guys that were gang members, man. Wow. And there was something in me not even saved. like, Yo, I don't want to be a 72 year old gang member on the streets. And I remember in that room, I'm like, what do we do now? What's the point of all this? Like, where are we going? Like, are we do we really think that we're doing something in our life? And I remember one guy, man, as he exhaled from puffing a blunt. He said to me, Jamie, because everybody call me Jamie. He said, Jamie, the streets are undefeated. Everybody gets bagged, sitting in this room, like what? I am not signing up for a life to go down anywhere. I will tell you something, John. It worked. It worked. It's a benefit, though. And it's a challenge, because I'll be honest with you. Shortly after I got born again, I sat in a room with a bunch of prayer people praying every single day, every once a week, we're praying in a house and the window of Heaven was moving and everybody was feeling the presence of God. And everybody was prophesying over one another. And I'm in that room, John. And I said, guys, where do we go from here? What's the goal of this? We're praying and laying hands on each other every single week. Are we what is the endgame in this? Are we gonna go do the works of Jesus? Are we going to go outside of this house and lay hands on the sick and plant churches? John, I was just saved. Wow. But that said, that same young man that was in that drum circle that said, Guys, what are we doing? It started happening in the church? Yeah. Where are we going? Like, what are we trying to reach the last? Or are we just here splashing around in the river once a week? And nobody's getting saved? Every all of our neighbors are going to hell? Wow. Where do we go from here? And so, you know, it's, you know, I mean, it worked, you know, but it's, I just look, it's, I remember, I was having lunch with Bill Johnson one time. And he said, James, you need to you need to learn the way God has wired you to see life. And man, it really has blessed me, because I realized that everybody sees things differently, right? You're such a gift, John to the body of Christ. I don't see life the way you do. But I can't. I can't apologize for the way I see it either. Exactly. Yeah. And sometimes I was looking around that room, John, and I was just going guys, you know, it's like the drink from the river down in the wilderness. So where are we going? Like in that at that moment, I realized that man, I wanted to plant churches. You don't probably fast forward in the story. But you know,

John Matarazzo:

so yeah. Let's let's back up a little bit to how you actually came to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior before we start talking about how you started planting churches.

Unknown:

Yeah,

John Matarazzo:

let's connect that dot.

Unknown:

Yeah, it was with my friend one night. It was late at night. He didn't live in the projects that I lived in. He lived in like a little home around the corner. And I remember one night I went to his house. I just didn't feel like going back to the projects and walking back to the hood. And I just decided to stay in his house. And I went in his living room. It was when I didn't want to. When I was young. I didn't want to go in his bedroom because I felt like it smells like socks. So I decided to sleep in his living room. And I laid in a like a recliner. I'll never forget, I was watching the TV, David Letterman was on. I think Magic Johnson was being interviewed because he was buying movie theaters. He was far retired. It was about 1995 96. And I'm sitting in the chair. You know, I mean, dude, I'm like, I'm like in a late, you know, mid to late teens rough place. And as I was starting to fall asleep, I didn't even recognize that his mom was in the room with me. And so as I'm starting to fall asleep, she calls my name, she says Jamie, and I looked at her she had a Bible on her lap, big enough to choke a moose. And she said Jamie can ask you a question. What But now I'm in her house. I'm like, what? I'm tired. And she said, I just want to ask you one question I've always wanted to ask you. Do you know who Jesus Christ is? kind of question is that man, I'm like, It's midnight. I've always wanted to ask you, do you know who Jesus Christ is? John is sat there and was like, at first I said, Of course, I know, come on me. Everybody knows who he is. I didn't know who he was. Come on. Everybody knows Jean. I don't know, Jesus. I thought Jesus would kill when they kicked me out of a water program. I was never allowed back in church again. I didn't know him. But I told her I did. And she said to me, I think you need to know who he is. And I said, I'm not really a Jesus free this ideal. But you know, you can keep your big Bibles. Then later on, there was either that night or the next morning, I needed to go to Six Flags or something. And I needed a ride and I said, Hey, can I get a ride with you? And she said, if you want to ride then you need to go to church with me. And you know, and then I was like, No, and she saw and she almost dared me. She was I was like, I dare you to go to church. Oh, my God, go to church. And it was that day that I went on a Wednesday night I believe it was. And that day, I you know, I didn't feel I mean, I felt a little out of place, right? It was in a different section of town. But that night, I heard like a story of somebody that was in a gang got delivered really caused me to like wonder like, is it could this be real? And I'm hearing about Jesus sent her free and Jesus touching other people in the in the group and I just met started really wondering in my heart, like, what if he was real? And I didn't know. Yeah, me. And so that night, I went to my house sheet and the woman that had the whole encounter with me and asked me the question, handed me a Bible. And I walked in my mom's house, it was like a scene and we're moving there. My mom's passed out drunk ahead of me. Small little place. There was a where's the kitchen window here. And I looked up the kitchen window cap had rolled by all my friends said, I'm just gonna go back outside. I put the Bible down in front of me, there's a window out in front of me. I'm looking down at the Bible at the table. And all I could all I could think is what if Jesus was real? Like me, maybe I don't know. You don't? I mean, like, what if he was what if he actually lived? And I don't know who he is. And I didn't like that. I didn't like that thought it bothered me. It just my soul was in turmoil. And at that moment, I looked up the heavens, man, I never read that Bible never opened the book. My mom's passed out drunk. Cops roll, and I was like a scene of a movie. And I'm looking at the Bible and look up to heaven. I said, Look, man, I don't know if you I don't know who you are. I don't know if you're real. I'm gonna tell you right now. You are real. And you actually lived on this earth and you got on a cross, and you're changing these people's lives. You need to come down here and show me that you're real. And look, it was cursed laden. I don't know if you know who the FIM. And don't be honest with me. I mean, I apologize. I was just, I was from the streets and I'm just yelling at God. Because I'm just like, if you're real, then you need to show me your real and there's what I said to him. If you touch me now, I'll give the rest of my life to tell people that you're real. Literally a fire came out of heaven. Just knocked me right down on the floor. Tears, tongs. Many nobody had time for Romans road. It wasn't my supposed to do take the new believers class, in a fire changed my life for ever. I picked up that Bible. And at this point, I was wrecked. I was weeping and laughing and man, my father went nuts. But everybody thought was crazy man, that day, it changed. All my friends thought something happened to me. And it did. I was no longer I could no longer be that way. I was I was spending 1314 hours a day man crying out to God weeping. My mom thought I was nuts. Nobody knew. But I knew something changed my life. I know what it was. But I know what changed me reading the Bible, the words of Jesus seeing his power. And I gave you know the rest of my life to answering that question, and do you know who Jesus Christ is? And I do. And that was really again, it's you know, it's a it's a catch 22 Man, because when you have an encounter like that, what am I supposed to do? Me just go to church. You know, I mean, like, I can't just go to a building and just sit through a new believers. I believe in all that stuff we have of discipleship classes ourselves. I wasn't I've been fire. Fire burned me. I wasn't going to go Yeah, I mean, VeggieTales wasn't going to cut it. Like, like fire burned me. Wow. Wanting to know if the dead can be raised again. I wanted to know it blind eyes open still. I wanted to know if deaf ears open. I mean, you know, I mean I was, I was I was wrecked by flame feeling now telling you the story.

John Matarazzo:

So you literally call down fire from heaven on yourself crazy without knowing what you're doing.

Unknown:

Oh man, I didn't know. But man, I knew God was so real. Yeah. I mean, it was that was it. It was that was just done. I mean, then it was, you know, in those days, that wasn't, you know, you couldn't just get stuff all the time. Now you can go on YouTube. And you know, people are almost not even changed by this stuff anymore. I mean, now you know somebody I read the book Good morning, Holy Spirit and that was weeping on my face for two weeks. You regarde chases you read? Holy Spirit, a hunger for you. Come on, man. I mean, this this is not like YouTube. There was no YouTube. You know what I mean? It was just like, if somebody passed around a VHS of the Brownsville revival. I mean, these things burned you. I just it but at the same time you're I'm in New England, New England, the St. George Whitfield, New England. This is different New England, right. This is like frozen, chosen New England

John Matarazzo:

and New England is really different area. Yeah. Oh, man.

Unknown:

I mean, dude. And I'm sitting here in New England, being ret driving to Charles spinneys birthplace going to George Whitfield's church. You know, I mean, like finding my own great awakening history within New England and just thirsting for Yale University Library spending. I dropped out of high school, literally, my highest grade computer was nine. Wow. And I'm in the Yale library reading everything I could about awakening and revival. Be you know, and then of course, the Lord would give us one of the great revival churches in American history. But yeah, that marked me forever. I mean, just changed me forever. Yeah, you know, you don't I don't know. You don't really, you know, the thing is when that when you really meet God like that. I mean, you can't convince me that it didn't happen. And at the same time, I went, am I going? I'm not going fishing. I'm not going back fishing. What am I gonna do? There's no like, there's no plan B.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah. You've definitely ruined for the ordinary for sure. Oh, man. Yeah. So you had this experience with God, you had this fire come down from heaven, and basically just wreck you. Then you started a church at a young age? Like, was that your original plan to start a church? How did this happen?

Unknown:

Yeah, I was crying out to God in that whole season, you know. And I really, I really wanted to see miracles, signs and wonders, I really wanted to, like touch the last. And I remember one day I was praying. I just got done reading. I was reading all the greats. I mean, you know, at the time, we didn't have a lot of great, you know, so you like study this stuff is almost like a prophetic lifeline of what God could do again, you know, and I remember I was reading William Booth, you know, a lot of those generals came out of that area of there. And one night, I was laying and praying. And the Lord said to me, man, I was young, I must have been, maybe 1817. Then the Lord said to me, in truth that was probably in a very dysfunctional place. I was hungry, though. My hunger changes things, you know, so true. Then the Lord said to me, if you could do anything you knew you wouldn't feel what would you do? If you had unlimited me, unlimited resources, anointing power, in you knew you wouldn't fail. And I was with you, what would you do? And I recommended when God said that to me, I remembered reading I think it was William Booth. He said, he would plan a church an inch away from hell. And I said to the Lord, God, if I if I could, I would plan a church an inch away from hell. I had a I had a flashback at that moment when I was selling drugs. I was in ninth grade. I just started my ninth grade. And I remember I went to a school first really to just to sell drugs. I mean, really, I was not doing well. And I remember before school we would sell crack and different things, you know, and I remember selling crack cocaine to a pregnant woman. And I remember as I sold it to her now let me just tell you I'm not love was I was far from like the biggest drug lord. I mean, I have friends in Connecticut were pastors under me that them Got these guys been shot up 10 times and in prison for 10 years. I was selling I remember selling crack cocaine to a pregnant woman. And as she walked away, I wasn't even saved. And it bothered me. Because at the time, I thought, it's not fair that I'm hurting another kid. Because the moms they stood out, you know, I'm saying. And so when the Lord said to me, if you could do something, and you knew you wouldn't fail, I thought of that pregnant woman. And I said, Lord, if I could turn the clock back, and I could impart something to her, instead of crack cocaine, that is going to impact another generation. I want to do that. I want to go back to the streets where I saw pain, and I saw people die. And I want to see, I want to plant a church and enjoy from hell. Now, I mean, it sounds good. Everybody probably has these were little experiences with the Lord. But at this time, he said three words that would change my life forever. He said, Let's do it. Think about what I'm telling you. A high school dropout with no GED. John, well, nobody likes when I say it, because all my spiritual moms get upset. I don't have a genie D. John, I don't have any education. John, literally right now, what am I going to do? I can't apply that I can't apply to go work at the Winn Dixie job. What am I zero education. I have honorary doctorates from some great heroes of the faith. I don't have any education John dropped out. But at that moment, when God said, Let's do it, I said, I'm going to do it. And I remember opening the frigerator. And there was a half eaten big potato and a pork chop with like a little bit of glaze on top. And I heard in my spirit, the way to kill a giant is not slingshot stone, you know, we're still married to methods. The Lord said that the way to kill a giant is to use what's in your hands. That's good. It's really good. And then at that point, I realized I wasn't given much back to the talents. I don't have much. You know, some people were given five, I was given a half a one. And I didn't have a lot to give John, but I had that plate of food. And that night, I heated up that one plate of food as a barely a teenager. And I went down to the parking garage. You know, in the winter in New England, they the bums sleep with bags, because they'll die so it's cold. So they put the bags on and pop the whole debrief. And I went to a parking garage with a warm plate of food smelled like urine. I woke the guy up his name was Joe. And I handed him a plate of food. And he's looking at me all sketchy, you know, because who would be out in the streets at this time. I handed him the food and kind of throwing it down and put looking at me and I said I was young. I said shut up and eat the food. But I put my hand out to shake his hand. And I said, I'm James love that coming into pasture. And he looked at me and he ate the food. And I said, Look, I'm going to come back here every day and take care of you. And we're going to do Bible studies. I don't even know how to do a Bible study. And before I knew it, one homeless turned into five turned into 10 turned into 50. You know, and then I'm trying to do where to knowledges which was again, I'm like, hey, everybody story about Peter's mother in law guy. He'll that's it? How many of you have headaches? Oh, you all do because you're drug addicts, you know. And it's like, oh, but I pray for him. We saw miracle salvations I was going to McDonald's, I had no money. And I was buying double cheeseburgers cutting them up into four squares. You know, just feeding these people. I had no money. And then one night, I got very discouraged. Because you know, my electric bills about to get shut off. I mean, I'm leaving the homeless Bible study. You know what I mean? And I went to the Lord that night, and I said, Father, I said, I can't do this anymore. You asked me a month ago, if I could do anything and you knew I wouldn't feel what would I do? I didn't sign up to be the Bishop of the homeless people. I wanted a great and mighty church. When multitudes of people transforming the world. i All I got is a handful of homeless people. So I think I'm done. I don't have any more money. And the Lord said to me, which I've always kept to this day. He said, If you go after the ones that nobody wants, I'm gonna give you the ones everybody's after.

John Matarazzo:

Wow. Say that again. That's good. Yeah, Gene. He

Unknown:

said to me, if you go after the ones that nobody wants, I'll give you the ones that everyone's after. Wow. And even to this day, John of our New London, Connecticut location. We feed up to 100 Homeless every single day, Monday through Friday out of our churches. Always we did a homeless dent lunch, we serve them we sit them down like they're in fine dining, and we serve them meals. And we'll have hundreds three 400 at a time. We're feeding these people because it's a part Um, as God gave me, you know, and that's not my motivation, but we always we love. The Bible says when you when you take care of the poor, the Bible says you lend to the Lord. Nobody has better credit than God. You know what I mean? Right? All right. And so when God said that to me, I got I got a fresh motivation. I went back out on the streets. Two days later, I got a phone call from an attorney in the area, this attorney so and so I'm looking for James Labette. I thought, oh, Lord, to my past catch up with me. Oh, you're in trouble. Yeah, I'm like, Man is this church scandal over me said is James lived back there. I said, you ever asked him? He said, Well, I need to know you. I'm a I'm attorney. so and so. And I've been watching you. I had the phone in my ear. I said, Well, I've been watching you. I don't know who he is. He said, No, no, no, I'm a Christian. I'm a brother in Christ. And I said, Oh, praise God. Amen. Internet. I mean, my, my tone changed. And he said, I'm watching you feed the homeless every night. And it's, it's moved to me. I could see you from my law office. And he said, I want you to know that the Lord spoke to me, and I'm gonna buy you a church. Wow, I'm gonna buy you a church building everything you need to start a church. We're going to sign the lease and pay for it. And we're going to open up a church for you. And by the way, my wife and I lead worship at a local Calvary Chapel. We're going to be stepping down to come under you to help you lead worship at this new church. Amazing, man overnight. I mean, that Easter Sunday, we had I think it was almost 170 people. I mean, it's incredible. In New England, I mean, average church size is 20. Right. And we watched God just wreck a city, you know. And it's crazy. Like, it's the whole the whole movement that we have was started with a pork chop, you know, I mean, it's just wild man in a great big yes.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, that's, that's really interesting. You know, specifically that is a pork chop, which is, you know, traditionally an uncultured meat, you know, something that really not even acceptable, you know, in those terms to the, you know, the Lord makes that unacceptable thing acceptable whenever you give it to him. Wow. And so even the pork chop is a testimony with that. So that's, that's amazing. Never. I've

Unknown:

told that story so many times. I've never heard that angle. And it's so true. God could use an unhealthy, biblical animal and that crazy.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah, feel free to use that one. From now on, if you want it. Yeah, it's good,

Unknown:

man. I like it. Come on, like added to the story there.

John Matarazzo:

That's good. What you said earlier was like really wrecked me with the whole thing of, you know, if you go after the one that nobody cares, for, I'll give you the ones that everybody wants. That is so true. Whenever you put the kingdom. So you know, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that all these things will be added to you. You just went with the boldness of a pork chop and saying, I'm your new pastor, to somebody that wasn't even asking for a pastor, you just said, I'm doing this. Because Jesus told Peter, go feed my sheep. You know, and so he told you to just go feed my sheep. And you just did it. And you said, You're my sheep. They didn't have a choice. And that's like, right, that really is indicative of who you are. And the ministry that God's calling you to? I goodness, this is this is awesome, James. I mean, just thinking about how good God is. And that he's called you from such a, an interesting background, for sure. And where you are today, you're pastoring a church in Clearwater, Florida. We'll get to that for a little bit later. But man, what else happened in New England? Cuz you're not just that wasn't the only church that you planted? Yeah,

Unknown:

no, not at all. I mean, probably, I mean, all together. We've done almost almost 40 churches now. Wow. And that was our first church that I planted and then meant so many more in New England. And we just thought we saw God really touched that. I mean, we still Still we are I mean, we have great churches, they're the real turning point came shortly after my wife and I got married in that same city in New London. I got a prophetic word years ago that God was going to give us a building used during the Great Awakening. And when we were looking for buildings, I remember that word, and I was so we were outgrowing storefronts. And you know, we're just growing in about 2009 December, so just about 2010. I started researching awakening churches from like the 1700s. And we found a church ended up being really close to where we were. It was the first church of Christ in New London, Connecticut. If I showed you i books that show you all the history of the church who pastored it, who spoke there. This is a church built in the late 1700s Great Awakening era. George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, some of the like founders of awakening preached in that building. Like I got those sermon notes. Wow. In 2011, we bought the building It's one of the first 30 churches ever in America. Ever. Let that sink in. Wow. Yeah, I remember John or not came down and we did a dedication on the building and q 750. See sanctuary, sitting in the middle of New London, Connecticut, high up, huge castle looking building. I mean, just amazing. And you know, it's interesting, because I've watched New England go from like this kind of like frozen ghost town, with like, little tiny pockets to like, man, the move of God in New England. It's incredible what God's doing. And it's not just us, there's like, many churches Catching Fire and just, you know, seeing just revival.

John Matarazzo:

That's so good to hear. That is so good to hear. So you've been responsible for starting 40 churches. That's amazing. And that crazy? How does one man do that?

Unknown:

Yeah, I think with lots of help, even as I talk to you, we have now there's four engaging heaven churches that I directly oversee. And then we have another 10 churches that I oversee, they're not engaging heaven, but I cover them and ordain them. So we have probably, like, 15 churches already, I planted up to 40. But many of them were like, I plan a youth church for Brian Simmons, and just hand it off at the church or I go, I planted churches in Africa, Canada, you know, overseas. And, you know, the funny thing is, people would ask me, you know, like, how do you plant churches, and it's like, I don't even know. It's like, you build a fire and watch God burn. You know what I mean? Like, a lot of churches, a lot of church planting movements, want to build some kind of infrastructure, and they go, like, so heavy on structure. And then you get these, like, these churches launched and there's no fire, there's no flame. And it's like, that's not going to sustain me and like structure is is only going to last so long. But when, you know, when a woman has cancer in her breast, and she needs prayer, what are we gonna do? There has to be fire, there has to be flame. You know, ultimately, we need all the above, but it needs to start with fire. And so we're actually going to plant we're in Madeira beach. Now, all we have a couple moving here. from Connecticut next year, we're going to launch in Clearwater, Florida. Okay. And then we're going to be launching another church in Montana. We have a church in Missoula, Montana. And then we're going to be launching another church in Canada. So we're in the next couple of years. We're wanting to plant another three to five churches. Wow. That's awesome. And of course, yeah, the one here in Madeira Beach is it just turned a year old and it's, you know, just been exploding. It's been incredible.

John Matarazzo:

Yeah. So tell me about that church. But tell me about how God led you to Florida. I mean, obviously, the weather's nicer in Florida than it is in Connecticut. But what was the real reason that you came down here and and how did God lead you?

Unknown:

Yeah, it was interesting, because in 2008, I was in or 2009, I'm sorry, I was in Lakeland, Florida. But at I forgot, I don't know, the church that well, it was a bishop Scarborough, who was a Rhema church in Lakeland, but I was with Dr. Ronnie how Brown I was just sitting in the meetings. And the Lord said to me so clear that I wouldn't always live in Connecticut, that he was going to move me to Florida, you know, to be a part of a move to be a part of a movement. And I mean, at the time I'm crying in the pew, you know, my whole thing was you were going to bury me in Connecticut, you know, New England was like my identity. And but I knew that God was telling me there's more sat tucked it away, and you know, and then about 2018? Well, 2000, I think it was 2017. We came to Jacksonville, Florida. Well, it was kind of like a whole healing thing. You know, my real dad that I never knew killed people on that kind of stuff. I found out he's from Jackson, he live in in Jacksonville. And so there was some weird reconciliation. And when he died, I kind of went back to trace the steps, you know, see his wife that was still alive. And when I got to the site of where he died, I saw a sickle. And the Lord said, I'm giving you authority in the state of Florida. And at the time, I did some extended meetings in Jacksonville. I was wondering if that's what the Lord will call us. I didn't feel that way. 2018 2019 And then it was at the end of 2019 that the Lord told me it would be my last my last winter in in New England. And I say that where I'm up there every other week, I'm still, you know, overseeing the churches and I preached there and you know, everyone in New England probably feel like I'm still there, so to speak. Yeah. But I knew that it Florida it was time. And we didn't know where we don't know how we really prayed about all different areas. The thing is, and I didn't realize it at the time, but you know, a God really has, I don't know, I have a burning passion for dark areas. As far as like that or not that they're not reached. You know what I'm saying? Yeah, so you would think you'd think Florida is reached because of all the churches But then when I came here, and I would hear all the locals talk about the beaches in Florida, the whole coast, west coast, and how you just would never have a church here, never have a ministry, you know, basically, if you want to kill your ministry, come to the beach of Florida. And I just felt, you know, when we were looking at properties, I was looking all over Tarpon Springs, done eating, you know, I really had a, God kept saying in my spirit Pinellas County as it is in heaven. Now Pinellas County is the most populated county all Florida, believe it or not real is over where the beaches are. Yeah, it's it is. And so I just kept ringing that in my heart Pinellas County as it is in heaven. So I knew something would happen. So we were looking at properties. I moved down here at the beginning of 2020. We're looking at properties. The Lord told me right when COVID happened, before it ever really happened, this would be a season of advancement that we were not going to we were going to increase through it. You know, so we were already planning on advancing. And we came down here to work with CTN Bob D'Andrea, what a great man of God, you know, he just passed he was such a hero of faith. He was a good friend. And as we were just praying, I thought, you know, maybe the Lord's gonna stir something. We had a couple of people come down with us, you know, so we knew the framework was here. And then this building opened up on the beach. Now I'm having everybody bro, everybody I know in Florida is telling me Don't do it. You'll get your lunch eaten. The beach is not where you want to start churches. And I would tell all these people like why don't you go to New England and start churches see lasts more than a year and then tell me the beach in Florida is gonna be difficult. You know what I mean? Like I just I just where I came from, and they come home and they play Chris Tomlin at Walmart floor. No, I mean, get out. That's ridiculous. And so so it was interesting, because we came here, and we went to meet the so it was like a whole story how God gives us property. But basically, we met the owner, I never had one service in Madeira Beach, didn't even know where it was never even been to the side of Florida. And God gave us such paper with a woman that owns this huge building that I'm in across the street from the beach. And as I walked in the door, a voice said to this woman, she's not even saved. This is the man you're gonna give your building to do whatever he wants, and do whatever he says, wow. And I was I was purposely coming in the door going, Okay, you're asking a million bucks for this property. I ain't got that we can do it. But God gave me all these strategies on how it would come in. Get forget the purchase in the front, pay my way up until a couple of years and then you know, get this transfer over. And do it was a God thing. I mean, we so we renovated, had our pastors help. And we opened the doors a year ago. And I didn't know one person here. Nobody there was not even anything. And let me just say this. There's no Holy Spirit churches on the on these barrier islands. None. And I'm not even saying that Erica way. Zippo charisma, there's not one. You can find me one spirit filled church anywhere up and down this post. Now now there is so it was like, we just started and God just breathed man, people that were out in boats a week before screaming God, where are they? You were dry out here. You promised you would send them to us. I mean, just you know, in Back to the promise of I was way more comfortable around crackheads and homeless people. John, I'm in Madeira Beach, John. I never been on a boat John until I got here. I don't know anybody that does not own a boat. John. Everybody here is you know, I mean, come on. godson, a street preacher, to shake up rich people on the beach. Wow. And people that are lost in Spring Breakers. And people that find from out of town and they get wrecked by God when they pass by our building. And we've done baptisms. We're doing one this Sunday, a baptism. We have like 20 people. We do these baptisms, whole families are getting baptized. Wow, I love it. They painted unto the Lord. I mean, it's incredible. What we're seeing.

John Matarazzo:

Wow. So tell me about some more testimonies like, like, don't just tell me like that some broad things. Like I want to hear somebody's story that you can tell from their church, like, how, how is this actually happening? Because I mean, the deer Beach is a nice area, that whole area is, as you said, it's affluent. So you know, a lot of times people don't even think that they need God. But you're showing them that just by being there, they're getting wrecked. So tell me about this specific person that you can share about? Yeah,

Unknown:

we have people you know, there's a lot of business owners. There's men and women here that there's a young guy runs, runs a great construction company. I mean, these people, you know, they weren't burning for God necessarily. They knew the Lord they had a foundation Shin, well, you got to understand these people were raised on Pentecost, they have these experience with God when they were younger. But there's where they're gonna go. If you grow up here, where are you going to church? I mean, you could drive over somewhere, but he's a beach people. These are like Island people. And then these people are coming back to their roots. reencountering God, you don't I mean, we started doing these fire nights here. I can't tell you the miracles we've seen. Like the incredible miracles we've seen here. I'm talking about like, eyes opening. I'm talking about like deaf ears. I'm talking about, like, people that couldn't speak that God restored their speech, you know, demons coming out of people at these altars. Like, what I felt was, you know, we're in a day where a lot of people are running away from the gifts of the Spirit. And I was like, now we're gonna triple down on them. Amen. So we started doing miracle nights telling everybody to bring the sick, we were doing fire. We still don't fire nights, where we didn't bring everybody bring those that need deliverance, you know, and just people getting delivered from wild scenarios, just crazy life, you know? Yeah. And a lot of people coming back to their first love a lot of people meeting God for the first time. I mean, this past Sunday, you know, we've sent teams out on the streets every single week. And they passed by Walmart and saw this man sitting there. And man, he gets delivered, set literally this past weekend, delivered, set free, lays all the drugs down, gets just violently saved. We bless them, get him back on his feet. Get them, you know, and he's back here again in church the next Sunday. And last Sunday to this Sunday. You were to think he went from hell to heaven. He did. Hell condenses. changed, is his passion for God. I mean, it's just amazing watching, you know, they've not been around enough dead services to mess that up. I mean, we're not gonna stop until we see this whole place just on fire for God.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. I love that Pastor James, you know, the fire knights and miracles, signs and wonders, you're seeing it on a regular basis, because I love how you said it. They don't know enough about dead churches to get messed up. So you take the you take the passionate, and you just run with it. And you see things you see fruit coming, which is, which is what we want. I mean, you're, I mean, you said you're like a one talent guy. But I mean, bro, it's definitely definitely multiplying, you've definitely increased that from one to maybe two and a half or three, something like that right now, I don't know, probably more than that. We're definitely more than that. I mean, you've written several books. Your most recent one is engaging heaven today. And Forbes didn't did an article about you, you know, there's a lot of stuff that's going on, and you're just you're just hitting your stride, I can tell. But you know, right now, you know, one of the things that I love about my, this podcast and what I get to do and the questions I get to ask, you know, looking back at your life, James, where do you now just like on the disciples that were walking on the road to Emmaus, you know, here they are, they're walking on at seven miles. And Jesus in disguise comes up to them, and starts revealing the scripture to them, but they have no clue that it's him. Until they sit down at the table, Jesus blesses the food breaks the bread, their eyes are open, and then poof, he's gone. And they turn to each other and Luke 2432 and say, Why aren't our hearts burning within us along the way as he was revealing the Scriptures to us? So James might my question that I have to ask you is looking back at your life now? Where do you see that Jesus really was walking with you, but it didn't feel like it in the moment. But you you understand it now?

Unknown:

I think when I think when you meet the Lord, right, the encounter is real. But you know, it's kind of like a fish, right? It still needs to be clean. You know, my the fire's really encounters real but my life was very dysfunctional. tied up in relationships, having children at an early age, you know, things that you just don't do you know what I'm saying? And for a long time, when you're young preacher You almost look at that as like, you know, man, it's just not it was like a not a blemish, but nothing's an accident, but it was not a it was a very, like, questionable season of my life. You know what I mean? The more you grow in God and the more you grow in grace, you realize like, when you were at your most dysfunctional, God was still with you. Amen. You know, I mean, like we're not we're all we're none of us are perfected, the Bible says, Well, now that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken is not having received. We are all still receiving and the beautiful thing is now I look at my life and it's a lot different. Right? I've been pastor almost 25 years now almost, I have been pastoring 25 years. Life looks differently at 25 I can say things now, that 15 years ago wouldn't make sense if I said it. But I look back on myself 20 years ago, I look back on myself 25 years ago, same fire, same passion, same love for God, more dysfunction. And I just, I'm so thankful for his grace. You know, I have this tattoo on my arm, this is broken. You know, I was in one of the worst seasons of my life. And I just got saved. And the Lord said to me, what do you see this feeling, and I'm like, it feels like you're trying to kill me. And he said, If you can never forget this feeling is brokenness. I'll never deny it. I'll change the world through you, but you got to keep it. And it's not that he wants me to be punished. But he wants me to stay broken before him. John, the great John Wimber would always say the way in is the way on, when I looked back, it was the times that I didn't feel lovely, I didn't feel good enough that God covered me. And I look back now and everybody else might talk about that person. But I see who I was becoming. You know, I mean, I was being changed by his image, I was being brought into more of a maturity of who he is. And so you know, if people are listening, you might be newly saved, you might be just walking with the Lord. And I want you to know, there's a mighty man and woman of God inside of you. And you can't let that person go. Because that's who God sees. It's not who you see led to God sees. And God's gonna pull that person out.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. God is gonna pull that person out. You know, James, my follow up question for this is, if you knowing what you know, now, if you could go back in time, and visit young Jamie, somewhere along your timeline. What advice would you give yourself and what's going on in your life at that point that you would want to receive that advice?

Unknown:

saved or not saved? Doesn't matter? Either one, either one? Yeah, I think the two things funny, I just actually, somebody just asked me this the other day, and we filmed it. I think the two things I would tell my younger self, especially after meeting the Lord, is I would tell Jamie, two things. Number one, people's opinions aren't going to matter much in the long run. You know, when you're young, you don't have a father, you're always seeking approval. You know, I always wanted someone to just it's worse now, because we live in a online culture full of likes and retweets. And it seems like attention is the currency of a generation. But I would, I would tell myself two things. Number one, man, Pete, people's opinions really don't matter. So don't don't seek them. We have now adult in number two, I had this mindset of what I thought would bring fulfillment. If I only preached at this stage, if I only knew this man of God, if I only got this many books, if I only traveled to this, I've been to 70 nations, if I only been to this many countries. And you know what, man, you get these things and you're empty. They don't fulfill. I've preached on every stage that I wanted to preach on. I've been to the greatest churches on I've had lunch with Billy Graham, three weeks before Reinhardt Bonnke died, I spent the day with him at his house. And I've been blessed to be and those are all life changing moments. But man, they don't fulfill you. I mean, only heaven fulfills. And so when you're young, you always think if I just do this, or if I just do this or if I just you know, if I get on this platform, then it'll really he's gonna leave you empty. Seat Jesus, not platform seek His face, not people's opinions.

John Matarazzo:

Men, seek Jesus not platforms seek His face, not people's opinions. Come on. That is very eloquent. That is so so good. Come on that tweets. Yes, it does. Yes, it does. James, I want to ask, your book is called your most recent book is called Engaging heaven today. What advice would you give somebody just in a, in a tweet, let's put it that way, in a tweet of how they can engage heaven today. And then let's wrap it up with you praying for them too.

Unknown:

Sure. I think there's three things you got to be wholly humble and hungry. That's what it all comes down to. We've got to strive for surrender, we always have to continually thirst for him. And we've got to be live clean. So we've got to stay humble, and seek His face. And so I want to encourage people you know, that is a devotional, by the way, that engaging heaven today is a devotional. So I want to encourage people to pick it up. We have a daily devotional, of course, on the charisma Podcast Network, there we go, five days a week. But you can pick the devotional because I believe devotional life matters, because I had a vision of all these people that wanted to get close to God and there was a real gap between where they were and where God wanted them to be. And the Lord said, it's a broken devotional life. And so I wanted to do everything I can to bridge that devotional gap. So let me pray for any By listening, because maybe you feel that gap maybe you feel a little bit of distance, the distance can be removed completely. As you lean into the Lord, He loves you, Shane's not gonna hold you back. You're not your past failures. Today is a new day. So Father, I pray for every person listening to the sound of my voice, that that a new devotion would be connected that a new flame would be lit by you God, I thank you that you love all of us that when I was in lovely, I saw grace and when now where people are and I don't care how far they've run, Grace runs faster. So Father, I pray that today, every person listening would renew their devotional life, spend time with you reconnect, rekindle the flame, because a life in Your presence is the greatest life. I thank you for a reconnection, and a stirring of just a fresh fire falling on people today. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

John Matarazzo:

Amen. Amen. Thank you so much, Pastor James. Now if people want to find out more about you, how can they reach you? How can they find out about you? How can they listen to your podcast?

Unknown:

Yeah, my Instagram and Twitter and all that is James underscore LaVette le ve s qu E. And then of course, my podcast is engage heaven today, which they can find anywhere podcasts are listened to, especially the charisma Podcast Network. So yeah, and of course, our churches are engaging heaven church. And you can see all our locations online and my schedule and all that, but such an honor to be with you today, man. Awesome,

John Matarazzo:

awesome. I'll make sure to put all those links in the description, here week's episode. And that way people can just click that and check out more information about you. But James, it is a pleasure and an honor to be your brother in the Lord to be a fellow podcaster with you. And I'm so grateful that God allowed us to reconnect a couple of weeks ago. So Omar, and I'm looking forward to seeing what God's going to do more and more with you as we get to report about that revival that God has. You're right at the center of as you've as you go to set up, set up churches an inch away from hell. Come on, James, thank you so much for allowing me to join you along your way.

Unknown:

Thanks, John. It's been an honor.

John Matarazzo:

I hope that you enjoyed my conversation with James Lubeck. I'll be providing his info in the show notes. Thank you for listening to along the way. If you've enjoyed joining me along my way, please share this episode with a friend who you think will be encouraged by this podcast. Also, please rate and review along the way on iTunes that helps more people discover along the way. And subscribe to this podcast wherever you're listening. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and join my email list through my website along the way dot media. I hope that you've enjoyed this part of my journey and may you realize when Jesus is walking with you along your way. Along the way is honored to be part of the charisma Podcast Network. You can find tons of spirit filled content from their vast catalogue of podcasts, including my charisma news podcast. Go to CPN shows.com To see the full list and latest episodes