2010 in review

I sat down to think about the year that has just passed. Reflecting on the past 365 days I can only marvel at all the things God has done this year. My spiritual resolution at the beginning of 2010 was to follow the Lord like Caleb, who was a contemporary of Joshua. Six different times in Scripture we are told that he followed the Lord fully. No matter how much Caleb had seen God do in the past, he faced the future at full throttle, desiring new mountains, new challenges; he wanted to see God do more. My desire for 2010 was for God to pump that kind of blood through my veins, that He would ignite my heart. With the year now fully in the rearview mirror I can definitely say that God answered my prayer for new mountains and challenges.

It was a beautiful year. It was a difficult year. It was a phenomenal year. God did exceedingly above all that I could have asked or thought. I used a blank piece of paper to write down my top ten list of memories from this year and was overwhelmed. I ended up with a lot more than ten and had to ferret it down. Here they are:

1. The Birth of Daisy Grace
The happiest baby I have ever met. I love her. (c’mon–is this like cuteness overload or what?)

2. The Release of the iPad
It is the ultimate preaching machine. period. It is also cool that if you google “preaching ipad” the two blogs I wrote on the subject are the top hits. That probably explains why those are by far the most visited blog posts I have ever written. It was also super sweet that the first message I ever preached on it was on the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter. That’s what it’s all about baby!

3. Skull Church.
Everything about it. It is my favorite day of the week. I loved: the bands from this past year (Family Force 5, Charlie Hall, Robbie Seay), the different series (High Fidelity, Spoiler Alert, Forerunner), the energy, the merch (Thanks Hurley!), the text-messages, but ABOVE ALL the hundreds and hundreds of people who have made professions of faith in Christ–that’s what it is all about! I want people everywhere to experience what God is doing through Skull Church.

4. The pregnancy of the Fresh Life Whitefish Campus (specifically the Night of Worship)
The Campus will officially be born in 2011 but the whole process of preparation has filled much of this year (in fact it began in 2009). But it has been one of the most difficult, exciting and adrenaline filled adventures of my life. We have had to exercise muscles of faith that we didn’t know we had. The barriers, opposition, and roadblocks have been MANY. But through it all we have held onto the fact that OUR GOD WILL FIGHT FOR US! We know that the battle belongs to the Lord. End of story. Even the night of worship in preparation for the launch was wrought with hardcore drama and came close to being canceled. But at the end of the day hundreds of people gathered in Whitefish, Montana and lifted high the name of Jesus. Tears fell down my face and my heart was filled with faith as I praised God for what we knew He would do through this campus and the others that we believe are to come after it.

5. Being a part of the Greg Laurie Harvest Crusade in Chicago
Over 220 churches came together to make this event happen. Chicago has a long legacy of evangelistic events with men like D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham having held meetings there in the past. Remarkably, this event was the first time churches worked together to put on a large-scale event like this in fifteen years. Exciting. God has His hand on Greg Laurie’s life and it is an extreme honor to get to host his crusades.

6. Reaching the 50 mile benchmark on my road bike
boo-yah! Next year I wanna hit 100!

7. Rock this City
Giving 3,000 hours of community service to the Flathead Valley through the Rock This City Initiative was awesome. I conquered my fears and gave blood for the first time. take that, Needles!

8. Killing our Youth group.
We decided we haven’t been called to be a church with a youth group but a church that is a youth-led movement. Busting a cap on our youth groups was a little Snoop but it has been awesome. We aren’t having students sit at the little kids table anymore. They aren’t the church of tomorrow, they are the church of right freaking now. No matter who you are, if you come to fresh life you gather in worship experiences, get plugged in through community groups and are unleashed to serve and take part in the action. Best…Decision…Ever.

9. My cheerleaders
Every week, before I preach, my daughters pray for me. Their prayers rock my world. They pray that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, that I wouldn’t be afraid, and that people will come to know Christ. My three year old once prayed that I wouldn’t fall of the stage! Then they give me a high-five and tell me, “preach the Word Dad!” They are amazing.

10. Watching Jesus build His church
Nine out of ten church-plants fail within the first five years. The average three year old church is 45 people. What we are seeing at fresh life is a lot of things–but it is certainly not normal. I am thrilled, humbled, and blown away to be apart of a move of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus is doing what He said He would do, building His church (Matthew 16:18) and no one can stop Him. What thrills me even more is the fact that with all my heart I believe that the best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!


Time Management

This weekend I preached a message all about time management. Time is the most valuable commodity in the world. You only have so much of it, and when it’s gone–it’s gone. We discussed how, in spite of it’s value, it is easily wasted (think farmville and the fact that the average american consumes 153 hours of tv per month) This is unacceptable. God wants us to redeem and invest our time wisely. Not that we can’t ever play video games or watch tv; but on our death bed we will definitely regret a life lived on the couch and off mission.

I believe that the mega, counter-cultural paradigm shift that is needed in our day, when it comes to time, is buffer. Margin. White space. Room to breathe. Selah. Sabbath.

Our world is frantic, in a constant hurry, always moving, always churning. And if we don’t choose to make a change and tune in God’s frequencies of peace, stillness and rest–we are not going to experience His best for our life. If we fail to give things room to breathe, whether in our budgets, our schedules or our relationships the only possible result is stress. And this is only going to become more and more important as technology, and progress continue to morph and speed up life, connectivity and the standard of “normal” in our culture.

I am indebted to the writings of Dr. Richard Swenson, whose work on this subject from a Christian perspective are the best I have read (by far!) His books: The Overload Syndrome, In Search of Balance, and Margin are all fantastic and helped me a ton in preparing this message. In the past, these books have opened my eyes to the lack of margin in my own life in different areas and has given Jennie and I many things to think through, repent from and shake up.

As we head into a new year I hope and pray this will inspire you to make the most of whatever time God gives you, for His glory and your fullest joy. After all, “Only one life and it will soon be past…Only what’s done for Christ will last! It won’t be easy, but you must pry some bandwidth from the mouth of some good things if you are going to have enough to give to the best things. There is only so much time to go around.


Merry Christmas!

Christ was, to quote Charles Wesley,“Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.” For that we have every reason to celebrate, worship and adore Jesus Christ. May this Christmas be off-the-charts special as you give Christ the attention, honor and glory that He is due. From our house to yours–Merry Christmas.

Lusko Christmas 2010
from left: Jennie, Daisy, Alivia, Lenya and Levi Lusko


Inconceivable

I saw a rerun of an episode of NBC’s show The Office a while back. I can’t remember where I was, maybe a layover or something, but a scene from the show has been playing in my mind the last few weeks. BTW that is one reason why we need to be careful to monitor what we watch–it takes only a few moments to watch something and then it’s in the hard drive of our mind for years to come. I am often amazed at how my mind is able to remember certain things so well and other things so poorly. I can recall every single line of dialogue from movies like The Princess Bride or Home Alone, but names, birthdays, my anniversary, and other vital details often escape me.

But I digress, back to the episode of The Office that I was talking about. The character played by Steve Carell is the boss, Michael Scott. The regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper in Scranton, Pennsylvania to be more precise. And for some reason, in this particular episode, he has come to the conclusion that the morale around the office is low, and the only solution is to have a birthday party. Parties make people happy, right?

The problem is, according to the party planning committee, no one has a birthday coming up any time soon. He is not to be deterred. The next closest birthday is a girl named Meredith but it is not for several months. He decides to go on with the celebration anyway and sets the party planning committee to work in the conference room only to reappear moments later to not-so-subtly suggest that an ice cream cake would be a big hit at the party. They let him know that it would be a very bad idea due to the fact that birthday girl is allergic to dairy. Nevertheless, he insists that an ice cream would be delicious and since she (THE BIRTHDAY GIRL) isn’t going to be the only one eating it they should definitely get one.

Later in the show, after a number of unbelievably rude and yet quintessential Michael Scott moments, everyone is milling about at the awkwardly early birthday. Michael approaches Meredith, while stuffing his face with ice cream cake, and wonders why she isn’t having any. When she tells him that she is allergic to dairy he exclaims, “If I was allergic to dairy I’d kill myself!” Epic party fail. I don’t think you could possibly do a worse job honoring someone which, last time I checked, is the big idea of a birthday party.

But what has been rolling around in my head is that what has become the norm for Christmas celebration in our day might just take the cake as far as botching the job of honoring someone on “their day” goes. We have managed to turn the birth of Christ into a selfish, frantic, spendathon that is wracked with debt, grief, anxiety and short tempers (has anyone else been to the post office lately?) When we turn from: generosity, worship and simplicity and we choose: stress, greed and clutter; we need to recognize that whatever else we are doing–we are certainly not honoring Christ. For all practical purposes we are dishing up stuff He is allergic to–wait, did we even remember to invite Him to the party?

I don’t write this to try and make you feel guilty. The whole point of Christmas is that Christ came to remove our guilt by dying our death. And this isn’t a “you naughty American buying your kid an iPod–there are kids in the world who don’t even have a goat.” For the record, Jesus pointed out that when we give good gifts we are acting like our Heavenly Father and showing what He is like. My heart is to inspire a sense of wonder about what Christmas could and should be if we were to plan the party based on the preferences of the guest of honor. Ironically, I write this having just returned from a birthday party where, not tooting my own horn or anything, I definitely did not pull a Michael Scott. We did our research and found out something our friend had been wanting and bought that. I did my best to look for opportunities throughout the celebration to make sure he knew he was valued and loved. That is what birthdays are all about. Christ’s birthday should have more of that element and not less.

So, perhaps we should be asking ourselves the question, what would bring a smile to Christ’s face? What to give a God who has everything? Surely the thoughtful gifts that we give to those we love are meaningful to Him. I think He would be delighted by us making a conscious effort to slow down and be in the moment more, tuning out competing distractions so we can live deeply; drinking in His divine approval of the things that truly matter (people) and showing His love to those around us. Seeing as how there is only one building project that Christ ever began, the church, (Matt 16:18) we should invest generously in His work, giving to our local churches. In so doing we are taking part in His one and only plan for changing the world. But I am convinced the greatest way to honor Him, at Christmastime and every time, is to be still and know that He is God. Laugh. Smile. Worship Him. Thank Him. Adore Him.

Oh yeah, you might want to make sure Fuller goes easy on the Pepsi. 🙂


you smell like Jesus

If there is one thing in life you need to be careful with it’s cologne. I’m personally not a huge fan, probably because of all the abuse I have experienced in this area. If you do rock it, I’m not here to steal your liberty in Christ but please, as a favor to the rest of us, take this caution: a little goes a long way. Some guys wear enough to be technically classified as a threat to homeland security. I’m serious. It can be toxic. Just walking past someone who had their daily bath in Polo Sport can be a full on nasal assault. And if you hug them? Forget about it, the olfactory war has been lost. The transfer will stay with you all day, maybe longer.

The absolute worst is the dude who works out at his lunch break but doesn’t take the time to shower, instead he just puts an extra dose of cologne on—now you have a base layer of sweat with an outer edge of Old Spice. It could raise the dead, or kill the living but it’s not ok. I remember back when I was a student pastor and I swear, all the junior high boys collectively wore enough axe body spray to baptize a moose. Stepping one foot on their bus on the way home from winter camp could be the last mistake you ever made. I’m sure in their minds it would attract all the ladies. You just didn’t have the heart to tell them that the only ladies they were going to attract smelling like that would be lady raccoons.

All right, now you know about I am a little bit neurotic nasally. Did you know that there is a scent that, as Christians, we are all to wear? It’s true. And there is no way you can put on too much. It is called, eau de Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14–15 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

God wants us to smell like Jesus. Spiritually speaking of course, but the analogy makes sense. You see, scent is one of the most powerful forces we experience. It influences people, triggers memories and can instantly make you at ease or extremely uncomfortable. Our sense of smell is directly linked to the emotional and memory centers of our brains. Consequently, companies put a lot of thought and money into how their lobbies and locations smell. They use machines that diffuse just the right amount of a carefully selected odor into the air so that it isn’t overpowering but pleasant and subliminally inviting.

And it’s not just magazine ads and storefronts anymore. This summer America’s first odor infused billboard was erected on a highway in North Carolina and smelled like grilling steak. (I’m not kidding) I can’t imagine how much vegetarians hated driving by! And recently an ice-cream shop in Florida put up a billboard that smells like waffle-cones. One blog that I came across boasted that as far as the business world is concerned, “Scent is the new black.”

The reason God wants us to smell like Jesus, to diffuse through us the fragrance of Christ, is also an issue of advertising. Neuroscientists say that aroma accounts for 80 percent of taste. Just getting a whiff of a fresh waffle cone makes you start salivating thinking of how great an ice cream cone would be. Similarly, God wants people who are around us to begin to become thirsty for Living Water, to begin craving the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. God wants people who bump into you, watch you suffer, work alongside you to begin to see and savor the risen Lord who is alive inside your heart.

If we are keeping our walks with God fresh that will be just what will happen. People will want to be around us, they will want what we have. If not, those around us will smell the stench of the flesh. And no amount of cologne can cover that stench up!

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.


unstoppable

I went to sleep last night rejoicing, we had just spent a very special evening celebrating with the fresh life team at our annual staff Christmas party. A phone call, however, jolted me out of a dead sleep first thing this morning. Half awake, and still very much uncaffeinated, my brain was slow to process the information I was receiving. We had just been notified that, despite having a signed contract, the venue set to host our night of worship in Whitefish was no longer going to be available for us. I was fully awake all of a sudden. We are launching a campus on January 9th in Whitefish and, even though that is very much still on, as far as tonight was concerned, we were suddenly without a home.

The purpose of tonight’s event is to celebrate and praise God in advance for what we believe He is going to do through this new venture of faith. We immediately began praying for favor and negotiating, to no avail. Without a venue and hundreds of people expected in just a dozen hours the obvious thing to do was cancel the event. How in the world would we find a new place, for tonight?

But something in my spirit was provoked. I felt that it was exceedingly important that we lift high the name of Jesus in Whitefish tonight. I told my team that I don’t care if we have to bring a generator and set a stage up in a field. I don’t care if it’s 24 degrees out and we have to wear snowsuits–we will gather together with one voice and exalt the name of Christ until we are freezing and our fingers are bleeding on our guitar strings! Everyone resonated and rallied with that vision.

The troops deployed and began seeking a venue that would accommodate us…a week before Christmas…with just hours to go. I honestly wondered if anything would pan out. But God. He went before us and exceeded our expectations. We wouldn’t have to gather in a field, and no one’s fingers needed to bleed. We had found a facility–one far nicer than I even had faith to hope for. The extremely beautiful Lodge at Whitefish Lake informed us that they had space and would be delighted to open the doors of their Grand Ballroom and host our night of worship. This hotel is supremely beautiful, it overlooks Whitefish lake, and is going to provide an elegant and inspiring platform to make Jesus famous tonight. The capacity is larger than the original location, so it seems like God has even bigger plans for the night than we did!

Despite the setbacks, I am filled with faith and courage. I’m excited to see what God will do tonight. The Skull Church band will be there to lead us in worship, I will be sharing the vision for this new chapter in our history and we will pray for the launch of the Whitefish campus. I am inspired by Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18. He said, “I will build MY church and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it.”


The Winter of Our Discontent

We began a new series this weekend at fresh life that is aimed at cultivating a sense of deep dissatisfaction in our hearts. Not that we would grumble and complain because our tv is a LCD and not an LED or because we don’t have the newest model of snowboard. That’s just lame.

The discontent that we are seeking to foster is one that springs from a distaste over the progress we have made in our Christian lives compared to our vast and unlimited potential in Christ. It’s realizing how far we have to go, (the finish line is becoming just like Christ) how much we have been given (All things pertaining to life and godliness 2 Peter 1:3) and how little time we have. (Life is a vapor) And then letting that divine dissatisfaction fuel our forward motion.

Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, put it this way, Self satisfaction rings the death-knell of progress. There must be a deep-seated discontent with present attainments, or there will never be a striving after the things which are yet beyond.

Contentment is the enemy of growth.

I hope and pray that you will join us on our journey this winter, even if you live in a warm climate, as together we seek to go further up and further in!


Asleep at the wheel

Have you ever gotten real drowsy while driving? That’s the worst. What can you do? Open a window, crack a red bull, blast some lame music, slap yourself? Have you ever pulled up next to someone while doing that? You look crazy. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 30 % of us do not get enough sleep and that 28% say have fallen asleep driving. Unfortunately, falling asleep at the wrong time can cost you your life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy drivers were involved in 100,000 accidents that resulted in more than 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries last year in this country. Studies show that people who drive after being awake for 18 hours perform no differently than drivers with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal standard for drunken driving. Since at 55 mph you cover ½ a football field in 4 seconds, nodding off for just a moment can be disastrous.

A while back Mercedes-Benz’s announced a new feature called Attention Assist drowsiness detection system which “has a sensitive feel for its driver’s attentiveness, using highly sensitive sensors that continuously monitor more than 70 different parameters.” The system comes with an audible warning accompanied by a visual warning in the instrument cluster and warns you of drowsiness if it detects that you are falling asleep. And after all that if you still don’t wake up, it actually just engages autopilot and drives you to a Starbucks…jk but that would be cool.

Similarly there are those who are spiritually asleep at the wheel of life. Some of us need a drowsiness alert for our souls! In the New Testament, sleeping can be used to describe those who are physically dead, and those who haven’t put faith in Christ. It can also refer to a lazy, non-aggressive Christian life. Saved but slumbering. Where you are not getting after it, toying with sin, flirting with compromise, and going through the motions of serving the Lord. It is to those in this category that Paul writes to in Romans 13:11-12:

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

He wants us to see how urgent it is that we quit hitting the snooze button and get out of bed. We need to start taking our walk with God seriously. Begin loving the people around us like crazy. Dig into the Word like we believe that it came from the very mouth of God–because it did! And we need to do what we can to reach the lost before it is too late. Remember, this life will be over before you know it and only what is done for Christ will last. Wake up!