Grapefruit // Great fruit

About once a month we take a day to fast and pray as a church. This is one practical way we live out one of our core-values and that is: “3. We bow before the battle.” On these very special days we get together in the evening, across the state, and pray and worship together. Nothing flashy or fancy, just an old-school Holy Ghost prayer meeting. It’s awesome.

The format changes, but I often have different campus pastors give devotional thoughts. Sometimes we take communion. I love these nights so much. No webcast or time crunch. They are some of the most extraordinary and powerful worship experiences. I often will share something about our vision or something the Lord puts on my heart right then in the moment. Last night we also heard something very special from a daughter of the house, my oldest daughter, Miss Alivia Sky Lusko. Check it out:


This weekend’s party

Skull Church Helena

In 1864 a group of prospectors known as the Four Georgians discovered gold while mining in what is now the capital of Montana. They were at the tail end of an unsuccessful expedition and if they didn’t find gold here they were going to give up and go back home. They hit pay dirt. Gold. News of their success spread and soon others began to flock to the area. The spot was named the “Last Chance Gulch.” The the city of Helena was born.

Evangelism is kind of like mining. You turn over shovel full after shovel full of earth but there is no guarantee as to what you are going to find or if you are going to have any success at all. Both take effort and diligence on your part, but at the end of the day you are dealing with many factors that are outside your control. Only God can make diamonds, precious stones and gold and He is the only one who can save a soul. You can tell people about what Jesus has done for them, but they might not care or respond to His gracious invitation.

To me, the unpredictability of it all is what is what makes it exciting. Stepping out in faith, taking risks and launching out into the deep are all essential parts of following Jesus and being His ambassadors. Where everything is certain and known and tame there is no need to trust God. We came to Helena for Skull Church, like the Four Georgians did, on a hunch. We believed God wanted to do something incredible. Like their fateful trip — we experienced a spiritual bonanza! There were 312 people that responded to the gospel in person and another 18 registered decisions online!

We have been doing these events for years now and have seen the Lord bless our faith and His Word again and again. I still find it is as thrilling as it was the first time to watch the nets come out of the water full of fish (I’m mixing metaphors now I know, sorry). I pray that the Lord would never let me get used to this. Our team is full of legends, our church is wide awake, our God is for us and it is the honor of a lifetime to be a part of any of this.

Before this weekend I had never spent any time in the city of Helena but I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to return. Family Force 5 and Britt Nicole were an absolute pleasure to partner with. This was the third time we have had Family Force out to Skull Church events but we had never partnered with Britt before and she was solid gold (pun intended.)

With this event Skull Church comes to a close for 2013. It has been an amazing year of events and extraordinarily difficult too. These events have been funded, in part, by donations that were made in Lenya’s honor and so we have shown footage telling her story at every event. Getting into a frame of mind where I can preach after watching the video is hard, but good. I rejoice in the connection to heaven as God continues to use her life to draw people to Himself.

Here is the 2013 Skull Church Helena Lookbook:

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena
Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

Skull Church Helena

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Skull Church Helena

We are on our way to Helena for the final Skull Church event of the year! This has been an amazing year for Skull Church. We have had events in Kalispell, Missoula, Albuquerque (our first event outside the state) and we are finishing it off at the capitol of Montana. Two thousand years ago Jesus was hung to die for the sins of the world at Golgotha, the place of the skull, and the power of what He did that day is still the only way men can be saved. We began doing Skull Church events in 2009 to communicate this message and I have never in my life been more committed to preaching the gospel.

DID YOU KNOW? Both Saturday and Sunday night’s events will be streamed live at skullchurch.com at 7pm Mountain Time. You can watch on your mobile device or computer or by downloading the Fresh Life app. If you know someone who needs Jesus, invite them to watch the webcast with you or send them a link. I am excited about my messages for both evenings, but Sunday night I am going to specifically be talking about death, loss and hope, which functions as an anchor for the soul. If there is someone in your life who has experienced tragedy and needs hope let them know to tune in.

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The O2 Experience is heading to Florida!

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I am so thrilled that we will be beginning 2014 with two O2 Experience dates right off the bat in the month of January! Normally we do O2 events closer to summer, but since it’s always summer in Florida I don’t think this will be a problem. These two events will be back to back, first in Ft. Lauderdale and then in Miami. If you or your church are anywhere near these cities we would love to partner with you!

The O2 Experience is a fresh look at life, death, sex and romance. More details here.


Happy Birthday Alivia!

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Today our oldest daughter Alivia Sky is eight years old! Her birthday is October 13th but in our house we call it “Ockatober-Firteenth” because that was how she first learned to say it when she was three years old. She would constantly ask us if it was “Ockatober-Firteenth.” Well today it finally is!

I am so proud of the young lady she is becoming. By the strength of God inside her she is the head and not the tail. Her love for Jesus and her insight is constantly a source of surprise and refreshment. She is smart as a whip, hilarious, and thoughtful.

She is a night-owl who considers anything before 9am too early and loves to stay up way too late reading. She is an extraordinary leader to her little sisters who look up to her — all three of them.

In her short eight years on the earth she has had to walk through incredibly difficult days, but she has done it with grace through her Savior Christ Jesus. The way she has processed and handled the pain of her sister and best friend Lenya going to heaven has been amazing to me.

Alivia made the decision to give her heart to Jesus a while back and she is very excited to be getting baptized today, on her birthday! I love her so much and it is an incredible honor to be her daddy and her biggest fan.


two hundred and ninety one

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It has been 291 days since my Lenya Lion breathed her final breath here on earth and then shed her body like a cloak as she stepped into Heaven. Two hundred and ninety times I have had to wake up in a world I like a little less for her absence from it. The only thing worse than waking to that painful realization, yet again, is trying to go to sleep with it lying on my chest like a weight.

The crack of light under the door seeping into my room often bothers me as I lay in bed unable to sleep. I know that light is coming from a hallway in which is her bedroom. I know that she is not there tucked in her bed. I cannot go and check on her, kiss her forehead, pull her blankets up tight around her or watch her chest rise and fall as she dreams.

Fortunately, I know that she is not in the grave where we buried her body either. She is in Paradise, in the presence of God. By whatever measure of time that is used in Heaven, these 291 days has been as glorious for her as they have been bitter here. She has the knowledge that we only have in part down below. She is basking fully in the glory of God that we can only handle a hint of while we are in these frail, fallen bodies. She is safe and will never experience pain or suffer ever again. Lenya has arrived.

She also knows and understands how God is using the pain we have endured and are carrying to make us more like Jesus, the King of Kings, who she gets to walk with and speak to. When I call that to mind, the exceeding weight of glory that is being produced in us, this present affliction is put in it’s proper place — it morphs from an insurmountable mountain of grief and sorrow into a temporary, light affliction.

As a dad it is unspeakably difficult to be be separated from my little girl and absolutely unable to get to her. It’s scary enough to put your kid on a bus to go to school where they are out of your supervision for eight hours.  It’s a whole different thing to see your kindergartener move to Heaven with out you, and to have had no time to prepare or chance to say goodbye either.

In the most difficult moments what I must do is intentionally remember the fact that I am moving towards her not away from her. Every day that passes brings me closer to my day of arrival in eternity. There are two hundred and ninety one less days until we are reunited. And while I can’t get to her, until that day I CAN do things that register excitement in Heaven and bring joy to her heart and the heart of God. I can focus on Jesus and live for His glory — the same glory that illuminates Heaven like the sun and lights up her face. I can focus on lost people being found and seek to fill that Land with new citizens.


Pastor Chuck Smith: A life well-lived

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Early this morning I received a text that made me pause and breathe deeply. It said, “Pastor Chuck just passed into glory a little while ago.”

Instantly I felt my heart simultaneously sink and then soar. I thought of the sadness of his wife, his family and Christians around the globe who will miss him; and yet I also knew the great cry of his heart had been answered — he was present with the Lord. Pastor Chuck Smith, who pastored Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, that lead to an entire tribe of Calvary Chapel churches that would spring up the world over, was intrinsically connected to the storied “Jesus-movement” of the 70’s. He who faithfully and relentlessly exposited scriptures, pointed people to grace and trusted in the Holy Spirit has left the tent and gone Home.

I thought of how he was no longer in the tent of his body, a tent that had been afflicted by a stroke and then through a prolonged fight with cancer, and how he would never struggle or feel pain again. Like my daughter Lenya, he was in the Paradise of God, in Heaven. The house has got what the tent does not. He had run his race, fought the good fight, and there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness that waits for all who love His appearing.

Pastor Chuck is a hero of mine. There is no doubt that there would be no Fresh Life Church if it weren’t for him. He directly impacted those who impacted me, and through attending the Bible College he started I learned so much. As part of our curriculum we listened to hundreds and hundreds of his messages through the Bible. I thoroughly enjoyed it. His distinct, rich, warm voice and loving tone as he methodically worked his way from Genesis to Revelation, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse is permanently engrained in my heart. I still regularly listen to him teach, both on Fresh Life Radio and as I teach through books of the Bible myself. Just a couple months ago I spent several hours listening to him teach the entire book of Philippians in two monster-sermons in prep for the Rampart Series. Speaking of Fresh Life Radio, it was Pastor Chuck who gave us the radio station we operate in Billings, Montana. Which is a perfect snapshot of his generous heart.

I had the chance to say hello to him just a few months ago when I saw him in passing at a conference. It was brief but in his eyes I could see he was as strong as ever inwardly, but you could tell he was in pain and a shell of himself outwardly. Last summer, however, we were both backstage at a Harvest Crusade and I had the opportunity to sit down with him and tell him how thankful I am for him. I told him that what God is doing through Fresh Life is all fruit to his account — the thousands of decisions for Christ and all God has done. I will never forget when I was trying to decide whether I should stay in California or move to Montana and I went to see him in his office. As I communicated the options, I waited for him as the General to tell me where I should deploy to. He wouldn’t. Instead, he told me, “Both options are good Levi. People need Jesus everywhere.” I see his wisdom now. He refused to be Yoda. He knew I would put stock in his opinion and wanted me to discern the will of God myself.

I celebrate the tremendous life he lived and marvel at the impact one man committed to Jesus can make. Millions and millions of people experienced God’s love because of him. Much like the late Steve Jobs, who innovated in not just one but in multiple areas, God used Pastor Chuck to change the game on many different levels. He altered the landscape when it comes to Christian music by embracing modern worship and giving birth to Maranatha music, pioneered in church-planting, and disrupted ministry in general through his evangelistic approach that reached out to a counterculture while maintaining both doctrinal orthodoxy and an openness to the Holy Spirit (Ed Stetzer made the case on his blog that he altered the face of Protestant Christianity in America). I grieve that we will see his face no more on the earth but rejoice over what he is now experiencing and the way his life will continue to make waves and ripples for many, many, many years to come and on into eternity.

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