The O2 Experience


Seven years ago my wife and I were sitting on a balcony overlooking the ocean in Hawaii. We were on our honeymoon and over a light breakfast of fresh pineapple and kona coffee we were discussing how glad we were that we had waited to have sex until we were married. It wasn’t easy. It would be great if your sex-drive was activated only after you said your wedding vows and the ring was placed on your finger. If it worked that way it would definitely be a whole lot easier to remain sexually pure. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. We loved each other and were attracted to each other and long before we were man and wife we had the desire to express those feelings physically.

Those feelings aren’t wrong, God created us as sexual beings. It just wasn’t the right time to act on them yet. An adage we repeated all the way up to the week of the wedding was, “it’s not NO, it’s just NOT NOW.” We didn’t want to cheat ourselves out of any of the joy and surprise God had in store for our honeymoon and marriage. We wanted to open our presents on Christmas morning, so to speak.

Our heart’s desire was to build our relationship on a foundation of honoring the Lord. In the end, it took resolve, commitment, prayer, accountability, planning, hard work, and discipline for us to not sleep together before we walked down the aisle. It wasn’t easy, but it was totally worth it.

To this day we look back on those difficult but pivotal days in our relationship as a test that we passed. We were showing each other that we put Christ and each other above our selves. The Bible says that love is patient and does not seek it’s own. Furthermore, we were showing each other what kind of husband and wife we would be. How could she trust me to be faithful to her in marriage if I wasn’t faithful with her before marriage? To this day we are reaping the fruit from our decisions during our early days. Best of all, now we get to enjoy God’s amazing gift of sex, without guilt or shame.

That day in Maui God began to put into my heart the desire to do something to help others see that God’s plan for their love lives is the best. I think, quite frankly, sexual purity has gotten a bad reputation. Many see God’s standard of sexual purity as completely unrealistic and as something that will cause us to miss out on having a good time. I believe that we have the enemy of our souls to thank for this deception. He has basically bottled toilet water, packaged it with a slick label and convinced us to abandon the fountains of living water that Christ offers for his toxic and polluted version of sex and romance. (Jeremiah 2:13)

As a result of what God was doing in our hearts that day we came home and began working on an event where we could warn people about the sexual smog our culture is breathing in and call them to something far better. And The O2 Experience was born. Just like our bodies need oxygen, our souls need God. These high-energy events provide a fresh look at life, death, sex and romance. It’s much more than just a call to abstinence; it’s a call to life in Christ.

God has greatly blessed these events. In addition to overflowing crowds, including youth groups who drove across state lines to bring their students, we have seen thousands and thousands of young people make commitments to sexual purity and have seen hundreds make commitments to follow Christ as Savior.

This year we are pumped to be bringing the O2 Experience to the great state of Arizona on June 12 and to Montana on July 8. In Arizona we are pumped to be partnering with Calvary Tucson, a rad church pastored by Robert Furrow that will be hosting the O2 at their brand new East campus. The Montana O2 will be at freshlife. Both events this summer will feature musical performances by The Almost and Dominic Balli.

Tickets are on sale right now at O2Experience.com and based on how past events have gone they will probably sell out. There is a price break for groups and so if you are going to bring a youth group definitely consider buying your tickets together. I also encourage you to buy a ticket for a friend who needs to hear the gospel and bring them with you, you never know what God might do in their life. Even if you don’t live anywhere near Montana or Arizona, please pray for God to move in power at this event.
Check out the O2 Experience website for more info and to purchase tickets. Click here.

Additionally, if you would like to see a future O2 Experience happen in your area or you are a pastor that would like to host an O2 event at your church let us know. Click here.


last night’s party

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

I am writing this blog while on the way to Missoula, Montana where we are meeting with a group of local pastors and casting the vision for a two night skull church event that we are planning for September of this year. The event will be held at the Wilma Theater which is a killer venue.

As I write my heart is full of joy over what we saw God do last night at the skull church event, in the Flathead Valley, for the month of May. The weather was beautiful and that was definitely a blessing for the hundreds of people that formed a line wrapping around the block long before the doors opened.

The skull church band was in rare form (as always) and I especially loved when they played the song Someday that Kevin wrote. With these lyrics:

“So we wait
for you to break the clouds
show your face
with ours laid on the ground
hear Your voice
calling out our names
to rise and sing
the song of the redeemed”

It dovetailed with the message perfectly. I gave a message called The End is Near which was all about the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ. There are over 1,845 references to Jesus’ return in Scripture. If the Bible teaches anything it teaches that Jesus is going to come back.

We were also pumped to have music by Phil Wickham and his talented band. I have been friends with Phil for a long time and he is one of my favorite artists out there. His sound is huge and his heart is even bigger. The room was charged with electricity during both sets and the after party was a taste of heaven. This is the third time we have had Phil out to Montana to play and I already look forward to the next time. If you don’t have any of his music, buy it here.

In addition to those there in person, people tuned in to our webcast from all over the country and even outside of the country. Best of all, we saw 47 people make decisions for Christ! It is always amazing to watch people turn their lives over to God. Every one of those people has a story and God has plans to use them in huge ways.

Here are a few more snapshots to give you a glimpse of what we saw God do last night.


Just reel it in!

I’m not good at fishing but some of my favorite childhood memories involve trying to catch fish. Growing up, my dad would take my brothers and I on excursions where we would camp and fish. These “manly man fishing trips”, as they were called, involved a lot of laughter and running around in the woods but I don’t recall all that many fish actually being caught. Maybe that’s because my dad hardly ever got to drop his line in the water because he was too busy untangling our rods from the tangled mess we had inevitably gotten them into because we hadn’t listened to him.

I had a mickey mouse fishing pole and I vividly recall my dad doing everything for me. He would set it all up: hook, bait, weights, and even cast it out, telling me to sit still (so as to not scare the fish away) and keep my eyes on the bobber. That was it. I just needed to not be hyperactive and when I saw the bobber bounce just slowly reel it in. When ever a fish was caught he would even take care of getting the hook out of it’s throat and do the dirty work of cleaning it. All I had to do was reel it in. He took care of everything else.

The cool thing is that I have discovered when you follow Jesus’ instructions and go fishing for men it works the exact same way. God takes care of everything! He is the one who nailed our sins to the cross making it possible for us to have a relationship with Him. He is the one who works in hearts, drawing people to Christ and giving them the option to respond to Him, He is the one who sets up situations where we can invite people to church and share the gospel with them, and He is the one who knows whether someone is genuinely saved or not. All we have to do is to be faithful to cast out the net and reel it in.

As we preach the gospel and bring people with us to hear the gospel we must not trust in ourselves. For all practical purposes, we are like me as a little boy, sitting there on the dock with my mickey mouse fishing pole. But just like I have a great dad, we have an amazing Heavenly Father who sets everything up for us and, even though we often get things tangled up and make it more complicated than it needs to be, He loves us and allows us to play a part in the ultimate fish story!

Matthew 13:47–50 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

By the way, there is an opportunity for you to go on a fishing trip tomorrow night! Skull Church is the first wednesday of every month and for the month of May that is tomorrow night. After music by the skull church band and our guest artist we are going to be casting the net and dragging it in. Is there someone you could invite to come with you (if you live in this neck of the woods) or to come over to your house to watch the webcast with you? It all starts at 7pm MST and streams in HD at www.skullchurch.com.


PMS

This is going to be a blog about how to deal with PMS. Now that I have your attention, let me assure you that this has nothing to do with “that time of the month,” I might only have 7 years of marriage under my belt but I know better than to go there–something about hell hath no fury… This is actually about dealing with “that time of the week.” And though it is not guaranteed to always occur, it is something that every pastor is going to deal with to some extent or another. I’m talking about POST MESSAGE SYNDROME.

Now there is also a lot to be said about PRE MESSAGE SYNDROME, because both the spiritual warfare and the nervous energy ramp up as you prepare to speak. I have found this is especially true as you prepare to preach the gospel in an evangelistic outreach. But in my opinion the period directly after a time of intense ministry can be even harder to deal with than the period leading up to it so that is where I want to throw down some one’s and zero’s in this post.

It’s not that I think there is more warfare afterwards, that’s not necessarily the case, but as you go into it you know you are at war so you are taking appropriate countermeasures. You are on your knees, putting the armor of God on in your mind. You know you need to be sober and vigilant, and you are. Heck, you are ready to pull a Martin Luther and throw an ink bottle at the devil in the night if he even thinks about showing up. Furthermore, during this time you (hopefully) have a team of armor bearer types around you who are holding up your arms and praying for you, keeping you free from distraction so that you can get your game face on.

I’m not trying to make light of this, or to suggest that even when you know it is coming, the spiritual warfare isn’t incredibly difficult to deal with. It is. Yet, when things go wrong before a message you’re reaction is going to be to filter it through the grid of what you are doing for the Lord. You’ll be like, aha! I’m getting attacked, this must mean we are on the right track! Surely God is going to save the entire city now because I got a flat tire. Praise God! I’m being persecuted for righteousness sake. The devil targeted my tire to keep me from preaching the gospel–but it will never work, I will drive on my rims over a road covered in flaming scorpions if I have to!

Now, maybe Lucifer blew out your tire or maybe it was a pot-hole. But I’ll tell you what, you get that same flat tire driving home from church on Sunday after you give the message and you’re gut-level reaction will be different. It will probably be more like, seriously? after I poured myself out all day trying to help these dang people come to know you? what the heck?! Are there no breaks in this world for a man of God? stinking, lousy tire and stupid awful roads. Lord, can I call down fire from heaven and blow up this wretched highway? Why did you call me to a town with so many pot-holes anyway?

All right, I was probably being a little melodramatic there but you get the idea. And if someone is reading this who holds ministers to unrealistic standards and you are appalled at this–please remember, pastors are people too! And this is nothing new either, didn’t the pouting prophet Jonah want to die when the worm ate his shade plant just hours after he gave his sermon to the Ninevites? Didn’t Elijah curl up in the fetal position and get emo after the showdown at Mt. Carmel?

This funk can strike differently at different times. Maybe you will be discouraged because it didn’t go very well, not as many people came as you hoped, or your delivery was off. Or maybe you will be discouraged even though it went really well. Last time I checked Jonah had a pretty good response to his preaching in Nineveh. And Elijah’s ministry on Mt. Carmel couldn’t have gone better. They still got bummed out. I have had times of ministry that exceeded my wildest expectations and yet I found myself full of melancholy for no apparent reason.

I don’t know why this happens. Maybe it’s to keep you humble, perhaps it’s because you’re tendency is to let your guard down when the bell has rung for this round. You are sitting there on the stool with your eyes closed trying to catch your breath, and that’s when the sucker punch comes. Neither your flesh nor the enemy play by the rules. Part of it is biologically understandable, there is no way for there not to be some kind of an emotional crash when the adrenaline, preparation and excitement that has gone into an outreach or a big service like Easter Sunday gives way to reality and the endless stream of Sundays that are coming. And love it or hate it, ministry in the past is like toothpaste–once it’s out of the tube there is no going back.

Some weeks it’s clean and simple and you move right on. Other times you agonize over it for a day and a half. If it was a really bad message you think, I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have quit my day job. If it was killer, you think I peaked, I can never do better than that, and next Sunday they are gonna be back with friends. You inevitably drive home playing the game tape over and over in your mind, sometimes wishing you could get in a time machine because you just thought of something you should have said…it’s quite maddening.

Of course the solution to all of this is to get your eyes off yourself, and give it all to the Lord because it was never about you, it was always about Him. And you have to keep telling yourself that lest you sink into self-adullation or self-flaggelation. Both are mistakes. It’s all about Jesus, not you.

The best advice I have ever got on dealing with this came from reading Greg Laurie’s autobiography Lost Boy. He describes the process of coming down from a crusade and how he learned from Billy Graham to not strut around like an exultant quarterback who has just thrown a game winning touchdown. He said the best thing to do was to normalize as quickly as possible, get some food, respond to some emails, get on with it. He described a time where he hung out with Billy after preaching and Billy was wearing pajama pants with loafers while eating dinner in a hotel room. It’d be difficult to get a big head wearing an outfit like that! With that in mind I try to move on quickly: erasing the glass whiteboard in my office where my message had been brewing in different colored markers, clearing off my desk, playing with my kids, watching a movie, taking a nap, reading a novel, going for a bike ride. That stuff is the preacher equivalent of midol.

Sure there are things that are going to come into your head that didn’t go well at the event. That’s bound to happen. I used to call everyone up whose dept misfired and have it out right then and there. I have learned to take notes in a moleskine and save them for the debrief, unless there are immediate ramifications. And I have also been challenged by the reality that regardless of how you feel you have to celebrate what the Lord did, not just for your sake but for your team’s sake. (read 2 Samuel 19:1-8 to see this in action)

Above all things when you come out of a battle, don’t let your guard down. Expect the attack as you come down from the mountain. And keep praying! I hope this has been helpful for other pastors who will read this, even if it’s just to let you know that you aren’t crazy if you have been experiencing stuff like this. You are not alone! Take heart.


Thoughts on Easter


I intended on writing this blog post yesterday. But I woke up feeling like I had just gone over Niagara falls in a barrel (do people still do that?) and decided it could wait a day. I’ll write a whole different post about it later but I have found that in some ways the day after a significant event can be even more challenging than the days leading up to it. My serious business yesterday included coffee, Scripture, an omelet, and some quality time with my little women, the Lusko ladies. We sought to normalize and regain equilibrium after an adrenaline drenched week.

This past weekend is one I will not ever be able to forget. But before I get into why let me first tell you that one of the BIG things that God has tattooed on my heart is the principle of the empty vessel. It goes like this: Our God is a God who will fill a vessel as long as it is empty and offered up to Him in faith. You can have as much or as little of God working in your life as you want. It’s up to you. I tell my church all the time that God is not reluctant to revive, He is not stingy with His Spirit. He is literally looking to and fro on the earth for those whose hearts are His so He can work in their lives in power. As I cast vision I tell them that is the reason why we must continue to step out in faith to offer Him more of ourselves, more services, and more campuses so that there are empty seats for more people to sit in and hear about Jesus.

The temptation is to limit God based on your ability. To say to Him, “Here are five loaves and two fishes, but what are they among so many?” Instead we must force ourselves to process things through the lens of His infinite ability and simply give Him what is in our hands in faith. He sees the loaves and fish as a feast for a multitude.

God is not limited, He is limitless. Even when we stretch our faith and dream big–He still has bigger plans than we do. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ask or even have the guts to think. (Ephesians 3:20)

This weekend we saw that principle in action in a marvelous way. In all 5,143 people crowded into the Majestic Valley Arena for our Easter worship experience! The venue’s parking lots filled to capacity and traffic backed up for 3.5 miles. Eventually people began pulling off the hwy, parking their cars on the shoulder and in fields, and walking as far as 1/2 a mile to get there!. We also had over a thousand people watching the event live on the webcast in addition to those who listened on fresh life radio. Best of all, we saw 136 people make professions of faith in Christ!

I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team. I am inspired by their performance. Unbelievable. Professional. Excellent. They killed it. And I’m not just talking about those on staff. Every one of the 173 volunteers that it took to pull off this event put their hearts into it. It showed. I pinch myself everyday that I get to be apart of this movement of God’s Holy Spirit and that I have the honor of serving alongside such extraordinary people. The Skull Church Band was in rare form and it was awesome to have House of Heroes take part in the event.

I’d love to tell you that I fearlessly breezed through the whole weekend without ever doubting. I’d be lying though. I don’t think I have ever put on an event without at some point wondering–what if no one comes? And this weekend was no exception. I had moments of fear. But I like that. I want to keep doing things that scare me. I don’t ever want to come to a place where there is no faith required. Life is too short to use the cruise control. I am going to keep launching out into deeper waters, offering God empty vessels and trusting Him to fill them for His glory.

Onward and upward!

“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” -William Carey

You can check out more pics of the event here.
And you can listen to the archived message from the weekend here.


Satan trembles

There have been several special moments in our journey towards Easter this year. The whole process has been an act of faith and a huge rush. At the top of the list is the hour that I spent with the freshlife staff on the dirt of the Majestic Arena yesterday praying for God to move in power. We believe that on that very spot many will come to know Christ when the gospel goes out this weekend, and we sense that in some large way this event will be significant to our larger history. A defining moment.

My team has been working like the snakebirds that they are–trusting God, but planning like crazy–and there have been a lot of meetings that have gone way past the bounds of a normal work day. We have cast the vision and given the tools for everyone at freshlife to invite and bring people with us to this event. (I can pour my heart into the message, but if they don’t pour their heart into who they bring to hear that message we won’t see lost people reached.) And we are believing God for great things as we lift high the name of Jesus.

Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees.” William Cowper.

James 5:17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!

There is still time to get the word out! Visit the freshlife Easter portal to email friends, rsvp on facebook, and tweet about this event HERE.


Easter at the Majestic w/ House of Heroes

You can invite friends by email, tweet about it and rsvp on facebook by clicking here.


Skull Church


“Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross.” John 19:17-18 (NLT)

It has been 6 weeks since we shut down the weekly skull church service. In that time we have rebooted, retooled, ramped up, prayed fervently, upgraded, expanded our vision, and put in hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing for tonight and the new format of skull church events that will follow. You are not going to want to miss it. Even if you don’t live in Montana you can join in on what is happening online. Starting at 7pm MST make your way to skullchurch.com for an HD webcast. We have also made some changes to the online experience that will hopefully make you feel like you are with us inside the Liberty theatre.

I pray that many people will use the webcast as an evangelistic tool. Every single week we see people respond to the gospel while watching online or listening on the radio and we are so grateful to see God move in people’s lives through the technological loaves and fishes we are offering Him. Would you take a moment and pray about who in your life needs to hear what Christ did for them on the cross? It doesn’t matter where they live either. You can go to skullchurch.com and click the “invite a friend” tab to let them know about the webcast. (They can even view the live stream on an iPod, iPhone, or iPad!)

Would you also post a link to the webcast on your facebook or twitter, as it starts, inviting your friends to watch? How rad would it be to have some fb friend or twitter peep have their life rocked for eternity because of a status update?!

And finally, would you pray? Pray that God would move in power, that he would draw people to Himself, and that many would respond to the gospel. There will be music by the skull church band, a performance by a guest artist and I will be giving a message called Radical Change on the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. An event that Warren Wiersbe called, “The greatest event in church history after the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.” His story shows that no one is so far from God that He can’t forgive them and use them.


Amazing weekend in Seattle

There is no sound on earth I love as much as the sound of people praying to ask Christ to come into their hearts. This weekend I had the chance to listen to thousands of voices doing just that after Greg Laurie preached the gospel and called people to respond to it at a three-day Harvest Crusade. To make it even sweeter, this all took place in Seattle, a city that is known for a lot of things: coffee, technology, recycling, dog lovers, hybrid automobiles, music etc; but a love for the gospel is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. In all 4,225 people made professions of faith over the course of the weekend!

I have been serving with Greg Laurie and the Harvest team for a number of years and it is a huge thrill to be apart of these awesome evangelistic outreaches across the country. Unless you have been to one, there aren’t words that can do it justice–it just blows me away to watch God moving in such a huge way, in so many people’s lives at one time, as the powerful message of the cross goes forth. One thing that made this particular crusade extra fun was the fact that since it took place in the NorthWest, a team from fresh life was able to load up on a bus and participate in the event. They passed out thousands of invites, served as ushers, new believer counselors and did whatever they could to help support the weekend. Several staff members from the Harvest Crusades complimented me on how awesome the team was. I wasn’t suprised–Fresh Lifers are hard core!

The crusade took place at Key Arena, right underneath the Space Needle, here is a shot I grabbed, on my phone, one night while walking out of the venue.

On Friday night I had the opportunity to interview former NBA player, and current head coach of the University of Washington Huskies mens basketball team, Lorenzo Romar during the crusade. He is the Pac-10 Conference’s longest-tenured coach and widely respected throughout collegiate basketball. Currently the Huskies are 17th in the nation. He talked about how despite his success, he was empty on the inside until he realized he needed to be born again and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It was a lot of fun meeting and interacting with a few of the different pastors from the 300+ churches that came together to support the event. It was especially great to meet Judah Smith from the City Church. I have watched his teachings before and appreciate his ministry.

And of course, being in Seattle lead to the consumption of TONS of great coffee…in addition to hitting up Peet’s (one of my faves) it was fun to try the Clover brewed coffee from Starbucks. These Clover machines are like french presses in reverse and rely on gravity to brew. They cost 10,000 bucks apiece and are only in a hundred or so locations. They definitely make a great cup of coffee.

It was also fun to visit Mars Hill’s Ballard campus on Sunday morning and go to a church service where I wasn’t preaching. During the service Mark had Greg come up on stage and they talked about the event. Their worship band was phenomenal and the message from Mark Driscoll was super refreshing. He taught out of Luke 12, about why we shouldn’t worry. The big takeaway truth was that “God doesn’t want to take your stuff, He wants to take your stress.” It was definitely a trip to be sitting in a church service in Seattle while simultaneously preaching the first Soldier On message in Montana via video. I heart technology.


Webcast Upgrade

I am excited to announce that last night we officially launched a brand new Skull Church/Fresh Life webcast experience. Although we have been webcasting for almost 3 years and have seen God use it in amazing ways (we see decisions for Christ registered online each week) it has been as lofi as you can possibly get.

After working for months on an overhaul of our video infrastructure and systems we now are able to offer a webcast that we are excited about (and not bummed out by–though you should never despise the days of small things…) One of the great new features is that it is now streaming in HD! And in addition to computers you can watch the live feed on iOS devices like iPhones, iPod Touchs, and iPads. And if you own a Droid you can listen to live services through the Fresh Life Radio app that is available in the Droid Market. I want to give props to our creative and technical team for this epic win.

Check it out! The live webcast occurs during all of our weekly services. Details here.