Levi Lusko: Oftentimes, when we feel fear, we are actually, uh, being threatened and we run away from our destiny. And so we have to learn to embrace that feeling of being scared, embrace that feeling of how is this gonna work out? ‘Cause that’s that place of tension God wants us to live in.
End of Preview
John Fuller: Levi Lusko is our guest today on Focus on the Family, encouraging us to overcome the things that hold us back from living the life God wants for us. This is going to be an inspiring conversation today. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, when I was 15, and accepted Christ, uh, this very kind family that used to take me to church, uh, ’cause nobody in my family was going to church. They gave me a Bible and they wrote the verse, John 10:10 in it. And I remember first of all, trying to find it. There’s a lot of reference in the John, John 1 John 2, you know, and I was looking for it. But when I found it, it is proven to be probably one of the most profound verses, but it says in John 10:10, “The Lord is saying the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Man, and when you look at what’s happening in our world today, uh, it just becomes even more clear that verse. Uh, and how on point it truly is. It’s a powerful truth that reminds us that the enemy of our soul, the devil, the enemy wants to rob us of life in Christ and those good blessings that he sends our way.
Jim: Uh, the blessings of family, the blessing of a good healthy marriage and all the things that come with it. Levi Lusko has experienced many of those, um, you know, same questions about Lord, where do hardships improve us? How does the loss of his daughter make him a better person? I mean, these are profoundly deep perspectives and I’m looking forward to talking to him today about his view of life and what he’s learned as a pastor.
John: Mm-hmm. I am as well. Uh, Levi Lusko is co-founder and lead pastor of Fresh Life Church. It’s a multi-site ministry located in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah. He’s married to Jennie. They have five children and he’s written a tremendous 40-day devotional called Take Back Your Life. And we have copies of that here at the ministry. Just give us a call, uh, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Levi, welcome back to Focus. So appreciate It.
Levi: Thank you so much guys.
Jim: Man. Uh, as a pastor, you see a lot of crippling fear and anxiety. I see it. We hear from folks who are struggling in that area and its okay if you’re there, we want you to contact us because we do believe there’s, you know, a, a better way. And we love introducing people first to the Lord as part of our mission here at Focus on the Family, but then the journey of really, um, crawling out of that fear and anxiety. But this world today is delivering heaps of doses of fear for us. Um, you we’re fearful to have children, even couples in the church are now saying maybe we shouldn’t have a child because things are so tough. How would you describe, uh, the loss of peace in people’s lives today from a pastoral standpoint?
Levi: I think it’s kind of the perfect storm. You know, its multiple systems coming in. You, of course you got, you have COVID, you have the normal trials of life, but then you also have the acceleration because of these relatively new things that have been introduced into our lives. 2007 big year. Facebook, uh, is opened up with, to anybody with an email address. You have Twitter that really blows up, um, in, in the world. And then you also have the introduction of the iPhone. And so, you know, what we have found is these are basically anxiety producing devices and things. It does not help us to be constantly aware of what our, everyone in our world is doing and what every hardship that’s happening around the world, brought to you by a breaking news notification. Its disrupted sleep, it’s disrupted, uh, peace with our life. ‘Cause how can I be happy with what I have when I’m getting to see what everybody else is getting to purchase and have.
Levi: All the rest of that. And then you have, of course the divisive time that we’re living in and it’s all kind of coming full circle where everyone’s sort of sowing to the wind and now we’re reaping the whirlwind.
Jim: Yeah, it is so true. You’ve compared the battle against fear and anxiety with the building of the Panama Canal and yellow fever and what was happening with malaria connect those dots.
Levi: Yeah. You’re right. Please help us out. I don’t see the connection.
Jim: But I like it.
John: It’s a great illustration.
Levi: Well, it’s pretty profound when you read the building of the, The Path Between the Seas is the book by David Mccullough that I read and he writes about how so many millions of, of mosquitoes were all over the place, but they didn’t have any idea that that was what was causing people to get sick. They thought in that day it was ants that were causing the malaria.
Levi: And for people to get sick. And so what they did is incredible. They surrounded, uh, all the fruit trees where they would, you know, have, have trees. They would surround them with pools of water.
Levi: And even in the hospital beds-
Jim: To keep the ants away (laughs).
Levi: To keep the ants away. ‘Cause ants can’t get over the water. They would put all four legs of the beds in the hospitals, in dishes of water.
Levi: And you know, ants couldn’t get to the people anymore, but people kept dying of malaria. Why? Because it’s not an ant that brings malaria, it’s a mosquito. And you know what mosquitoes love? Stagnant pools of water.
Levi: So they were creating conditions-
Levi: … for which this disease would flourish. And it wasn’t until they took the water away, put screens on everything that they shewed the mosquitoes away and the malaria pretty much stopped. And so I, I try to use it in the book to say, “Hey, you can’t solve a problem. Uh, at the level it was created, you can’t, you have to actually attack what’s really the issue. Uh, and not just, uh, deal with, you know, the ants.” So a lot of us are shewing the ants away, but there’s mosquitoes flying around all over our lives.
Jim: Yeah. It’s such a good analogy. And even to see that, you know, I love the way you connect history and those, uh, elements to scripture and what the Lord’s doing in our lives. Uh, when you look at that, besides fighting the wrong way, which is really what you’re saying there-
Jim: … they’re trying to fight the disease the wrong way. Uh, what are some other roadblocks to finding healing and spiritual growth?
Levi: Yeah. I think, you know, for us all the applications different. I think sometimes in the church we can be guilty of dealing with a physical problem with a spiritual solution-
Levi: … meaning, uh, someone’s unhealthy. They’re, you know, they don’t sleep well. They have a bad diet; they don’t get exercise. They don’t ever leave their home
Jim: Stop, stop now.
Levi: But they’re asking for prayer.
Levi: For, you know, their health and as a pastor, it’s bad for me to say, “Yes, let’s just pray for your health, when it’s like, no, you can actually quit drinking so much soft drinks and actually begin to take walks and get more sunshine and take vitamins and look at the food that you’re eating.” And I think vice versa, we can be guilty of trying to treat a spiritual problem with physical solutions.
Levi: Like I’m just gonna eat more diet and exercise, but it’s like, no, I actually need that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth. So I think for every one of us, the mosquito/ant, analogy plays out differently.
Jim: Yeah. That’s good. Levi, you use the phrase turning off the dark and I, I like that in terms of bringing the light, which we know as Christians is the Lord. So describe turning off the dark.
Levi: Yeah. It’s an interesting phrase, but it’s actually scientifically accurate because that’s what light does. There’s no such thing as darkness. There’s just the absence of light.
Levi: So anywhere where light introduced, is introduced, the darkness has to be vanquished. So whenever you turn the light on, you’re turning darkness off. And uh, that’s to me a perfect picture of what Jesus came to do.
Levi: He’s the light of the world and where he came into this world, he came to overcome the darkness of death and of despair and really ultimately anxiety and all the, all the things that end up creeping into our lives when we live in a different way, from how God has told us to live.
Jim: Yeah. And this, you know, this next, question’s coming a little out of the blue. Some people that may not know your story, and I want you to, you know, give us that summary, but the loss of your daughter when she was five years old, you and your wife, Jennie, um, but through that loss, learning how to trust Christ, how to come out stronger on the other side, it feels almost oxymoronic that that would happen, but it is the benefit of suffering, if we could say it that way.
Jim: It sounds almost uncomfortable to say it, but there are benefits from suffering and we tend to run from them in the Christian community rather than run to them.
Levi: We use a phrase in our, uh, our lexicon. Uh, it comes from Charlie Brown probably more than anywhere else.
Levi: And it’s a good grief, you know, good grief.
Levi: But there is a goodness to grief. And I say that with all respect, um, that it is an honor to be trusted with pain for, as Charles Spurgeon said it, “God gives his most difficult assignments to his most trusted soldiers.” If I’m a mall cop, I’m not given too much, uh, by way of hard training. But if I’m a Navy seal, they’re gonna beat me down. Um, and to, within an inch of quitting before I’m ready to be deployed. And look at the Bible, the people whose stories we memorize, and we love, and we lionize-
Levi: … are the people who went through barbaric things, hard things, Joseph in a pit, sa- you know, just on and on we could go, you know, Isaiah was cut in two. We loved the book of Isaiah. He was cut in two.
Levi: Sawed in half. John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of a woman. Jesus said, and he had his head cut off. So it seems as those who did the most and had the most revelation also suffered the most. So it’s a different way to look at it. For our story, as you mentioned, our daughter Lenya died in my arms, uh, when she was five years old in 2012. But as I back on that with hindsight, healed, I’ve done counseling. I’ve made sure to do all the work I needed to do with it mentally, spiritually, emotionally, relationally. But I can look back on that and honestly say it was an honor to be trusted with that suffering because in it, God made me stronger. God gave me more vision and he made me weigh more, you know. You become a spiritual heavy weight when you suffer. And that’s why Paul told, uh, or James told the Christians to rejoice at various trials-
Levi: … knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance hope and on and on it goes.
Jim: Hmm. That is really good. Uh, the enemy of our souls as you’re describing. I mean, he attacks us with lies based on fear and shame, and condemnation. How do we use God’s power to regain that high ground?
Levi: Well in the book, uh, and the reason the subtitle is the way it is, is because that takes place in the mind. You have to learn to think right before you can live right. And that’s why scripture from the beginning to the end places a great emphasis on the thoughts that we allow in our heads. Paul said, “Set your, your mind on things that are above.” So you have to, like you mentioned, take the high ground. In the City of Corinth there was this tower and whoever historically controlled that tower-controlled Corinth. So Paul said, “We take down spiritual high places, high strongholds,” and in your body, the highest part of your anatomy is your head. And if the enemy can steer your mind, he’ll be able to steer the outcome of your life.
Jim: (laughs) Man. That is so good. It’s so true. Um, I love that lion analogy that you’ve used in a couple of your books, this idea that you run toward the roar, uh, describe it for those that haven’t heard that what are you driving at?
Levi: Yeah. When, when lions hunt, oftentimes the lionesses who do the bulk of the work, not much is different in the human world.
Levi: Uh, they will, they will creep ahead and, and hide. And then the, the male lion who’s got that big roar, you know, and everyone thinks that’s the big, you know, show he’ll kind of bellow roar five miles away. I think you can hear a lion’s roar. And the, the gazelle thinks that that’s the biggest threat, the roar, the sound of this scary roar. So it will run away from that sound towards the ambush to the two lionesses he did not know were, in fro- behind him. And so, uh, running away from the roar goes towards certain death. And so what I talk about is how, uh, oftentimes when we, we feel fear, we are actually, uh, being threatened and we run away from our destiny.
Levi: And so we have to learn to embrace that feeling of being scared, embrace that feeling of how is this gonna work out? ‘Cause that’s that place of tension God wants us to live in.
John: How do you see that play out in some members for your church? How are you observing people running away from something that is actually not healthy for them? It’s what the enemy has, not what God has.
Levi: I think it is that we have an aversion in our culture that we are allergic to hard things. The moment, a relationship gets hard, the moment a situation gets difficult, we kind of run away from that. I’ll leave the church, I’ll, I’ll quit the job. I’ll walk away from the relationship and that feeling of fear that comes from staying in and committing and doing those hard things. I think the enemy gets us running away from so much of the good stuff, because we don’t embrace hard things.
Levi: Uh, but it’s the, the willingness to do those hard things and shoulder them. And that eventually it, it can develop in you the character that you yourself would want, if you could understand what was happening.
John: Yeah. So resist the fight or flight thing.
Levi: Or run the right direction maybe.
Jim: Yeah. There you go. Levi, uh, one of the things you encourage people to do is to get up and stand up.
Jim: And I love that action orientation. I think we, as men, we get that. We want to be part of that big story. How do we do it is a whole another life pursuit, but the Christian life requires, uh, that idea of perseverance. And you have a great story that I resonated with that illustrates that, that involves a Leatherman tool.
Jim: So let’s hear what happened in that case and how someone saved their life with this tool.
Levi: It’s pretty incredible when you look into, I love origin stories.
Levi: I, I just do, um, but there was this couple that fell into, uh, a hole in a frozen lake and they were drowning. They couldn’t get out of the-
Jim: Too slippery.
Levi: … of the ice. Yeah. Their, their clothes are wet, their, Larry and Christy is their names. And they were about to drown. But the, the last second, the man Larry realized he had a Leatherman tool, multi tool in his holster, pulls it out. He is able to use it as an ice ax basically and get him and Christy out to safety.
Levi: He was about to say goodbye. He thought they were dead when it happened. Um, and then if you peel back from that a little further, the origin story of the Leatherman is, is Tim Leatherman has this idea of combining a knife, a boy scout knife with, uh, a pair of pliers. And it’s a great idea, but it took him five years to pull it off, to get the patent, to work it all out. But when he finally did, he couldn’t get anybody to carry it. He received 500 nos.
Jim: Oh my word.
Levi: From every store, hardware store company in America and all in, he was eight years in with no proof of concept, till Cabela’s said, we’ll do an experimental order, $5,000, uh, you know, we’ll buy a couple units of it and see how it works. And the rest, as they say is history. Now there’s been hundreds of millions of dollars of these Leatherman’s that have been sold. And so I think about when Larry and Chrissy are about to die, uh, how had he given up in that garage when he was building the first Leatherman, they might not have lived, but he’s willing to fight and to stand up, as you said, and keep going.
Levi: And every time he got a rejection letter, he did not let that stop him. Uh, that was not only gonna save his life, but also save people’s lives he didn’t even know.
John: Hmm. Leatherman’s are great. Levi’s book is great too. It’s called Take Back Your Life: A 40-Day Interactive Journey to Thinking Right So You Can Live Right. Great concepts in here. And, uh, we’d encourage you to get a copy of this to help you just reframe how life is, uh, going for you and to get into, uh, God’s perspective on your life. Uh, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, where we have copies at our website and that’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: John, we don’t often say this, but our producer, Scott Welch said, you know, he reads along with the other producers here at Focus. They read a lot of material. And Scott said, this is the best devotional that he’s actually read. So that says a lot.
Jim: And hopefully it says to you the listener and the viewer, this is one to pick up. I mean, again, we’re reading thousands of books here at Focus on the Family and for Scott, our producer, to say that that’s an endorsement that needs to be stapled, I think.
John: Yes. I agree. I appreciate that.
Jim: Um, Levi, let’s touch once again on this idea of attitude within the church, because I, I don’t know how to, you know, get it across you do it so well. Um, but when you’re looking at flipping the way we think about things, our thoughts from negative to more positive, I would think again, as a pastor, it’s one of the battles that you see in trying to help people get to a healthier way of looking at the trials in their lives.
Jim: So if we could role play that a little bit, if I’m coming to you saying Pastor, I need some help. I just, I keep hitting my head up against the wall. I don’t like waking up every day. I don’t like my life.
Jim: How do you approach a person like that to say, listen, God has something different. So let’s try something different.
Levi: A hundred percent. I think one of the questions I would ask is how can you expect to live a positive life when you’re allowing negative thoughts to dominate your mind? And Paul said, explicitly that we should allow what is good, helpful praiseworthy, kind, noble, all, pure, all those things be allowed in our mind and anything that’s not to reject that. And so, you know, as a child of the king, as a son of God, my responsibility is to make sure that my mind is set on a course as a child of God. So for example, you know, it’s so easy. I hate this apartment, this jobs lousy. My wife’s so ungrateful, my kids are so messy, but you’re, you’re gonna see more of what you stare at. And the reason you see more of Hondas in the road when you’re researching Hondas, ’cause that’s what you’ve been looking at.
Levi: So if you’ll find the good and find anything to be grateful for, not only will it help you physically, I mean, they say that, um, both of the things that are in most antidepressants are unleashed in your body when you practice gratitude, you have a higher serotonin and higher dopamine just from being thankful.
Levi: So if you can choose to live like it’s Thanksgiving every day and have some pumpkin pie on the 4th of July and-
Jim: (laughs) I like that idea.
Levi: … and find something to recognize in your, you know, and start speaking, gratitude start-
Levi: … practicing. The Bible says it’s God’s will that you are thankful f- in all things, not for all things, but in all things in everything, give thanks. 1 Thessalonians says.
Jim: Let, let me ask you that very specifically. And of course not many people are gonna have that experience that you and Jennie had the loss of a daughter. So moving it to something that more people might experience.
Jim: Um, it’s just the rut of life. Role play for me, how you can get out of that thought pattern where your, your job let’s just take a job for example, or maybe something like a bad marriage where it’s just not meeting your expectations, that would fit, Focus on the Family’s role in trying to help those marriages do better. How do you speak to a couple where they’re just, you know, living in a negative rut with each other, rather than trying to do the spiritual thing, this, the biblical thing of lifting each other up of affirming each other and practicing those things that actually gets you to a better place in Christ?
Levi: Yeah. Well, I think it’s really important that we all view ourselves as either helping or hindering each other from becoming more of who God made us to be. And how do you change yourself? You don’t change yourself by nagging. You don’t change by criticizing. How did Jesus change us? He came and died for us. So we have to choose to be a servant. And the way we become a servant to each other is we help unlock Imago Day inside of us, that image of God there. And so speaking life, I would ask the person in this stale marriage. When was the last time you complimented your spouse? When was the last time you caught them doing something right? When was the last time you praised what you wanted to see repeated? That one time they did make the bed. That one time they did hang their towel, that one, yeah, maybe they forgot-
Levi: … to get what you asked them to get at the grocery store. But, but what did they do that you can find to praise? We all are very interesting. We’re gonna do more of what gets us a reward. So if Jennie, when she finds me doing things, right, it makes me kind of like, I like how that felt. I wanna do more of those, those sorts of things psychologically. It helps us if you’re always nagging, if you’re always, you know, belittling, you’re always, you know, correcting in front of other people. It’s, you’re gonna develop an aversion to even being around each other.
Jim: And it’s not manipulation. Uh, I think some people may hear that and think that you’re trying to manipulate an outcome. You’re just doing the behaviors that God says will give you peace (laughs).
Levi: It’s gonna be better for you and for them.
Levi: So regardless of what reason you’re doing it for, it’s gonna get to where both of you want to be.
Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you too. The general culture, the grievance attitude, and again, culture seeps into the church. It, it’s natural. I mean, we live in the moment that we live and the culture around us, uh, pulls like a, the reign of a horse, right? We’re pulled in certain directions.
Jim: So when you look at the grievance culture that everybody’s got a bone to pick with somebody, it seems in the culture today, how do we, as Christians rise above that and not become kind of fodder for those arguments so we can demonstrate a better way, uh, a better way in Christ.
Levi: Well, I think first of all, we have to remember that the person we control the most is ourselves, you know? And so we have to be the change we wanna see in the world. And we have to ask those hard questions. Like, am I living at this outrageous standard? I’m imposing on other people.
Levi: And then I think, secondly, it’s knowing that we can speak the truth in love and that he can have relationships with people that we don’t agree with and not back down from our convictions, but at the same time, still love people. I mean, Jesus, uh, people that didn’t like Jesus liked being with Jesus-
Levi: … you know what I mean?
Levi: They didn’t believe in it, but they wanted to be around him. There was something about his spirit, something about the kindness.
Levi: And, and so I think it’s having that. It’s not compromising what we believe, but at the same time, not being picky about who we love.
Jim: Yeah. I, I really appreciate that. Uh, Levi, Jesus has won the battle. It’s done. Uh, what do we need to remember about his promises when we’re discouraged or afraid? And you know, I, I don’t wanna sound like I’m reprimanding somebody that doesn’t have, you know, high spiritual attitude through their trauma. I don’t wanna discourage people that way. And, but I, I do want to encourage people to look up from that pit that they may be in that well and see a rope, see a way out and God will provide it.
Levi: Yeah. I think it’s a balance ’cause you guys have so well over the years, pointing people to counseling, pointing people, to speak to their doctor. There may be an issue chemically going on. All that. There’s a place for all of that. But at the end of the day, even if it’s medicine and all these things that are gonna get you up to zero from subzero, where maybe you are at today, it’s only Jesus that can give us the standing before God that we need and the strength that we need.
Levi: And so I like to say, you don’t need to trust in willpower when you’ve been given God’s power. And it’s always a mistake to try and do in the flesh, what God wants us to achieve in the spirit.
Jim: Yeah. And that idea, and this will be the last question I’ll give you, you know, for the person that’s really in despair, you know, maybe they’ve gone to church, they’ve dedicated their life to the Lord 14 times.
Jim: I mean, I’m just pulling out scenarios that happen. Uh, things didn’t improve, things didn’t change, so they slid away from the Lord. Speak to that person specifically. And they’re tipping into you now. Their ears are listening. Why would it be different if I take the challenge, take back your life, that 40-day perspective, why will this be different for me, Levi?
Levi: Well, I would think, first of all, that you’re not alone in the way you feel. There’s plenty of people throughout history who have experienced such dark nights of the soul. And, uh, I, myself, even in that list of hard seasons of challenging times in the night, uh, but it might not be your situation that God wants to change. It might be you; he wants to change in your same situation. And if you’ll let him bring that light and illuminate that light in you and put the breath in you. And that’s really where I point people to, throughout this there’s every day, a section called breathe, think, and live because in creation, God breathed his spirit into us and at Pentecost, the wind rebreathed and reanimated our lives. And so the goal is every day to breathe in and out and breathe in his spirit and new strength to face you’re, maybe your same old day. Maybe the job won’t change. Maybe your, your dynamic at work won’t change, but maybe you’ll change in the midst of it. And if you’ll allow God to change you, you’ll be able to see the same situation through new eyes.
Jim: Yeah. And I so love that challenge, John. I mean, if you’re that person that has gotten up every day and you’ve used the same tools to try to fight the battle and you’ve gotten the same poor result, why not try something different, try Levi’s book, Take Back Your Life. Give 40 days to see if what he’s talking about, which is biblically based to hand over your attitude to the Lord. It may not change your circumstances, as you said, Levi, but it’ll change who you are. And I would guarantee, and I’ll speak as an orphan child who had a lot of loss in my childhood. If you can get that right, man, it is refreshing, and God will use you in a lot of different ways.
Jim: And the best part of that is you will not, uh, grieve what you didn’t have. You’ll rejoice in what the future has, in what God has in store for you rather than looking back and having regret. And I think that’s what you’re driving at.
Jim: Um, fixing your own attitude in the plight that you’re in, that’s all you can do.
Jim: Uh, any last comment (laughs).
Levi: Well, I just, I would just encourage you the way you speak about your situation is gonna change how you see it. And when you practice gratitude, when you, I mean, even they, they say, if you’ll even write down five things, you’re thankful for as few as one time a week, it will change your perceived sense of happiness in life dramatically.
Levi: And that’s that unlocking that emotional intelligence and spiritual power and, and slowly it’s, building the Panama Canal took a long time, but now they don’t have to go south America like 10 hours to do what six months before. And I think God wants to connect the dots between his power and your circumstances.
Jim: Well said, Levi Lusko, thank you for being with us. So appreciate it. And I would encourage you to get a copy of this, uh, great 40-day journey, Take Back Your Life. And you can get it right here at Focus on the Family, if you can, uh, help us. And the best way is, uh, month to month. And if you could become a monthly sustainer to the ministry, we’d like to send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t afford it, there’ll be people I trust that will cover the cost of it. So just get in touch with us, let us know that you need it. We’ll get it to you.
John: Donate as you can and request your copy of this book, Take Back Your Life. We’ve got at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And, uh, if you need to talk to somebody about your circumstances, um, if you can’t wait for the book, give us a call. We’ll arrange a time for a free consultation with one of our counselors. We have caring Christian counselors; they’re provided for by generous donors. And, uh, they’re here for you. And, uh, you can do that when you call that number 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or we will link over to them at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.