(Photos courtesy of Fresh Life Church)
Collaborating for a Cause
An Interview with Pastor Levi Lusko on the Significance of “Swiping Right”
By Sarah Komisky
I’m a firm believer in God-ordained moments. I’ve had many, and this interview is a vivid example of one of them. In December of 2013, I listened to a pastor from Montana preach a message of hope when faced with immense pain and loss. Pastor Levi Lusko and his wife Jennie faced their congregation of Fresh Life Church radiating light and love just days after they experienced their daughter’s entry into eternity. Across a computer screen, I was gripped by a strength that was clearly not their own and was also found wanting the same pure faith and vibrancy that five-year-old Lenya Lusko clearly possessed. As a result, in 2013, I came to know Jesus.
When I came to faith, the subject of purity was something that God put [His finger] on in my heart and since then, I wanted to inspire others to join me on this awesome adventure of a life “marked” by purity. Again, Levi and Jennie would inspire me as they passionately called this generation to hold out for honor for God’s plan for sex and romance with an event called The 02 Experience. After attending myself, I thought, “I want to do something like that.” In 2014, God granted that wish and birthed my own vision known as Marked Ministry Magazine. Launched online for the first time in July, 2015, interviews started building and one of the two people I knew I wanted to chat with were my mentors, the Lusko’s. Desiring to share my story and partner for a bigger cause, I reached out to Jennie last year and we talked about Lenya’s life with the release of her husband’s first book, “Through the Eyes of a Lion.” Fast forward to this year and upon the arrival of Levi’s new book, “Swipe Right,” I knew I had to reach out to Fresh Life to see if I could have an opportunity to do an interview with Levi on the subject of purity.
As God would have it, he so graciously agreed at the exact time our anniversary issue would be released. Things also came full circle when I was personally able to share how Lenya touched my life. Overall, our conversation encapsulates this God moment and our collaboration proclaims a message we found to be true and one we wholeheartedly believe in. Our prayer is that it would be life-giving as we talk about God’s design for sex and romance and how eternity plays a role in it all. Be blessed.
Sarah: Hi Pastor Levi, this is Sarah from Marked Ministry.
Levi: Hi Sarah, How are you?
Sarah: I’m doing well, how are you doing?
Levi: Doing very good, thank you
Sarah: Oh good, thank you so much for taking time to do this with me I know you’re very busy. So I appreciate it.
Levi: Oh no problem, glad to be on.
Sarah: Well, one year ago, I got to talk to your wife Jennie, so this is kind of fun now that’s it’s a year later and I get to talk to you.
Levi: Well, you started with the best first. So we’ll go from there.
Sarah: [laughs] Great. Well, as we’re getting started talking about “Swipe Right,” I thought about going back to the beginning with the O2 Experience and maybe for our readers, you can share a little bit what that is and how that got started?
Levi: Yeah, well the O2 Experience is really a special ministry that currently is kind of articulated through “Swipe Right,” it’s really what is the seed that caused the “Swipe Right” book and all that we kind of did with it. It all started when Jen and I got married thirteen years ago and we were in ministry and worked at the church and yet we found it so challenging to commit to God’s plan for our relationship and sex life and we struggled but we fought to save the gifts of sex for marriage. And we got to our honeymoon and were reflecting back on it saying, man alive here we are, we live in the church, we teach the bible, we know Scripture, we have great accountability and even with all that leg up, it was still so challenging and so rewarding to do things Gods way and we were thinking, you know, how hard must it be for a brand new believer or someone who you know who isn’t really as well versed in Scripture and just how much it would be really challenging to approach that without the education from Gods word on why its beneficial, etc. etc.
And so, we began to sense just a burden for at the time, high school students specifically to hear Gods heart and hear not just “Thou shalt not,” but really, “Hey, here’s God’s plan, here’s what He wants for you, here’s some vision for your sex life, etc.” And so, we put on a summer outreach event that we eventually would come to name the O2 Experience and, we thought you know this is going to be good for our student ministry, but as we planned it, it got bigger and bigger and eventually we reached out to other churches. Then, when we finally had the event we saw 2,000 people show up and student groups drove from as far as Texas and Colorado to come to Albuquerque, New Mexico and attend this event, and it was amazing to watch when you communicate honestly and a real, you know, not beating-around-the-bush kind of way about sex from Gods word, what a hunger there is. And, it’s so funny that was thirteen years, that first event, but from then to now we’ve had constant demands and more opportunities than we can even take to articulate this message. And so you know, we have done these events in Arizona, California, Idaho, Washington, all over the country, Florida, and eventually, we realized we needed to get to a bigger than just an event because we couldn’t get to go everywhere and the book can go where a concert, event can’t get to, so that is kind of the genesis of the “Swipe Right” and the 02 Experience.
Sarah: I love that! I was able to experience it myself, when you came to Calvary Costa Mesa and it was amazing. So it was really good to kind of hear that.
Levi: Aww, fantastic!
Sarah: Yeah, so kind of talking about the book, I read it and I thought it was so well written, just with relevancy and truth, and so, how important was it for you to be able to combine those two elements in this book?
Levi: Of life and death and sex and romance?
Sarah: Right, mhmm.
Levi: Yeah well, extremely important, I’ve never articulated this really formally but, “Swipe Right” is the national continuation for me of “Through the Eyes of a Lion,” my first book, which is all about hope in the midst of pain and specifically about death. And I feel like, the problem with most conversations of about sex is that they’re just about this life and how to have a great dating relationship, how to do marriage you know blah, blah, blah. But, for us to really get all that God has for us we have to not just think about this life but about eternity. And if we approach relationships from just a human, just a natural, just how-to-have-a-great relationship perspective. We won’t have the follow through and the power from thinking about our actions ringing on into our life after we leave this world. And so the life and death side of things really is meant to convey the urgency and the sense of you know, immortality that God wants us to approach our relationships with and it will change the way we do everything. When you remember that we are going to leave this world and this is not our home and if we will put our Eyes of a Lion lenses on, looking at this life and how we approach our boyfriend or our girlfriend, I think it would drastically impact what God wants to be able to bless us with and it will cause us to be aware of the fact. There are serious consequences and repercussions from turning from His best, not only that were going to bring it into our lives but also that will forfeit the opportunity to reach out to people that were meant to reach.
Sarah: I love that, and it kind of leads me into my next question. I know that the church can sometimes have a tough time with the subject and kind of sometimes refrain from talking about it. And I know that you’re doing the opposite, so maybe you can share what the experience has been like. I know you have messages on it, you talked a little bit about what you been doing with “Swipe Right” but maybe you can kind of expand on that.
Levi: Sure, well I think the church at our worst; we’re guilty of answering questions that no one is asking. Meanwhile, the issues that really plague our daily lives go unspoken. So I’m guilty of it the same. I have a great sermon about this great thing and it’s very interesting to me and it’s historically accurate and all these great elements and yet, you know there’s people in our church who are up to their eye balls in debt, they are in a relationship that’s hanging on by a thread, they’re addicted to pornography, and unhealthy and addicted to substances and it’s like we’re not speaking about things that are really where they’re at, street level. One of the things that were said of Jesus was that the common person heard him gladly. When you drove that into His messages, He’s talking about money, He’s talking about relationships, and He’s talking about things that really connected with people. And, He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted but it was the Messiah they needed. And the religious people on the other hand, they had these ovations and these great tremendous theologically accurate talks and discussions and they were more about how they like to sound. And I think Jesus really cut through. And when we’re preaching like Christ, were going to hit people where there at and not leave them that way. And so that’s kind of my heart.
I think we should be willing to speak up about things especially like sex. And, you know I’ve gotten a lot of mixed reactions over the years, everything you can imagine. But consistently, one of the things is kind of like, can you really talk about that so bluntly within the conversations of the church? And I think there’s no better arena. In a perfect world, that’s happening at home and parents are doing it, speaking about it and tragically that often times isn’t happening. But I think in the church, where we have the Scripture which is a guide to all things that pertain to life and godliness, it should be something where we allow God to speak up on the subject.
Sarah: Right, that is so true and I’m excited what you’re doing and seeing what God’s doing in the midst of it. So, kind of diving into the chapters of this book, one of the analogies that I loved so much was about the Pineapple [laughs]. So maybe you could just share a little bit about that to our readers that are going to be reading this how that connects to our value. So maybe talk about that how we can begin to take steps to know that?
Levi: Sure, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 as we know, and one of the things that was discovered in the new world was this very mysterious fruit that was juicy, like an apple, but shaped like a pine cone. It earned the monarch of “pineapple” because of those two qualities. And when it was brought back to Europe, it intrigued and electrified everybody. It was the most highly sought after fruit. It was the symbol of luxury and prestige and at one point, they were sold as for as much as $8000. And the taste of pineapple just the tiniest sliver would of at the peak would have been the highlight of someone’s life. But most people would not eat them, they would display them. They would have viewing parties and they would look at them until they rotted basically; they kept them on a pedestal. And obviously, the invention of the steamship and the pineapple plantation made them wildly accessible. Their value diminished greatly very quickly to the point that today they are the least glamorous fruits. And today, you can go and get a can of chunky pineapple for .99 cents and nobody is clamoring over the taste of them.
But, I think what it proves to illustrate is that when something is easy to come by, it’s easy to go. It’s no longer valuable. When it’s rare it’s highly noteworthy and I think when God created the world, he had this picture in mind for what our sexual experience would be like. Adam and Eve were brought together and they were told, “What God has brought together let no man separate,” and here’s this man who’s left his father and that’s a picture and he’s brought to his wife and there’s this highly rare event these two coming together. Out of all the billions of people on earth that they would only ever be intimate with each other and that is much like what God intended for it to experience and be like.
But we live in a day where so much of the internet is pornographic you use to really try hard not to see other people naked and the sexual encounter in a Tinder obsessed era has really quite frankly just become cheap and pretty much people having sex with strangers and acting like the encounter never happened the next morning. And I think, God wants it to be a thing where we value and place a tremendous sense of honor on this sexual experience that changes it from the inside and that we would restore it to the place where He intends for it to function.
Sarah: Right and I know that you also talk in your book just about that fact about scars and about sex and the connection between the two. So, I know in our audience, there’s going to be people who have experienced that. So what’s a word that you would give them?
Levi: Well, the conversation always has to come out not both sides of my mouth, but we have to speak to it from two levels. The first level is, Gods way is always better. And the second level, is no matter what you have done, it’s not too late, God can touch you and heal you and restore you and I think we have to always make that distinction because you know it is true that when you have sex with someone it changes you, there’s no getting around that. Scripture says, “The two become one flesh.” So, you know there are going to be the scars sort of speak of the encounter in that you cannot, not be the same after you have become one flesh with somebody. So there’s that side of things that would say, hey if you’re out there and you haven’t gone down these roads or even if you have, it’s not too late, you can change, and you can make this decision because it’s a heavy thing. What you’re doing when you mess with this experience. It’s deeper than skin, it’s deeper than your mind, it involves in your soul. But then this other side of it that hey, no matter what you’ve done, there’s grace today and just because you have sown. You know, sin in the past doesn’t mean you have to sow more. You can begin a new chapter and you can do it right now. And we can watch God redeem and begin to build a new foundation. There are so many bright points in Scripture to point to illustrate that, I mean we look at the new life that came out with Bathsheba and David and here she is in the genealogy alongside Rehab and others. I think God if He can do anything, He can bring new life out of a mess. So I would say to both, it’s not too late but if you hear Gods voice today, don’t harden your heart.
Sarah: Amen. I want to get back to the subject you mentioned earlier about eternity and obviously you written about that before in your previous book and so, now how does it play a role in “Swipe Right?” You touched on it a little bit but maybe I just wanted to get back to that because it’s so key.
Levi: Well, at the end of Proverbs, there’s this great statement about how the Proverbs 31 woman has no fear of snow or winter for her household, for her household is clothed in scarlet. And, I think when we think about that picture of a woman with her home covered in scarlet, which means not just covered but abundantly covered, it was the most expensive material you could get in that day – red. But her home was abundantly covered so there wasn’t a fear of winter. And the point is you don’t have to be afraid of what you’re prepared for. If you didn’t have clothing for your family and if you didn’t have heat, you would be scared of winter. And so there’s no need to fear what you’re prepared for. So when it comes to our lives, there’s a winter of the soul for every one of us.
Youth is spring and summer is the prime, fall is the old age, and then winter is coming for every one of us, winter is the end of this life. So, if were like the woman in Proverbs, were clothed in scarlet which in Scripture is always the picture of the blood of Jesus. You got Rehab with the scarlet cord; you have the Passover blood of the Lamb on the door post. So there’s a preparation that we all need to have in our lives to make us not need to be afraid of winter. And, so, if we’re clothed with Jesus, which is so much better than trying to be a good person, which we all fail at or being religious which can’t fix us with the blood of bulls and goats. We can be prepared for death, prepared for winter, with the blood of Christ. When that is settled it gives us the proper footing and positioning to prepare for every other thing we need in life; dating included, relationships, marriage included. But you’ll never be right with your mate until you’re right with your Maker. So when were ready to die, we’re truly ready to begin living.
Sarah: I love how it closes on that point. It’s so huge which I haven’t seen in a book regarding purity so it was really refreshing to have that perspective on it and it brought a lot of hope I thought just from reading it. I know that you have little ones and a little boy on the way, congratulations!
Levi: Any day now. Thank you so much!
Sarah: Wow and I will be praying for that. Our magazine reaches all sorts of people all different ages. But we have a tween section so were trying to go younger, and so maybe what would you say to the next generation reading this regarding purity?
Levi: I would tell anyone reading this that you are worth more than rubies. You’re valuable, and value doesn’t come from whose paying attention to you or who thinks you’re cute. Your value comes from God who made you and who loves you. And, before you were ever born He’s been dreaming about you and the ways He wants to use you and you don’t ever have to earn his love, you just need to relax and settle into His love and appreciate it. Don’t ever let any boy, don’t ever let anybody set your value on you because your value comes from the fact that the most important person to ever live who was willing to die to save you. And if you walk out of that love, you won’t be taken advantage of by anyone in this world and you can enjoy the process of you being prepared for the person that God has prepared for you. And, so when you’re doing His work and doing His will and walking in His love, there’s going to come a day where God brings to you that perfect person for you without you having to lower your standards to attract someone because the person that God has for you is going to be serving God and worshipping God and doing those same things and then you will just kind notice each other doing that and then just keep doing that together.
Sarah: Amen, so kind of wrapping everything up, maybe you could share what’s on the horizon for you?
Levi: Yeah, so I’m beginning the process now of writing again where were just kind of starting to move towards another season of writing, which is always so stressful and I appreciate prayer on that because its tough work, but were so excited and then my church Fresh Life is about to open a church in Wyoming, which we never been to before, so were so excited about that – Jackson Hole and then our little baby. So that’s quite a handful right there – all those three things.
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for doing this. It encouraged my heart. I’m going to keep praying for your family and ministry. Thank you so much for partnering with us.
Levi: Goodness, thank you!
Sarah: Have a great day!
Levi: Grace on you Sarah! Have a great day. Bye.
Sarah: You too, bye.
For more on Levi Lusko and “Swipe Right” visit levilusko.com