Archives For faith

focus

July 31, 2014 — 2 Comments

Molecule

Focus. When I write I realize that I need to work hard to get my head in the right space. I need to cut out the distractions, slow my mind down, clear the clutter. And it takes a while. There are so many competing streams of thought running through my brain, and so many outside distractions vying for my attention, that it takes discipline for me to focus my writing. To quiet myself so that I can communicate clearly the ONE THING I want to say. My goal as a communicator is to be more like a laser beam, and less like a fog lamp. Focus.

This is the principle of “irreducible minimums.” It is the process of reducing something down to its most elemental level, so that it can’t be reduced any more without being fundamentally changed into something else. In Chemistry class, we learned about molecules, for example, the smallest identifiable unit into which a pure substance can be divided and still retain the composition and chemical properties of that substance. In my high school Composition class, Mrs. O. always challenged us to “use fewer words.” Get to the point. Cut to the chase. Irreducible minimums.

The prophet-poet King David gave us a moment of clarity like that in Psalm 27. For a moment, in the midst of declaring his faith in God to carry him through a season of intense hardship and danger, David pulls back the curtain to reveal the central most focused desire of his heart.

“ONE THING I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD, and to seek him in his temple.” (27:4)

That’s focus. “In all of my heart, God, you alone enthrall me. When I clear away the clutter, and boil down my desire to its purest essence, it is YOU that I want.” David says, “If I lose everything else, but have communion with my Lord, that is enough. My soul is satisfied in Him alone.”

Paul makes a similar declaration in Philippians 3:8. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Do you see? This is Paul’s ONE THING. Knowing Jesus. Relationship with God trumps everything else.

So I examine my heart. I ask, “What is my ONE THING?”

I encourage you to spend some quiet moments with this question, too. And I can help you. It may be too easy to give the expected answer here. I mean, for those of us who go to church regularly for worship, isn’t it expected of us that our answer would be, “well, JESUS, of course. My ONE THING must be JESUS”? That’s too easy. I’m not asking you to put your finger on what you think the right answer should be. I’m asking you to consider what is actually TRUE.

Pleasure is like a gauge that measures value. So maybe instead of trying to simply name your irreducible minimum – your most important, most deeply seated desire – it may be easier to reflect on what it is that brings you the deepest pleasure. What do you enjoy most? What floods you with delight? Now we’re getting at it. The heart of your heart. Meditate on this. Clear away the distractions, and pray for clarity. All of us have our own ONE THING. Focus. What is yours?

 

Be honest with yourself. And with God.

 

David and Paul understood something about God that transformed them, emboldened them, and gave focus to their whole life. By the grace of God, they came to understand in the heart of their heart the truth of Psalm 16:11, which David wrote: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

How much joy do you want? How about a bottomless well of it? That’s fullness of joy. And how long do you want it to last? 75 years? 85? How about forever?

I know my ONE THING. I know that I know that I know. I want fullness of joy in the presence of God forever. I want to KNOW Jesus more and more, because in Him alone will all of my other desires be swallowed and satisfied and overpowered.

So today, find a quiet place to get alone with your thoughts and to talk with God. Ask yourself what brings you the greatest happiness. What is the ONE THING that you can’t imagine being without, even if it costs you every other desire and dream cluttering up your heart space?

I submit to you that David and Paul had it right. Until being at peace and in love with Jesus becomes your irreducible minimum, you will always feel the nagging tug of dissatisfaction. But when He becomes your ONE THING, you will find joyful rest for every longing of your heart.

And it will never end.


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“focus” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

June 13, 2014, Grace Free Lutheran Church, Valley City, ND. For my ordination service I sang “Sovereign” by Chris Tomlin.

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms, all the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end, I will trust You
In Your never-failing love You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way, I will trust You
God whatever comes my way, I will trust You

All my hopes, all I need
Held in Your hands
All my life, all of me
Held in Your hands
All my fears, all my dreams
Held in Your hands

sprouts_2

Jesus said… “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

As I write this today I am thinking about three people I am very much looking forward to seeing again.

The first is my good friend and former Seminary professor, Pastor Fran Monseth. He was honestly a father figure in my life, and he loved me and all of our family like we were his own. Fran transferred residence from his earthly shell to the presence of the Lord one year ago today. One year. It’s still hard to believe I can’t call him for advice, can’t pray with him, can’t endure his dry jokes.

Second, I miss my friend Jeremy. He never really leaves my mind, to be honest. We worshipped together, made music together, discussed theology over eggs benedict, laughed and cried and prayed together through his cancer diagnosis and treatment, and through the bone marrow transplant that took his life. Jeremy knew my heart, and I knew his. Jeremy went home to Jesus in June of 2012. There are still days when the tears come, unexpected.

And third, I want to give my Grandma Arona a hug. Grandma went to heaven just this last October. I miss her cinnamon rolls with the peanut butter frosting, and her potato dumplings, and the way she would say “It’s probably not any good” after you had just taken thirds of whatever deliciousness she happened to be serving that evening. I miss hearing her vibrato, as she sang hymns to Jesus. After having lived the last several years of her life in a wheelchair following a stroke, Grandma walked into Jesus’ arms. She’s singing again, too.

We’re drawing near to EASTER now, and our eyes and thoughts are on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Church is preparing to celebrate. But today, as I remember Pastor Monseth, and Jeremy, and Grandma, the reality and power of the HOPE of RESURRECTION shakes me again. Because Jesus rose FIRST, you see – the firstfruits, He is called – we who know Him as our own carry the assurance with us that death is not an end. Death has lost its sting. Now it is a relocation, a joyful transfer to freedom. And we will rise again.

That’s why I can’t intone the Apostle’s Creed every week in our worship services with my heart and brain disengaged. In fact, the joyful reality of the certain resurrection we look forward to can probably be seen splashed on my face as we agree together what we believe in… “The holy Christian Church, the communion of the saints, the resurrection of the body…”

Really since Jeremy left us, this resurrection we look forward to has become so much more real for many of his loved ones. His friends here below were and are unusually close to him and to each other. We assume he’s working out a housing arrangement with the Lord whereby our mansions are all on the same cul-de-sac. Since Jeremy’s departure, thoughts of resurrection are always swirling through my theology, and it affects my everyday reality. Like Paul, I hang my everything on the hope of resurrection.

Paul said that he had given up everything else in life in order that he might live in relationship with Jesus. And to what end? “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

For me, this is tangible. Not just theological speculation. Keeping my eyes on the reality of resurrection in Jesus is changing my tastes. Jesus is making my heart new, and refashioning my mind. He puts my mouth out of taste for the poison of sin, and reminds me of the sweetness of knowing Him. Finding my delight in Him leads to LIFE, and a complete and soul-satisfying joy that lasts forever. (Psalm 16:11) And communion with Him. And ongoing relationship with Fran, and Jeremy, and Grandma again.

The Church will celebrate Easter in a few short weeks. Don’t allow your family traditions and familiar ceremony to inoculate you to the wonder of this moment. The resurrection is for YOU. That should astound you. It astounds me. And it means that those loved ones in Jesus who have gone on before us are together now with the Lord, and they will rise again. Death is not final. It’s just a relocation, a renewal, a rebirthing process. Jesus said that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die.

Do you believe this?

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“the resurrection of the body” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

the door

August 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

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August 25, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 13:22-30

Jesus fields a question about what happens to people when they die. It’s a theology question. About other people. Jesus’ answer burns away the arm’s-length safety of the question and reframes it in a way we can’t ignore. Instead of answering “How many will go to heaven when they die?” Jesus requires each of us to ask, “Will I go to heaven when I die?”

Everybody dies. The door to heaven is narrow. We all live on in eternity, but not everyone will be in heaven with God, enjoying His favor forever. If you hope to make it into the Kingdom of God – through the narrow door – you must enter alone before God. We come one at a time.

What about you? Here is the GOOD NEWS. There is a Door. And it’s still open. Right now.

>> This message is found in Luke 13:22-30. You can read it online here.

 

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/08-25-13_JoshuaSkogerboe_TheDoor.mp3

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“the door” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

a generous king

August 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

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August 11, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 12:22-34

We live under the self-delusion that we are in control. We shoulder the weight of our own protection, provision, status, wealth, health, and direction. Jesus is talking to his disciples about money, and priorities – and about their Father in heaven. “No,” he says, “you are not in control.” And we must realize… this is amazingly GOOD NEWS.

>> This message is found in Luke12:22-34. You can read it online here.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

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“a generous king” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

one thing

August 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

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July 21, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 10:38-42

When you boil your goals and values and priorities down to the very core, and you strip away all the non-essentials, can you identify your ONE THING? Cut through the clutter and see what it is that you’re really living for.

>> Please follow along in Luke10:38-42. You can read it online here.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

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“one thing” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This is the Thursday night service with all the men at FLY 2013, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Youth Convention, held every two years in Estes Park, CO. My wife Amy and I were grateful to both be asked to speak this year. Amy spoke to the girls in the Assembly Hall, and I was with the guys in the Longhouse. This is my message to the guys on July 4, 2013.

The theme of the convention was “Broken,” taken from Isaiah 53. The text we focused on for the evening was Isaiah 53: 10-12.


beyond the breaking point from Joshua Skogerboe on Vimeo.

Joshua_Preaching-2_FLY2013

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“beyond the breaking point :: men’s night at fly 2013” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This July, 1,800+ souls gathered together for a week of worship and Bible study and relational bonding at the YMCA of the Rockies camp up in the mountains of Estes Park, CO.  This was FLY 2013, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Youth Convention, held every two years. My wife Amy and I were grateful to be asked to speak this year on July 4, for the Thursday evening services. As I spoke to the men and boys in the Longhouse, Amy had an opportunity to speak to the girls in the Assembly Hall just up the hill.  The theme of the convention was “Broken,” taken from Isaiah 53. The text we focused on for the evening was Isaiah 53:10-12.

Here is Amy’s session:

 

beautifully broken from Joshua Skogerboe on Vimeo.

Amy_Teaching-1_FLY2013

 

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beautifully broken :: amy skogerboe :: women’s night at fly 2013 by Amy Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

forgiven much

June 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

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June 16, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 7:36-50

Is this it?  People struggle to find their groove with Jesus, I think. I mean, everyone has to decide what to do with the man who claimed to be the Son of God, and the Savior of the world, and the ONLY WAY to find peace with God. Everyone decides. Many ignore Him. Some fight Him. Church people analyze and study Him, and many people, both inside and outside the church, try to follow His loving example – the WAY of the Lord, without the “Lord” part. Do you agree with the majority of people in America that what really matters when it comes to Jesus isn’t Jesus Himself, so much, but the example he set and the lifestyle of grace and selfless service that he calls us to?

>> I encourage you to read the short account first in Luke 7:36-50. You can read it online here.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

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“forgiven much” by Joshua skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

May 2, 2013. AFLC Schools Chapel in Plymouth, MN.  James 1:17-21.

My dad has my back.  I don’t want to disappoint him. I love spending time with him, because I know that he loves me. We’ve got a good relationship, and that has been formative in my life. I’m literally not the same person I would be without him loving me the way that he does. In some ways, our relationship with God is like this. That’s why he invites us to call Him “Father.”

Far from the remote, disinterested God-idea many people struggle with, and a far cry from the buzz-kill God of to-do lists and do-nots, the Bible describes a God who INITIATES. A God who loves first. A God who created us to be RELATIONAL beings, just as He is a RELATIONAL God. God wants us to live in close relationship with him through His Word.


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“A Relational People for a Relational God” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.