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costly love

August 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

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July 14, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 10:25-37

The Good Samaritan.  Like an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, we know the moral of this story, right?  Be a GOOD neighbor! We see ourselves in the role of the Samaritan, thinking to ourselves, “I bet I would have stopped. If I saw that man on the side of the road, I would have been the one to help him.” Really? What if it cost you two month’s salary? What if you got robbed and beaten yourself during your rescue mission? What if you traded in your reputation for the safety of that stranger on the side of the road? What if you missed your dream job interview because of this dirty, bleeding nobody? This story digs deeper than our Mr. Rogers moralizing. This story makes us uncomfortable. It challenges the way we think about love.

>> I encourage you to read the short account first in Luke10:25-37. You can read it online here.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

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

You can’t show someone the gospel with a sandwich…

BAM. Here we go.  I’m stirring the pot. Somewhere out there, one of you is sick of the church giving lip service to love. You read that first line and just winced a little bit. In fact, this is the epitome of the gospel to you… loving people in Jesus name. Feeding the hungry. Hands-on love of the broken and wounded and penniless and hopeless. After all, Jesus talked about the least of these, right? And faith without works is dead, right? And the greatest commandment is “love God,” and we do that best by loving people, RIGHT? You remember this quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.”

It’s a great line.  Someone out there has written this quote in your journal, and it has changed your life.  The way you think about the Gospel and what you’re here for has been forever changed.  Praise God that you are hungry to serve Him and love people.  I mean that.  So don’t let this dampen the fire of your love…

Francis of Assisi was wrong.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  Paul reminds us (because we tend to forget) EXACTLY what the clear, unadulterated Gospel message is… the one Paul would give his life for:  (1) Jesus died for our sins. (2) He was buried. (3) He was raised on the third day.

That’s it. It’s a clear message.  No sandwiches involved.  Love and service are a natural and healthy RESPONSE to the Gospel, but can never be mistaken for the message itself.  Jesus penal substitutionary atonement for our sin, and His victory over death in the Resurrection are the heart of the Gospel.  It is a message that must be PROCLAIMED… it cannot be shown.

You can show His love.  You can show your love for Him.  You can show the world a different way to live, and you can give yourself away in love and service to others.

But you are not sharing the Gospel unless you proclaim it. You’ve got to tell people who Jesus is and what He has done, because THAT is what has the power to save souls.

If we do not proclaim the clear message that our only hope is faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone, then Christ ceases to be our substitutionary atonement and becomes merely our example.  Is it possible that the people we serve will misunderstand the heart of our faith?  That when we sign on to the Christian faith, we are obligated to earn back favor with God?  I see it on bumper stickers and church bulletin boards…  Christ died for you – are you living for Him?  WWJD?  Serve like Jesus.  Love like Jesus.  Live like Jesus.
It is an impossible standard.  Instead we must serve, love, and live BECAUSE of Jesus.
For those of you who are sick of watching hurting people suffer because the Church talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, I empathize deeply with your holy discontent.  However, we cannot SUBSTITUTE walking the walk for talking the talk.  Maybe we ought to start with the walk… but we must talk, too.
Over the past several years the Emergent conversation has been reexamining Christian faith, and what it means to be a Christ follower… and what it means to be saved.  Somehow definitions that have for centuries been bedrock biblical truths have become mired in conjecture and postmodern equivocation.  Some now see salvation as something we work out and experience here on earth by serving the needy and the poor, caring for others, caring for the environment, etc.
The Emergent redefinition of salvation fundamentally wrecks the Gospel, because it takes away the gift and replaces it with an obligation.  The Gospel through this lens is a transfer from grace received to something we do.  Galatians 5:1 reminds us:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
I believe we experience salvation here and now, too.  But it is in and through the finished work of Jesus, who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again.  I believe we are called to love and serve the hurting and needy, to be good stewards of the earth, and to give our lives away in Jesus’ name.  But it is all a response.
Because HE loved us, make those sandwiches.  Feed the hungry ones.  But you can’t show someone the Gospel with a sandwich.  Love ’em, and then tell ’em WHY.
Our friend Francis of Assisi was off the mark.
We proclaim the Gospel.
Then we live in light of it.
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Lately I’ve been pondering the nature of several “babies and bathwater” scenarios with regards to Christian faith and leadership.  I think this is a natural outgrowth of my commingled passions for sound doctrine and unity in the Church.  Walking this line requires nuance, careful thought, prayer, grace, and honesty.

Knee-jerk reactionism and mud-flinging are perhaps more gratifying to our carnal side.  But the “immediate gratification” option is rarely the BEST option.

In any case, today I want to begin a series of posts that deal with nuanced topics in the Church.  Maybe this will be my first and last post in the series.  🙂  Time will tell.

The Emerging Church

Sure.  Maybe this is cheating.  I’m literally posting an assignment from my Basic Principles of Theology class with Dr. Fran Monseth at the Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary, where I am currently enrolled full time. 

The bottom line is that I want to provide thought-provoking, biblically sound, and helpful information to those who are interested.  I think many people who read my blog regularly have questions about the Emerging Church – both what it is, exactly, and why we should care.  Therefore, I’ve provided a link for you to be able to download my brief examination of the Emerging Church, it’s philosophy and theological trajectory, and a biblical response (PDF).  Because this is a complicated and nuanced issue, there is really no short form way to cover the topic as a blog post.  The context of my studies here are conservative and apologetically Lutheran, so you can use that filter to understand my vantage point as we talk about the influence of the “emerging” or “emergent” church conversation.

I don’t claim this to be anything spectacular.  It’s just a paper.  But it may be helpful.  So, for those who are curious, here you go…

Click here to download  >>  THE EMERGING CHURCH _ jskogerboe

Discussion is welcomed and encouraged in the comments below.  I hope this brings some clarity and prompts you to know what you believe, and why that matters.  Thanks for reading.

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Glenn Beck drives people nuts.

Love him or hate him, most likely you’ve got an opinion.  He doesn’t produce fence-sitters.  That fence is POINTY, baby.  You’re going to fall on one side or the other pretty quickly if you spend any time listening to his show or watching him on the telivizzle.

And believe it or not, the rest of this post will have nothing to do with politics.  So you can exhale.

At the end of August I posted “glenn beck: the new voice of evangelical christianity” as a follow-up to his non-political/spiritual revival pro-America rally on the national mall on August 28, 2010.  My main point was to say that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with Glenn’s religious rhetoric, because he’s a Mormon, and therefore means something very different when he claims to be “listening to the voice of God” or leading us to “do the will of God.”  We believe in and follow different Gods, me and Mr. Beck.  Therefore, I urged my fellow evangelicals to listen if you must, but exercise discernment… it’s dangerous ground.

The post generated some good discussion at the time, but I just received a new comment today, and it was a good challenge.

The gist was this:I’m confused.  You seem to often call for unity between churches.  Mormons believe Jesus is the Son of God, too, right?  How come we shouldn’t listen to Glenn Beck, then?  Should we not listen just because he’s a Mormon?”

Fair question.  Here was my response:

I understand your confusion. Let me clarify a few things…

First, Im not saying no one should listen to Glenn Beck simply because he is a Mormon. I love to listen to Dennis Prager, for example, and he’s Jewish. There is wisdom to be found in all kinds of people, and truth is truth… meaning, if I say the sky looks blue, and The Pope says the sky looks blue, and Christopher Hitchens says the sky looks blue… we are all saying something true. Our philosophy or religious affiliation doesn’t make it any LESS true when Chris the atheist says it. Right? So, Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, per se, doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from my listening list.

What I am uncomfortable with – and that’s putting it mildly – is Glenn Beck’s increasingly bold “spiritual leader” talk.  He throws around phrases that indicate he believes he is doing the “will of the Lord,” and that he speaks for God and is encouraging people to do His will.  He SAYS the name Jesus, but his belief is very different than mine.  My caution is to listen critically, and be very careful not to confuse his Mormon “word from the Lord” with the authority of the ACTUAL Word of God, given to us in the Bible.

Now, to briefly clarify the difference between my calls to the church for unity around the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and my stiff-arming of Mormonism, it is important for you to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult. It is NOT in any way a branch of the Christian church, like Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists. Nope. Mormons are often wonderful people, productive citizens, kind to their neighbors, and raising good kids in strong families. I’m not saying they are “bad” people – any more than you and I are sinful people – in the way that EVERY soul on the planet is born corrupted by sin. But they tend to be “good people” all the same. Even so, Mormonism is a false religion that diverges from Christianity in several KEY ways.

Christian core doctrine has remained grounded in the Word of God and been basically unchanging for 2000+ years. Cults change their core doctrine often – when it becomes necessary to do so. There have been about 4,000 changes to the Book of Mormon since it was first published in 1830, and some BIG ones to boot. They have changed their stance on Polygamy, for one. And they now support the religious equality of African Americans, which required a huge change in their doctrinal positions.

Mormonism is poly-theistic (many gods) and Christianity is monotheistic (ONE God). They believe God the Father was once a man who *progressed* to God-hood. We believe God is the unchanging “I AM.” They believe the Trinity is actually three separate gods… we believe in the three-in-ONE. They also believe that we, as humans, can progress to God-hood status. This is the FIRST LIE from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve, “You can be like God…” All of the sin of the world followed that lie and it’s line of reasoning. It is the CORE poison of the human soul.

Mormons believe Jesus is the child of God the Father and a heavenly Mother, and that he was born incomplete and had to *progress* to God-hood status in the spiritual realm. They deny the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ unchanging nature as God and His condescension and virgin birth are foundation truths Christianity is built upon. While Mormons DO believe that Jesus is God’s only Son, their understanding of what that means and the very nature of God and Jesus as our Savior is a mess – and dangerous, theologically.

Mormon’s see Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden as a noble act, enabling man to become mortal – a key step forward in the process of attaining deity status. They believe that Jesus atonement basically grants everyone salvation and immortality, whether we believe in Him or not. There are many, many other important differences, as well.

This stuff is important. Mormons market themselves as another Christian option. But it is not at all Christian. We have no reason, of course, to treat Mormons with disrespect, OR to disregard everything they say simply because of the religion. However, I WILL disregard anything they say with “the authority of the Lord” behind it. Glenn Beck’s Jesus is NOT my Jesus. Therefore, when He speaks about the “will of God,” I know he’s not listening to the same voice of God that I am. Therefore… I turn him off.

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I was sitting here with my Lucky Charms. 11:07PM.  Just between an assignment and studying for a Greek quiz in the morning.  Study break.

Then I watched this video. I will literally never forget what I feel right now.  My mind has been changed.  Probably my life.  Do you have 9 minutes?

First of all, I’m guilty. I have read John 12:8 and always thought it to be kind of a hopeless proclamation of ongoing poverty.  I’m done with that.  Jesus, forgive me.

Secondly, I love prompting ideas and discussion.  I love encouraging people to worship God because of His worthiness and beauty and mind-wrecking love for us.  But I don’t like to get on this soapbox and scold. Can you bare with me today?  Know that I speak this in love, and I’m preaching to myself, but it has to be said.

You and me… church people… we have let people die because of our indifference. It’s time to change your mind about the poor.  Especially in this awesome, God-blessed country, where even in the toughest of times, we are surrounded by abundance.  We can do this, Church, because God has given us EVERY RESOURCE needed to share our wealth and the love of Jesus with the world.  The whole world.

Sell stuff.  You’ve got more than you need.

Thirdly, I know that we don’t earn favor with God by doing more.  I know that our hope is built upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and Him risen again.  Grace alone, through faith in Jesus alone…  That is the beginning and end of our hope.  Don’t point a “works-righteousness” finger unless you’re convinced this challenge is somehow corrupting the gospel.  Because it’s not.  Serving the poor does not secure our favor with God, but it MUST be a result of it.  “Faith without works is dead.”

I Timothy 2:14 has this to say:  “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…  gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Zealous? I haven’t been that word.  I’ve been lazy, overwhelmed and faithless.  I’ve been passive about people in extreme poverty.  Passive. What’s wrong with me?  Well, today I’m taking the NEXT verse in Titus seriously…

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

So I’m on this soapbox.  Exhorting you, and maybe rebuking those who need it.  We must not remain passive. Let’s go Church!  Let’s break the bondage of extreme poverty – across the globe – in our generation.

If you wan to join forces with 58:,the organization that produced this video, click here to choose your fast.

But it doesn’t matter which organization we align with to fight poverty.  What matters is that we actually do it.

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I’ve been hurting and praying for the family of Tyler Clementi.  His death is deeply tragic.  And I believe that bullying is a big deal.  We ought to treat each other in civil society with respect, and we need to raise our children to treat other people with respect.  Even those we disagree with.  Especially those we disagree with.

This post will take a little time to develop, so I want to be clear about my purposes for writing it up front.

FIRST:  If you’re a student somewhere being bullied because you are gay, and you are considering checking out – just to escape the pain of it – please don’t.  You are loved.  I know that to my very core.  God didn’t screw up when he made you.  He wants to fill your life with purpose.  There are hundreds of voices on YouTube and everywhere right now sending you the message that “IT GETS BETTER.”  And if you can make it through this tough season of life, where you’re surrounded by jerks, you’ll soon come out the other side and enter a new phase of life – free from that kind of intense bullying that cuts you down.  So my first message to you is this:  HANG IN THERE, because you’re deeply valuable.  And I’m a Christian guy who believes that being gay is not God’s plan for you – I’ve written about this stuff before.  But listen, you are more than your sexual nature, and you matter to us and to God, no matter what your sexual orientation.  I hope you’re willing to keep reading this, and keep thinking.

SECOND:  Gene Robinson is an enemy of God.  He is one of the voices proclaiming the “it gets better message,” and I have posted his video below.  While I believe he means well, and many gay young people have been encouraged by his message, he is misrepresenting God, and God’s Church.  I do not hate Gene Robinson, and I do not oppose his message because he is gay.  Rather, I oppose his message because he is wrong.  More on that below…

You’ve maybe never read this blog before, so I want to help you put what I’m about to write into context.  Everybody has a foundational set of beliefs building the framework of their life story, even those of us who never think it through or put it into words.  Here are a few of mine:

With regards to Faith and Life:

(1)  I believe that God is sovereign, and His Word (the Bible) is perfect and authoritative on all issues pertaining to faith and life.

(2)  I believe that every single person on earth (myself included) has been born with a sinful nature, and is therefore condemned to an eternity apart from God.  We can’t fix it through anything we do. Period.

(3)  Jesus Christ died on a cross to save us from that sin.  He is the only road to forgiveness and a restored relationship with God.  Yes, that message is exclusive.  Jesus alone is our only hope.  That’s basic Christian doctrine.

(4)  God is a God of love and justice.  His standards are not flexible, because He is holy, and that means He is pure and “other than us.”  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard.  But He also loves us with a fierce, protective, all-consuming, life-changing love that is not bound by the limits of even the deepest love of man.  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard. 

With regards to homosexuality:

(1)  I believe that God’s Word makes it clear that homosexual activity is sin.  I know many believe they can explain away the several passages in scripture that make this clear.  But those arguments do not stand up to sound standards of Biblical interpretation.  Therefore, I reject the argument that “God didn’t really say that.”  He did say that.  People have the free will to choose to live set against His Word.  But it is simply not true that the Bible is in any way unclear on this matter.

(2)  I’m not sure what my Christian brothers and sisters would say to me in this one, but here goes…  I believe that the evidence of nature, personal witness, and common sense makes it clear that some people are born with a homosexual proclivity.  I am making a clear distinction here between homosexual nature and homosexual behavior.  The clear testimony of many homosexuals, including some of my friends, is that their very earliest memories of a sexual nature involved same-sex attraction.

So, now what…?

The two statements above create tension.  On the one hand, God is saying that acting on one’s homosexual feelings is sin, and a violation of His relationship with us – enough of a violation (actually, EVERY sin is enough) to separate us from God forever.  No heaven.  No hope.  Just regret, guilt, pain, fear and darkness.  On the other hand, some people seem to grow up with an attraction to people of their own gender.  How can this be?  How can God allow this?  It isn’t fair.  It is too much to ask…

I have a lot of empathy for those with a homosexual predisposition.  Some fight it.  Others embrace it.  Still others live in the middle ground somewhere.  At some point, to come to a degree of mental peace about this issue, a person with a homosexual nature has to examine what they believe about the morality of homosexual behavior.  If you’re gay, and have looked at the Bible and agree that it seems clear that homosexuality (expressed through lifestyle) is wrong, you must be either full of conflict, or you have chosen to reject the Bible as a valid authority in today’s culture.  If, on the other hand, you simply discount the Bible, being a homosexual today is much easier.

But easy does not equal right.  It’s often the hard road that is the best one.  And doing the right thing comes at a cost.  That’s true in every area of life, and it really matters.  It’s easier to cheat on tests and papers in school.  It’s easier to follow the crowd into all kinds of bad moral choices than it is to humbly go the right direction.  It’s easier for any man, gay or straight, to chase his sinful sexual nature into multiple relationships, but committing to one for life through marriage is so much better – and it is the only moral choice, with the authority of the Bible making that clear.

Unfortunately, the evangelical Christian community has often handled our relationships with gay people clumsily – or with venom.  A mean-spirited approach to people with a homosexual predisposition destroys our ability to share the life-giving message of Jesus.  We have not, in general, loved gay people very well as a community, because (to some degree) we don’t know how.  But we do know that the Bible says “don’t do it,” so we point our fingers and feel justified in doing so.  It is possible, Church, to be clear on moral lines, and still love people well.  In his way, Gene Robinson is trying to tell gay young people that we (evangelical Christians) have failed to show love, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t loving.  In as far as that goes, I agree with Gene.

HOWEVER, Gene Robinson is not just a random dude on the street.  Gene Robinson is a Bishop – a “representative” of God and God’s people.  He is influential, and many outside the church see him as a representative of those of us who identify ourselves as a part of Jesus’ family.  For this reason, when he speaks on behalf of God, and boldly proclaims lies as the truth, he becomes an enemy of the truth.  He is working against God.  And he is working against you, too.

Here is Bishop Gene Robinson’s “It Gets Better” message:

Gene Robinson, I’m sure, wants to help and encourage you if you are gay and are facing hostility, bullying, or just differing points of view.  I respect people’s freedom to live as they please in this country, and I am grateful for free speech.  But that door swings both ways.  Gene is free to proclaim things about God and about His people that are not true, and I am free to publicly oppose that message as not just a little bit off base, but actually demonic heresy.  Gene Robinson is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He may be a nice man, but I will take a stand today against his message.

When he says that your Baptist parents’ message  that God does not accept a homosexual lifestyle is “flat out not true,” he is wrong.  God won’t stop loving you, but his moral standards do not endorse homosexuality.  That is a hard truth, but being hard doesn’t make it wrong.

Mr Robinson goes on to say that God wants you to “be the way you are,” and that God made you that way… that He doesn’t want you to change.  The hard truth is, sin in the world has corrupted men – every one – so that we want things that we should not desire, and we long for things that go against God’s will for us.  In fact, all of us have sinned and have a broken relationship with God.  That’s why Jesus came and died for us.  So that if we trust Him, he cleanses us from our sin and buys us back from the kindgom of darkness.

Gene Robinson is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ by TITLE, but he is serving the wrong team.  If he were truly serving Jesus, he would tell the truth – that Jesus Christ died to save everyone because we all desperately NEED him to save us from our depravity.  Every sinner.  Gay and straight.  And Gene would tell you that God’s laws aren’t rewritten when they are hard to understand or seem too hard for us to live by.  God’s justice (His law) and His love (Jesus’ rescue) never change, even when the culture does.

So, if you are gay, and wondering what to do with it all, I want to tell you the truth in love.  Most Christians don’t hate you.  They (and I) may do a lousy job of loving you, but don’t write off Jesus for the failures of his kids.  We are all broken people.  We may not understand your struggles and desires, because straight people just haven’t been there.  But God does set a clear standard.  Homosexual behavior is sin.  And many, many, many people born with a homosexual inclination or nature have learned to fight that fight for love of God and the truth.  The message of the gay community right now is “It Gets Better,” and they are right.  This culture is making more and more efforts to affirm the gay lifestyle as a normal, healthy choice.  If you choose not to wrestle with the moral implications of a gay lifestyle, it will only get easier for you the older you get.  But there is grave danger in that choice.  Your life on earth is only a blink.  And then you face eternity. 

You need Jesus, because it is too hard for you without Him.  So do I, because in my way, resisting sin and earning heaven by living the perfect lifestyle is too hard for me, too.  Only in Jesus do we have any hope.  If you want to talk with me more about this, use my contact info and shoot me an email or call me up.  God does love you like crazy, and there is great hope in that truth.  But that isn’t to say we can do anything we want, and God will simply endorse it as a “no big deal” decision.  Love and justice.  Moral boundaries BECAUSE He wants the best for us.

Gene Robinson gets it ALMOST right when he says, “God wants you to live in the light of His love, and that light will take away all of this darkness…”

Unfortunately Gene is implying that we Christians, speaking the truth about God’s clear Biblical guidelines, we are the darkness.  He would seek to put a dividing wall between God’s love and “religious people.”  Gene is wrong.  SIN is the darkness.  He is on the wrong team.  One day Gene will answer to God for his life.  So will I.  So will you.  And on that day, the light WILL take away all darkness – all sin, of every kind will be eradicated.  Between that day and this one, we all need Jesus.  Thankfully,God DOES love us beyond our wildest imagining.  He loves us enough to show us the hard truth in His Word, and to send Jesus to do the impossible on our behalf.

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“it will get better, but that’s not the point :: a response to gene robinson, with my gay friends and the church listening in” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

Almost two weeks ago now, novelist Anne Rice (famous for her “Vampire Chronicles” series, including Interview With the Vampire) did something, because of her faith in Jesus Christ, that resonated with a lot of people.

She left Christianity.

July 29, 2010, on her Facebook page, Anne posted the following:

In follow-up posts and interviews, Anne has continued to espouse a life-changing faith in Jesus while rejecting any unity with other believers… at least in any organized way (aka: religion).  In her next FB post, Anne wrote “Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Yes… but.  And that’s a big “but.”

It’s not that I don’t understand where Anne Rice is coming from.  While I don’t share many of her social politics or views, that’s not the point here.  I agree with her in some ways.  I think so much of the in-fighting and judgement and hypocrisy and (fill in the blank) that exists within organized Christianity is yucky, too.  That’s like calling water wet.  But what Anne is doing here is basically taking the blood of Christ for herself, and leaving His Body behind.  * Insert vampire metaphor here. *

And it is appealing.  To many, many people.  Faith without structure.  Spirituality without accountability.  Personal God-relationship without the clutter of people-relationship interfering in your faith life.  The blessings of the one-on-one experience without the responsibility of community.

But God designed us for relationships!  We’re wired for community!  Look at Genesis…  Before Eve came along, Adam was in a perfect relationship with God – before the tree, before the apple, before the fall.  There was no sin.  There was no shame.  There was open face to face communication between Adam and God.  And IN THAT CONTEXT, God said, “it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone…”

I will tell you right now, if you diss my wife, you will answer for it to me.  That wasn’t just meant to be full of testosterone-laden machismo.  I’m saying NO ONE I hang out with can get away with choosing me and not accepting Amy.  We’re a package deal.  Rejecting Amy means losing me, too.  We’re ONE.

God said the Church is His Bride.  Jesus’ last prayer session in John 17 before being taken captive and crucified for us is a longing prayer that we (His followers) might become ONE, the way He and the Father are one.  He loves the Church that deeply.

And when asked about the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37-40), Jesus answered (paraphrased) ” Love God like crazy, first of all, but ALMOST as important is to love the people around you selflessly.”  It has always been God AND people.  That’s His design.

Sure Anne Rice, or you and I, could love people in Jesus name – serve the poor, etc. – without any community of faith.  We can be Lone Wolves for Jesus.  But He doesn’t want us to.  If you want a meaningful relationship with me, you get Amy, too.  Husband and Wife.  Jesus and the Church.  She’s not perfect, but she is beautiful.  And mine.

If you’ve got a couple minutes, listen to this track (posted below) called “The Church” from Derek Webb (on “She Must and Shall Go Free”).  We agree that the Church is a flawed bride.  She has sold herself for a lesser reward that Jesus over and over and over again.  But if you can simply accept that the problem with the Church is that there are people in it who need love and grace, maybe it’s time to rethink that lone-wolf faith that seems so simple and so uncluttered.  If you love Him, love His church…

Click on the tab below to stream the audio >>

[audio:http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/11 – The Church.mp3|titles=11 – The Church]

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“i love you man, but I can’t stand your wife :: anne rice, derek webb, vampires, and the church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Our gravitational pull is toward numb.  It is just not possible to sustain gut-wrenching emotion.  So when suffering outlasts our natural capacity for compassion, we need to intentionally remind ourselves.  Feel it again.

It has been over a month since the earthquake. Conditions on the ground are worse, not better, in many cases.  As time slips by, I have had my eyes open for a couple of tangible ways people can help.  Here are two that are inspiring to me:

A Home in Haiti

This organization is meeting the immediate needs of homeless families by providing waterproof tents as shelter from the sun and the coming rainy season.  The rainy season officially begins in 4 days.  Many families have no shelter – or are trying to huddle under sheets held up by sticks.  If you want to make a life-changing difference in somebody’s RIGHT NOW reality, buy a tent.  Donate money.  200,000 tents are needed to erradicate homelessness in Haiti right now.

Click here to learn more and to help.

Help Haiti Live

A February 27th concert sponsored by Compassion International, streaming live, raising money and awareness of the brokeness and the need in Haiti.  To learn more about this event, click here to visit the Help Haiti Live website.  I have a part of my heart reserved for Compassion International.  We sponsor a boy in Tanzania through Compassion.  They have done so much good in Jesus’ name for the least and the marginalized and the small… it boggles the mind.  I trust Compassion International – their track record is impeccable for fiscal responsibility and minimization of administrative costs.  If you want to help in a long-term, bricks and mortar kind of way, give generously to this fundraising effort by Compassion.

As an artist I have been moved by the beautiful work and art of the designers, musicians, and technicians working in symbiosis to help us feel.  Brad Ruggles design on the Help Haiti Live site is gorgeous.  The music from Provident Label Group above gave me goosebumps.  The video work is outstanding.  But it isn’t about the art.  It is about FEELING.  Artists help the Church feel what is important.  And feeling motivates action.  At the end of the day, it is easiest to block out the suffering of people we will never meet, in a place we may never go.  But Jesus love is global.  And we are the Church.  So we must love.  And love without action can hardly be  love at all.

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“when the shock turns numb :: haiti now” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

You can watch the world in real time now. Google Earth.  Twitter updates.  Blog posts.  All avenues to see the pain in Haiti.  At some point tonight, amid a mix of posts about cookies and Conan O’Brien and the crisis in Haiti (all coming from me), something turned my stomach.  No more trivia right now.  People are dying, and others with broken bones have no medical help.  Water is in short supply.  Infection will set in soon for thousands more.  The next window of history in Haiti will be dark.  But Jesus has hands and feet world-wide.  The Church (big “C”) can help.

I have not posted here about Haiti before now because several other bloggers I follow have done such a great job already.  But I realize that maybe YOU have not read those posts.  Maybe YOU will find out what you need to know here.  Maybe God is nudging YOU to move.  Right now.

First of all, my wife and I have discussed the fact that it is hard to “feel” this scale of tragedy far away unless you actively pursue being uncomfortable.  Look at the destruction.  That’s not your home or mine, but it is somebody’s home.  Look at the broken legs and bleeding kids.  Those aren’t your kids or mine, but they are somebody’s kids.  This may be the most widely linked set of pictures available from the first 24 hours or so after the quake, but if you have not yet intentionally looked deeply and felt deeply, go HERE. (from Boston.com)

Secondly, there are many good ways to help.  Many organizations are on the ground now, doing all they can.  There’s no “best answer” here – just pick an avenue and get involved.  Our church, Living Hope in St. Michael-Albertville, MN, is partnering with WorldVision, one of the first responders after the quake.  Click on the banner to donate:

If not WorldVision, how about the Red Cross? Something so simple…  send a text message and donate $10 automatically.  Blip!  Done.  As of last night (January 14), the Red Cross had already raised over $6 million by text.  Here’s how:  text the phrase “HAITI” to the number 90999 and donate $10 to the Red Cross. The amount is charged to your cell phone bill.

Want to help AND do it in the name of Jesus?  Text the phrase “disaster” to the number 90999 and donate $10 to through Compassion International. I included a link to Compassion earlier in this post – a big huge blue box of a link.  Can’t miss it.  Amy and I have sponsored a boy from Tanzania through Compassion for years.  We hold them in very high regard.  They have established an efficient network to get help where it is needed, minimizing administrative costs.  If you choose to help through Compassion International, here’s what happens with your gift:

  • $35 helps provide a relief pack filled with enough food and water to sustain a family for one week.
  • $70 gift helps care for their needs for two weeks.
  • $105 helps provide relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain two families for two weeks.
  • $210 gift helps care for two families’ needs.
  • $525 provides relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain 10 families for two weeks.
  • $1,050 gift cares for 10 families’ needs.
  • $1,500 helps rebuild a home.
  • $2,100 supplies 20 families with the basics for three weeks.
  • I’ll end with this… I drink coffee all day.  I drive wherever I want.  We struggle to choose which nationality of food stuff to eat for supper each evening.  America is draped in comfort – even on our hardest days.  That American comfort has a numbing effect on our desperation meter.  Real people right now are trapped, thirsty, wounded, terrified, desperate.  Don’t let your comfortable chair and the glow of your laptop lull you out of reality.  Stop what you’re doing.   Pray for God’s comfort and mercy.  Pray for miracles.  May the endless well of God’s provision and love meet the deep cries for help in Haiti. Right now.  Amen.

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    “if not now, when? :: deep cries out to deep in haiti” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

    Eli Desk_small

    I have tears running down my face. Dripping on my jeans.

    For the past several years our family has sponsored a little boy named Eli from Tanzania. Eli Masoda Deengw. He’s about the same age as our oldest son, Seth. I remember when we first got the information packet from Compassion International about Eli. His cheeks were round when he smiled for his picture. Now he’s growing up long and tall – a lot like Seth.

    Amy and I were talking last night about our life. What matters most to us. We are in the between-land right now. The prayerful place God leads us through when we don’t know what is just ahead. Between the stable places. We’re adjusting to a major life-change as Amy is not teaching in the Christian School she’s served for the past 15 years. Our personal economic landscape is shifting. We are living on less, looking for open doors, praying for provision.

    But today, while snow and rain mix and fall on my roof, it’s warm and dry and cozy in our house. We have food in our pantry and milk in our refrigerator. Our boys are reading books and playing with toys. We’re rich. And whatever comes our way financially, we are committed to sponsoring Eli. Homes in his village have dirt floors and grass roofs. Average income for his parents is about $11 a month. We can certainly be an extension of Jesus’ love for one boy. We can afford Eli.

    Two weeks ago, Catalyst 2009 was held in Atlanta, GA, for young Christian leaders. Watch the video below as Jimmy Wambua meets Mark, his Compassion Sponsor of 19 years, for the first time. It’s an unbelievable moment… This is what brought the tears to my eyes today. Jimmy begins to share at minute 3:45.

    Catalyst 2009 Compassion Moment from Catalyst on Vimeo.

    Do you want to make a real difference in someone’s life? Can you afford $38 a month? Click here to sponsor a child through Compassion International today. You can… I’m going to write a letter to Eli.

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    “what is it worth :: compassion in perspective” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.