I’ve been learning over and over that unless someone is willing to see the unwieldy plank in their own eye, it’s absolutely impossible to help them out of their destructive patterns and self-deception.

You can yell and grieve and make a scene. You can spend hours in gentle counsel and eloquent exchange and loud weeping and tongue-biting patience. But unless that person wants to change, it’s not happening. No argument or mercy or fervency is enough. They’ll need to be pierced by their own convictions, or in the worst case, they must come to their own ruin and see the miles of hurt they’ve caused. Otherwise, you’re only reinforcing their pride and building their defenses and rationalizations.

Often the only thing we can do is to pray and humble ourselves. To look at our own plank first. To expect the best, even if the other person is taking no strides. To keep the door open. To keep serving. And maybe it’s not about the other person anyway. If they don’t change, you will.

— J.S.

Photo from Lucash

The other night, I was at a church service and I was really asking God to do something.

I’ve just been jaded. Really, really worn down. I’ve heard every kind of sermon there is, I know all the right theology, I’ve read every bestseller, I know all the songs and what they’ll say next. It’s a bad place to be. It feels like maybe, I’ve tapped out on faith and I would never have that fiery, from-the-gut connection that I used to. I’ve gotten out of it before, but maybe this time, I would have to learn how to settle. I guess it would be okay.

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bluerbluebluesky asked a question:

Hey JS it’s been a while, hope you’re well and congrats on your marriage (and your new books). Please bear with me, it’s weird writing in being removed from Christianity, but you really do seem like a genuine and real guy and I had really appreciated your words before. How do you stay confident in a good God when He has “fearfully and wonderfully” made you with depression? I can’t understand why He’d watch His kids live with chronic unbalanced neurochemicals that make them suicidal. Thanks JS

Hey dear friend, I appreciate your very kind words and I’m thankful for your honest challenging question.

I think there are really two ways to look at this. One is that God created everything in history, including death and disease and disasters, as a big ball of yarn that will one day be un-done by His glory. The other is that God created a perfect world of perfect yarn, but it became frayed when sin and death entered the picture and we now live within the stream of a disarrayed universe, which will be re-done by His glory. (If you’re a doctrine-nerd, the first view is called “supralapsarianism” and the second is “infralapsarianism.”)

The problem with the first view is that it assumes God is the author of evil and tragedy. The problem with the second view is that it assumes God is out of control somehow, as if He didn’t see this coming. It’s hard to reconcile either idea, and both of them have good points while bringing up tons of problematic questions.

For me: I’m sort of balancing it out right down the middle. I believe I wasn’t made with depression. I don’t think we were meant to be sick or starving or dead. And at the same time, I believe God is the author and He’s totally in control. I don’t know how both of these things can be true, but it’s beyond me to understand. My brain is allergic to paradoxes and it might catch fire if I get too close. So I live within the tension of a fallen imperfect world and a perfectly loving God.

What I won’t do is moralize or spiritualize any of this to say that “pain is a lesson” or that God gives everyone a “wonderful plan for your life.” I don’t know why such evil exists. I think it scares some Christians to say “I don’t know,” but I can’t pretend to draw lines between my depression and some epiphany. Our pain is going to be bad, and there’s nothing else I can do but let it bleed sometimes and let it be part of our story.

I can be certain of one thing.

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The Jesus That I Need

July 27, 2015 — 8 Comments

Image from Beauty4ashes

The Jesus that I want would probably serve me and my own interests and align with my theological leanings and plans and dreams.

The Jesus that I need would serve the people that I forgot existed, who lived outside my best-laid plans and doctrinal camps, and he would just as quickly subvert my interests to care about others’ interests above my own.

The Jesus that I want would probably listen to my music, look like my race, match my Myers Briggs, and fight for my ideology.

The Jesus that I need would knock me over with exuberant music I never heard, enter my culture without condescending or conforming, would accept and challenge who I am, and transcend the very petty human idea of an ideology.

The Jesus that I want would probably die for people who liked me or were like me or were most likely.

The Jesus that I need died for the people who were nothing like him and he loved them, and even liked them, and he rose to find them. He even rose to find you and me: the least likely, because he’s the love we want, and need.

— J.S.

Cutting It Off paperback

My book on quitting porn, Cutting It Off is available from Amazon for only 5.99!
The ebook is only 2.99 and works on every device.

It’s written for you or to help your friend, regardless of gender or beliefs, and has info on what porn does to your brain, practical steps to quit, and how to quit for good.

The book has officially been endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church, of which I’m also a contributing blogger.

Total freedom and sobriety is possible.
Be blessed, dear friends!
— J.S.


They say everyone gets a honeymoon period at the start of your marriage, but whoever brandished that idea: I want a refund.

Marriage is hard work right out of the gate. Our sentimental ideas about romance get tossed out very, very quickly — and I want you to be ready. Everyone told me what to expect, but no matter how much you prepare, it’s still a jump in the deep end. The more you know about what’s coming, the quicker you can stand on your two feet.

I know that marriage isn’t for everyone (contrary to our culture, singleness is not an illness), but whether you’re not in the dating scene or you’ve been married for years, here are three things I learned instantly in the first week of marriage. These lessons could be valuable and necessary for our entire journey.

1) Marriage pulls down the hologram and brings about the gritty reality of your spouse (and yourself too).

My wife and I dated for six years before we were married, and in those six years, I have never heard her pass gas once. I would constantly tell her that it was okay, but my wife was dead-set on maintaining an air of elegance. No pun intended.

About four days into the marriage, on a wonderful crisp morning in Florida, I asked my wife, “Are you boiling eggs?”

She said, “No. I’m not boiling eggs.”

“Are the sprinklers on outside?”

“No. The sprinklers are not on.”

“But then what’s that sm—”

And it hit me. Pun intended.

[By the way, I have my wife’s permission to share this story. I’m proud to say that she now regularly passes gas around me with the most exuberant freedom.]

In dating, we’re often on our best behavior. It’s like a job interview, where both sides show off their impressive benefits and credentials. In marriage, you see the rough, raw edges of the entire person. Marriage creates perhaps the closest proximity you will ever have with another human being. You’ll see every insecurity and neurotic tendency. There will be friction.

This is more than just about keeping up a pretty image.

It’s also a way of learning how to love an entire person and not just the parts that you like.

In Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, he discusses how we each have fault lines in our hearts, like the cracks of a great bridge. These fault lines get exposed when we collide with another person, so that we spill anger or jealousy or anxiety. A married couple, because they’re so close in space, will inevitably drive a truck through each other’s hearts: which exposes all the fault lines. Deep-seated flaws will shake out of us like shaking a tree in the autumn. It’s in this exposure that we can choose to face our flaws, so that they would be re-shaped by the love we share. The sooner, the better.

You’ll also see every dream, hope, talent, passion, and ambition in your spouse. You’ll see what lights them up and gets them excited. This means that marriage is often about showing grace for your spouse’s worst and promoting their very best. Love sees a greatness in someone who cannot see it in themselves. And if marriage is one of the most intimate unions in the universe, then it has the power to encourage a person beyond their self-imposed limits. Though this can happen in many types of relationships, marriage offers a profound intensity to spiritual growth. Finally, we can pull down our holograms of who we pretend to be, and actually become the people we were meant to be.

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My mom and dad came to this country separately over thirty years ago and met in New York City, where they were married; my dad came to the U.S. with sixty dollars in his single pair of pants, and my mom couldn’t speak a word of English.  My dad was a Vietnam War Veteran, 2nd Lieutenant in the R.O.K. Army on the side of the U.S., and the only escaped prisoner of war from the Tet Offensive in 1969.  He’s also a licensed veterinarian and a Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do, a ninth degree black belt, the 54th 9th degree in the world.

Before my parents divorced when I was fourteen, my mom owned a laundromat and a grocery store next door to each other and would run back and forth between them to serve customers; sometimes she took old clothes that people left behind because we were too poor to afford any. My dad owned a martial arts dojo and mopped the entire floor every morning, then taught four classes in the evenings almost all in Korean.  Between the two of them, they worked almost 200 hours per week and slept maybe three hours per night.

One summer, someone spraypainted a swastika on the front wall of the dojo. My dad painted over it, but on those hot humid days, we could still see that Nazi symbol like an angry pulsing scar.

We got a message on our answering machine — maybe the same Nazi artists — who spent a good ten minutes making fun of my dad’s accent. I remember seeing my dad listen to it several times, staring quietly out a window. When he noticed me, he turned it off and said, “Just boys playing a joke.” The voices were from grown men.

When we visited with friends, we felt the invisible walls of cliques and class between us.  We were aliens from another world, just a foreign prop in the hero-story of the Westerner.  I was the token Asian.  When I visit churches, I still am.  Christians feel proud to know me because I meet their diversity quota; my other friends are proud to know me because they can make Asian jokes and explain, “Don’t worry, I have an Asian friend.”

In elementary school, when I first made friends and came over, I would immediately take off my shoes and bow to their parents.  I remember freaking out the first time I saw a fork.  I asked for two sticks to eat my food, and they said, “No, you can stab your food now.”  I still slightly bow to people as a reflex, and I still don’t get forks.

When I meet native Koreans from my own country, they call me kyopo, which is a slang term for misplaced native.  They make fun of my heavy American accent when I try to speak Korean.  They’re surprised I’m taller than them and say, “It must be hormones in the McDonald’s.”  They think I’m arrogant because I watch American TV shows and I have a blog written entirely in English.

I live in two worlds. I do not fully embody either, yet belong to both.

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About a year ago, I donated half my salary to charity to fight human trafficking.  I had saved for the entire year to make one check for $10,000.

I don’t say this to brag, at all.

I say this because I’m a selfish person.  I love comfort, my shiny things, the safety of a new gadget and adding things to my wish list.  I am naturally lazy and indulgent and self-absorbed.

But I also believe in a God who humbled Himself to become one of us.  I believe in a God who paid an infinite price to set us free.  I believe in a God who wrote Himself into the story of humanity to enter our struggle, to lead us into life, and to ultimately exchange our brokenness for grace.

Because I believe in a God who has this sort of heart —

I am compelled to have the same heart for others.

The selflessness of God utterly melted my selfishness to pieces.  His grace tenderized my conceited heart.  I gave my life away because God did the same for me.

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Image from http://couragehopestrength.tumblr.com

I was going through followers the other day and noticed some blogs that were “last updated 6 months ago” or longer. There were a lot of these.

Maybe they got bored or distracted or busy — but my guess is they probably didn’t get the huge number of likes and follows and reblogs they were expecting, and just gave up.

Please don’t do that. There are very few things we do consistently in this life. We’re quick to jump from island to island of halfway commitment. Taking a break is totally okay: but I exhort you to persist in sharing your one unique voice with the world community.

If you’re about to jump ship: please do NOT bail on your blog. Do what you must — take a sabbath, go on hiatus, commune with nature, restore relationships, try new things — but come back and tell us about it.

It doesn’t matter if you only have a few readers. You’re not doing it for that. And even if you were, those few people who follow you might really be encouraged by what you have to say. You might be the only one saying it.

But more than that: your blog is a captured snapshot of your one fleeting transitory life, like the dust mote suspended in a sunbeam that shimmers for a spectacular moment in time. It is beauty wrapped in expression, and you are putting something into the world that no one else can. God made you for it.

So keep sharing. Keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep taking pictures. Keep encouraging others. In some small way: you are healing your part of the universe. You are needed more than you know. You are making a bigger impact than you think.

— J.S.


Image from HD4 Wallpapers

If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert — I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much, and you can hear me laughing from across the street — but I am a full-blooded introvert.

If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale. 

I intensely guard my personal space and my private life.  It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real live human beings.

Here’s how you handle us.

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Image from Hooki

Ever prayed more for someone just because they’re hot?

Come on, I’ve done that too. Let’s not act like we’re above judging looks here. We give more cred to someone based on their defined jawline and bigger bra size than their less tangible patience and hospitality and compassion.

A very fleshy part of our human nature presumes that good-looking people are also just good, or that less good-looking people don’t really count somehow.

In church it’s easy to ask for prayer requests from the well-off, well-dressed, clean-cut, easily approachable mid-twenties demographic. Not the weird cat lady off the street, not the dude with the one rotten tooth who talks up a storm, not the pale socially awkward kid who says dorky things.

Most Christian books have the same problem: they’re geared to that same easygoing group of believers who attend the same megachurch in a crimeless suburban gated neighborhood with the sparkling 2.5 kids and Hollywood acceptable appearance, but they have nothing to say for the sick struggling screwed-up former addict who can’t find a job because he just “looks wrong.”

Wired into all our unaware brains is the deception that appearance means more than it should: but if I could give you a pair of X-ray goggles, you’ll see a bunch of skeletons with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, anxieties, and worries that everyone else has too.

That seventeen year old pimply kid who loves Call of Duty is the same bag of meat and bones as the athletic football captain with the perfect hair; that girl who everyone hates because of her so-called overweight body could just as easily have been the same girl with the slightly higher cheekbones who runs the gang of cheerleaders. You can honk your car horn at the punk teenager on his skateboard crossing the street, but wave at the old lady on her walker: when both are just people who run deeper than what you see.

Take a Spiritual X-Ray and we all have the same vacuum of eternity within our souls with the same desperate longing inside. You and I could do way better than our visual addiction to all things sight, and instead see by vision.

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Photo by H.T. Yu, CC BY 2.0

An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.

Edit: December 21st, 2014
– My new book on quitting porn addiction is here! In paperback on sale for only $5.69 and e-book for 2.99 on Amazon! It contains this entire series of posts plus brand new info, fully updated and fleshed out, with specific steps to quit.

My podcast series “Cutting It Off” — here.

Why Do I Use Porn? Why Can’t I Stop? Here.

Every question submitted about porn on this blog, here.

**Updated: May 2013

For the podcast episode based on this post, click here.

The science behind porn addiction will not surprise you.  It can be easily mocked as apocalyptic research with an old-fashioned bias, but excuses to use porn are also biased by the hand down your pants. Objective evidence of pornography’s effects has one goal: to show how much porn screws up your brain. For some that will be enough to quit.

Obviously, something serious is happening in the neurology of a person who will not stop using porn.  Constant exposure to graphic, unreal, out-of-bounds sex doesn’t just go in one hand and out the other (bad pun). Like the heroin addict or the gambler or the alcoholic, several key things are happening.

Much of the following research is borrowed and not my own. Please keep in mind that the term “addiction” is a serious term and might or might not apply to you, but it’s worth investigating. I don’t mean to over-dramatize here or make a big show of scientific language, but porn use does have a particular undeniable effect on the brain.

Sources include Craig Gross’ Pure Eyes, Eyes of Integrity, and Dirty Little Secret, and William Struther’s Wired For Intimacy. I’ve read and re-read these important resources and highly recommend them to you.  There is also Michael Leahy’s Porn Nation, Mike Wilkerson’s Redemption, Tim Chester’s Closing The Window, and David Powlison’s tiny booklet Slaying The Dragon. Where possible, I’ve tried to research articles and current news behind pornography and the porn industry. And of course, there is personal experience with addiction plus countless hours spent with young and old porn addicts.

The Addict’s Path:

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What is grace? How is it different than pampering or enabling or being “nice”? How does grace confront sin and change our lives?
Two and a half minutes on how grace pulverizes us into new people.

Subscribe to my channel here. Love y’all! — J.S.

[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]

fall-out-ahoy asked a question:

What is your opinion on asexual people? (Also your book Mad About God is amazing!)

Hey dear friend, thank you so much. I hope you’ll leave some kind words about the book when you’re finished, but totally optional and up to you!

I believe sexuality is such a significant discussion with too many nuances and angles that I couldn’t possibly do it justice here. Any time it’s brought up online, everyone yells or rips it apart or assumes I’m implying something terrible if I missed even one little point. I sometimes hate talking about this because I get scared of offending people, and I end up dancing around answers because of over-sensitive, self-victimizing shaming that has already pre-judged that I’m a bigot. You have to know that I love you and I love people and I only care that others would know Jesus and see Jesus in me. I might fail at that, but I’m really trying. I’m asking for your grace if I say anything that’s tone-deaf or unthoughtful.

Here’s the thing. Sexuality is not the most important facet about a person. I don’t think you mean to say it is, but I find so much idolatry and vanity in this area that we fight over it like it’s life-and-death. It’s one slice of a much bigger pie that encompasses an entire human being.

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Photo by Dave Apple

happymuffinsnapeface asked a question:

I’ve just experienced a spiritual “high” and now I’m feeling distant again, what can I do to get closer to him?

Hey dear friend, may I just say: This is just about the number one concern I receive from Christians all over the world, so you are absolutely not alone in this. I’m there, all the time, barely hanging on — much more than I’d like to admit.

As always, the Big Christian Secret is that everyone gets distant from God; we doubt He exists; we feel far from Him through no fault of our own. We can even do all the right things to return to Him, but they might not work for a long while. The best thing is to keep doing what you’re doing and to keep believing, even if it’s with a tiny shred of faith. Keep serving, singing, praying, reading your Bible, and hanging out with Christians, even (and especially) when you don’t feel like it.

I know that “going through the motions” is vilified in the church and considered total hypocrisy. I get that. But when a preacher is telling me, “Are you really truly sincerely worshiping from the bottom of your gut?” — I just feel worse. Guilt-trips don’t jump me back into on-fire faith. Sometimes “going through the motions” is exactly what I need to get me through this desert valley. If our default setting is sin, then even the weakest movement towards God is worthy of celebrating.  And maybe feeling God is a false parameter for our faith, because faith is often about how we stay despite wanting to leave.

Do I love my wife? Yes. Do I wonder if she loves me sometimes? Yes. Does it get tough? Yes. Do I stay her husband? Of course. Marriages are not on maximum volume all the time. The highs come with the lows; it’s a roller-coaster of doubts and frustration and boundless happiness. I don’t always “feel” romantic or gushy. But the bottom line is always there, that we are married by a promise of love, and my actions for her are not ultimately determined by how I feel. In fact, my actions for her are often the doorway to feel love and loved again.

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There’s a lot of doom-and-gloom talk about the loss of American religious freedom, but I for one am excited about the whole thing.

I don’t mean in a golly-gosh, let’s-be-like-first-century-Christians sort of way, and I don’t mean to diminish real life-and-death persecution happening elsewhere.  But for real: this is the long overdue spank we need on our angry little Western bottoms.

Eight reasons why this “persecution” is a good thing.

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My very first released book What The Church Won’t Talk About is on sale for only $1.99! Today is the last day of the sale!


It covers the taboo topics we don’t feel safe to ask about in church, such as: porn addiction, homosexuality, abortion, doubts, depression, self-harm, and sex. These are real questions from real people about our gray-space struggle with no easy answers.

The paperback is only 8.99! If you’re blessed by the book, please consider reviewing it on Amazon. Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

We’ve all been in a crowd where someone starts doing the sassy finger and going into hater mode.  “Did you hear about our dear so-and-so in Christ?  Because not to be a gossiping jerk, but I’m about to be a gossiping jerk.”

It’s not too hard to stop your own mouth (simple: don’t start), but when someone else among friends starts going off on gossip, it gets awkwardly difficult to control.  It’s not enough to just change subjects or step away.

So then, some ways to shut this down.

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Anonymous asked:

How do I get over my fear of man? I know what ultimately matters is God’s opinion of me. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. I feel constantly misunderstood, or I make decisions out of fear, not love because I’m afraid of what others might think of me. I don’t give in to surface things like peer pressure, but it’s more of deeper things like what people think of me in ministry and my integrity. Am I idolizing my reputation? How can I care less what people think of me?

I believe this has been one of the most problematic issues my entire life, and I wish I could say I’m over it, but it’s not easy.  Dear friend: It’s impossible not to think about what other people think about you.  So if you trip over yourself or accidentally fart in public, then you can act as cool as you want, but you’ll be screaming to death inside.  And that’s natural.  We are relational creatures, and there’s no getting around the need to please people.  Allow yourself a bit of breathing room here.

It takes time, patience, practice, and God-empowered grace to overcome this — and it often happens in layers.  While I still feel the burning needle of other peoples’ opinions lodged in my heart, I’m also not as controlled by other opinions as I once was.  You don’t have to rush the process.

But there is a process.  I’ve learned over the years that whenever I feel the attention-seeking, people-pleasing, self-condemning fear, I break down this anxiety into several logical parts.  It requires a discipline by the grace of God to really dig in.  So here are some things to consider every time you feel the pressure.

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Anonymous asked:

I realized that I wasn’t as confident as I ought to be and in that period, I sought help from these youtube male confidence-coaching/life coaching channels. They can teach good things like speaking your mind, not being so self-conscious … but then there’s the drive to when it comes to attracting a woman – being an alpha (not a beta) male; walking with confidence, and just a number of other things that just make me so anxious and uncomfortable … What would a Christian notion of true male confidence even be? How does the ‘alpha-male’ notion stand up? Thanks again for your dedication for allowing God to use you to bless others, brother.

Hey there dear friend, I appreciate your honesty since I know it probably wasn’t easy to ask.

I think the main problem with “coaching” about male confidence or any other particular standard is that it inevitably becomes a contest with no goal. It’s a completely arbitrary, random finish-line that we’ll never be happy with. Any kind of “level” we’re trying to reach is going to be another burden, whether it’s a Twelve Top Things To Be A Man type of list or Five Steps to a Better You. Even a three-point sermon eventually becomes a guilt-trip that leaves us feeling like we’ll never make it.

The Christian Gospel is never about adding burdens on, but taking burdens off. This means that “striving for the ideal” is ultimately a phantom concept that implodes from the inside. Whether it’s the Christian trying to stay pure or the athlete going for gold or a businessman making the next dollar: all these goals, while good and important, cannot be the sum of a whole person.

Trying to be confident will always defeat itself, because it never knows when to rest or be content. It’s a kind of legalism that operates out of the human problem: a self-justifying heart that must bolster the ego or be motivated by fear. Both will kill us. Even the most “macho” looking dude is either operating out of prideful vanity or fearful self-shaming.

I think these coaches can say good things and it can be good to pick up tips from them, but really they’re only covering symptoms of a larger problem. It’s like pruning a tree but never watering the roots. The way the world works is to reach higher, better, faster, sharper, and more. But as you’ve found, this is such a neurotic self-measuring anxiety that it collapses.

True confidence, perhaps ironically, means you don’t really care about having it. As C.S. Lewis says, to give a good first impression you must not try to make a good first impression, and then it will happen by itself. How does someone do that? How does someone inherently, naturally, instinctively have a security so strong that they don’t care what anyone thinks, yet loves them too?

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Very often when I talk about the love of God, some of the first go-to responses are, Well what about repenting from sin? What about conforming to the image of Christ? What about purity and holiness and the narrow road? What about wrath and hell and judgment? What about discipline and submission and obedience? What about selling all your stuff and moving to a hut in Taiwan and getting wrecked and radical for Jesus?

I do believe these things are important and they need discussion. A God of love must also be a God of justice, and Jesus had some very hard things to say to us. We can’t skip them. I’m completely against sugarcoating and watering it down – the truth exists regardless of my whimsy. Christianity is not a feel-good fuzzy for tickles and giggles, and it really does require your whole life.

I just think that some of us say sin and hell and holiness with a certain type of glee that’s shamelessly smug and lopsided. It’s with a hasty thoughtlessness that doesn’t consider the nuances of a whole person. Sometimes “sin” has been a person’s entire value, culture, and identity for their entire lives, and to expect a person’s worldview to shift so dramatically in a single sit-down is to play God. We expect people to change and get qualified before walking in the door, when this is the very opposite of how we each got inside – by a divine miracle. You and I don’t make that happen.

My job is that I’d point to Christ, and you would get to a place where he would challenge you on something you had never considered, and whether overnight or over a lifetime, you would solidify your own convictions.

And if we’re not speaking from a grieving, sacrificial, truly concerned heart, then it doesn’t matter how much we “stand for truth.” A jerk is still a jerk, no matter how upstanding we look.

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A trailer for my book, What The Church Won’t Talk About.

The paperback just dropped to only 8.99 and the ebook is 3.99!

[Subscribe to my YouTube channel here!]
[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions!]

— J.S.

What is “sin”? Is it merely just drinking and cursing and skipping church? Why is the word “sin” still important today?
How sin explains the itchy longing inside every human heart, and why it’s good news that you’re a sinner.

Subscribe to my channel here.

Love y’all!

— J.S.

[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]

Photo from Athena Grace

When the world goes crazy and life gets upside-down, it’s really hip to say, “Just be there for someone” — and you’re called a jerk if you say anything else. This is the new quip-ster cliché, and it’s now its very own legalism.

I understand this, because it’s insensitive to preach cold abstract theology at hurting people. Anyone who does this is thrown under the Religious Nut Bus. Defending God over cancer and car accidents and earthquakes often feels like I’m punching the air. For some of us, the evil in this world is the single largest hang-up we’ll face to faith, even more than bigoted hypocritical Christians. We might part ways here and it’s easy to be cynical. And that’s okay. We’re free to disagree.

But I wonder if most millennial Christians only resort to “Don’t talk about God, just-be-there-for-them” because they’re afraid of backlash from mainstream opinion. I wonder how much of our talk on “relevance” is a cowardice in offering a clear lucid theology on the pain of a broken world. The church has definitely messed up this conversation in the past, with bad platitudes like “He moves in mysterious ways” and “Just-wait-until-heaven,” but when we’re done apologizing for where we got it wrong, the Bible still has something good to say. If we can get past the fear of ridicule, there’s a rich, robust, roaring framework of faith that can endure the worst that life will throw at us. Even when we don’t believe it to be true, I find myself wanting it to be.

Of course we need to be present to love, to listen, to learn. Our “being-there” has priority over theology. I’m not going to bring up my systematic outline of God’s sovereignty at the moment of your collapse. But at some point, I need to give you more than a hug. I need to respond to the hurt, and no one wants a pat on the head or a pat response.

I truly believe that the Christian faith has the most coherent, cogent, competent worldview on suffering. Christianity offers both the pathos and the logos, both a presence and a reason. On one hand, we keep silent vigil when a friend suffers; we are loyal by their side. And on the other hand, we talk it out. We vent our frustrations. We seek wholeness.

I believe, like Job, that it’s absolutely acceptable to struggle with the nature of God’s goodness, and that it’s okay if we’re never fully at rest with pain. We can keep asking: Is He truly good? Is He really in control? How much am I allowed to doubt Him while still holding onto Him? Do I have the grace to question Him?

Even if God never tells us why we go through tragedy, we can still ask Him —

What do we do now?

Christians believe this is all going somewhere. We don’t always know why, we don’t always know what God is really doing, we don’t always find it easy to trust Him.

But I don’t want to be ashamed of my theology.
After all, my theology is alive, risen, and here.

— J.S. | What The Church Won’t Talk About


No one ever looks in the mirror and says, “I’m a jealous person,” because it implies other people are better than us or that we’re weak somehow, and we’re always trying to protect our egos. 

Because it’s so hidden: jealousy is one of the most destructive problems of all.  I’m so good at pretending I’m not jealous that I can disguise my hate as “criticism” and “observation” and “keeping it real.”  Certainly criticism doesn’t always come from jealousy, but you can tell when it does. 

I can attack someone’s weaknesses and presume a whole bunch of other weaknesses by clever extrapolation all while highlighting my strengths, and this makes me nothing more than a jealous petty little hater. 

During testimony-time at church when everyone is confessing all kinds of drug addictions and sexual deviance, I’ve never heard a single person say, “I’ve destroyed others with my envy.”  No one ever says, “I’m straight up drunk from haterade.”

When you see someone better than you — and we all do — there are two ways to respond.

1) Find ways to downgrade their human value, then rationalize your own contempt as justified criticism.

2) Celebrate their achievements and generously promote their growth while learning from them in humility.

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Photo from Breanna Lynn

Anonymous asked:

Tips on how to study the word of God? Thanks!

Hey dear friend, I totally got the thing for you.

1) Lather yourself in holy water borrowed from your local vampire hunter store.

2) Get in your booster chair and wear the bib that says, “Christmas? How about putting the CHRIST BACK IN CHRISTIANS #JesusJuke”

3) Put on 3-D glasses and your Bible Man cape and mask.

4) Use a fan to open your Bible and stop at any page with any of the Ten Plagues finger puppets.

5) Play “Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey. You won’t regret it.

6) Read the Bible in a Welsh English accent as loud as possible.

7) Wait for a fiery dove to rip through your ceiling with a new chapter of Revelation, which should already be happening at your weekly prayer meetings.

By the way, if you actually do this, please record it and show me.

Okay, but seriously.

Reading the Bible is hard. The Bible wasn’t even mass-produced until the last few-hundred years, and suddenly we’re all guilt-tripping each other on “read more Bible or bring the lighter fluid for your stake-burning.” But the Bible itself is hard. Am I allowed to say that? It’s dang hard.

So I want to say first: It’s okay to feel dumb about it. The quicker we can admit, “This is way over my head,” then the safer we’ll feel to get help. Here’s some help then to read the Bible.

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Photo by Andrea Howey

shatterrealm asked a question:

How would you say Christianity challenges you to think for yourself?

Hello dear sister in Christ! I have to plug you here and recommend your other blog, gothicchristian. I’m a fan!

Contrary to misinformed popular opinion, I would say Christianity challenges us to think for ourselves in several great ways.

1) God first and foremost commands us to think for ourselves.

If God’s commands are a way of describing reality and how it ought to work, then it’s a big deal that God wants us to think through to the bottom of everything. Passages like 1 John 4 and Proverbs 2:9-11 show that God wants us to have discernment and wisdom, and that “knowledge is pleasant to the soul.”  Acts 17 is almost entirely about Paul wanting us to dig deep on what we really believe. God is absolutely pro-intellect and pro-science, and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t read the Bible very far.

2) Traditional Christianity had such a profound respect for knowledge that it practically kept libraries open during the so-called “Dark Ages.”

I know that not everyone will see eye-to-eye on this one, but modern scholars have completely dismissed the “Dark Age” myth and how “Christianity set us back for centuries.” This is a terrible misconception and only repeated by the shallowest of college students. Any medieval historian will tell you that early Christians cared so much about knowledge, whether pagan religion or Greek philosophy, that they preserved such teachings until it revitalized academia, to the point that you can link this revival with the scientific method and the Enlightenment. I personally believe the church has really lost their way on this in the twentieth and twenty-first century – but it must never be said that the early Christians tried to snuff out the sciences. It’s the very, very opposite. The purest state of Christianity will always seek knowledge in its purest form, no matter where it comes from, because the Christian believes all information can point us back to the true God (1 Timothy 4:4, Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4).

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