wherethecherryblossomsdance asked a question:

Could I ask you a question? Is it a bad thing to want everyone, regardless of their religion and faith to just worship together and love one another? Is it really wrong to want to go to someone who is Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, and go “Let’s worship together?” I feel that as long as different religions and beliefs attack one another, insisting that one is right and all others are wrong, this cannot become a reality, and it saddens me. I want to see us all get along and join together. Is that so bad?

tworoadsdivergedblog asked a question:

Something I’ve always wondered is how we (Christians) all serve one God but differ so much when it comes to doctrine (sure, there are basic things we agree upon, but we also have so many little things we disagree with that we have to label ourselves) ? Are we just simply not meant to fully understand the truth? I get that we are all different, and we can’t put God in a box, but if we are all in a relationship with one God, how is it that we aren’t unanimous when it comes to interpreting scripture and whatnot? We can’t all be right, so how do we know what is right to believe? Our feelings? Convictions?

Hey there my dear friends, to be very truthful: this has always been a tough one for me. Because —

- I’ve had relatives pass away who did not know Christ, and I’ve sincerely hoped that some part of them had accepted Christ and that it was enough.

- If I’m to believe Christianity is real, then I’m to accept that everything Jesus taught on Hell is also real, and this is not a particular reality that I find easy to face.

- Our wildly varying Christian convictions sometimes leads me to think that none of us have it right, and maybe there are different ways to the Truth after all.

- I also consider myself a skeptical Christian, so I might not even be the best person to re-affirm your thoughts here either.

While I know we won’t all see eye-to-eye nor can I hope to answer all your concerns, here’s the bare minimum that I believe.

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When I share a blog-post written by another male with a fellow dude, usually he’s quick to dismiss it or bash it without really reading it, because:

- Men often feel threatened by the possibility of another man’s popularity or intellect, so they protect themselves by thinking “What a pretentious douche.”  We’re quick to write you off.  If you infringe upon another male’s ego, they will mentally murder you with immediate character assassination.

- Men tend to be insanely jealous of other men’s success, usually because they suffer from intense insecurity or a lack of affirmation. It’s not always their fault, but it’s why men will see other men in a gym and say, “He ain’t all that big” or “He probably takes roids.”  When a man gets jealous because his girlfriend is being hit on by another dude, this usually isn’t about his girlfriend, but it’s about the power-struggle of “conquering” his property.

- Most men do not like reading blog posts, or books, or the instructions, or street signs.

- Men will devalue another man’s success by crediting external factors, while blaming his failures on internal factors.  So the big businessman or the famous megachurch pastors have “sold out” by smart marketing or shiny facilities, but they’ve gone bankrupt because they’re incompetent idiots.

- Most men find it easier to complain and criticize, instead of actually working to do something.

- Men like to use the words hater, troll, douche-bag, or sigh, because we perceive a disagreement as an attack on our identity, instead of embracing the “opposing view” as a way to build bridges.

- Men want to have the best story in the room.  Hence, they love to story-top each other.

- Most men think they’re already very enlightened, so they’ll tear down another man who might remotely be smarter than them.  Or we condescend by saying things like “You’ll get it eventually” or somehow think we’re “further along in the truth.”

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Anonymous asked:

I have been raised in a Christian household & attended a Christian school my entire life. However, I only started taking my relationship “seriously” with God after graduating. Why did God choose ME to know of Him and place me in my aforementioned environments? What about those who live life never knowing about God? Why doesn’t God reach out to them? Since I know God, is it my duty to spread His Word? What about Catholics/Muslims etc.? Am i just blessed? But Isn’t that unfair to the nonbelievers?! :/

Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very sensitive gentle heart about this.  As an Asian born in America, I know that I could’ve easily been a Buddhist in Korea or a Shintoist in Japan or a Confucianist in China.  Or even a Communist or Marxist or Socialist.  Or a tribal villager living on a Filipino island.  Or one of those Tibetan monks in the mountains who only eats apricots and lives to 120.

This issue has always bothered me, as I found it rather disturbing that God would geopolitically confine Himself to one people-group for millions of years, and only recently branch out in the church era.  Even then, I would think a “loving God” could offer every person an opportunity to hear about Him, at least once, if He truly loved us.

So let’s consider a few things, some which we might disagree on, which is okay.  This is only from my own limited understanding of doctrine, the church, and our culture.

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Ryo Oyamada, a 24 year old student from Japan, was struck and killed by an NYPD vehicle in a hit & run.  Witnesses say the police car had no lights or sirens on and was going over 70 mph.  The released footage by NYPD was proven to be heavily altered in a cover-up, showing “lights” on the vehicle, when compared to footage from the NY Housing Authority on the same street with the same timestamp.

On a personal note: I know that this will probably not be shared or reblogged very much, because Asians are not very prominent in American culture.  I understand this, because Asians (like me) are partially at fault for being so passive.  But I am begging you to please consider signing this petition out of human decency.  Ryo was just a student walking home, then struck by a nearly silent police cruiser going at excess speed, and the NYPD covered it up.

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the released video footage, including updates from the case.  This article contains a link to a graphic video moments after the crash, showing the body of Ryo Oyamada and NY citizens yelling at the police.  Please advise, it is highly disturbing. 

And the following is an excerpt from the petition, which as of this writing only has 286 signatures.

This was originally posted on my Tumblr, and the post has now gone viral. It’s at over 33,000 notes and there are nearly 7000 signatures for the petition.

About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Like everyone else, I first saw this as a cheap self-congratulatory trend that would die out quickly in internet history. But to everyone’s surprise, it’s also worked. Up to now, $50 million has been raised (dang), and most of us are now aware that ALS isn’t just something that’s affected Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrig.

I think the world has gone far too dark and far too cynical, and we dismiss these things with an enlightened air of pompous snobbery. But unlike other trends like the Harlem Shake or flash mobs, this is having a concrete benefit to those who are hurting. Even patients with ALS are endorsing it and participating. It’s something silly right out of a movie: and it’s really making a difference.

This is probably the only time ever in pop culture that we’ll get to do something this fun and philanthropic at the same time. Sure, a lot of it is “Look at me for attention,” but so is nearly everything else we do, and it’s not half as helpful. While it’s still a trend: we might as well enjoy it, and donate too.

There are enough downers in the world and enough terrible things that have happened in the last few weeks. This is a bright spot. I hope we’re not too quick to condemn such an enormous downpour (literally) of cheer and good will.

Please also be careful where you donate, because there are just as many corrupted charities as good ones. Or I’m being too cynical again.

— J

Grace is thoughtful. It considers a back-story, an upbringing, the entire person, and not just a tiny single slice of their life.

Grace brings wholeness to a hasty judgement; it regards my own flaws first, in light of the grace I’ve also been given.

Grace brings what could be instead of what should’ve been. Grace covers my past and empowers my future. It does not condemn nor condone, but convicts and re-creates.

Grace confronts the worst of a person and does not shy away from surgical rebuke: because at our worst, we realize how much we must confront the ugliness inside. But grace restores there, in the wreckage. It is always healing the fractured fallen weary sinner. It is not what we deserve, but what we need: and Jesus saw what we deserved, but gave us what we needed instead. That’s grace. Love unconditional, undeserved, unrelenting.

— J.S.

Navigating The Labyrinth.

August 21, 2014 — 4 Comments

Occasionally we let someone in, we open the folds of our insecurity and give access to the darkest parts of us. We hand over the key, and it’s terrifying. And sometimes they bump into a raw nerve, they say a callous insensitive remark, they ridicule a strange notion we have, they poke at our dreams just a bit. It hurts pretty bad and we push them out and fold up fast. We remind ourselves, “This is why I don’t let anyone in.” And we run.

It’s right here that most people apologize like crazy. They feel terrible. They were trying to figure out how to navigate the labyrinth of your wonderful story. It’s like holding a tiny flash light in a cave of a new world. They didn’t mean to provoke those old wounds. They didn’t mean to poke fun at your dreams. They considered it an honor that they held the key, even for a few frenzied moments.

Intimacy takes work, trust, wounds, hurts, sculpting in the dark: and that takes time. It takes more than a single chance. Of course we can close the doors, at any second, when we know it just won’t work. But there are many opportunities if we had trusted a little longer, reset the tempo, and spoke up louder: it would’ve been okay. Bridges would be built. New stories are made. You find your hand closing around theirs. They begin to traverse the folds of your heart with ease, and they learn to say those things which give life, which give freedom, which grow dreams. Intimacy is formed out of stumbling, but further down the path: there is so much light, so much laughter, so many steps to the horizon together.

— J.S.

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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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.


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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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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An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.

The introduction here.

Part One, excuses and myths, here.

Part Three, the soul, here.

Part Three and a half, the soul, here.

Part Four: I’m Ready To Cut It Off. Here.

Part Five: Quitting Isn’t Enough. Here.

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 research from Mark Driscoll’s Porn Again Christian, 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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Quote: His Purposes

August 22, 2014 — 1 Comment

“For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

— C. S. Lewis

For James Foley.

August 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Prayers for the family of James Foley, and for peace in Iraq.



eternallyforevereverythinglove asked a question:

Hello! What do you think about the statement that Christians (and generally believers) have Stockholm Syndrome? I’ve picked this up somewhere and did some research. It’d make sense and it makes me feel weird about my faith now. Thanks and God bless!

Hey there my friend: I took some time to read about this, and it seems to be a new form of the argument that “Christians are brainwashed into unquestioning belief and indoctrinated to their oppressive church institutions and cultures.”

Like all accusations against the Christian faith, there is always an element of truth to them because people are people, and we cannot perfectly reflect a perfect God.  We’re messy creatures with mixed motives in a gray-space struggle.

What I mean is: Any argument against the Christian faith will make some kind of logical sense, because it will make sense against everyone regardless of their affiliation. We can blame religion just as much as we can blame human stupidity.

When someone says, “The church is full of hypocrites” — I always say, “Well that’s why you should go.”  Not in a mean way, but I’m saying: There are hypocrites at businesses, schools, hospitals, fraternities, non-profits, and the White House (gasp!), but the difference is, the church is the one place you can admit it and find healing.  Yes, hypocritical Christians have harmed many of us, and we need to confess that.  But as a tactic to dismiss faith, this is a cheap unthoughtful argument that’s a fluffy insubstantial defense mechanism.  Most of these arguments have NOT gone to the bottom of themselves, at all.

So when someone talks about “Christian brainwashing,” here are a few thoughts to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

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Quote: Without

August 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

“You are significant without a significant other.”

— Shauna Niequist

Keep The Fight.

August 19, 2014 — 4 Comments

Don’t settle for less.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Don’t be rushed into a feeling, a decision, an opinion.

Don’t let anyone talk you down.

Drop the mic often.

Prioritize, for our time on earth is short.

Think for yourself.

Find your vision. Listen.

Do not hide tears; they’re yours.

Trust God. Take heart. Keep passion.

Fight the good fight, fellow traveler.


— J.S.

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message I preached for the lively, lovely people of Refuge Full Gospel. 

It’s called: Before The L-Word, Let’s Talk About The F-Word: Love, Faith, and Purpose.

It’s about dating and relationships, and asking the hard questions about faith & life before pursuing love.

Before the sermon, I offer a prayer for Ferguson, Israel, Iraq, and Robin Williams, because I didn’t want to gloss over this in church.

Stream here or download directly here!

Some things I talk about are: The mistake we make when we focus on the methods & techniques of Christian dating, the way we hyper-romanticize mission trips and marriage, important questions to ask before pursuing our feelings and emotions, theological wisdom from Taylor Swift, how to share oxygen when you’re drowning underwater, and going after the absolute greatest adventure of our lives together.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Anonymous asked a question:

Hello Pastor! I love your blog! I was wondering what It meant to do everything for the glory of God? Also, if it’s possible, can this be anonymous? Thank you for all your encouraging post! They’ve helped me so much!

Hey my friend, I totally love this question.  Please allow me to point you to a few posts here.  Please feel free to skip through them:

I know we tend to over-use these phrases in our Christianese vocab:

- “We want to glorify You.”

- “We want to bring You the glory.”

- “We do everything for the glory of God.”

- “Dropping off food for the homeless from my jetpack is not for my glory.”

But really, when we’re asked what it means to “glorify God,” we get all kinds of unclear ideas.  So here a few things to consider, and as always, please feel free to skip around.

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bluelikejazzminds asked a question:

I have a huge concern for this nation. I am outraged, frustrated and hopeless. I don’t know if you are aware but last week, a young man, Mike Brown, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He was 17 years old and was about to start college this week. They accused him of stealing candy, but both witnesses and store clerks say he didn’t. Brown actually surrendered but the police shot him 8 times anyway. Unfortunately, there are also riots going on due to the outrage, hurt and sorrow. Police brutality is at all time high and it seems as if hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. This is not the first time a young black man was gunned down unlawfully and it definitely won’t be the last. Justice for these young men (and women) have not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation.

So I ask you, have any of you thought about this? Do you know what is going on? As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. Around the time Trayvon Martin was killed, I went to church and nothing was said about it. Not verse, not a word.

As a leader, I ask what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters who were/are affected by these issues? What do you say to a young black man who fears for his life whenever he sees a cop? What do you say to a young black woman whose brother was killed unlawfully by the hands police brutality?

Hey my dear friend: I must say this first of all.

A young man is dead.  Not just dead, but shot until he was lifeless.

Before I’m just another ignorant blogger who goes into semantics and politics and the “spiritual lesson” for all this: let’s recognize that another member of our human race, a real living breathing person with hopes and dreams and insecurities like the rest of us, just as real as your brother or sister or parents or math teacher or pastor or coach or best friend, is permanently gone from the world.

I want to grieve about this.  I don’t want to turn yet another real person into ammo for my platform or agenda, and God forgive me, I have failed at this so many times.

I want to hurt with Michael Brown’s family.  I don’t need to suspect what he was “allegedly” doing, because the fact remains: a young man’s life was cut short, and for every turn of events that led up to his death, it’s still no less than a tragedy.

I know that we will not all see eye-to-eye on the external issues: but can we lay down our verbal weapons and meet each other in our grief over a deceased young man?  Can we recognize we’ve lost a member of our human family? And that this keeps happening over and over?

I also agree that the rioting is sad.  Some of the physical outrage is perhaps extreme.  The whole thing is downright horrible.  None of it can be generalized or simplified, and it’s all a bitter ugly mess.

I’m well aware that I’m just one more limited voice in a sea of angry voices, and anything said here could barely uncover the heartache at every level.

What’s more saddening is the racially charged maelstrom on social media from every side. No one speaks rationally about these things.  I understand that race and violence and politics are all sensitive issues to discuss, and someone will always be offended.  I’ve probably offended you already with something said here.  But I’m still waiting to have a thoughtful conversation about it, that maybe there is a sane nuanced voice out there who wants to weep with me, and that maybe we could be part of the solution and not the problem.  We don’t have to agree: but maybe this is less about agreement and more about our desire for peace.

Yet everyone is turning this into some kind of philosophical circus, like lives are meant to be debated. I recently posted a picture of a protesting black man in Missouri with guns pointed at him from police with riot gear, and the caption read “Don’t let anyone tell you that racism is not dead.  Pray for justice.”  When I say justice, I mean to set right all the ways in which we’re not meant to be. I lost quite a few followers on all my social media, including some nasty feedback, and I understand that.  It’s okay if you’d like to unfollow me too.  But my intention was simply to show: the fact that this picture even exists is tragic.   Every part of this hurts my heart, and I’m not trying to “win” some side.

Again: A young man is dead.  No one is the winner here.

The fact that a young dead black man would draw so many racist online comments in the year 2014 makes me sick to my stomach.  The fact that a group of people feel the need to riot in order to express a deep inconsolable outrage is equally heartbreaking.

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My one issue with all these Christian bestsellers is that they’re mostly written for mid-20s, early-30s, suburbanite Westernized middle-upper class well-to-do people with the same kinds of struggles like credit card debt, porn addiction, and “I have no purpose,” which are all indicative of entitled over-privileged attractive people who won’t buy generic soda like Dr. Thunder and own 500 thread count sheets.

There’s nothing particularly wrong about this group of people, and those problems are still very real, but I’m waiting for the book that speaks to a beat-up jobless homeless orphan who lives in a shopping cart and hasn’t showered in three weeks.

I want to write for the single mom who’s working four jobs to support her prodigal kids, for the suicidal child who’s moved from foster care to the sewer, for the girl in a rundown slum who’s about to hustle for the pimp down the corner.

I want to speak hope into hopeless situations.

I don’t want to keep speaking to the same million-or-so Christians in America who download the same podcasts and attend the same five megachurches and attack each other for wrong doctrine and the color of painting in the chapel.  I want the people that no one else wants.  Because I was the one that no one else wanted, either.  I want the heroin addicts in the first row, the prostitutes and problem kids and lepers and the lawless.  Give me that homeless guy and I’ll tell him there’s still a future, because Jesus is for him and the rich and the sick and the old and the dying and the hurting, and he’s for you, too.

— J.S.

fiy-on asked a question:

Any advice for new Christians? How do we continue to keep our faith growing deeper and more personal with the Lord? And how do we “measure” our growth? How do we know that we’re moving forward with the spiritual journey, not merely staying stagnant?

Hey my dear friend, thank you so much for trusting me with such a huge question.  This is one of those things I would love to sit down with you over coffee, but alas I hope I can jumpstart your journey in just a few words here.

I’m afraid perhaps that a To-Do Checklist will make you more neurotic about your faith and you’ll put more hope in a flowchart than Jesus — so please hear me in that the Christian faith is not about doing more or less, but about letting the life of Christ work in you as you get to know Him and rest in His grace.

This is probably very counter-intuitive to everything else in the world: because we’re always performing to a deadline or due dates or demands, and all this for a paycheck or a score.  Our fallen world is only familiar with working for approval instead of from approval.  Yet the Gospel tells us that God already approves of us through His Son, and so we work from that acceptance and not for it.  It’s tough for us to really wrap around the Gospel because we live in a reward-punishment culture.  But the Gospel motivates you by an unchanging relational anchor, which is the only way to have real joy.

Let’s look at the difference between a Boss and a Mentor.  Your Boss says “Do A and you’ll get B.”  Your Mentor says “I’m giving you A to help you do A.”  Your Boss probably respects you and even teaches you, but he’s looking out for his profit.  Your Mentor loves you and even likes you, and he’s looking out for you.  Your Boss will promote you if you do well enough.  Your Mentor has already promoted you to the very highest position.  Your Boss will make you a partner if you work harder than everyone else.  Your Mentor has already made you a co-heir regardless of how much you’ve failed.  Your Boss requires you to be good to earn his respect.  Your Mentor will make you good by simply loving you.  Your Boss might let you go if you’re not performing well.  Your Mentor is like a father to his son: you’re adopted into the family, and you don’t have to “try” to be his son.

This analogy isn’t perfect: but we’re learning that Jesus is all about grace.

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I don’t tell many people, but English was not my first language.  About 99% of the time, you wouldn’t be able to tell: but sometimes it slips, and my insecurity spills out sideways.

I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade.  To this day I still get light-headed when I speak in public.  I also had a lisp and a stutter, both which occasionally seep out too.  For two years of my childhood, I breathed through a machine for an hour each day, in order to open up my undeveloped lungs.  I had asthma and chronic bronchitis.  I’m legally blind.  I’ve had hemorrhoids since I was nine.  I permanently damaged my lower left back when I was fifteen.  I’ve struggled with depression, including a suicide attempt in 2004.  I’m allergic to a lot of stuff: dairy, pollen, bugs, dust, and every single fruit (so I can’t eat pineapple pizza or most ice creams).  I have scars from all my hive break-outs over the years.  I have flat feet.  I’ve never ran over a mile in my life, because I physically cannot.  And I know there are millions of others who are afflicted with so much worse.

I was able to get my black belt by eleven years old but only because my dad pushed me so hard (it also helped that he’s a ninth degree black belt and owned several dojos).  I can max 275 lbs. on the benchpress and part of my job as a pastor is to speak in public several times per week.  But all of that was an uphill battle, and still is.  None of this comes natural or easy or inherent to my stature.

Yet I tell you this NOT because I’m some kind of victorious story and not to brag or to say “You can do it too!”  My disability is not a motivation for some grand story of redemption.  It’s not a cute romantic made-for-TV montage.  Because, in fact, life is way harder than that.  There are many times I wanted to give up because of my physical limitations, or I let that be an excuse to stay home and wallow in self-victimizing pity.

I could be the positive blogger who says “No matter what! —” but really that would be a lie.  Knowing that I will never be fully healthy is psychologically taxing, and some days I grit my teeth and barely get through the day.

Would it be easier if God had made me differently?  Of course.  I have no illusions about “God held me back for a reason” because much of our brokenness points to the reality that nothing is as it’s meant to be, and nothing is in its true form.  I can’t sugarcoat that with pep-talk which denies the difficulty of our circumstances.  I don’t want to be a cheap grinning poster boy for a pseudo-inspirational sales pitch.

The one thing I know is that either way, whether we sit down or move forward, life is pain. 

If I choose to stay home, it will hurt.

If I choose to chase my hopes, it will hurt.

If I choose to feel sorry for myself, it will hurt.

If I choose to stand, clench my fists, grit my teeth, and grab my dreams: it will hurt.

My physical disability is only half the story: because we’re all saddled with the same anxiety, second-guessing, existential panic, and self-doubt.  Our brokenness runs deep, and we all work from pain.  And it’ll hurt anyway.

So I can’t sit down for long.  I do what I can.  I am not merely the sum of my abilities nor accomplishments nor weaknesses.  I am wherever I’m available, to pursue the passions set before me, now.  God help me, God willing, I’m here, to climb this mountain.

— J.S.

Mrs. Doubtfire Williams

August 12, 2014 — 1 Comment

Mrs. Doubtfire was a milestone movie for me: it premiered shortly before my parents divorced. Mr. Williams, to your passion and craft, and for the many laughs.

– J



August 11, 2014 — 1 Comment

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