Anonymous asked:

Hi pastor, I am struggling with the way I am at times. I’m suppose to be a leader and reach out to people and check up on them but it’s hard. I’m not the type to text often because I’m more of a person who speaks to others in person. But even if I were to meet someone in person, for some reason I have never said “how are you” to my brothers/sisters at church. I guess I struggle with reaching out to people. It’s not that I don’t care for them but I don’t know how to do exactly that. What to do..?

My dear friend, please allow me to be both tender and tough on this one.

There are some things that are certainly “struggles” in our lives.  When we feel anxiety around other people or large crowds, this is a legitimate issue that might be a lifelong problem.  I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade, and to this day I still have a hard time talking in public without getting feverish and shaky.  I’m mostly an introvert too, so I would almost always rather be at home in my boxers watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway than chatting it up in the church lobby.

BUT — Saying the word “struggle” in our Christian culture often gets abused to mean “permission slip.”  At some point, the struggle must become a battle.  At some point, the little scared insecure kid inside us needs to sit down and take a backseat, and the grown-up needs to get up and do something.  The scared kid inside doesn’t ever completely go away: but neither can he ever dictate the course of your life.

I promise I’m not trying to guilt-trip you here.  I’m just saying: Please do not use your shyness as an excuse to cover your laziness.  Most introverts just don’t want to put on pants.  They would rather watch a rom-com or TV series or a sports game than actually live a dirty, sweaty, gritty life.  That’s just laziness.  It’s not cute, it’s not attractive, and it’s not real shyness.

Getting to know another human being is hard work.  And that’s also true for extroverts.  Most people just don’t make an effort to approach people: and you’ll need to fight the natural inclination to hide in your shell every single day. It’s a daily battle.

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There’s always a heavy dramatic moment in a sermon when the preacher begins confessing someone else’s sin, a guy always named Bill, who got addicted to crystal meth and ran out on his kids and punched small animals and screwed up his life, and then the preacher concludes:

“Don’t be like Bill.  Let’s pray.”

The sermon closes and everyone fights for the offering plate.

But …


I can’t help but think: I’m no better than Bill.

I keep wondering: Who exactly did Jesus come to die for?  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to part the universe and galaxies and stars and skies to die on a cross in our place for everyone — except that dirty, disgusting, filthy pagan Bill.

Or the preacher says, “The first guy hears the Word of God and gets saved.  The second guy hears and goes off to the world but gets beat up, so he gets saved.  And the third guy: he stubbornly refuses and he ruins everything.  Don’t be the third guy.”

Everything in me wants to flip a table and yell, “But I’m the Third Guy.  I’m Bill.  That loser you’re talking about is me.”

Is there no grace for them? Because many of those church people are living through the very consequences that we’re yelling about.  Only preaching consequences is like throwing desert sand for the thirsty.

Continue Reading…

Anonymous asked:

I have a friend who purposely chooses to live in sin and keeps saying she knows what she’s doing is wrong but she is so deep where she may be on the verge of suicide. I tried talking with her but she’s always trying to avoid me. When I tell her truth with love, she thinks I’m against her and am cursing her.  A few days ago I really felt like The Lord wanted me to tell her what was on my heart but she said she was busy which was a lie.  I don’t want to pretend everything is okay. Have any suggestions?

Hey my dear friend: Please first let me commend you on caring so much and genuinely wanting to see your friend be okay.

There’s a very tricky balance in dealing with this, because you want to know when to back up or step in, when to encourage and when to challenge, when to be patient and when to provoke.  I’m afraid I’ll be inadequate to give you all the right moves on this, and anything I say will most assuredly fall short.

But the bigger picture here is: You can’t really save your friend.  You’re not responsible for saving anyone; only God saves.  I know you probably know that already, but we take on such a burden because we care so much, and if you take on a savior-mentality — whether on purpose or subconsciously — you will beat yourself up for everything that happens, and that’s unfair for both you and your friend.

The really hard part in this whole thing is that anything you say or do right now might actually make things worse, because people living in their own kingdom can’t really hear anything else.

It almost has to be outright rebellion for her to come back to her senses.  That’s how it happened with the Prodigal.  He rebelled against his own rebellion.  For most prodigals, going back to church and to God has to feel like a war against their own selves.  This means they have to want it, and there’s nothing in the world you can do to make someone want something.

This doesn’t mean you do nothing.  Yes, step in when necessary.  Speak up when you must.  Say the truth with grace always.  If it comes down to suicide, then intervene as hard as possible.

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Excerpt from

“At least 59 people have died in the sinking, and 243 are missing, the South Korean coast guard said early Monday.

“Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police — who were also shedding tears — and past grieving family members.

“Some relatives refused to accept the outcome.

“‘Wake up! Wake up, please!’ one man screamed.

“With hundreds of people still missing, the heartbreaking scene will likely play out over and over again.

“Although 174 people were rescued shortly after the vessel sank Wednesday, no survivors have been found since.

“Nonetheless, 563 divers will continue plunging into the frigid Yellow Sea on Sunday. And 34 aircraft and 204 ships will aid in the search Sunday, the country’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.”

Life Before Christ

April 18, 2014 — 1 Comment

I think about my life before Christ, how I used to live for myself and I would do good to look good and get good back.

I think about how something was always missing then, like I would find a particular interest and it would almost click but the edges wouldn’t catch and they’d just slide off the inside of my heart.

I think of how I objectified humans as blunt weapons for my secret dirty desires and planned out my next crime scene like an elaborate diorama: and all this to avoid the God who would speak to me at 3 am in the darkness when I couldn’t lie to myself about the futility of my deceit. I remember how the ceiling fan would accuse me of guilt with its every cut into the sides of my lying mouth.

I think of those moments when the veil of shallow shadow-living was lifted for a blinding second, and my reality was torn open to the idea of a Creator and how there must be more than just collecting toys to build an empire until I die. It was only a glimpse, but everything else around it would be sterile and insignificant in comparison. I remember the drawstrings of my cold protective fortress being tugged by gentle hands that plunged through my lungs, never too sharp, but just enough to know there was something else about this life that life was not telling me, that a cosmic problem existed with a solution that would click as easily as a key in butter.

I think of how even though I ran from Him — God still literally loved me to death and afflicted my selfish emptiness with a love that cost the blood of His only son.

I asked myself then, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew about?” Because before I knew Him, I knew Him, and I dearly missed Him, if only in dreams and whispers and longings I could hardly stand to utter. I was terrified to discover that life wasn’t about me. I was scared to find my Maker — but He found me, and now I cannot go back. I don’t ever want to. I cannot imagine any other way without Him, and He does not imagine His story without me.

— J.S.

Resurrection = Hope

April 17, 2014 — 3 Comments


Eleven years ago, I went to a funeral for my friend.  He was eighteen years old.  He was stabbed to death in the doorway of his home, and he had died trying to save his sister and his mother. 

He died on the way to the hospital.  When I got the news, I hung up the phone and threw it across the room.  I kicked over a chair and couldn’t stop yelling.

At the funeral, there he was.  An eighteen year old life, cut short, dreams gone, a future inside a box. 

Three months before he died, he and I were at a Christian retreat together.  During one of the services, he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  I was there when it happened. 

At the funeral — we were able to rejoice.  It was not an easy rejoicing, but we knew he was with Jesus, in a joyous union that we could hardly comprehend.  He’s there now, and ten years has probably felt like ten seconds.


I don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s difficult to connect the Resurrection to our daily lives: until you’re at a funeral.  Then it makes sense. 

I’m not saying his death makes sense, or that it doesn’t hurt, or that I fully accept what God is doing all the time.  I’m saying: the Resurrection gives a hope above and beyond all that happens.  It answers our deepest fears about eternity.  If Jesus is alive, then a funeral is not really a funeral — and futures do not stop in a box.

The death of death is the Great Reversal of the human story.  Even those who overcome many obstacles have to die one day.  Jesus reversed inevitability.  He is the True Story of the world.  He made it okay to dream again, even when dreams seem to die.  In the midst of cynicism, Jesus is the “happily ever after” we all secretly long for.

He’s the hope in traffic, in troubled family, in bad grades, in aging, in failed plans, in irreversible mistakes, in overwhelming bills, in second and third chances, in tragic headlines, in our daily struggle.  In the shadow of death, his shadow is greater still. 

Sean: I’ll see you again soon one day. 

Until then: we tell the story.

– J.S.

Anonymous asked:

Why do you believe in Jesus? I get believing in a creator, but as much as I want to, I can’t always convince myself that there’s evidence for Jesus doing all that stuff, and it breaks my heart because i used to believe it without a problem. I don’t know what to do.

Hey dear friend. If you didn’t know, I’m mostly a skeptical Christian, so you might be asking the wrong person.

There are times when I’m really into apologetics, and other times when I just don’t care about apologetics at all. As a wise pastor once said, knowledge is essential but it is not sufficient.

So as much as I can muster with my weak faith, I believe in Jesus for historical, emotional, existential, and intellectual reasons that far outweigh any other system of belief. There is just enough evidence for Christ that each day, I must conclusively doubt my doubts. It’s tough most days, but it’s often enough.

Let’s consider a few things together, and ultimately you can decide to clamp down upon the meat.

Continue Reading…

God, Sun, Dust

April 16, 2014 — 1 Comment

A lot of times I imagine God trying to get our attention with a startling beam of sunlight through a slit of glass in a dusty room while we’re rushing on to the next thing, because He wants us to slow down and savor the life we won’t ever get again. I think probably I’ve walked by that sunbeam too many times, drowning in the motion of my autopilot and darting past the perfect swirl of His canvas. But so He has enough grace to draw the twisting fleck of dust in the beam again. Maybe one day soon we will know the artist of that persistent sun. In the silence we might find Him, in the darkness to embrace His certain grip in our trembling hand. In His grace we might crawl up that soft beam, where there is glory.

— J.S.

This is the essay for my Call to Ministry Statement.  It’s for my ordination process.  It describes how I received the “calling” to ministry. 

At seven years old, I remember my first street fight in the only tenements that my parents – struggling poor Koreans they were – could afford. I had fought a much older single mother and lost. To my credit, she started it. At twelve years old, I decided I was an atheist. At fourteen, my parents divorced, as if to confirm that God couldn’t exist. At sixteen, I had my first drop of an ensuing ocean of alcohol. That same year, I went to what they euphemistically called a “Gentleman’s Club” and stumbled upon a terrible addiction. By nineteen, I had lost my college scholarship and dropped out with a 0.9 GPA. By twenty-two, I had swallowed a bottle of pills over the girl I was living with, who had cheated on me twice. I lost thirteen pounds in three days and spent most of the time in what they call a “mental institution,” which was perhaps an improvement over the Gentleman’s Club. I understand these problems do not compare to those of the world over: but really, the contrast was that I hardly felt anything. I was following the latest, loudest emotion, just the exit ramps to the bigger neon sign. And soon I was staring into the mouth of a senseless life with little purpose and no meaning, and it was all rather hilarious.

In my apprehension towards all-things-God, I would often stay up until 3am watching the ceiling fan spin, knowing there was more to life than the empty vacuum of sweaty drunk faces and the smear of red-and-blue cop car lights. At some point in college I was certain that God was at least a real being, if only because I had looked into the face of nothingness and knew that no one could possibly sustain a life in that direction. But I didn’t want there to be a God, not with a capital G. It was horrifying to think so. It was crazy to think I couldn’t call my own shots and that I was somehow not the main character of my own existence. I recall the words of C.S. Lewis at his conversion, “the most reluctant convert in all of England.” The whole kicking and screaming deal. I was a kicker and a screamer and so awfully angry.

But I went to church anyway. Quite faithfully, too. I got caught up in the music, the messages, the social fervor, that moment after the sermon in the lobby when no one talks about the sermon. I started bringing my friends by the dozens because I was good at that sort of thing. And somewhere along the line, almost imperceptibly by degrees, I started hearing the messages. I really started listening. I heard about a God who loves us and became one of us and died for us and defeated death and invited us into the best relationship there is. Not a God who gives us everything we want, because that would be no better than Santa Claus with a pager. But a glorious, grand, dynamic, pulsating God, who was writing this incredible drama with His Son at the apex of history and letting us all in. Even letting me in. Almost by accident, to my growing disdain, I was feeling alive for the first time.

About eight years ago, I went to this huge conference. There were probably 10,000 people. I was both excited and uneasy because it rubbed against my dislike for the institutional manufactured hype of religious emotionalism, but then it was quite a sight to see so many Christians singing and praying and even taking notes during the sermon. This praise leader named Matt, who was apparently famous and had written a song everyone liked, shared his testimony. He said when he was just a kid, he had been molested by his uncle, and in that same bed, Matt had written worship songs.

I couldn’t comprehend this sort of resilience. That sort of thing would’ve turned me off God forever. And I came around to thinking that my atheism was merely a conditioned childish rebellion against Santa Claus and not the real God, because my childhood was all kinds of unfair and screwed up and wrong. I had been shaking a fist at a phantom of my own trauma, wrought by a misconception of “God” who I could blame any time I didn’t get what I wanted. I thought my objections were intellectual and foolproof and full of scientific defense, but really I was just regurgitating the same anger that the human race had displaced from their disappointing parents onto the easy target of a keychain-pager-God. There was suddenly the invasive uncomfortable idea that perhaps God was real and He had a name and He actually liked me, and He didn’t wave a wand to make everything easier, but He did promise Himself inside the furnace of our broken chaotic mess. Predictably enough, I began to cry. I couldn’t stop. I was with my friend and he began to cry too. We were both really embarrassed but we prayed for each other, and I think I heard God say, “You have a story to share.”

At the end of 2007, I applied for seminary. Despite my really weird school record, they graciously accepted. And it turns out that ministry is not a picnic, at all. No one told me how hard it would really be. But as I began to love people and embrace the love of God, I found that this was the calling I never knew I wanted but had always been made for. God made me to share a story: namely, His. I was perhaps the most reluctant convert of all the tropical region of Florida, but so I went feet first into the places where no one else would go, to wretched doubters and picketing haters and the impoverished and ostracized and fatherless, and there I would tell them about grace and a mission and a final home, and that this earth was not it. And so there goes what we call the “calling.” I am privileged to enter into God’s story as one of the many unsung shepherds who embraces the total call to die, to give away my life so others may see life.

— J.S.

Just ten years ago, I tried to kill myself over a girl.  She had cheated on me twice so I swallowed a bottle of pills and waited for her to find me dead.  Part of me wanted to win her back and the other part of me wanted to end it all.  Neither worked.

Looking back, I feel a sad sort of pathetic amusement about the whole thing.  To this day, I still struggle with depression and that’s some very serious business, but to actually have tried to kill myself over another person makes me a bit embarrassed.  Sometimes it garners sympathy and affirming looks, but other times I see people back away with incredulity, as if they would never let themselves take their drama so far.

Yet I want to tell the ones who don’t understand: It’s so very easy to get attached to a person, an idea, a “dream,” a type of future, and then get sick to your stomach over every part of it until you want to die.

It can happen to anyone.  Drugs are not the only addictive substance.  There’s this overwhelming soul-withering sickness for people like me who quickly latch onto a person and feed off their being.  We wait for their call and examine their every move and flinch at their every word and hang on their every breath.

It sounds awful, because it is.  It’s a panicked desperation to overly cater to another person’s every whim — and until you’ve been there, you have no clue how low a human being can go to feed the codependency.  It takes so much effort and energy and inhuman strength to remove this horrible addiction from our blood, because it’s been so ingrained into us from years of abuse and abandonment and rejection.  You can’t know how bad it gets until you’re the one sprawled out on the cold tile floor with an empty bottle of pills in your lifeless hand.

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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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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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Fresh from the grave, Jesus was the hottest thing since sliced manna.

Thomas fell over, Peter jumped in the water, Mary ran, random angels appeared. When the Bible says that some of the 500 who saw Jesus were “now asleep,” I’d imagine some of them died from plot-twist-embolism.

But the day after?

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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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“Every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; He was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by Him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the Apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? It is because by the Spirit of Christ, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us.”

– John Calvin


yesdarlingido asked:

Hey man! Love your wisdom & needing some of it. I answered a question about guilt recently & discussed repentance, explaining that God uses love, not fear, to motivate us & draw us to Himself. The anon wrote me back saying that no matter how much I speak of grace, the reality of hell still stands, thus fear persists & remains as a motive for repentance. I don’t know how to answer, and would love any insight you may have on the topic. Thanks! -LB

Hey there my dear friend: First of all, I love your blog.  I think you’re quite popular around these parts and I can totally see why.  Please continue to do what you do.

Your question has actually bothered me under the surface for as long as I’ve been a Christian (which is, admittedly, not too long).  It’s one of those icky things we don’t like to think about very much.  I’ve heard smarter people answer this question while dancing around the reality of “eternal torment” and “the worm that never dies,” and it’s like we mince words or gloss over these realities with tons of verbal trickery.  I don’t think I’ll fare much better.  So feel free to skip around and make of this what you will.

Please allow me to present my former atheist view on the issue.  Basically the problem is posed as:

1) Sure, God offers Heaven through Jesus. But there’s a place called Hell, which according to your Bible, is eternal punishment.

2) So no matter what you say about God’s love, there is only a binary option with God — Heaven or Hell — and that can’t possibly be loving.

3) It doesn’t matter that you say “free will,” because people either must choose God and be rewarded or not choose God and suffer.

4) Conclusion: Your faith is always undermined by the promise of reward and the fear of punishment, which is a barbaric doctrine that reeks of inauthenticity and materialism and a coercive deity.

But the more I thought about this, the more I saw serious problems in this argumentation.  Whether you believe in God or not, at the very least this “binary-choice” argument is vastly Swiss cheese.

Continue Reading…

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the first part of a new sermon series called “Why You Christian?”  It explores the question of why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.

This first message is titled: Everything Is Very Wrong With Everything, And We Know It.

It’s about that Christianese church-word “sin,” and how we all secretly know something is very wrong and all the ways we try to make it right.

Stream here or download here!

Some things I talk about are: That moment when you wonder why you ever need to learn calculus or the quadratic equation, the very goofy Christianese words ‘sin’ and ‘wrath,’ that weird dark secret thing we do that no one wants to talk about, how the world tries to save itself through try-more moralism and top-my-feelings therapy, slapping someone in the pulpit, and that time I almost cheated on my fiancé with a Starbucks barista.

I’m also on iTunes here!

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Ice Cream Talk

April 11, 2014 — 4 Comments

When someone tells me the reason I’m burned out is because “You’re not effectively using your gifts in the right place” or “You have unconfessed issues in your life” or “You’ve neglected your own natural rhythms” — well that could all be true, but I also think I’m just a limited finite human being who gets burned out sometimes and that’s part of life and it’s okay, and maybe I don’t want a didactic pragmatic lesson every time I cry for help, and maybe you could just meet me where I’m at instead of describing the water I’m drowning in, and you know, you could graciously offer a hand to help me up. Saying “I’m burnt out” could just mean, “Let’s get ice cream and talk about it.”

— J

Quote: Nudge

April 11, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

— Tom Stoppard

I think the grim pessimism in a lot of books and blogs and movies feels very realistic because we’re trying to be brutally honest and relate to each other and act sort of dark and gritty and artistic.

I’m totally into that too.  Those end-of-the-world apocalypse stories are fascinating because you see the fully exposed depths of human depravity, and underneath our barely polite skin is a cauldron of chaos and survival.  In those miserable poems and ambiguous endings and Poe-ish nightmare landscapes, we understand the pain.  It’s familiar, even comfortable.  I feel validated in other peoples’ despair.

But really —

No one ever lives this way for too long. No one wants to.

Even the very idea that we can relate to pain is also finding hope in the narrowest doorway.  We want to know we’re not alone in this.

We say that a cheerful ending in a dark movie is “Hollywood-izing” or somehow “rings false,” but I think we just say that because it makes us look more sophisticated somehow.  We’re quickly peer-pressured out of being the optimistic sap who still has hope for a brighter world.  We prefer G-minor instead of major and the main character to die in some horrible Greek tragedy of hubris-like proportions — only because we’re forced by postmodern coolness to say so.

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Anonymous asked:

Hey man, I love your blog and you post great stuff. I know you’ve talked about being engaged soon and my girlfriend and I have discussed this too. However, I don’t feel that I am a great leader and I’ve never really been shown how to either. What is some advice on how I can be the leader God wants me to be for her? Thanks J!

Hey my friend, thank you so much for the encouragement.

This will sound overly simplistic, but being a great leader is about following a great leader.

It means loving God with every fiber of your being to the best of your God-given capacity.  If you’re under the authority of Christ as best you can, you’ll no doubt be the kind of person who is fit to lead.  If I wasn’t following God, I’d be following myself, and that has led to some atrocious places where I deceived girls, used them up, and basically made myself a target for any father’s shotgun.

I know most people will mock this idea.  But I’ve never met a great leader who wasn’t under the leadership of a smarter better leader.  That means, of course, you’d do well to be under good mentors, a good pastor, and good older people.  But it ultimately means you are daily humbling yourself before the Word and Will of God.  The only alternative is you’d be following your own advice or some lesser person, and then you’d just have to punch yourself in the face all the time.

I’m imagining my future daughter dating a dude.  Who is that dude following?  What authority is he under?  Who does he answer to?  If it’s not God, then get out of my house and stay away from my daughter.  I know I sound extremely old-fashioned when I put it that way, and it lacks my usual care for nuance and the gray-area — but dude, it’s my daughter.  I don’t want her to date some guy who is following himself.  Would you?

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Quote: Stand

April 9, 2014 — 3 Comments

“Yes, there are many things that are wrong with the world. So many things to be against — but you can’t be against everything. At some point you have to begin to stand for something. Maybe the most important question is not what am I against, but what do I stand for? On my best days, I want to stand for love conquering a multitude of wrongs. I want to stand for forgiveness, for mercy, for beauty, for grace.”

— Jon Foreman


Many times I’ll talk with Christians who are burdened by the programmatic weight of their religious activity.  They’re shackled by the inadequacy of their spiritual progress.

I meet Christians who say, “I just don’t feel like I’m doing enough.  I only went to church twice this week, I evangelized to only four people this month, I only prayed on the way to work and on the way home, I missed the homeless ministry last Tuesday, I listened to a friend cry on the phone for an hour without saying Jesus once.”

I always want to say, “Dang dude.  Just relax.

I’ll meet other Christians who use these absurd spiritual parameters on each other to measure the “safety” of being near them, as if they’re afraid to catch adultery and they’re allergic to Rated-R movies and any theology that doesn’t end with predestination.  They turn their nose up at people who who are late to Sunday service and have to use the table of contents for the Bible, and they categorize the church into “praise team” and “everyone else.”

I always want to say, “Dang dude.  Just relax.

If your faith is making you more anxious, exhausted, insecure, uncertain, judged, and afraid — I’m really sorry you bought into that sort of faith.

If your faith is making you more categorical, judgmental, bitter, black-and-white, and condescending — your theology sucks, and you’re still just playing with religion.

I used to blame the latter for the former.  I used to think the religious people destroyed the anxious people.  But actually: neither have anything to do with Jesus.

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Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message titled: As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture.

I go over a repeated phrase we see in the Old Testament, “As for me.” It’s about becoming a countercultural force for the common good without judging others and without compromising ourselves.

Stream here or download here!

Some things I talk about are: The increasingly halfway lazy sloppiness of cutting corners in our non-committed culture, playing around with the numbers on our tax returns, when it looks like cheaters and troublemakers are more successful than honest upstanding citizens, fighting against the mob mentality of gossip, and the 3% rule of changing the world.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Anonymous asked:

Firstly, I admire your blog & have found it encouraging so thanks. I’m 29 single female no job living at home failing at uni & am struggling through a bout of depression & suicidal thoughts. I’m afraid & feel alone. Have no friends. Been disconnected from God. Super shy & anxiety ridden. No $ for meds or counseling. Feeling hopeless. No motivation. Can’t sleep. Don’t know who else to talk to. Sorry if seems like a lot :( I feel lost.

Hey my dear wonderful beloved friend:

Please first know that you are loved.  No matter how you feel and no matter how trite this sounds right now, you are absolutely loved.  At the very least by me and the wonderful blog community, and at the very most by God Himself.

Please also know that all of us go through struggling seasons of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression.  We often daily trudge through a hopeless choking fog that seems to have no end.  The world can be dark at times.  It can feel like your life will always feel this way.

I’ve fought depression my entire life.  And can I tell you a secret?

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