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This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my new book on dating and relationships, called The Christianese Dating Culture. This was my personal favorite chapter to write, about the difficult, gritty reality of relationships.


We have a propensity for over-romanticism in our hyper-sentimental culture, and when reality meets expectations, we get disillusioned and jump ship. I’ve seen it happen all the time: in marriages, in parenting, in careers, in church. A poor estimation of the daily grit of life will always cause us to check out and quit too early.

This is a prevalent pattern in a world of five-minute ramen and eight minute abs – we run out at the first sign of trouble. It gets easier to do this each time, until we’re jumping from one half-committed island to another.

There’s a depth to all these things, a kind of marathon endurance that pushes past the emotional spark of grandeur. When the fun of beginning is over, then there’s an actual finish-line ahead of us.

My fiancé and I probably look cute in pictures (her much more than me), and maybe our story would give you a false idea that it was “love at first sight” and it somehow fell into place. We’ve been together six years, and I still have a crush on her like it was the first week. Yet most of our six years was effort upon grace upon sacrifice. At the three-year mark, we had broken up for six months because we were sure it was over. We found our way around again, painfully, through many brutally honest conversations, and this is the shape of everyday love.

Nothing is wrong with high standards or even high expectations. It’s just that these will only tell half the story. It’s an incomplete picture that we expect to complete the picture in our heads. Real life involves a lot of sweaty armpits, standing around in line, sending texts with embarrassing typos, coughing really weird at the wrong moment, pulling out wedgies when no one notices, and the constant waiting for the next best thing to happen.


My dear friend: The honeymoon has to end.

The start is the easy part.

We begin things well. It’s hard to finish strong.

It’s good to get excited, but excitement must give way to a deeper, truer pulse.

If you can persevere past the naïve burst of beginning —

We can expand our wonderful first memories into a beautifully woven story.


Relationships are a lot more embarrassing and gritty than we would like to admit. When I hear a glamorous story about how a couple fell into each other’s arms, I’m absolutely sure that’s not how it happened.

No one wants to talk about the regretful text messages or the immature arguments or the tactless yelling over the art of arguing. The first fart. The long stream of farts from then on forever. Crusty-eyed drool face. The pre-makeup face. Cry-face. Yawn-face. The obnoxious hyper-moments when you apparently lose control of your civilized body and do puppet shows and movie impressions.

Soon you’ll encounter all the crustiness of a real person.

Eventually, everyone “falls out of like.” You’ll be in the direct space of all a person’s grossness, including your own. As Tim Keller says, “Finally, you have nowhere to run.”

When the romanticized feelings go: where do we go from there?


Purchase my book on Amazon here for less than nine dollars, the e-book for only four. Be blessed, dear friends! — J.S.

Audiobook On The Way!

November 24, 2014 — Leave a comment


Hello dear friends! I’ll soon be recording an audiobook of my book on dating, so you can take me around in your car or iPod or before you sleep. I’ve really been enjoying audiobooks when I’m at the gym lately.  I also recently did a seminar for a college and young adult group coinciding with the dating book here, on my podcast for free.

This will also be out around the same time I’m releasing the e-book on breaking porn addiction, the first week of December!

You can pick up my books in paperback for less than nine bucks each here on Amazon!

Love y’all and be blessed. :)

— J.S.


Paperbacks


Hello dear wonderful friends!

So I wrote some books. I want to graciously ask if you’ve been blessed by the books (or if you hated them!) and if you have some time, to please consider writing an honest review on Amazon. Takes just a few moments and it will really help out a lot!

And of course, if you haven’t gotten them yet, they’re both on sale for less than 9 dollars. :)
Pick them up for holiday reading!

- What The Church Won’t Talk About

- The Christianese Dating Culture

Thank you and love y’all. Be blessed!

– J.S.



What’s so crazy is that the Bible wasn’t mass-produced until the last few-hundred years, and even then, it wasn’t translated in an understandable way for us until the last century. Yet we beat ourselves up into a frenzy over memorizing Scripture and doing QT and Bible Studies, when there have been Christians for thousands of years without access to printed copies. Certainly it’s great and necessary to dig into the Bible, but I’m not motivated to read it when someone beats me with a guilt-trip that it’s “collecting dust.” I’m more motivated to read the Bible knowing that I even have access to ancient Scripture at all. To think God preserved it and transmitted it to our language and entrusted it into the hands of crusty squishy people is downright incredible.

If you miss a day of reading, please don’t get on your own case. Simply behold the wonder of having something called God’s Word, and I can guarantee you’ll miss Him enough to start reading again, not as duty but out of gratitude.

— J.S.


foundworthy asked a question:

What is your process for sermon prep?


Hello AJ! While I wouldn’t want to give you a simple formula, since each of us must find our own way, I’ll outline just a few things I do.

1) I often preach in series, about 4 to 7 sermons long, because it helps me to know where I’m going. Usually each sermon inside the series is supporting One Big Point that I’m trying to make.


2) In seminary, my professors always did the 3 am Test.  Basically: If I were to shake you awake at 3 am on Sunday morning and ask you, “Tell me your sermon in one sentence!” — and you couldn’t do it, then it wasn’t ready.  Simplify, simplify, keep it simple.


3) Exegesis (digging into the particular meaning of Scripture) is very valuable, but please know what to put in the showcase and what to keep in the basement. Sometimes I find a really cool fact of history during my study of the Bible, but I realize this is only me nerding out and has zero relevance to what I’m saying. So I save it for another day and look for another.


4) Sermons are hard work. I study hard. I read the news. I pray hard. I listen to how others did the same passage. One message might take about 20 hours per week. But the main thing is: I have to constantly meet up with the church.  Sermons are a way to love and serve people by the powerful healing Spirit of God.  I have to love my people first. Without that, then the pulpit is just a catharsis or a college lecture. Seminarians spend so much energy crafting a precise message, but they barely love their people or love the King.  Love your people.


5) I constantly assume there are people who don’t care or who hate Jesus.  I think of the twelve year old suicidal kid who is ready to hurt himself again.  I think of the single divorced mom raising three kids on three jobs with a father who left them.  I think of the skeptical college student who once loved youth group but has hardened by parties and amateur philosophy.  I think of the pregnant fifteen year old whose parents have shamed her and she’s been vilified at school.  I think of my close friends and family who don’t know Jesus.  I practice my sermons by pulling up a chair in front of me and going one-on-one, because sermons are speaking to real people, and they’re coming to Sunday service with a load of burdens they can hardly carry, and they do want to know there’s something more.

— J.S.



For my podcast, please click here or here.

Please know I’m way more comfortable writing, and speaking has always been tough for me. Thank God for grace.


Also check out:

- Six Things I Write At The Top of Every Sermon

- Preachers: A Sermon Gut-Check

- Seven Tips on Preaching & Teaching For the First Time

- The Difference Between A Speech and A Sermon




Purchase my book on tough topics of faith here!

Purchase my new book on love, sex, and dating here!





Someone asked me how I “won your girl’s heart.” I replied:

Hey, I don’t mean to rain on your parade at all and I know it’s a struggle, but I definitely didn’t “win the girl’s heart.” We both made mutual decisions toward one another out of risk and much reflection. To “win” someone assumes that she has no autonomy and she’s not her own person. She decided to take a chance with me, and it’s no small thing for a woman to entrust herself with a man. I’m not the hero of my own narrative who “won” an objectified trophy called a woman. I learned to respect her personhood and that she has her own hopes, dreams, and insecurities, like everyone else. She supports my dreams as much as I support hers.

I’m sorry, I know you expected a fun cute answer and I’m definitely not accusing you of false motives. I’ve just always had problems with the idea of “winning” a person and I think we’ve all been conditioned to think of women this way, which is why many men haven’t grown up, and why I myself still have plenty of growing to do. Until men see women as people, men will never be mature enough to be a person on their own, either. I’m preaching this to myself too, brother. May we all get there.

– J.S.


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Disclaimer: To protect my family and myself, I am not using names and I’m purposefully obscuring certain details. I cannot confirm them privately, either. These are well-known people in Christian circles who I still believe are doing helpful things, despite the terror behind closed doors.  I must be careful here, because 1) they would absolutely crucify me if they saw this post, and 2) they could also deny having ever met me, despite email correspondences and recorded conversations.  But I have to speak up.

I want to tell you about my most horrifying church experience ever, because it began so ordinary and subtle, and I want to protect you from the nightmare I eventually woke up to.

I know there must be so many more terrible experiences at church and mine is not nearly the worst, yet I hope you’ll know that not every horror story about church happens in a cult of backwood druids sacrificing goats to chanting.  It can happen in the most mundane sort of atmosphere with a slowly tightening chokehold, until it’s too late.

Years ago, I befriended the lead pastor of a church ministry that was doing amazing things in the community and we first became friends over the phone. The pastor explained that every church in America was doing it wrong.  This really appealed to my discontent about the church culture, and our phone calls were filled with tons of encouragement and positive affirmation over my “gifts, talent, treasures, insights, and abilities given by God.”  Whenever I spoke bad about my own church, the lead pastor agreed as loudly as possible.

In the first few months, he offered me a position at his ministry, but I was obligated to my current church.  However, I was still able to visit.  I was completely seduced by the way he and his team did ministry.  Their preaching was fun, their services were boisterous, their praise team was incredible, and they knew every single family by name.  They were well-respected by the community and they were funded completely by other churches and individuals from all over the world.  All the while, they were saying, “We do it better than the other guys” and their website sold tons of church curriculum.  I even bought some.

Continue Reading…


This is the first time anyone has ever made art out of my words. A quote from my book. I’m absolutely amazed by the beautiful skill and artistry, and the fact that anyone would make art out of anything I’ve said. Thank you so much, Alyssa!

Alyssa’s Tumblr blog and Instagram! Her art is incredible.

My book What The Church Won’t Talk About on Amazon here!

“In your crushed swollen chest where the hurt pulls in: Christ comes to fill the broken places like so much water in cracked earth, new breath stretching your lungs, so we may thrive and bloom and stand on our shaking feet again.
Turn. He is there.”


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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…



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.



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Purchase my new book on Amazon here!

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

Edit: November 16th, 2014
- There will be an e-book with all the material on quitting porn, updated and edited, in the first week of December 2014. It will be $2.99 on Amazon!

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 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:

Continue Reading…

The Dad Who Loves Us.

November 19, 2014 — 3 Comments



When guilt threatens to overwhelm you, remember who you are:
you’re a child of God,
forgiven and free,
restored by the work of Jesus on the cross,
resurrected to new life by his victory over death,
and you have the Holy Spirit living inside you that is not a spirit of fear or timidity,
but of love, power, and self-control.

We don’t live in a locked-down house of laws — we live within the free grace of an awesome loving dad who wants us, who loves us, and who likes us. I’ll follow that sort of God all the way to the end.



– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture


Instagram books


Praying you each encounter His wonderful heart-shaping grace!

My books are on Amazon for less than nine dollars and the e-books are four!

- What The Church Won’t Talk About

- The Christianese Dating Culture

– J.S.


Two anonymous questions:

- What are you suppose to think when all you can think is God is taking everything I love out of my life?

- So, what do you do when you feel in over your head? One of my best friends is struggling with faith, my husband is struggling with a lot of stress from his job, and my mom is struggling in a relationship with her bf. Then I read the news, and everything looks so dismal. I feel like there is so much hurt around me. I know my prayers are effective, and that God is sovereign. But I just want to stop all the hurting. Any words of advice?

Hey my wonderful friends, I must first say: I’m really sorry about everything that’s happening and I dearly love you both.  I know it can’t help much, but you must know before I turn into super-advice-robot or go off on Christianese cliches that I know how it is, being in a whirlwind of hurt with seemingly no way out.  So anything I say here couldn’t possibly be a magic formula or silver bullet to instantly re-arrange your feelings, and I can only hope to cheer you on for just one more step, which will be enough.

Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on all this.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

- Sometimes pain is just pain, and there’s no spiritualized lesson.  I’ve said before: Not every pain has a lesson.  Not every hurt can be spiritualized into a moral fable.  You don’t have to force anything good out of this.  When it feels like all our blessings are being taken from us, it’s wrong to say, “God is teaching me to live without them.”  Maybe He is, but who’s to say that while it’s happening?  When there’s one more shooting or funeral or CEO getting away with fraud, I’m not going to say, “But God is using it for good.”  God is mad at injustice too.

It’s possible that we get to see some good from pain, but it’s not for me to connect-the-dots on “why” this or that person was hurt or betrayed.  My hope can’t be in things “working out” or else I’ll idolize results instead of helping my fellow friend. We often say “I passed the test and got the job, so God is good!” — which is okay to celebrate, but that can imply that God is only good to the good kids and somehow neglects all the other people who didn’t make it.  We can’t connect every blessing this way either.  To spiritualize any of this is cruel and dismissive.

When I hear other Christians say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Pain is what forces you to grow,” I get what they’re saying, but this falls totally flat when I’m actually going through something.  It doesn’t work.  It’s like when I get migraines, there’s always someone who says, “Drink some cold water.”  Nice gesture, but that’s a bandage for a bullet wound.  Which leads us to —

Continue Reading…


I can do one of two things for you as a pastor, as a Christian, as your friend. I can beat you up with rules and religion — “Do more, try harder!” — and I can make you conform your behavior. Like that guy who makes you jump during worship. It would be an external apparatus working on your outside, but it would never become a part of you. You’ll get short-term change, but Monday through Saturday when the fear is gone, the change won’t last.

Or the second thing I can do is: I can tell you about the grace of God, the goodness of God, and the love of God — where God loves you no matter what, without conditions, even counter-conditionally, through the depth of our very worst, at the cost of His very Son. So then our actions would spring out of gratitude for what He has done for us and for who He is. That comes not just from rules and religion, though those are important, but from a real living relationship with the living God. That’s the only pure sustainable motivation. Grace can take a lot longer than guilt-trips, but in the long-term, grace is the only thing that can internalize to change your heart.

– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture


Tayloy Swift dating book

So I talked about the theology of Taylor Swift in my book on dating, and now Amazon is linking her new album with my book. I found this hilarious and awesome.

–J.S.



Purchase my book on taboo topics in the church here!

Purchase my new book on love, sex, and dating here!



Amazon app paperback

My Book In Japan

November 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

JCF Japan

I’m so amazed and overwhelmed that my book made it all the way to Japan. Praying today for the JCF Ministry and that Jesus would awaken hearts and bring healing to my fellow Asian brothers and sisters.

http://jspark3000.tumblr.com/post/102403234988/

My book on Amazon here!
http://amazon.com/What-Church-Wont-Talk-About/dp/1502529564/

– J.S.


thistreasureinjarsofclay asked:

Is it really improbable for someone to “like” or “want” to be a pastor? I just think that there really are people who understand what it means to be one and are really filled with passion to preach Christ, with compassion for the lost and with care for the flock, that they really “like” or “want” it whatever might be the cost.

Hey there my friend. I think you’re referring to some of the tough things I said about seminary and a pastor’s calling.

I believe it’s not improbable to just “like” or “want” to be a pastor, but it’s certainly unlikely.

Please hear me saying this in all love and grace for you.  I know it will sound like such a downer, and when I talk to young dudes who want to be pastors, this is always the hard part.  I feel like the harbinger of bad news or the crusher of dreams.  I end up saying “No you’re not ready” a lot of the time, and usually the response is, “You’re just a hater, you don’t know me man, God’s gonna use me.”

I’ve hurt a lot of fragile egos who weren’t willing to undergo the honesty of self-examination.  I get cussed out or cut off, and that’s okay.  By now, I’m jaded by those sort of things.  There’s a lot of triumphalistic tribal language about victory and haters and trolls, but really: I’m trying to give an honest accurate view of what pastoral ministry is really like.  If I don’t do that, then I wouldn’t be a good friend.  And even if that person “thinks” they understand what it’s like to be a pastor, they don’t.  Seriously.  I’m being nice here.  You can’t possibly know what it’s like until you’re there, day to day, in the trenches of real people bleeding your life away to serve.

Simply: Ministry is downright impossible except for the anointing of God.  There’s no way to simply “like” your way into ministry.  The life of a pastor is extremely difficult, and if it’s not, you’re probably doing it wrong.  I will never ever sugarcoat this or water it down to spare your feelings.  It’s why doctors will tell you that med school isn’t for kicks and cred: they want you to man up and be ready.  If you’re called, awesome.  If not, wait.

I do see what you’re saying.  There should be joy in ministry.  Of course it helps to like what you do.  Pastors must certainly “like” the church, even and especially when it’s difficult.  But if that’s the sole motivation, it will never last.

I hate to be the jerk that says all that.  It’s just that I’ve seen so many distracted half-focused jokesters in the pulpit that I realize: no one ever told them the true meaning of being a pastor.  They don’t realize they have the lives of entire families in their hands who want healing and guidance and truth and a true picture of God.  It’s like some of these dudes went to youth camp once and thought it would be fun and easy and so they sign up for seminary to have a “one day per week” job.  And that’s not even close to how it really is.

Continue Reading…


I get nervous around guys who want to be theologically correct all the time. I know it’s important and I can’t diminish right doctrine, but I’m constantly anxious I’ll say something stupid or wrong around them. I can’t really be sloppy or tip off my weakness.

I say this as a pastor who graduated from maybe the most conservative seminary in the world, who was taught by world-class professors and authors, and I can hang with the best of them.  I just get exhausted of the secret competition to know more Bible than the next guy.  You can quote Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, that’s cool, I actually read the whole thing, but right now I want to talk about TV shows and my favorite hamburger place and that really dumb thing my dog did the other day.  I want to relax sometimes because Jesus played with kids and drank wine with his buddies and roasted fish for his disciples, and one time he took a nap on a boat while a storm almost flipped them all over. I love theology, but it drives me to love you and to love the King.  That’s the only theology worth having.

— J.S.


ernieyip asked a question:

Hi, I have a question about forgiveness. In the Lord’s Prayer, there’s the part that says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Also, in Matthew 6, Jesus says “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. To me it looks like the verse says that God’s forgiveness is conditional on our own acts of forgiveness, but I don’t think that’s the case. Could you help me better understand this passage? Thanks

Hey my friend, the passage you mentioned definitely scares me too.  There are also other similar ones.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. — Mark 11:25

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. — Luke 6:37

In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” — Matthew 18:34-35

At first glance, all these passages seem conditional, as if God will only forgive when we forgive others.

But as with any Bible passage, we must always balance out singular verses with the rest of the Bible in theme, intent, and the GospelOtherwise, we end up with a lopsided theology that might be half-right, but is therefore all wrong.

Continue Reading…


I must also add: God absolutely loves you and He’s crazy about you no matter what. In our rock-bottom moments of ill consequences, it’s easy to think that God’s response towards us is disappointment or frustration. But God sent His Son exactly for this very reason — to draw you near Him in spite of yourself. Don’t ever let self-pity get in the way of this; don’t ever feel you have to pay off your guilt with self-inflicted punishment. God did the work for you already. He preempted your failures and saw your sin coming a mile away, but He loved you anyway. He will not time-warp His Son off the cross. He says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

I know it feels like you’re walking in a fog you created. and there will be some tough days ahead, but God is with you in this struggle to the very end. Pace yourself and don’t rush the healing process and have grace for you, too. If you mess it up again, get back up. God is there to cheer you on and restore you for next time. There’s no such thing as “too late” with God. When your church or your family or the whole world will not give you a second chance, God is the God of infinite chances. His grace is that big. Continue to stumble after Him.

Please don’t let the weight of your consequences say anything less about you as a person, because God continually has grace for you in the middle of the mess.



– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture



One value I cherish more than almost any other is honesty.  I mean being vulnerable. We can put on a good front out there but this slowly strangles us inside, and it’s probably why the world is the way that it is: because we’ve bottled up everything about us inside tiny cubicles of courtesy, a tightly coiled parade of modified bravado.

I heard a theory once that conspiracy theories couldn’t exist, because the people hiding those elaborate lies would just blow up.  No one’s good at keeping secrets too long, most especially our own.  We need a safe place to deposit them somewhere, to not be judged for them, to know our tears and scars are not wasted in the silent echo of hiding, to say, “I’m not okay right now.”

I think we need that one friend who’s an open-and-shut vault, where we can vent and just go nuts.  You know, the one friend where we can be our slobbery, screwed up, frustrated, upside-down selves.  And they still hang around in the morning because that’s what love does: it says good morning.  It sticks around.

A culture of honesty could only come from a culture of grace, where we have the undeserved hope of being known but still loved.  We crave grace.  We crave honesty.  You have a friend like that: don’t ever let that go.  They see you at your darkest and limp with you to the light.

— J.S.


Turn. He Is There.

November 11, 2014 — 3 Comments



Some of us live in this space — we don’t know yet. We are sitting outside a broken dream weeping into our hands and watching the sand fall through tired fingers. It’s gone. We can’t possibly know how it will get better.

It could be that nothing around you gets better. But He is there, extending grace within the swirling mess of a hostile world.

It could be that people around you don’t change. But He is there, growing you to change when others do not.

It could be that you get stuck at the obstacle once more. But He is there, having already removed every obstacle between you and Him at the cross, empowering you for so much better than you think.

In your crushed, swollen chest where the hurt pulls in: Christ comes to fill the broken places like so much water in cracked earth, new breath stretching your lungs, so we may thrive and bloom and stand on our shaking feet again.

Turn. He is there.

– J.S from What The Church Won’t Talk About