MAG cover paperback


The Big Christian Secret is that every Christian in history has run into doubts about God. The doubt that He exists. Even the “best Christians” get lost in the hallway. It’s more than just a phase or a season or a dry spell; it’s a thick, nauseating fog. There are days I read the Bible and I want to throw it in the trash.

When pain hits home and you’re walking through that cancer or car accident or earthquake, you want the kind of faith that can face death.  In the end, I want a faith that doesn’t just tickle my inspiration or give me cute slogans, but a faith that can get beat up by suffering and scholars and satanic evil, and will keep on standing.

True faith, the kind that perseveres through pain and trials and urgency, takes a surgical navigation through all the very difficult questions of life.  Only doubts will ever get you to ask them.

The best thing I could tell you is to question everything, because by questioning everything, you will toss out what doesn’t work. You’ll eliminate easy answers that could never sustain the hardest seasons of life.

— J.S. | Mad About God



Photo from Noel Shiveley


I know that not everything has a happily-ever-after. We do hurt, a lot. There are lifelong battles and unconquerable defeats and irreversible losses. There is, at times, unresolved tension that remains unresolved.

Yet our bold response to all these things can show a reservoir of strength we never knew we had. Our daily victories build scars that build stories that build bridges to broken hearts. Our boldness shows we don’t need to lose ourselves in loss, that we don’t need to fall apart when everything else does. The dark can make us more human, and not less. In our outright rebellion against apathy, we find a flash of divinity. We find a story better than the childish bleakness of tragedy, but instead the mature growth of comedy, where we have the humility to laugh at ourselves. We find hope in pain together. Maybe even the hope that there’s an ever-after. We don’t have to hope in solitude.

— J.S. from Mad About God


Mad About God six purchases


Thank you so much for getting the books, dear friends!

They’re all available here on my Amazon authorpage from 5.99 to 8.99. The ebooks are even less!

If you’ve been blessed, please consider leaving a review. Love y’all!
— J.S.


MAG cover pose


The doctors were sure if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up. 

It was too late to pump my stomach. Half a bottle of Excedrin. They were about to insert the tube down my throat. Instead they fed me liquid charcoal to neutralize the acid. My vomit was the color of midnight, of tar.

I waited. I fell asleep. 

You can feel death, you know.  It’s like someone is unraveling a thread at the back of your skull, like sinking into yourself.  My legs felt like they were dangling in water. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. It would’ve been so easy to keep falling, to sink, to follow the thread to the bottom.

But in that moment, hanging over the abyss — there it was.  Not some neon sign or some grand eloquent entrance, not a voice from the rafters, but a simple expression of something beyond this world. 

“You’re not done yet.  You have more. You have Me.”

I woke up.  I was Baker Act’ed into a mental hospital. I wore someone else’s clothes. A man with a clipboard asked me questions about my father. A patient in the next room pulled the fire alarm and tried to jump out the window. Another patient tried to fight me. I was let out after regaining “social acceptability.” I lost thirteen pounds in three days and had roomed with others who had far worse problems than I. 

Back into the sunlight, I suddenly didn’t want to waste my life anymore.  I couldn’t stand the thought of having died in that hospital bed.

I wanted to believe it all had meaning,

that a purpose awaited me,

that I was made to save a corner of this universe,

that I am much more than what I feel. 

It took inches before death to find the beginning of trusting Him. Maybe part of trusting God was trusting that He might actually like me — not because of what I could do, but simply because I was breathing the air He had whispered into my lungs.

I thought of the verse: It does not profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. If this is true, it means your soul and mine has infinitely more value to God than the whole world.  For every person who is tired of living, God says,

You’re not done yet. 

You have more. 

You have Me.

– J.S. | Mad About God


Photo & Art from hersoutherncharm


When I ask if God is good

I see a cross, an empty tomb.

What He writ large in the stars

is writ small for our wounds.

From the sky to my sin

He is re-making us again.

When nothing else is good,

He is the only one who is.

— J.S. from Mad About God


This is wonderful artwork from Cristina G., a quote from my newest book, Mad About God.

It perhaps encapsulates the entire theme of the book.
Thank you for the art, dear sister!
— J.S.


image

When I go to the bookstore, I’ll grab books and read the last few pages. I want to know how it ends. I want to know where we end up. Hollywood executives always read the first and last page of a screenplay, and if the characters don’t change, they toss the script. We inherently want a landing, a safe conclusion, a final punctuation on the sentence of life.

When I first read the Bible for myself, I started at Revelation. I wanted to know if everything was going to be okay. I heard about the Fall of Man and all the ugly things that happened in Genesis; I knew about the flood and the tower of Babel and the incest and the wars. In Revelation, I was overwhelmed. Everything was getting put right again. Justice was unrolling from Heaven, angels speaking with mere men, evil squashed to pieces, healing was all over the place. Since then, I read the Bible very differently. I know that the first page doesn’t get to say everything about us, and we get a landing, a final sentence of victory. We get to win, because God does.

J.S. from Mad About God

 


Thank you to my dear brother Peter D. Webb, super Christian blogger and awesome friend for picking up my new book on persevering through pain! I quoted him in it as well.

Pick up my book Mad About God!

[Photo from Peter’s blog here]


Image by Grant Snider

alittlebitgoesalongway asked:

Hi, I have a question for you based on what I read from another post. It said, “If the voice is God’s all three will agree:
 1. The Word of the LORD in the Bible. 
2. The Word of the Spirit in our hearts. 
3. The circumstances of our lives, which have been arranged by God. 
All three must point one way; it is never enough for any two of them to be taken as showing God’s will.” Do you agree or disagree with that statement (scripture references)?

Anonymous asked:

Hey J.S.! How do you know if what you’re doing is part of God’s plan? How am I supposed to know I’m doing the right thing? I just applied for an internship for my favorite company and I’m anxious. Will I get it? Do I simply wait and trust God? Does He approve of it? If not, then how do I know I’m even in the right direction? I can’t tell/feel the difference between making my own decisions and making the ones based on God’s will. Help?

 

I would say it’s pretty good to have a checklist and it’s certainly not less than those things — but finding God’s Will can be pretty dang tough. 

The further I move along in my faith, the more I find that faith is a sticky, grey, messy, murky journey.  While God’s commands are obvious (that’s His moral will), His plan is tougher to discern (that’s His sovereign will). 

What if there needs to be a snap decision and we can’t survey the entire Bible on the spot?  How do we know it’s the Holy Spirit and not our own voice?  How do we interpret “signs” and circumstances?  What if we come between two impossible decisions?  What if both are equally good, or equally bad?

While we could ponder forever on these things, let’s consider some thoughts on His Will.  Please feel free to skip around.

Continue Reading…


Is suffering a “part of God’s Plan”? Does God use trials to teach us a lesson? Does everything really happen for a reason?

A hard look at the Problem of God vs. Suffering, and why easy answers won’t work in the middle of the mess.

Get my new book on persevering through trials & suffering, Mad About God.

— J.S.



My book on persevering through pain is now on sale for only 1.99 for one week! The ebook works on every device. The paperback is also only 8.99.

I talk about the church’s tendency to gloss over pain and spiritualize tragedy, and how we can find real healing within the unresolved tension. I also go over the misquoting of Jeremiah 29:11 and David & Goliath, grief and depression, the problem with Job and “inspirational Instagrams,” finding “God’s Will” when we’ve already messed it up, handling terminal illness and disability, how Christianity makes sense in a crazy world, and the theology of Louis C.K., True Detective, and The Shawshank Redemption.

To read an excerpt, check here. To hear an audiobook preview of the opening chapters, check here.

Be blessed and love y’all!
– J.S.


JS Podcast instagram


If you didn’t know, I have a podcast with every sermon I’ve preached and more. It’s free & you can download directly to your phone. Please also leave a review or rating!

iTunes page: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/j.s.-park-way-everlasting/id395594485

Main page: http://thewayeverlasting.libsyn.com/

— J.S.



Here’s an article I wrote for XXXCHURCH, called “3 Ways to Move Past Sexual Regret.”

It’s about how to overcome sexual regrets, especially in a viral culture of public shaming and hyper social media. I go over some heavy stuff, from suicides caused by leaking photos to Monica Lewinsky’s recent confession. I also go over three ways that we as a community can help each other move forward from our past.

Here’s an excerpt:

We each need a safe place to talk about our regrets, no matter how sordid they may be. A person who regrets their past has already been shamed by their own guilt for long enough. They already walk into their home and their church and their workplace with a storm-cloud of remorse chasing after them. We can either be a voice that someone must overcome, or a voice that helps someone overcome.

The post is here!

– J.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said, “No. I’m not boiling eggs.”

“Are the sprinklers on outside?”

“No. The sprinklers are not on.”

“But then what’s that sm—”

And it hit me. Pun intended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…

JS Park XChurch


I’m super excited to be a part of the blogging contributor team for XXXChurch!

For all my posts, check here.

If you don’t know, XXXChurch is led by Craig Gross, who has led the frontlines on awareness for porn addiction and founded X3Watch, the leading accountability software.  He also nationally debates former porn-actor Ron Jeremy about the dangers of porn.

Craig and I made contact after I shared my book on quitting porn, which he found highly practical and different than the current resources on the market.  I was a bit star-struck since I consider Craig’s books to be one of the primary helps in quitting my own porn addiction (I’ve been sober for over three years!). I’m looking forward to teaming up with him!

My first blog post for XXXChurch is here!

— J.S.


julettejoonengaged-043
Photo by Angel He, from my engagement shoot at Buddy Brew of Tampa, FL


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.

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…


Image from http://couragehopestrength.tumblr.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— J.S.



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Image from HD4 Wallpapers

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

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

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

Here’s how you handle us.

Continue Reading…

Image from Hooki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…

Photo by H.T. Yu, CC BY 2.0

An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.

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

My podcast series “Cutting It Off” — here.

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

Every question submitted about porn on this blog, here.

**Updated: May 2013

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

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

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

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

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

The Addict’s Path:

Continue Reading…


My father Jung Hwan Park in the Vietnam War, c. 1964.

He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the R.O.K. Army.  He taught hand-to-hand combat to both Korean and American soldiers, including the U.S. Navy Seals.

In 1968, he was captured during the Tet Offensive and forced to walk barefoot, blindfolded, and hands tied to a prison, where he was a POW.  My dad was forced to eat rats and fight other prisoners to survive, and he went blind several times due to poor nutrition.  After a failed escape attempt, he was tortured with bamboo shoots underneath his fingernails and a few of his fingers were broken.  Before execution, he escaped alone (by killing a few guards with his bare hands) and was the only known soldier who escaped his encampment.  He was then captured in Cambodia and declared a Korean spy, and for two years the Korean Embassy worked for his release.  He’s authored an autobiography in Korea, translated Through the Jungle of Death.  A few Korean history textbooks talk about his successful escape.  He’s established a martial arts franchise in America called J. Park Martial Arts, and at 70 he still teaches.

— J.S.


How is God three in one? Why does the Christian faith need a Trinitarian God? Does any analogy really work?
An explanation of this unexplainable doctrine in less than three minutes. And a unique way to see the Trinity. I got really excited about this one.

Subscribe to my channel here. Love y’all!

— J.S.


[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]


 

I know a pastor who was dating a girl, and the girl eventually left him for another pastor in the same church.  They all had to work together for a while.  I can’t imagine how hard this must have been.

Years later this pastor planted a new church, but he took all his hurts with him.  He hardly opened up to anyone; viciously arm-wrestled for authority; shut off anyone he didn’t trust; boiled hate at other pastors; and viewed his ministry as a project he had to maintain under a strict disciplinary cage.  Some have said this was his personality — but I knew him before the girl left him.  He wasn’t always like this.  He used to be so full of life and joy and laughter.  Now he’s passive-aggressive, distant, moody, cold.

I’m not friends with him anymore, either.  I no longer meet his invisible standard.  There was a time when I was really mad at him for this: but the more I think about it, the more I understand.  If the same thing happened to me that did to him, I might have carried over all that baggage too.

But the thing is: We all go through crap.  We can let it hold us down, or not.  The trauma and trials that we go through are not the worst things that can happen to us.  The worst is when we let it give us permission to define us by a toxic lie — that somehow the world owes you, that you never have to trust again, that you can retaliate first, that you’re entitled to bitterness and contempt.  The worst is when you rehearse your own sad story to the point where even the future is to blame, and every new face must pass an impossible test designed to fail. It is a harsh whisper in your heart that says, “Never again.  I’ll show them.”

All this self-pity and victimization is understandable.  I’m on your side about that.  But this constant sour whisper will slowly destroy you.  It will destroy everything you touch.  I know this: because I lose a great friend by it.  I have tried to tell him this: but he refuses to listen, and it hurts my heart to see him stomp his way through life with closed fists.  It hurts me to see him interpret all disagreement as opposition or to take the most innocuous things so personally.

I know why you feel this way: But you cannot define your life by the losses you have incurred.  You may have been embarrassed, shamed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and cheated — no one’s saying this isn’t wrong — but it’s even more reason to find healing and peace, or else you will not pass on wisdom, but pain.

I know it hurts.  I pray you find healing, my friend.  I still love you dearly, and I would still gladly die for you in a second, no matter how much you despise me for the reasons you’ve rehearsed.  Life has not gone the way you wanted: but there is still life left to serve God and to serve your fellow comrades in our journey together.  Perhaps our roads will converge one day again.

— J



I know there are some of you who are barely hanging onto the “Christian scene” — it was part of your youth, you like Jesus, you like some of the music, you find many of the teachings and verses to be inspirational, you’re into grace and humility, and you understand that not every screaming Westboro picketer represents the movement of Christianity.

But mostly: it’s not a part of your life. You haven’t been to church in a while. You feel largely removed from your former Christian friends. You don’t care to go back, and you feel like you’d be judged if you did.

Sometimes you miss going, but you’ll see some horrible news story about another group of crazy church people or you’ll see how the drama is destroying your friends who still attend — and you remember why you left. You’ll remember the old wounds, the hurtful things the pastor did, the way the church gossiped, and those one or two opinions that really bothered you.

My dear friend: I’m sorry it’s gone this way. I’m sorry the church as a whole has been so awful. Speaking as a pastor and your friend, we’ve done a poor job and there’s no excuse for that.

Yet — I know you still think Jesus is pretty awesome. I know you’re thoughtful enough to still be attracted to God somehow. And you have some decent Christian friends who don’t act all uppity nor pretend they have it all together. You occasionally check out some Christian blogs, and they’ve even been a big encouragement sometimes.


I know this is a huge leap here: but I’m writing this for you to say, Please don’t completely write off the church just yet.

Please consider that there is still one out there, just for you, that isn’t perfect but is still very passionate for the truth and love of Jesus, and one you could possibly call home.

I have been to many, many good churches that are still faithful, loving, and kind. There are still many churches that really care, where you are free to be yourself, where it feels like God is actually in the house. They still exist. I’m not saying that drama never happens there, but they are honest about it and they love one another through it all.

Sure, church is always going to be a messy sloppy place. But the most gracious ones are also absolutely beautiful in the mess. It’s because they meet each other where they are, like Jesus does. Deep down inside, some part of you wants to be a part of one of those. It probably scares you like it scares me — but but it’s like that moment when you take the chance on love again. It’s terrifying, but you’re right at the edge of adventure. It could be something incredible.

Please think about just asking a friend to attend a church event, or even this Sunday. If it goes bad, try a few more times. Keep an open mind. It’s a lot to ask considering all that has happened — but certainly we’ve invested far more time into things we had less faith on. I’ve seen so many people come back to church and find healing again. Maybe you’ll find a new safe place where you can reconnect with God and start once more. At the very least, you’ll know where not to visit again, and perhaps you can try elsewhere one more time.

I’m excited for you. I’ll be praying for you. If you’re excited: don’t hide it. Tell your friend. Get your hopes up a little! Enter with the anticipation of Jesus welcoming you with wide open arms.

God loves you and so do I.

— J.S.

jesuspaidtheprice asked a question:

What would you do to overcome depression?

Hey dear friend, thank you for your honesty in asking. I was actually struck with a heavy episode this week. While there’s no easy formula to just “overcome” depression, here are a few firsthand thoughts. Please know that this isn’t a comprehensive list that will cover every angle, and if you need help, please seek it immediately, anywhere that you can.

1) Depression is not your fault. It’s not because of a “lack of faith” or unconfessed sin or unclaimed promises. Most cases of depression have no rules or rhyme or reason. We can’t just choose our way out or recite some magic incantation.

2) Define depression. There’s a huge difference between self-pity and clinically diagnosed depression. It’s completely unfair when someone uses “depression” as a mantle of pride, as if it’s a trend or an outfit. At the same time, it’s just as unfair to dismiss someone’s depression as a “phase” or a first world problem.

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jsp_dating_audio


Today is the final day of the sale! My book on relationships is only 1.99 until midnight! The ebook works on every device. The paperback is still only 7.99.

The book is a journey of seeing how the Bible can actually inform our love life, peeling away all the layers of our church culture. It’s for singles, couples, the heartbroken, and those with sexual regrets. I talk about Taylor Swift and Joshua Harris. I also talk about overcoming my fifteen year porn addiction, the time I tried to take my life over a girl, and the messy process of finally getting married. And like my last book, I answer real questions from real people about relationships.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.



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I believe that sometimes, pain is just pain.

Sometimes it just hurts.

Until we see the face of God, we mostly won’t know the why. Even then, I’m not sure there will be a neat bow-tie at the end.

In the waiting, I don’t want to moralize my pain. I refuse to connect the dots at someone who is hurting in the lowest bottom of their soul. I cannot pretty-up grief with retrospective hindsight or poetic reflection. I will not diminish someone’s tragedy into an allegory. I cannot take a human wound and flip it into a cute outline for my logical sensibilities.

Pain sucks. It’s dirty. It’s not fit for books and movies. It doesn’t always resolve. It’s not romantic. It doesn’t need an answer or a fix-it-all. That drives me crazy, but nearly every answer has always come up short and trite and impractical. Pain is a terrible teacher who we try to force answers from, but maybe we’re demanding something that it can’t give.

I want to let pain be as it is, because it’s part of what makes us human. It’s to be experienced, not always explained. I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m trying to live with the wounds. I want to let life unfold, not to escape or avoid or deny, but to let the deepest hurt become part of me, a part of our human story.

— J.S. from Mad About God: When We Over-Spiritualize Pain and Turn Tragedy Into A Lesson


Image from SS Print Shop

Anonymous asked a question:

Hi, I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog! Thanks for taking your time to write these posts and answering questions. What does it mean to be spiritually mature? Does it just mean someone is far in their walk with God or receives many visions and revelations? Sometimes I feel like Christianity is a race to see who can achieve this maturation the fastest.

Thanks so much my friend.  I love what I do and I love every one of you I can serve, even if it helps just a few.

I appreciate your question too. You’re not alone in thinking this.  Many Christians are straight up exhausted with all these absurd spiritual parameters that we throw on ourselves.  Most of them are not from, you know, the Bible.

I get pretty sad about this one because I meet Christians who will say, “I just don’t think I’m growing.  I read the Bible morning and night, I attend church nine times per week, I talk with God at sunrise and in the car and during my lunch break, I evangelized to only four people this month, and I listened to a messed up kid for an hour without saying Jesus once.”

I keep thinking, “Dang dude — you’re actually growing a lot.”

When we set such high ridiculous standards, I think we go into morbid self-punishment by 1) measuring our quantity, 2) measuring our intentions, 3) grading our intensity, and 4) comparing to other “good Christians.”

I feel like Satan is laughing his butt off while we run around trying harder, doing more, hyping up our feelings, and defining our spirituality with distorted definitions.

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