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.


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

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.

Continue Reading…

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?

Continue Reading…


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.

Continue Reading…

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?

Continue Reading…

I think most Christians today love to hate legalism, Pharisees, the word “religion,” and anything reeking of institution — not because they’re worried that these things dehumanize us or diminish us or divide us, but because it’s cool to look really relevant and revolutionary.

Yelling “Pharisee” is pretty much like yelling “Nazi” or “skinhead” or “bigot,” and it’s a buzz word that instantly conjures up the middle-aged, Bible-thumping, suit-and-tie white guy who weaponizes Scripture and prays for the demise of Hollywood and Rob Bell.

Certainly some of these kinds of people exist in the church.  Surely there are fanatical extremists who fit most of our one-dimensional caricatures.  Of course there are mean religious people who do atrocious things in the name of a loving God.

I just think it’s too easy to dismiss them to appear like we are better — and the second you compare your faith to someone else, even if it’s a Pharisee, you’ve instantly become a Pharisee.

Actually, it’s very rarely that I meet black-and-white dichotomous people who funnel their hate into a dogmatic shotgun.  Mostly I meet people who do black-and-white actions as opposed to being “those kinds of people,” and those awful church-people also usually have children, insecurities, dreams, desires, hopes, tragedies, losses, and really neat hobbies, like we all do.  They enjoy ice cream and hamburgers and even the same TV shows and movies and fandoms.  In other words, they have layers, and they’re people too.  They’re not monsters.

But we tend to rally around a binary-battle faith because when you can demonize a certain type of person, you can mobilize a large quick movement for profit and influence and power.  It’s harder to fuel a gathering out of love.  Hate is easier.  And so when a supposedly nuanced, hip, relevant, postmodern Christian says “I’m not like those other Christians,” he’s simply fallen into the same default depravity of our reactionary nature and bought into one more dividing line of the in-house fighting.  And I’m doing the same thing with the previous sentence.

Continue Reading…

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.

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.


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.

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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:

Continue Reading…

“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

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

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

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

“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world—free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”

— Henri Nouwen

Law, Grief, Grace.

April 3, 2014 — 4 Comments

I used to be really violent about sin. I wanted to destroy every part of me that was destroying me, either all or nothing. I would assault others with my religious fervor. “We have to beat this, you guys! You serious or what?”

I remember reading Psalm 119:26, which says

“It is time for you to act, Lord; your law is being broken.”

Very legit. Fires me up, I’m ready to kick the door.

But ten verses later, David writes,

“Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.”

And here I hear a much older man, hurting over the hurting, getting in their shoes, embracing their fight inside the trials and temptations.

Maybe I’m getting old or soft, but I feel more grief than anger about sin these days. It breaks my heart to pieces, and these pieces cry out grace. It’s not what I deserve, but what I need. And Jesus offers so much mercy over judgment, extended to the worst of us, and that’s where I want to be too.

— J


As a Korean Asian-American who’s always felt the bull’s eye on my back for easy punchlines and Bruce Lee catcalls, I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen Colbert since forever.  Through the whole misunderstanding about that satire/racist tweet he never actually sent, I never for a second thought Colbert is a racist.  And I don’t think Suey Park, who began the whole #cancelcolbert thing, had illegitimate feelings about it either.  However exaggerated those feelings were, she has a right to be an “Angry Asian Woman,” and she chose to pick a fight that has eluded victory for Asians since we were slaves in the 1800s (which no one cares about, ever).

But who really won here? Suey Park was practically disemboweled online by misogynistic death threats, which only exposes the ugliness of the same tweeters who bashed an 11 year old Mexican for singing the national anthem. Colbert’s original target, Dan Snyder’s “Redskins Foundation,” remains completely untouched by the appropriate outrage, to which Colbert rightly says, “I haven’t seen sh_t about that.”

I keep seeing the same headlines and sound bites.  “Colbert’s Brilliant Response.” “Colbert Wins.”  “He would’ve never said that to blacks, gays, or Jews.”  “Five Things Colbert Got Right.”  “Suey Park Fail In Huffpost Interview.” “White liberal privilege.” And so on.

All the unthoughtful, un-nuanced, tactless, ungracious responses were worse than the supposed debacle that started it all.

Here’s where I grieve the most. There’s a moment in Colbert’s response from his own show (at the 2:30 mark) where Colbert repeats the joke about Asians.  It’s right there that I cringed pretty bad, not at the joke itself, but the way the audience laughed so hard.  Like a reflex.  Because saying “ching chong” with such inflection is easy to laugh at.  It’s satire, yes, but you can pretty much hear the racist undertones in the laughter.  I’m reminded of why Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million contract: because while taping a sketch about pixies in blackface, a white person on set laughed just a bit too hard.  It made Chappelle question what he was really doing: and it should probably drive us to the same questions too.

One time a pastor called me at three in the morning because he was really pissed off about something I did.  He proceeded to yell at me for forty-five minutes and used the f-bomb no less than six times.  I stayed silent.  And honestly, I kept thinking, “If I was a black guy or a gay guy or disabled, this wouldn’t be happening right now.”

It’s such a typical reverse-racist sentiment, yet I’ve seen it play out everyday.  I’m more likely to get yelled at during rush hour traffic because I’m the bad Asian driver who won’t say anything back.  At mostly white social functions, I’m usually relegated to the side and I get everything explained to me really slowly, as if I’m missing some kind of awareness about life.  It sucks to see Asians used casually as props in movies.  I’m not sure if anyone could understand watching my dad listen to racist prank messages on his answering machine, rewinding them over and over, trying to understand what they were saying.  It grieves me to see an internationally known pastor like Rick Warren brush off his casual racism by yelling “Pharisees” at people who supposedly don’t get a joke.  I could keep going.

Despite Stephen Colbert’s strangely smug response and his barely restrained ridicule, I’ll keep watching him.  He handled the overblown situation about as well as he could (maybe too well).  But I do think the pain that Asians feel over racism is NOT merely projection or oversensitivity or political correctness.  Certainly not all of it.

It’s possible to over-use the race card, but it’s terrible to ignore the centuries that we’ve endured such dehumanizing dismissal.  Unless you’ve been there, I can’t adequately explain just how much it hurts to be abused and neglected simply because I look different than you.  Think of how crazy that is.  So I just can’t laugh at “ching chong” no matter how it’s used.  There’s still so much work to be done for healing all our racial divides, and this small skirmish only proves it.  No one really won here.  If only we could truly get to the bottom of this pain together, and listen, will we ever build bridges toward each other instead of to oblivion.

— J

Anonymous asked:

[Warning: Possible trigger and some sexual content.]

My boyfriend and I have a hard time falling into sexual immoralities, not full on sex, but a lot of playing around … We keep trying to set rules and such but they never work and it’s a “your head knows it’s wrong but your heart doesn’t care” kind of thing. We know we need to be serious but we just can’t seem to be and it’s frustrating. We don’t want this to cause us to break up because Jesus said if we bear no fruit we’ll be cut from the vine. How can we be serious, about this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hey my dear wonderful friend, please first allow me the grace to point you to a previous post:

- Question: Physical Boundaries In Relationships

I have to say upfront that I’m not very qualified to speak on this struggle, mainly because I never quite got a handle on this in my previous relationships.  I’ve been in a great relationship now for over four years and we plan to get married soon: and though this is the best I’ve ever been, it’s still an extremely difficult problem.  It’s possible to beat this, but you’re basically trying to fight the air and gravity with your bare hands.

I have to graciously rebuke something right away.  A simple word: choices.  I don’t like this phrase “falling into.”  I don’t know anyone who’s ever “fallen into” their own behavior.  No one goes from drinking coffee to falling into crystal meth (and if you have, I’m sorry and I’ll pray for you).  I get what it means, but I think it implies you’re doing this against your will — and you’re most certainly not.

I’m not trying to guilt-trip you, but the very opposite.  The moment you know it’s your choice, you gain a certain empowerment knowing that simply changing a few choices will usurp this whole thing upside-down.

It doesn’t mean setting a few extra rules.  Rules are good and they can work for a while, but if they only restrict behavior, they will never have a direction or purpose.  If you’re only trying to quit just to quit, that’s a neutral goal which will leave you with too much idle time and then right back to your original problem.

The only way I know how to fight sin is to choose something else instead.  That sounds simple, but for every couple who is struggling to keep physical boundaries, I find out that this is ALL they’re doing.  Just struggling, but without going towards something.  They’re fighting sin to fight sin and it never works.  Reaching for purity never gets purity.  Lust is not even really the issue.

Have you ever noticed Galatians 5:16?

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of your flesh.

In other words: Choose the things of God, and you will have no room to choose anything else.

So what do we choose?  Because this isn’t as easy as “behavior replacement” or “staying busy.”

Here’s what I’ve learned about choosing the things of God.

Continue Reading…

Hello beloved dear friends!

This is the fifth and final part of a sermon series called “The Names of God: Who We Are In Who He Is.”  

This message is titled: The Continually Creating God: A Life of Action Vs. Reaction.

It’s about creating a life free of reactionary backlash, and how God’s creative power works through us.

Stream here or download here!

Some things I talk about are: The preacher-cliché story of my rescue dog Rosco, the back-and-forth craziness of internet comments and message boards, the uniqueness of Christian Creation account versus others, the plague of Room-Vampires who drain the life out of a room, that time I fought a bully  by yelling ‘I love you,’ and Seven Keys to living a Life of Action Vs. Reaction.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J