Free / Be.

September 2, 2014 — Leave a comment


Be free to love.

Be free to fail.

Be free to act a fool.

Be free from everyone else’s vision for your life.

Be free to give your life away, for the common good, to speak life where there is death.

Be free from the inner-loop of self-condemnation in your head.

Be free from that discouraging word today.

Be free to speak when you’re most afraid.

Be free to dream.

Be set free, by truth so bitter and sweet.

Be.

— J.S.


Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This message is titled: Our Story, Carved of Grace and Glory: What It Means To Glorify God, The Most Important Purpose of our Lives.

It’s about the very Christianese phrase “glorifying God” or “bringing God the glory,” and why this is perhaps the most important thing we could learn about the emptiness and fulfillment of our lives.

Stream here or download directly here!


Some things I talk about are: Our Christianese church-language that we never question, when you walk into a crowded room and you suddenly hear the desperate clawing fight for validation, the Main Character Syndrome when we treat everyone like supporting props for the Movie of Me, the insane frothing monster we become in rush hour traffic, the overarching meta-narrative of the Bible in one rushing swoop, how to anonymously donate a kidney, and when Jesus finally returns with 100 million angels at the final conclusion of the universe.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.




- In the book of Genesis, there’s a verse where God said that it was not good for man to be alone so He will make a helper for him. I think this extends even beyond marriage to say that we were made to have close relationships in our lives. What’s confusing is how this applies when we feel lonely? It’s not all about us & what we want but, how do we cope with loneliness when we were made to have those close friendships to walk through life together but also know that God is all we truly need?

- Hi, I have struggled with loneliness for a very long time. God has been healing me but I still have problems with it. During my lonely times, I would listen to sermons, sing praise songs, or just do activities I enjoy but sometimes, I just get wrecked and end up sinning. I belong to a church and try to catch up with friends but because relationships are like revolving doors- they come and go, it doesn’t really help. How can I trust God when I am an emotional wreck.

Hey there dear friends: thank you for trusting me with such a huge important issue.  I think it’s very rare that we get to hear about a theology on loneliness and companionship, and while I know I can’t possibly remedy all your concerns today, we can chip away a few layers of this together.

Please first know that loneliness is part of who we are and is NOT wrong or bad or sinful.  In other words, being lonely actually shows you’re human, and not anything else.

To quote Timothy Keller, he says:

Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect. Adam was lonely because he was like God, and therefore, since he was like God, he had to have someone to love, someone to work with, someone to talk to, someone to share with.

All of our other problems—our anger, our anxiety, our fear, our cowardice—arise out of sin and our imperfections. Loneliness is the one problem you have because you’re made in the image of God.

But of course, it’s not just as simple as walking into a party or a college campus or a church and suddenly finding all you’re looking for.  While I’m not sure I can hit everything you’re thinking, here are a few things to consider.

Continue Reading…

Dear fellow travelers,

A couple months ago, I decided to resign from my church. Yesterday was my final worship service. I’ve been serving here for the last year.

There was nothing shady about it: I had a calling about six months ago to enter into non-profit charity work to serve the poor and homeless, which also meant that I would be leaving behind the mainstream evangelical church body. After wrestling with this in prayer, I finally got a green light when I went on a mission trip in the Philippines. I told my head pastor the day I returned, and though he was sad to see me go, he was very gracious about my new vision.

I absolutely do love my church. I’m torn up about moving on from my youth group, the children, and the young adult group, whom I had the honor of serving these past thirteen months. I also served with great leaders and we were relatively free of drama, and that’s the best you can ask for in a church culture. Fortunately, I still have great relations with the head pastor and the members, so I’ll be visiting when I can.

My prayer request is that I find a stable job for income and a consistent place to serve the poor of the Tampa Bay area. I’m pretty terrified, to be honest, and with my wedding in four months and with shopping for a home, this is a crazy complicated time to make such big life decisions. None of this will be easy, but I trust that God is calling me into His better story, and I’m confident in His grace.

Love y’all and thank you for your prayers and encouragement. You guys are the best.

— J.S.


Trust That.

August 29, 2014 — 8 Comments


Trust that God is working something in you now, something you can’t imagine, a miracle beyond proportion. Look beyond circumstances, long nights, broken trophies, mental arguments, the swirl of gossip, the false self-talk that you’ve rehearsed over and over. Leave yesterday where it belongs. Don’t cave in to what has happened to you. God says you are more than that — because you are His. As hard as it sounds: you are loved, you are treasured, you are written on the heart and mind of your Creator. Rejoice and revel in what He has done, is doing, will do.


— J.S.


Ice Bucket Challenge Fail

August 28, 2014 — 2 Comments


So I did the Ice Bucket Challenge, and failed.
I nominated Pastor Paul Kim, Pastor Eugene Cho, Alex Jay Choe, Jacob Choe, anyone else named Choe, and tblaberge.

— J.S.

image


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

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

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

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


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


*Update* 8/28/14 – The petition has almost 12,000 signatures! Peter Chin, the one who started the petition, has also made an update on the petition page.


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.

image

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…

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…


When you have a problem with your parents, the pastor, the boss, the teacher, the blogger, your friend —

Most of us try talking with them once, and then we give up.  Me included.  We presume the initial reaction is the whole reaction, so we walk away furious or frustrated.

But one discussion can’t possibly cover every angle of both sides.  A first reaction is usually just the emotional instinct spilling out sideways, and no one ever does this very well.  It’s unfair to shut the door right then.  You can say “I tried and he was still stubborn!” — but basically you stabbed a hole in the guy and left.

It takes a few days to process everything that you told someone.  It’s not new to you because you’ve had time to think on it.  It’s new to them and it will open fresh wounds.  It’ll take more than one conversation to start traction on moving forward.  It even takes dozens of one-on-one talks to push past the uncomfortable, gritty, defensive posture into real dialogue.  If you’re not willing to invest the time, then you’ll have half-formed judgments all over the place without any constructive healing or momentum.

Please don’t narrow down a whole person into a fifteen minute meltdown.  Please don’t presume every single motive based on one phone call.  A back-and-forth over texting doesn’t finish the sentence on anything.  Communication takes patience, effort, grace, empathy, and forgiveness.  Expect the first time to be rough.  And expect most people are just as reasonable as you and are willing to learn, so long as you meet them eye to eye.

— J.S.


wherethecherryblossomsdance asked a question:

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

tworoadsdivergedblog asked a question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…

Anonymous asked:

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…



About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

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

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

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

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

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

— J



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

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

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

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

— J.S.


Quote: His Purposes

August 22, 2014 — 1 Comment


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


— C. S. Lewis


Navigating The Labyrinth.

August 21, 2014 — 4 Comments


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

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

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

— J.S.


For James Foley.

August 20, 2014 — Leave a comment


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

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28867627

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-28865508


eternallyforevereverythinglove asked a question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading…

Quote: Without

August 20, 2014 — 1 Comment


“You are significant without a significant other.”


— Shauna Niequist


Keep The Fight.

August 19, 2014 — 4 Comments


Don’t settle for less.

Don’t sell yourself short.

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

Don’t let anyone talk you down.

Drop the mic often.

Prioritize, for our time on earth is short.

Think for yourself.

Find your vision. Listen.

Do not hide tears; they’re yours.

Trust God. Take heart. Keep passion.

Fight the good fight, fellow traveler.

Fight.

— J.S.


Hello beloved wonderful friends!

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

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

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

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

Stream here or download directly here!


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

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.