Last week I visited a mega-church, and I sat behind a group of college and high school students who were goofing off and checking their phones and leaving early.  One of their mothers left in the middle of the sermon and didn’t come back.  I started getting terribly sad and angry about the whole thing; they all had Bibles in their hands and some had notepads to take notes, but they were just being rowdy and whispering loudly and laughing at the most inappropriate times.  I thought, This is it, this is our future of church.  No one cares.

And then — I remembered when I was in high school and college, and how much I goofed off and talked during the sermon and was so dang fidgety and rowdy, and how God still worked through a young rebellious punk like me.  I remembered how God side-tackled me into pastoral ministry and blessed me with a full scholarship to seminary and pulverized my heart into a Jesus-loving, people-serving, unashamed follower.  Not perfect, never, but far from where I used to be in the very same place as those kids.

So I stopped judging and I started praying.  I prayed for big visions for all of them, that God would do incredible wonderful things that they could barely believe were happening — amazing works that they never thought possible. I mean if I went back to my past self ten years ago and said, “Here’s what you’re going to do for God,” I never would’ve believed it.  But this is what Jesus does.  He takes the most ragged, rowdy, unlikely wanderer and puts us on the frontlines to flex His glory, to wield His love, to heal people just like us.  He’s always doing things like that: and it gives me hope.  It gives me patience, and grace.

— J.S.



Romance is wonderful, but it’s one of the many things that actually points to the Creator of everything, just as a strand of sunlight points back to the author of the sun. The heat of romantic emotion is a window into the Eternal Romance that you were made for.

Before thinking about relationships, we’re designed to have relational intimacy with God. It’s not merely that Adam and Eve “disobeyed” God in the Garden, but they were disconnected from Him too. They severed their true source of love and goodness and glory. Our significance and validation comes from Him. Without this, we’ll merely pursue our latest loudest feelings to accumulate more feelings, which is a bottomless perpetuity that will crush others and crush ourselves. You know what I mean. If you finally land that relationship you so badly wanted, your initial illusions always go out the window, and suddenly this person isn’t fulfilling you like you’d hoped. It hurts that person and hurts you, too.

We must first know ourselves before we get to know anyone else, and our one irrevocable identity is found in Him.

– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture


Effort Is Not Legalism.

November 26, 2014 — 1 Comment

Effort Vs Legalism David Choi


From David Choi! Love that you underlined almost everything.

Dear friends, my book is on Amazon here!

— J.S.


abeautifuleulogy asked a question:

Given everything that’s happening lately (especially with Ferguson) what are your thoughts on how a Christian can graciously engage in dialogue about racism/(in)justice with someone who isn’t justice-oriented? (bonus points if you address talking with non-Christian racist parents). I find myself trying to walk the line of challenging them while not breaking relationship trust. I’d love to hear how you approach that situation, and what things you keep in mind. Peace.

Hey my dear friend: First I must say that I’m grieving with the entire community right now on every side of this. Before I even talk about issues, I want to talk about the people inside them.  I don’t ever want to forget that people actually died, and that courtrooms and juries can’t ever bring them back.  My heart is breaking profoundly for us right now as a people who have gone wrong and been wronged.

My heart also equally grieves for the ugliness of the internet community and how quickly we devour each other over race and justice. On one hand, I believe each of our communities must examine themselves first, but on the other hand, I’m so dang tired of explaining that racism exists.

1) Most bloggers who talk about Social Justice don’t actually care about the oppressed, but about going viral and getting high-fives from other bloggers.

2) Those who don’t believe “racism exists” cannot be convinced by snarky sarcasm, but only by patience and reasoned sharing.

3) Change can only happen by entering the structures already in place from the inside, not by slamming on it from the outside.

The last time I defended Michael Brown, I decided not to talk about it anymore because a ton of people just lost their minds. I tried to be as fair and unbiased as usual, but I was suddenly a magnet for ugly horrible messages.  It’s not that I want people to agree with me, but it’s that we’re way too quick to say a problem doesn’t exist instead of acknowledging that someone’s pain could be real.  If my body keeps hurting somewhere, chances are it’s a diagnosis of something bad. We need to diagnose the culture too.  But nothing enrages people more than talking about race, privilege, and justice, mostly because people can’t stand to face the ugliness inside and to say “I’m wrong.”

After writing about it a few times, I lost dozens of followers and someone was disappointed in my “overly racially charged view of the world.” Seeing as I’m an Asian minority and I’ve been verbally and physically attacked my entire life for my race, I don’t think it’s some kind of delusion. Racism exists; racial motivations are real. I’ve been beat up for being a minority and someone spraypainted a Nazi swastika on my dad’s business.  I’ve heard “chink” and “gook” thousands of times; there have been hundreds of people who tried to rip me off because they think I’m the dumb innocent Asian.  If I’ve “bought into” a myth, I suppose my bruises can speak the truth. And none of that even marginally compares to the racism that my black friends face for their own families every single day.

It’s almost impossible to gain any traction with this online or even face-to-face.  I’ve stopped trying.  No one’s interested in a conversation; we’re all yelling as loudly as possible to point at our own platforms.  And I’m saying this for every side.  We all do this. I think the majority of Social Justice bloggers are making it worse.

Most bloggers are using Social Justice and “cued buzzwords” to go viral and get attention. It doesn’t help anyone and it only diminishes the actual issue of racism.  It turns it into a circus carnival, and I’m begging you: if you’re another blogger who just randomly reblogs SJ stuff with zero context or care, then please stop.  We need more depth and not shallow sound-bites. You’re actually parodying the whole thing into a laughable hand-wave.

There are really three groups of people here:

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Instagram books 2


Love y’all and may you be totally rocked by His wonderful wild grace!

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

- What The Church Won’t Talk About

- The Christianese Dating Culture

– J.S.


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


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

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

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

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

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


My dear friend: The honeymoon has to end.

The start is the easy part.

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

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

If you can persevere past the naïve burst of beginning —

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Audiobook On The Way!

November 24, 2014 — Leave a comment


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

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

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

Love y’all and be blessed. :)

— J.S.


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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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About a year ago, I donated half my salary to charity to fight human trafficking.  I had saved for the entire year to make one check for $10,000.

I don’t say this to brag, at all.

I say this because I’m a selfish person.  I love comfort, my shiny things, the safety of a new gadget and adding things to my wish list.  I am naturally lazy and indulgent and self-absorbed.

But I also believe in a God who humbled Himself to become one of us.  I believe in a God who paid an infinite price to set us free.  I believe in a God who wrote Himself into the story of humanity to enter our struggle, to lead us into life, and to ultimately exchange our brokenness for grace.

Because I believe in a God who has this sort of heart –

I am compelled to have the same heart for others.

The selflessness of God utterly melted my selfishness to pieces.  His grace tenderized my conceited heart.  I gave my life away because God did the same for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— J.S.



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Purchase my new book on Amazon here!

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

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

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

Here’s how you handle us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.

The introduction here.

Part One, excuses and myths, here.

Part Three, the soul, here.

Part Three and a half, the soul, here.

Part Four: I’m Ready To Cut It Off. Here.

Part Five: Quitting Isn’t Enough. Here.

My podcast series “Cutting It Off” — here.

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

Every question submitted about porn on this blog, here.

**Updated: May 2013

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

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

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

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

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

The Addict’s Path:

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Paperbacks


Hello dear wonderful friends!

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

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

- What The Church Won’t Talk About

- The Christianese Dating Culture

Thank you and love y’all. Be blessed!

– J.S.



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

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

— J.S.


foundworthy asked a question:

What is your process for sermon prep?


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

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


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


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


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


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

— J.S.



For my podcast, please click here or here.

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


Also check out:

- Six Things I Write At The Top of Every Sermon

- Preachers: A Sermon Gut-Check

- Seven Tips on Preaching & Teaching For the First Time

- The Difference Between A Speech and A Sermon




Purchase my book on tough topics of faith here!

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





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

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

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

– J.S.


The Dad Who Loves Us.

November 19, 2014 — 3 Comments



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

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



– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture


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Praying you each encounter His wonderful heart-shaping grace!

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

- What The Church Won’t Talk About

- The Christianese Dating Culture

– J.S.



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

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

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

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


Two anonymous questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture


Tayloy Swift dating book

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

–J.S.



Purchase my book on taboo topics in the church here!

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



Amazon app paperback

My Book In Japan

November 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

JCF Japan

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

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

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

– J.S.


thistreasureinjarsofclay asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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