Don’t Mess With A Fragile Ego

 

Everyone knows the guy who cannot handle rebuke — it’s like walking on egg shells over thin ice over a minefield — and if you dare bring up a hint of contradiction, they will either melt down or throw things or suck you into a terrible black hole.

Don’t mess with them.

What I mean is: you don’t have to bother trying to peel apart the layers and negotiate their craziness. It’s okay to step back or walk away. They are too sensitive even for the most delicate of hands, and nothing you do can satisfy their fragile ego.  If you try one way, they will have expected another, and if you do the other, they will have extra clauses tacked on. 

I would normally never say something like that.  I’m a huge advocate of getting into the broken mess of people and loving on them unconditionally.  I hate to demonize or generalize anyone.  I don’t like to make an ominous dichotomy of “them” versus “us.”  It’s not the cool thing to give up on anyone.

But — there are some people who will only learn by the natural deflation of uncontrollable circumstances.  Life has to kill them first.  In other words, you yourself cannot change them.  Something has to happen for them to see their own pride, their volatility, their entitlement, their impossible shell.  It is a horrible waiting game and no one enjoys it: but there are no words for a touchy, over-sensitive, energy-consuming victimizer.  You can only wait until their bubble-kingdom crumbles.

I have tried countless times to offer suggestions to wonderful leaders — but they are suddenly not so wonderful when I go against their grain.  They just cannot hear anything that runs counter to their own opinion, because 1) they’ve spent their whole lives in positions of authority, 2) they live in a bizarre Disney Land fantasy world where everyone bows down to them, 3) they are surrounded by Yes Men, 4) they are too insecure to confront their own ugliness, or 5) they completely disrespect you and your opinion, even if you are speaking the truth.

As a fortune cookie once said, If you haven’t said you’re wrong in a long time, you’re not living right.  

In the mean time: Of course we love them.  Every one of us is hard to put up with too, and there are instances where we all overreact to the truth.  But you do NOT need to waste more energy trying to hold up a mirror for your friend if they will only kick it out of your hands.  You don’t need to keep warning them if they continually explode into a fiery nuclear mess. 

When life finally hits them and they get their rude awakening: you roll up your sleeves and move in.  I’m sure that when each of us had our wake-up call moment, we wished for a gracious friend to embrace us.  Go be that person.  Be the one who steps in on time.  Until then: pray, hope, and do not retaliate.  God was just as patient with you, too.

— J.S.

Truly Living For Something Worth Truly Living For



Hello beloved friends!

This is the fifth part of a series called “Faith Struggle: The Messy Uphill Climb of Faith.”

The message is titled: Truly Living For Something Worth Truly Living For.

It’s about overcoming the pain of our past and the distracting swirl of non-essential things, and finding what is truly worth living for.

Stream here or download directly here

 

The Scripture is John 4.  Some things I talk about are: That time my dad (a 9th degree black belt) put a sword to a dude’s throat, using self-pity as a permission slip for craziness, finally asking why we ever need to do homework, and a Spoken Word performance.

To stream other podcasts, click here.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J




Question: The Fear of Relationships, Dating, and Marriage

Anonymous asked:

I fear marriage. This is primarily due to childhood trauma when my parents separated when I was quite young. My mother raised my older brother and I as a single parent, and without my dad’s support. I keep going back and forth between the decision of following in my mother’s footsteps, that is, to be well off without a man, and adopt if I ever decided to have kids of my own, or fight through this fear that I’ll be in a marriage that will end up like my parents. Any advice?

 

I’m really sorry that happened and I get it: my parents divorced on my fourteenth birthday so I know the pain. I know many people with the same history who never recover.

The thing is: you can live a completely satisfied fulfilled life as a single person. BUT: if your motivation is born out of fear, avoidance, or anxiety, we might want to reconsider our motives and see if there’s a better way forward.

I meet so many hurt people who declare they are “done forever” with the dating scene, and while I understand those hurts are very legitimate, that’s even more reason not to allow a hurt to determine our lives. It is unfair to yourself to live on a reactionary decision.

There are very, very few people who are destined for a single life, and often God only calls them to that if the mission absolutely demands it. I’m thinking of Mother Teresa or Shane Claiborne or Apostle Paul. And Jesus himself. Otherwise: if you have a pulse and you like the opposite sex, you’re probably not called to live alone in a tribal village to translate the Bible in Swahili and eat caterpillars.

I don’t mean to be glib or harsh. I just see many young men and women who swear off dating for life, and suddenly God roundhouses them with an awesome godly person. And I get to laugh.

Continue reading “Question: The Fear of Relationships, Dating, and Marriage”

Switching Gears: Two Months, Two Days, Too Soon

image

 

It’s been two months since the jury announced the verdict of George Zimmerman.  It’s been two days since the twelfth anniversary of 9/11.

I hate to sound like the pretentious guy above it all or something.  I understand it’s easy to forget these things in the swirl of our busy lives, and we’re busier than ever.

But I don’t see any more blog posts about justice.

I don’t see any more outrage or statistics or pictures of young black men who were unrighteously shot to death.

I don’t see any more reblogs of “Never Forget.”

I just see business as usual.

I get it though.  We can’t be mad forever.  We need to move on, move forward, get on with it, look to the future.  That’s probably the best thing to do, and it’ll certainly show up the bad guys if we keep shopping.

I’m just not the kind of person that can switch gears so quickly. This doesn’t make me better than anyone, at all.  I just physically can’t do it.  I still feel the pain of Trayvon Martin’s family.  I still feel the hurt of the breaking news when the towers fell.  I still weep when I read horrible headlines.  All these blogs and Facebooks turning back to “normal,” including mine, are way too soon, and it kills me with this sick twisting in my stomach. 

I’m still mad as hell.

I can’t read about Syria and then turn back to my lunch.  I can’t read about 27 million slaves around the world and then check out celebrity gossip.  I can’t speak about 26,000 children dying everyday of preventable causes and then use the same breath to talk about the latest movie. 

It sounds like I’m being a downer here.  I know.  I’m not declaring a constant state of righteous anxiety or that we need to turn off fun.  I’m not trying to guilt-trip.  I know we all naturally cringe at depth and being too serious, that we are a quick-laugh culture of YouTube fails and lobbing a joke-grenade in a crowd and turning everything into satire.  I don’t claim to know exactly what to do about it.

But — can we just maybe boil a little longer in this?  Can we not get over it so quickly?  Can we let the anger push us towards something better instead of numbing it with so many distractions?  Can we not be so quick to get on with business as usual?  Can we rage at the world sometimes without being called a stick in the mud?

I think it’s okay if we’re mad, just a little longer.  In two months, in two days, in two hours, I know we’ll be onto something else.  But burning in my heart and twisting at my gut will always be the reality that this world is not as it ought to be, and we can do something about it.  We can quit pretending like everything is okay all the time, and we can confront the ugliness of our condition, and maybe we can lift a finger to move in toward someone now with all seriousness and hug the hell out of them.  No irony, no joking: just total embrace.

I am not moving on.  I am moving in.

— J

Quote: Easy Conscience


Sometimes we say ‘I’m being gracious’ when really we’re tolerating the sin in our own lives and consequently letting other people off the hook. We play nice to compensate for our own active disobedience and to ease our seared conscience. This is not really grace, but a cheap dress to hide our own nakedness. Jesus has better than this. We can paint him as a doe-eyed softie who never said hard things and who told people ‘I love you’ all the time, but he wasn’t like this. Jesus loved people, but it’s not the kind of love that pampers or enables or lets you wander into hell. It’s the kind of love that furiously grips your heart and squeezes life into your dead bones. It hurts, and it is good: and it will never leave you as you are.


–J.S.

Purity Is Not A Trophy

 

Purity is not a trophy that you can fight for.  If your relationship or spiritual life is all about achieving a pure standard, you’ll beat yourself up into miserable cycles of disappointment and defeat.  You’ll see your faith in terms of “clean” and “dirty” and “let’s be good.”  You’ll constantly ask why you’re not measuring up: and it’s because you were never meant to. 

Jesus preempted our failure at “purity” and everything else by taking our mess to the cross.

So rather, purity is a gift given by God.  It’s from this gift, not for it, that we gratefully act upon God’s life-giving law.  Not because we’re trying to earn anything, but because God has already begun to work His power through you.  It’s a tougher way, and often counter-intuitive: but it’s better, and worth it. 

If you can bask in the gift you’ve already received instead of striving to achieve it: then a healthy heart can follow.  It will not be works-driven, but other-centered and grace-empowered.  It is both a pursuit from and a pursuit forward at the same time. Rather than slaving away to destroy our own natural impulses, God has handed us the keys to His mansion and said —

 

“You are clean already.  You are invited.  You are family.  Now use this gift of purity for your maximum possible joy.  Get to know the opposite sex for who they are instead of what they can give you.  View them not as vehicles or obstacles, but human beings.  You can have the best sex ever, in marriage, because this bond is forged by an ocean-deep commitment of lifelong promise as you travel through ups and downs on the greatest adventure of your life.  That sort of sex will never be superficial or driven by performer’s paranoia.

“You can do this because I have made you pure through My Son, I have declared you new, you’re a re-creation, and I have set you free for joy.  If you are single, hang on.  If you are lonely, don’t fear.  If you are struggling, I understand.  I made you with this desire not to suppress you, but to pinpoint it for the exact purpose of divine intoxicating pleasure.  It can be dangerous, but used My Way, it’s about as close to Heaven as you can get.”

Our self-control then is not merely running from lesser things, but to run towards better.  God is always doing things like that.

— J

Quote: Theology and You


The most important thing here is that if your friend is struggling, to NOT list the ‘Ten Reasons Why God Is Good.’ Don’t be the guy who carpet-bombs with cliches to rush along the process of healing. Too many preachers do this too quickly, pack up their little sermon notes, and hope that we can store this backpocket theology for a rainy day — when all the while, the hurting congregation just needs someone to be there.


Jesus did the same. He suffered what we suffer in solidarity with us. He was crushed not only to exchange our sins for joy, but also to heal our hearts with a peace beyond our circumstances. He reminds us in his resurrection that this world is not our final home. And we’re called to go at our friends with this kind of love, hope, patience, and wisdom — because your presence is really enough.


We are not short of reasonable theology for the goodness of God, but when it comes to the gritty ordeal of life — the best theology is you.


J.S. from this post

“I Got Wrecked”: Measuring Your Spiritual Life With Podcasts, Blogs, Conferences, and Bestsellers

 

It’s too easy to say “I got wrecked.”

I listened to Paul Washer or John Piper or Francis Chan, and I got so wrecked. We all read the same Christian books and get so convicted. We read those Christian blogs that are deadly serious and we feel “on fire”, and then we read those snarky satirical “I’m above church-culture” blogs and we feel like we’re above it all too.

We are the same hundred thousand people in America going to the same conferences with the same speakers and the same hit songs.  There’s a lot of hard-hitting wreckage going on here —

— but I quickly deceive myself.  I think that just because I did these things, I win Christian-Cool-Points.  No one would ever say it out loud — “I’m winning at this walking-with-Jesus thing!” — but we think that the act of absorbing Christian memorabilia is equivalent to true conviction and repentance. 

We can line up at Chick Fil A to protest something, and meanwhile the church hates poor people.  We have these abstract high-minded online fights about doctrine, which are probably important to someone, and meanwhile we sing praise songs just loud enough to drown out human trafficking and fatherless homes and Gospel-less urban communities. 

If you think that’s the “new legalism” or “Social Justice,” I’m really tired of finding excuses to back out of Kingdom-Healing.  I’m tired of Christians yelling “Don’t guilt-trip me” or “You’re a Pharisee” or making radical into a bad word.

Of course we can slip into legalism if we’re not careful.  I just hope you’re not paying off your conscience with more self-deception, because it’s way easier to get lukewarm than fire-hot.  It’s easy to say “I got wrecked” than to be actually be wrecked.

Continue reading ““I Got Wrecked”: Measuring Your Spiritual Life With Podcasts, Blogs, Conferences, and Bestsellers”

A Faith That Breathes God




Hello beloved friends!

This is one of the sermons from Seattle that I was privileged to preach at a retreat.

It’s called: A Faith That Breathes God.

Download directly here or stream here

The Scripture is John 15:9-17, about a faith that truly sees God as a living person.  Some of the things I talk about are: That weird feeling when you wonder if the church is what God really had in mind, the only time I ever caught a football, the God who sneezes, and the dad you always wanted.

For more sermons, click here.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J




Question: Regrets About Wasted Time

Anonymous asked:

How do you overcome the wasted time and regret that comes with depression? God is in the process of healing me, but I look back and see the damage that depression has done: my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health; friendships and relationships, my family, my academic career. People say stuff like it’s not wasted time because God is growing something deeper in you, but the fact is a lot of time HAS been wasted. Nothing will ever bring back those years. How do you grapple with that?

 

I’ve struggled with depression since forever, so I’m right there with you.  I know what it’s like to think of those “fogged out” patches of life and mourn over why we couldn’t have just done better.

But please, dear friend: you really can’t beat yourself up about this. 

Let’s think through what you’re asking.  There are always some questions that will lead to a “Gotcha.”

For example:

Do you ever think you could’ve tried harder?

– Have you ever been happier than now?

– Do you feel like no one understands?

– Is there more you could be doing?

I hope you see what I’m doing.  The answer to all these is, “Of course bro.”  If I ask, “Do you feel like you have regrets over wasted time?” — then nine out of ten people will scream YES and overthink and start wallowing in self-pity.  These questions will almost never have satisfactory answers.

This mind-bomb already condemns you before asking. 

It’s a technique used by New Age, Scientology, pop psychologists, and the preacher who doesn’t know better.  It sets up an angst in your soul so you have to buy-the-book or go-to-the-conference or jump-through-these-hoops.

No more of these questions, all right?  We’re done with that.

Continue reading “Question: Regrets About Wasted Time”

Published at ChurchLeaders.com — The Nobody Pastor



Hello beloved friends!

My post was published on ChurchLeaders.com!

It’s about feeling like a nobody in ministry. Check it here.

The original post is here.

Thanks and love y’all!

– J



Validate Me


We are in this desperate race called “Validate Me” … We used to have someone telling us we were good-enough, that we’re loved, treasured, and prized. We had this 100% pure connection with God — but ever since sin we were disconnected from God because of our disobedience, and we now look for the feeling of “good-enough” in other people, or in what we do, our status, our position … We look for capital G-o-d in lowercase g-o-d.

The truth though is that we actually aren’t good enough because of that sin, our broken condition. But God, even after our disobedience, came for the not-good-enough. Mark 2 says that Jesus didn’t come for those who think they’re righteous, but those who confess they’re sinners. He didn’t come for the healthy, but the sick. Jesus came to absorb all our un-good on the cross, and he embraces you exactly as you are. So even though everyone else might reject you, Jesus doesn’t make you meet a standard. He is going where you are. He’s got you.

— J.S. from this message

Question: Confronting Your Parents

Anonymous asked:

I’m suicidal and I need help, I realize that. But my mom verbally abuses me and my dad just ignores what’s happening. Also, I don’t have any friends I can trust. Anyway, my family can’t afford counseling, so how do I tell my parents, respectfully, that they are kind of ruining me and to please stop? I’ve prayed that God fixes my family and to give me strength to stand up to them, but nothing has happened yet /:

 

Thanks for being honest here and I’m really sorry about what’s happening. I’m glad you recognize your need for help; most people don’t.

The hard thing is: you’ll eventually need to have the huge direct conversation with your parents about how you feel. It’s going to take some messy dramatic arguments to move forward, and there’s really no way around it. The longer you delay, the more you’ll bottle up resentment, which will keep hurting you.

I’m often asked “what it looks like” to have this conversation with family, as if there’s some clean ideal method with a neat bowtie resolution.  That only happens on sitcoms.  It’s actually going to look like: snot, tears, slammed doors, ugly cry-face, and horrible hurting words. 

Continue reading “Question: Confronting Your Parents”

Quote: Quit Quoting


Martin Luther King doesn’t want to be quoted, the saints of the church don’t want to be quoted, Jesus doesn’t want to be quoted, the Buddha doesn’t want to be quoted. They all want us to work. They all want us to make enlightened and self-sacrifical choices that make ourselves and those around us better people. Here is an exercise: Quote only those words that you are willing to do today. If we can’t act on what we quote, what is the actual value of it? Expecting others to do it and not ourselves is just arrogance and self-centeredness. Find a struggle and persist in it. Then be willing to change. Wouldn’t you like these words to have meaning for generations after us? I would. So let’s not hollow them out with our laziness.


— I Quoted MLK, Now I Feel Better

The God Who Fits Everything

 

Hello beloved friends!

This is the fourth part of a series called “Faith Struggle: The Messy Uphill Climb of Faith.”

The message is titled: The God Who Fits Everything

It’s about our desperate race to find approval and validation from others, and how to break free.

Stream here or download directly here

 

The Scripture is Romans 8:31-39.  Some things I talk about are: Waiting for “likes” on your Facebook pictures, when YOLO used to be popular, that time I didn’t get stabbed, and what to do when the whole world hates your guts.

To stream other podcasts, click here.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J



Should Vs. Could



God looks at you not as you “should” be, but as you could be.

The institutional church culture often forces what you “should” do — should be reading more Bible, should be evangelizing, should be nicer, should sing louder, should should should.

But this is a suffocating stranglehold to an arbitrary standard that can never be good enough. It looks like success but it feels like slavery. The Good News of the Gospel is that while everyone else is pressuring you into behavioral conformity, God meets you exactly where you are and travels the rugged road with you. Jesus is our fellow eternal traveler, the God who wore sandals and breathed dirt and baked hot bread: so that faith is not a grid of morality, but an adventure of unfolding life with the relentless lover of our souls.

He does not pretend you’re perfect or that you’ll ever fully arrive, but His grace is carrying you into your True Self: the you that is capable of patience and mercy and kindness, the inner-self that is the Christ-chiseled re-creation which began as vague glimpses of change but is ever more transforming as you cling to Him.

God sees you as you could be, because He is not locked by the vice of time. And He does not love some future awesome version of you, but you as you are now. Work hard, but have grace for yourself too.

— J

Question: Fighting Off That Stress

Anonymous asked:

Hello! How are you doing? I wanna say, thanks for answering people’s questions and concerns on here. I was wondering how you deal with stress. I’ve been more stressed lately than I have been in a while, and it’s starting to affect me physically. I’m continuously praying because the effects are scaring me, and I’ve already set up a doctor’s appointment. If you have any tips on dealing with stress and trusting God through it, I would appreciate it greatly. Thanks, and God bless!

 

Thanks for the awesome question and for your very kind words.

You know, I’ve heard plenty of teaching on stress and I’m a Psych major, so mostly I hear the same thing: “Are you stressed? Well, stop it.”

But I know that doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help to try that same technique on anger, lust, greed, jealousy, grief, or loneliness. It’s like trying to stop a bus with your body weight.

The other thing I hear is, “If you really knew the peace of Christ, you wouldn’t be stressed out.” I wish it was that simple. Even when Jesus and I are most tight, I still get anxious like crazy.

The thing is: Stress is completely unavoidable. I think people tend to get stressed about getting stressed, as if somehow they “shouldn’t be if they’re in Christ.” But with all the demands, deadlines, and due dates of life, it’s completely understandable that you’d feel an anxiety about what needs to be done and what is not done.

That’s just life. Half the battle of fighting stress is to simply anticipate your bodily changes and to recognize what is happening. That’s true with temptation, with conflict, with fear of the future. To be able to say, “Here it is. The pressure’s on. Body is freaking out, right on time.” And then the other half of the battle is to move forward anyway.

 

There is plenty of practical stuff I could say here. You probably already know about —

Continue reading “Question: Fighting Off That Stress”

Quote: Endless Jewel


I’m starting to find that everyone’s Christian faith is utterly, uniquely different. Not so different on loving Jesus and loving people — but the way we wrestle through doctrine by strict academia or by poetic reflection, how we sing at the top of our lungs or in quiet osmosis, how some of us pray at sunrise in a pew or at three a.m. on a beach, how some of us are dying to journal or would rather die than journal, how our political tensions clash so broadly and brutally, how one forgives so quickly and the other is bitter indefinitely, how some of us are strong in faith or we’re faith-weaklings, how we each hold onto quirks like Bible translations and worship genres and preaching styles, how we like to gather in crowds of thousands or a group of a dozen.


There’s no need to fight over these things. No need to accuse another of being wrong, or to try to be better than the ‘other’ church, or to recast the same mold. We are so many shades of an endless jewel, a glorious community of unified diversity fueled by the endless imagination of God. I hope we don’t dash ourselves on our personalities. There is room for you and for me in this Body.


— J.S.