“I am fallen, flawed and imperfect. Yet drenched in the grace and mercy that is found in Jesus Christ, there is strength.”
— Adam Young
“I am fallen, flawed and imperfect. Yet drenched in the grace and mercy that is found in Jesus Christ, there is strength.”
— Adam Young
Whenever I see a post titled “7 Ways to Know How” or “What You Should Obviously Know” or “Don’t Do This or You’re A D-Bag” — I get a little knot in my guts and I’m compelled to tattoo all the info in my brainfolds. It’s an overwhelming shock of adrenaline and endorphins. I feel both a mini-panic-attack and a bursting well of satisfaction that I suddenly know more than the helpless masses, because I got the secret sauce from Cracked and Relevant and Christianity Today, so I’m ready to flex my newfound skills to impress my witless friends.
Many of these practical tips are useful, and maybe even life-saving. There are experts who have done it better than us, and we need to hear from them.
But all this anxiety-driven pragmatism either 1) paralyzes me into a deep fear of failure, or 2) gets me in an uppity self-righteous superiority over others who don’t know nothing.
I also get the sneaking suspicion that I’m just copying some programmatic method to earn the approval of my culture-bubble, and if I don’t know the 20 Facts on What To Do When I’m 20, then I’m totally losing at life.
I can see the slithery snake of a needle underlying all these “Do’s and Don’ts.” We have suspected a secret insider-language suffocating every must-know list —
You should. You’re supposed to. You have to. You better — or else. If you miss this — you’re out. Get on my program, or you’re dead.
I’m not sure this is any better than religion. It sounds like we’re adding burdens rather than setting people free. And a list of “How To Set People Free” is still dripping with the poison of arrogance.
It’s just adding rules about how to follow rules. This is legalism, and it’s not okay.
Praise God for our troops today, everyday.
My father is a veteran. He fought in the Vietnam War alongside American soldiers. He sacrificed his best years and came to America with nothing: but this country still blessed him with many opportunities.
Despite the many opposing views on war and foreign policy, I believe the one common ground is the respect we have for our soldiers. They are people with hopes and dreams and fears, like you and me. And however you feel about our nation today, our troops are worth celebrating.
Thanks dad, and to our many troops for your hard service.
“He is infinite and we are finite; there will always be more of His character to discover, more of His love to experience, and more of His power to use for His purposes.”
— Francis Chan
I struggle with loneliness and recently heard a pastor speak about how it stems from being too self-centered and stuff like that. While I do agree, I think for me my loneliness comes from not being able to connect or “click” with others. It’s caused me to be very insecure in social settings because I feel the need to be funny/loud/impress others to be accepted..but that’s just not who i am. Do I just lack social skills? & does this tie into placing my confidence in Him? What does that even mean?
So I don’t mean to be one of those pastors that disses another pastor: but just, I mean come on man.
Loneliness is NOT your dang fault.
Loneliness is NOT a sin.
Loneliness does not somehow mean that you’re doing things wrong with God.
I suppose I could blame you for the weather or the axis of the earth or the phases of the moon — but that would make too much sense. As in, none.
I understand what some Christians are saying here: that within loneliness or depression or anxiety, we can become selfish if we cope by hurting ourselves or hurting others. But it’s almost never your choice, and even saying that still doesn’t even help you. It’s not a solution to just describe the water you’re drowning in.
The major thing is not to feel bad about feeling lonely. It happens to all of us. Loneliness is like a fog that squeezes our vision until we no longer see the hope of companionship. Very often it’s a lie that isn’t held up by reality. Of course there are times when we are alone, rejected, abandoned, or left behind. It’s natural to feel lonely then — but there’s still no point to beat yourself up over it.
The cure to any kind of loneliness isn’t just to “fit in” and conform. Trying to fake your own personality to gain friends will only increase the loneliness inside, because you’ll be burdened by knowing you’re not really yourself around others. That’s why people with tons of “friends” at a party can be the loneliest people of all.
In your church —
If no one really moved during praise today —
If no one really responded during the sermon today —
If everyone dispersed and went home quickly today —
If everything was slightly stilted, awkward, clumsy, full of technical difficulties and cranky glances and zero excitement today —
It’s just today. God is still God. He is still working.
Sometimes He just plants seeds. It’s not about the results today. And it was never about us anyway.
He is pleased, even with our sincere stumbles to praise Him.
Look forward to what is next, for He is there too.
Tomorrow, it’s church.
This word brings up a lot of different feelings. Hurt, maybe, or anxiety. Laughter and relief and good times. A mix of memories, the burgundy pews and the stiff crack of Bibles and the echoes up the rafters. Some of this is comforting; some just cold.
Let’s pray about tomorrow. For your pastor, who is sweating over his sermon. For the kid who’s ready to take his life. For the single mother working three jobs for four kids. For the stubborn business owner who is dragged there. For the college students burned out with no direction. For the first-time curious about God. For yourself: that you would hear from Him, and be pulled back from the edge for one more week.
It’s easy to hate our churches. The sound is too loud, the room too hot, the sermon too long, the people too cold. We can always see too much or not enough: but let’s pray for eyes to see as God does. He sees us not as we are, but as we could be. He is already there tomorrow, in every seat and every heart, ready to sweep us off our feet. Pray He works, and trust that He will. And love those people. Love them.
“The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives – altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, our anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it.”
— Richard Foster
I had a friend who was being mentored by this successful pastor. My friend is a total goofball; whenever he was around me, he would do these awkwardly long impressions of Batman and Bane, and once did an impressive monologue of one-liners from Michael Scott on The Office. I totally loved it and would nearly throw up from laughing.
But when I saw my friend around his mentor, he would stiffen up and get proper and keep side-eyeballing his mentor to make sure he was getting approved. I could see the sweat drenching up his Polo collar. He would get super spiritual and spew all these convictions he had lately and how much he heard from God all week. And no impressions, at all.
I get it. It wasn’t entirely the pastor’s fault. We want to act right with the people we look up to, because we want the pat on the head. But I just didn’t like this whole arrangement. Why have a mentor if you can’t be yourself around him?
And the thing is, it sort of was the pastor’s fault. He had this rigid air about him, like a constantly raised eyebrow. I guess I can’t really trust a guy who doesn’t like a good Christian-Bale-Batman voice.
If you’re looking for a mentor: find someone you can laugh with. Cry with. Say anything to. Without flinching or cringing. God always wants us to be more human, and not less. It’s why Jesus became one of us. There are times when we want to unleash that twelve-year-old, arms-flailing, loss-of-body, shaky-voice goofball kid inside all of us — and we all need the safety of an unconditional embrace.
God loves your crazy mess, and He has placed people around you who not only sit by while you go off, but even like that part of you. They like you. Find them. They exist. Love them, too.
Hi pastor! Next month is devotion month at my church, but the problem is I have no idea what to do. Maybe the problem is that I want to do some kind of devotion where it will change me… so I guess in a selfish kind of way. But I really just want to glorify God and somehow be a testimony to the youth in my church. If the Lord wills it that is. Thank you once again and hope you can stir up some ideas or something!
Hey that’s so awesome, my friend. I’m sure no matter what you share, as long as it’s of your own conviction by the Spirit: it will be a huge blessing. So hey, your idea about a devotion to change you is a totally legit way to go. Double high-five on that, and it’s not selfish at all.
You know, I think this is one of those things where if I say too much, it might change your entire message and you’ll simply just be listening to my “do’s” and “don’ts.” So you really don’t have to read beyond this point, especially if you think you’ll be too influenced into conforming.
I’m not an expert on any of this. I had a 19 year old college student share his personal convictions with my youth group last week, and wow, we were blown away. I was nodding along and saying “amen” every few minutes. And since I personally knew him, I knew he wasn’t faking it. He was only sharing what was true to his heart from the reality of God’s Word. So I’m very glad that I didn’t coach him on how to speak, or it would’ve been way worse.
“Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.”
— Matt Chandler
“The devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name.”
— Ricardo Sanchez
I love our culture of display. I love that we can share our deepest most personal moments in a one-click treasure trove.
Seriously. I’m not a cranky old dude who hates the new wave of technology.
But: I don’t want to record my own marriage proposal.
I am not against this at all. But as for me: I just want to keep it in here, between me and my wonderful lady, and not for the world to see.
There is something about recording an event that feels alarmingly self-conscious. It’s sort of a heightened hyper-reality, like I’m thinking ahead to how it’ll be seen, like I am not really there but stuck in a superimposed future.
There is something about squeezing a memory into YouTube that feels driven by a performer’s paranoia, like I must get every moment just right to get the maximum views, the most tears, the most thumbs up.
I don’t mean to sound old-fashioned. Really.
But I’m one of those guys who loves the power of story. The simplicity of re-telling, with my hands and my eyes and my voice, in a chair right in front of you, looking far off to remember every pulsing moment. The quiver in my lips. The smile I can hardly contain. That final breath after the final word.
It is the sharing of our human experience by human means that allows the seed of imagination to bloom. Of course videos can do that. But videos cannot exercise the paintbrush of our spirit. It does the painting for us. Sometimes that is good, but it demands nothing. It is not involved. A video can occasionally be like walking through a museum. A story invites you in to participate. To ride on a journey in that invisible space between your head and your heart.
When my future wife or I pass away, and if God allows us the grace to be with each other on our last days, then we won’t have a video of the day I proposed. Maybe it will be a loss. But we will have our laughter. We will have our tears. We will have an ocean of memory running deep in our veins, a rushing river of intimacy that no one can invade. We can remember together. It will be our private moment. It will be the last thought on my deathbed, and so as I go, it will go as well.
The world can’t have that one.
It belongs to me, to her, and to God.
Remember: You are under a King who has called you to His own greatness.
You serve a Creator who made a universe that fits in His hand.
You are friends with the Most High.
And you’re loved by Him — not merely loved as a prized object, but loved towards an awesome destiny while you still have breath left on His earth.
Whatever you’re going through: He is bigger and He is closer.
“The thing about John Sailhamer is, he helped me love Moses. I don’t know if I had given Moses much thought before that class, but after hearing John Sailhamer talk about him, he became a human being to me. Dr. Sailhamer said Moses, unlike most writers in Scripture, would stop the narrative to break into the kind of poetry he had quoted earlier, a kind of poetry called parallelism, which is when you say something and then repeat it using different phrasing. He said the way Moses wrote wasn’t unlike the way people who write musicals stop the story every once in a while to break into song. At first I thought Dr. Sailhamer was just making things up, but he showed us in the text several places where the writer clearly stopped writing narrative and began writing poetry. The reason Moses would do this, according to John Sailhamer, is because there are emotions and situations and tensions that a human being feels in his life but can’t explain. And poetry is a literary tool that has the power to give a person the feeling he isn’t alone in those emotions, that, though there are no words to describe them, somebody understands.
“I can’t tell you how beautiful I thought this was; I had always suspected language was quite limited in its ability to communicate the intricate mysteries of truth. By that I mean if you have to describe loneliness or how beautiful your sweetheart is or the way a rainstorm smells in the summer, you most likely have to use poetry because these things are not technical, they are more romantic, and yet they exist and we interact and exchange these commodities with one another in a kind of dance.
“This comforted me because I had grown up thinking of my faith in a rather systematic fashion, as I said, listed on grids and charts, which is frustrating because I never, ever thought you could diagram truth, map it out on a grid, or break down into a formula. I felt that truth was something living, complex, very large and dynamic and animated. Simple words, lists, or formulas could never describe truth or explain the complex nature of our reality.
“What John Sailhamer was saying was meaningful because it meant God wasn’t communicating to us through cold lists and dead formulas; it meant He wanted to say something to our hearts, like a real person. Remember when I was talking about a hidden language beneath the language we speak, and how this hidden language is about the heart? It seems the Bible is speaking this language, this inferred set of ideas, as much as it is speaking simple truths.”
— Donald Miller
Hello Pastor Park! Hope you’re having an awesome day so far. So, I’m scheduled to teach the youth and I’m freaking out. I’m filling in for the Youth Director and I have an idea of what I want to talk about but how I’m going to convey that message effectively is my dilemma. To be frank, I’m nervous about having 20+ eyeballs on me, I’m scared I’m going to put my foot in my mouth, and I don’t want it to be a complete awkward fail. Advice? Help me! Thank you 😀
Hey first of all: that is very, very awesome. God has opened a door and I can tell you really want to do this right, which is a good thing.
I am not very qualified to dispense wisdom on this (I’ve only been preaching for about four years, which is not much), but here are just a few reminders for you. I am assuming, by the way, that you’re prayed up and you have your content and you meditated on the Scripture thoroughly. If not, here’s a post on the Bible and one on prayer.