That New Year Feeling: Go With It



Sometimes the feeling of a new year can trick us into doing “better” when it’s only just a number on a calendar.

But you know: Go with that. New starts are a great thing. If you follow your resolution for a month, you did it for a whole month. High-five yourself. Just don’t stop. Keep setting goals and go for them. Keep a heart of January all the way through summer and fall. And don’t look back unless it’s to laugh and learn.

— J

Quote: Sunbeam


“Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

– C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, p.90

Top Ten Posts of 2013



Here are the Top Ten Posts of 2013 from the blog. These were written in 2013.

Runner-Ups:
How Jefferson Bethke Showed Me I Was A Jerk
– I was one of those guys who quickly trolled Jefferson Bethke’s amazing video, but realized I was being a dumb jerk.

Reactionary Culture: I’m Not Like Those Other Christians
– Most churches are founded as a reaction to a previous hurt: but when you define yourself on what you’re against instead of what you’re for, you stand on a collapsible anti-ground and only perpetuate the hurt.



10) Four Thoughts About Finding God’s Will
– The idea of “God’s Will” is not as mysterious and mystical as we think.


9) Pastors and Leaders: Please Exercise. Not Kidding.
– Out of love and concern: if you have a hard time preaching because you spent all your energy climbing into the pulpit, you might want to put down the donuts and take a walk.


8) What is a Christian supposed to look like?
– If you have tattoos and a lip ring and you curse and smoke cigars, apparently you can’t love Jesus either.


7) Accidental Racism, Rick Warren, and Asians in America
– No one cares about racism against Asians, including Asians.


6) The Forced Falsed Dichotomy of For and Against: How a Binary System Fails to Resolve Our Deepest Issues
– I’ve never had a single rational conversation about homosexuality, abortion, or politics: because we’ve all bought into dichotomous dogmatic thinking that instantly opposes each other. In our fight for issues, we forget the people inside them.


5) I’m Struggling, But Church Keeps Saying Just “Read Your Bible”
– Sometimes the church throws around easy answers because they’re too lazy to do the hard work of struggling together.


4) Can A Guy and Girl Be Friends?
– Feelings happen: but the silliness of Hollywood-hormonal-romance makes you think you need to chase those feelings all the time. You’re not obligated to them.


3) The Weird Subculture of “Christian Dating”
– There are a million different “Christian” ideas of dating, and most of them suck.


2) 10 Thoughts About God and Homosexuality
– God loves you. There’s no clause after that.


1) The Totally Awkward Bible Study: And Four Ways To Push Forward
– Awkwardness at church is inevitable and even pretty awesome sometimes.


— J

6 Ways To Be Ready To Pursue A Relationship

Anonymous asked (made anonymous by request) —

Hey brother, hope all has been well. Just wanted to throw a question at you, since I recall you telling me a bit about possibly proposing to a certain someone :]. Though currently this doesn’t pertain to me, I’ve always wondered about the specific things that a man should do when he has feelings for a sister in Christ. I’m not really talking about the tangible things, like how to talk to her, but more-so what he should do internally, on himself. Examples, what should he pray for, what should he be cautious with? Stuff like that. Hope all is well, God bless.

Thanks for asking this question the way that you did.  I think the “practical how-to” is really important, but it can become shallow and mechanical. I appreciate how you want to know the intangibles and internals.  That shows you’re already on the right path.

Since I know you might feel some pressure that you’re single, here’s a quote by Timothy Keller about that all singles need to hear —

“Being single allows the freedom to serve God in ways that a married person may not be able to with their concentration focused on their family. Also, this ‘gift’ of singleness may only be for a period of time. It should be embraced instead of being a struggle to rush into marriage.”

I want to be careful here that I don’t turn this into a magic formula, but knowing you, I am certain you will consider all this with deliberate care and thoughtful prayer.  This will also be a pretty weird list because I tried to work around the typical.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “6 Ways To Be Ready To Pursue A Relationship”

Question: Self-Pity, Self-Loathing, and Low Self-Esteem

Two anonymous questions:

– Hello, thank you so much for this blog. It’s a great spiritual resource for my friends and me =). I am struggling w low-self esteem & self-pity right now. I feel that amongst my siblings & cousins, I’m the least intelligent, fun, & the plainest-looking. Nothing about me stands out, I’m just subpar or terrible at everything: school, controlling my weight, sports, etc. I know God loves me & that I should only care about what He thinks, but I’m still stuck on these thoughts. Help, please? TY!

– I know that this is disgusting, but I’m pretty desperate at this point. I’ve pretty much given up on any chances of a guy ever wanting to pursue me. First of all, I’m not even pretty and secondly I guess I have STDs that have no cure and a scar on my face. Who would ever want a girl like me? To be honest, I’m not seeing any kind of hope at all in my life for anything.

Hey dear friends: Please first know that you’re NOT alone in thinking this, and no matter how perfect someone’s life is going, they’re just as capable of feeling the same exact way.

While both of your questions are sort of different, I think they stem from the same idea that, I’m not good enough, I’m damaged goods, I’m not wanted, I’m undesirable.

I could easily tell you that God loves you and He handcrafted you with precision and loves you regardless of what you’ve done or who you are — and while I still think God’s love is an incredible truth, of course there are days when it falls flat.

So please allow me to first tell you the hard truth.

Continue reading “Question: Self-Pity, Self-Loathing, and Low Self-Esteem”

How Do I Love Jesus With My EVERYTHING?

Anonymous asked:

How did you learn to love Jesus after you got saved? It’s something that is bothering me because I want to love Him with every part of my being.

My friend: You know why I think so many Christians are tired?

Because they’re being told things like this.  Love Jesus with every part of your being.

I understand what this means and it has pretty good intentions, but it’s really dang hard to love something with our entire being all the time.  I don’t even know how to measure this sort of standard, and if suddenly I fall short of fiery 100% passion, that means I’ve failed the whole Christian thing.  So why even try?  It’s an arbitrary impossible parameter that is NOT biblical.

Continue reading “How Do I Love Jesus With My EVERYTHING?”

God Became Human


“All Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable. Without the holy night, there is no theology. “God is revealed in flesh,” the God-human Jesus Christ — that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God’s mystery precisely as mystery.”


— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger

Quote: Better Things


“I am learning to believe better things. I am learning to believe that other people exist, that fashion is not truth; rather, Jesus is the most important figure in history, and the gospel is the most powerful force in the universe. I am learning not to be passionate about empty things, but to cultivate passion for justice, grace, truth and communicate the idea that Jesus likes people and even loves them.”

— Donald Miller

Mistakes Don’t Say Everything About You: And It’s Okay To Make Them

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At times we can be so suffocated by the mistakes we’ve made that we think we’re too incompetent to get any better.

There’s a terrible whisper in our ear: You’re just not good enough at this.  You’re not smart like those other people.  You will always screw this up.

Or you might have had a certain picture of your life by now, but you’ve somehow irrevocably ruined it all and you’re picking up the pieces of a dead dream.  You see your friends further along in life with less effort and you wonder when you’ll ever get it together.  You thought the new improved “you” would happen any time now, but “any time now” was five years ago.


My dear beloved friend:

– No one is really as confident as they let on.  Most of the macho bravado you see in the streets and the business world is just a false pumped-up cover that consumes more energy than it creates.  This is NOT sustainable, because confidence doesn’t come from covering a lack of one.

No one really has it all together yet.  We force so many self-pressuring parameters on our performance that most of us are neurotic, twitchy, over-productive busybodies with no real destination.  In a culture where we celebrate only victory and are scared to talk about defeat: please don’t measure yourself on an impossible grading scale.  Don’t measure your private moments with everyone else’s highlight reels.

– Mistakes are how you learn.  Everyone is afraid of failure: so we protect ourselves by bargaining with the teacher or begging for extensions or ensuring we never get a scraped knee.  Such a pampered coddled culture will keep you feeling safe for a while, but it’ll also keep you sterile, shrinkwrapped, and cold.  It’s a lifeless journey.  It’s okay to make mistakes, and occasionally it’s even better.  Scrape a knee, brush it off, get up and move on.  Learn from the past and laugh with it too.

– You’re doing better than you think.  You’re in the middle of your motion, so it’s hard to see where you are.  But so long as you’ve been taking one heavy step forward after another, no matter how awkward your stumbling, then this is worth celebrating.  Every moment you’ve done right is a miracle in itself.

– Be willing to pursue a new dream.  Sometimes we try so hard to grab our old dreams that we’re not open to new ones.  We look too long in the rearview instead of what’s ahead of us.  I’ve missed a lot of opportunities this way.  But keep your eyes open for open doors, and be flexible enough for a new vision that will be even better than the last.

– Dear Christian: Your confidence is in Him.  We are works in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus.  We believe in a God who knew we couldn’t ever reach perfection, so perfection came to us.  If you feel like you’ve failed today, the very reason Jesus came was to take on your failures, your ego, your pride, your pain, your sorrows, your sin.  And He’ll keep working on you until glory.  Everything good in you is God in you: and anything bad in you, He’s working on that.

This is His grace.

 

“Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it unto completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

— Philippians 1:6

— J.S.

Question: Handling Divorced Parents

I hate to treat you like a therapist and abuse your ask like this, but would you happen to have any advice for a born-again Christian struggling with the effects of parental divorce? Earlier this year, after my parent’s divorce, I rededicated (rather, actually dedicated) my life to Christ. Six months later I am again feeling the resentment. I am mainly conflicted about my mother’s new beau. I treat him with a cold shoulder when I know I need to be turning the other cheek. Any advice? Shalom! -M

Hey first — you’re not at all “abusing my ask” or anything close.  I live to serve my God and my church, and I consider the blogosphere my second church-home.  Even when I don’t answer every question that comes through my box, I’m still throwing prayers.

I also want to say: I have tons of love for you, dear friend.  I’m sorry about all that has happened, and while I can’t give perfect clean-cut advice on this, I can say that I completely understand the hurt and the hard choices.

To share a bit: My parents divorced when I was thirteen, and it was probably one of the most painful, dramatic, tumultuous times I’ve ever been through.  It was an ugly divorce, full of affairs and custody battles and money haggling and trash-talking.  At one point my dad sat me down and read the divorce papers from beginning to end, pointing out where my mom went wrong.  He shut my mom out of my life for at least three years.  To this day, it still kills me a little.

My brother and I ended up with my dad.  He quickly remarried to a woman who, to be fair, did try — but my dad and her were a terrible fit.  They brought out the worst in each other.  She was often aggressive, overbearing, drunk, violent, and negative.  My dad was passive and a poor husband and constantly talked bad about my mom, and later I found out he only remarried for the money.  I ran away when I was 16.  I came back only to start drinking and going to strip clubs every week.  It took me seven years to finish college, after I had dropped out and lost my scholarship.

All that to say: Forgiving anyone who has hurt you is going to be a lifelong daily process.  You’ll feel the resentment pop up at random.  It is not who you are, but when external things hurt us, our heart is provoked to react in the worst ways.  It only becomes our fault when we carry these emotions into excuses for destructive tendencies (like I did for a long time). But you’re not there yet.

Continue reading “Question: Handling Divorced Parents”

If Your Faith Is Making You A Jerk: Throw It Out

I wonder about people who claim to love Jesus but it actually makes them worse people. 

If your faith is not making you better: then your faith sucks.

If we’re becoming more judgmental, more categorical in grading others, picking up more stones to throw at “those people” — I don’t think this is anything Jesus died for, and it’s definitely not the church he had in mind.

If we’re only gathering one day per week to passively receive information and then use that self-affirming knowledge to throw moral grenades at strangers over the fence — then I don’t see how this could be loving Jesus.  It just sounds like being in love with yourself.

If your faith is making you a jerk, it’s time to throw it out the window and start over.

Following Jesus will draw mockery.  The message of the cross is offensive to most people.  But this doesn’t mean we need to go out of our way to purposefully offend people.  It doesn’t mean that if we’re being “persecuted” that we’re somehow doing it right.  When people are offended by your faith, hopefully it’s because you’re so ridiculously kind and compassionate and disciplined in the face of a broken world that it doesn’t make sense to them.  Sometimes when we’re “persecuted,” it’s just because we’re being a jerk.

Continue reading “If Your Faith Is Making You A Jerk: Throw It Out”

Quote: Disturb Us


“Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.”

— Sir Frances Drake

Question: What’s Up With The “Fear of the Lord”?

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tyrongasaurus asked:

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

Okay brother, first of all: I laughed really hard at your avatar picture.  It just makes me so happy, and now it’s hard to look away.

So I’ve seen two camps on this “fear of God” thing.

1) The fear of the Lord is a face-melting shake-in-your-boots kind of terror that is some real serious business, because God is so holy He will blast your face off.  The go-to passages on this are often Isaiah 6, Philippians 2:12, or Proverbs 1:7.  Not to mention all that scary-movie stuff in Genesis 35 and Exodus 23.

2) The fear of the Lord actually means “awe” in the original Hebrew language and is like the reverence we have for a beautiful sculpture or a majestic castle or a sweeping landscape.  Everyone’s go-to verse for this is 1 John 4:18.

I’ve really been back and forth on this between Fear #1 and #2.

My thoughts now —

Continue reading “Question: What’s Up With The “Fear of the Lord”?”

Sparrows, Puppies, and Pennies



For two days straight, my dog Rosco had non-stop diarrhea and bleeding in his stool. On the first night, I woke up every hour to walk him outside and clean his butt. The next day, I went to the animal clinic and spent about two hours waiting, then bought every medicine available for his condition. I’ve been home all day watching him, walking him, and cleaning him up. I went out to Publix to get chicken for him, and he pooped twice inside the apartment (on the hard wood floor, not the carpet: good boy). It wasn’t his fault.

It was all very exhausting and not all romantic like they show in those dog movies. But I’m reminded of an even bigger truth.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

As much as I love my dog, I’m reminded that God loves us even infinitely more than that. We are worth way more than sparrows, puppies, and pennies. As much as I was willing to clean up my dog’s butt, spend money on him instantly, and sacrifice a night of sleep and an entire day to watch him: God is like this constantly, unconditionally, in the trenches with us even when we don’t want Him around.

God never sleeps. He sacrificed everything. And when we make a mess, He is willing to clean our dirty butts.

Here’s to God, our great caretaker.

— J

Question: C.S. Lewis Recommendations

thegrowingpain asked:

Hi! Love your blog! I would like to start reading C.S. Lewis but I don’t know where to start. I see that you quote him a lot so my question is, what would you recommend I read first? Thanks 🙂

Hey thanks for the question!

I haven’t read all of C.S. Lewis’ work and I don’t necessarily agree with all he says, but here are my favorites by him.  As always: read everything with discernment.

Continue reading “Question: C.S. Lewis Recommendations”