“One Wrong Word and It’s Over” — Or Why We Leave Too Fast


I think at times we tend to hold people in a constantly precarious position, so that if they fall even slightly in any direction, we crush them with a label and rush for the exit and burn every bridge and ramp and highway.  It’s like we deliberately keep everyone off-balance so that they’re never really in and good with us, unless they do exactly as I want.

It’s sort of a desperate anxiety in relationships, where if the guy or girl says one stupid thing: it’s over.

It’s the fear of trying to say all the right things or you’ll die.

It’s waiting for someone to fail so you can confirm your preconceived presumption.

It’s instantly dividing over a single disagreement, even over a simple sentence or opinion.

It happens everywhere, especially in the “church community.”  We tend to analyze the particulars of everyone’s faith.  Any wrong theology will get you killed.  Secondary doctrines become primary battlefronts.  The preacher is graded by his rightness of speech instead of his character (when both are needed).  Even “not being gracious” is sort of a new legalism, where if you don’t tolerate everything, you’re a bigot.  And if you’re neither a cool hipster liberally progressive Jesus-follower or a conservative button-up soapbox picketer, then you’re apparently not a Christian either.

I would think that knowing Jesus would make us more gracious, and not less.  But even “faith” has a way of making us jerks, because we so anxiously cling to any dividing line and stab our flags into each others’ sides.

This sort of thin ice will —

Continue reading ““One Wrong Word and It’s Over” — Or Why We Leave Too Fast”

Question: How Do I Connect With People?

Anonymous asked:

Hey, I just recently found your blog, and wanted to thank you. It’s difficult to find places like these to get some honest answers and just read that I’m not alone with some of these thoughts. If you don’t mind, I have a question. I’ve never been good with people. Relationships and connections are difficult to make for me, but I also want to follow God’s word and connect with his people. I just don’t know how. I’ve tried small groups, but was always very intimidated. Any advice?

Hey my friend, thank you so much.  I feel what you’re feeling here and I know the insecurity in getting to know new people.

The truth here is that most of the time, it’s very rare for us to find people who we truly connect with.  Even those people who seem to connect to “everyone” end up with a few real friends in the end.  The only difference is that they’re surrounded by fake shallow people far longer, and they find out too late.

Continue reading “Question: How Do I Connect With People?”

Quote: Expecting

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God.”

— Donald Miller

Ten Years Ago, I Swallowed A Bottle of Pills To End It All

Just ten years ago, I tried to kill myself over a girl.  She had cheated on me twice so I swallowed a bottle of pills and waited for her to find me dead.  Part of me wanted to win her back and the other part of me wanted to end it all.  Neither worked.

Looking back, I feel a sad sort of pathetic amusement about the whole thing.  To this day, I still struggle with depression and that’s some very serious business, but to actually have tried to kill myself over another person makes me a bit embarrassed.  Sometimes it garners sympathy and affirming looks, but other times I see people back away with incredulity, as if they would never let themselves take their drama so far.

Yet I want to tell the ones who don’t understand: It’s so very easy to get attached to a person, an idea, a “dream,” a type of future, and then get sick to your stomach over every part of it until you want to die.

It can happen to anyone.  Drugs are not the only addictive substance.  There’s this overwhelming soul-withering sickness for people like me who quickly latch onto a person and feed off their being.  We wait for their call and examine their every move and flinch at their every word and hang on their every breath.

It sounds awful, because it is.  It’s a panicked desperation to overly cater to another person’s every whim — and until you’ve been there, you have no clue how low a human being can go to feed the codependency.  It takes so much effort and energy and inhuman strength to remove this horrible addiction from our blood, because it’s been so ingrained into us from years of abuse and abandonment and rejection.  You can’t know how bad it gets until you’re the one sprawled out on the cold tile floor with an empty bottle of pills in your lifeless hand.

Continue reading “Ten Years Ago, I Swallowed A Bottle of Pills To End It All”

Invisible Hope – Surviving and Thriving off God’s Love

Three anonymous questions:

– How do you believe in the hope Christ gives us, the hope that His work isn’t finished, etc. ? I find it so hard to believe in this hope – I end up trying to pound it into my head & heart because I want to believe this so badly but it never works.

– Is it really possible to survive on God’s love alone? I mean, we also need money and other necessities… I don’t understand when people say “His love is all I need.” I guess I don’t find the concept of His love that comforting anymore, which definitely says something about my heart.

– Hi Pastor Park, I just wanted to ask you one question (I doubt I’d stick to one tho): HOW DO YOU KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON? I mean the obvious answer to that is continually clinging on to Christ but what is it that drives you? I keep coming back and running away and I’m tired. I’m tired of this vicious cycle that has started to eat me up. I feel that I can’t let go of certain things. I can for a moment or for days but only for a short period of time. Help.

Hey dear friends: To be very truthful, I don’t think I’m the most qualified person to answer this.  I personally struggle a lot with understanding God’s love and making that real in my own walk, and even when I can preach it enough to move others, I frequently pour out more than I’m fully grasping.  And I’ve said before that I’m a skeptical Christian, some days just barely hanging on.

But please allow me the grace to offer a few thoughts on this to consider.  Please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “Invisible Hope – Surviving and Thriving off God’s Love”

Quote: Haven

I think spiritual experiences are great — so long as they’re not isolated to a room with like-minded believers.

I think serving the poor and broken and needy is great — so long as we’re not doing it for validation or vanity.

When Christ is the center, we will become all we are meant to be: a hospital for the sick, a haven for the holy, and the hands and feet of healing for a broken down busted up world.

— J.S.

If The World Is So Evil, Why Fight For Good?

Anonymous asked (edited)

What’s the point in living? There’s going to be judgement day, the world’s going to end anyway. … If there is an end, everything we do would be useless … Maybe one’s purpose may be to make this world a better place. Forget it, the world’s going to end. … If I want to meet my Father in heaven, I can just kill myself and make my life much easier.

I hate this world. Why can’t I kill myself to go to this place? Why would I go to hell if I killed myself? Why am I working so hard to survive in this world? … I’m sinful. I’m guilty. I’m not happy at all. I’m not grateful for being alive. … Why should I live in a world that ruled by the devil? The prince of this world is the devil. Instead of living in the devil’s world where I could get tempted and go through pain and suffering, I just want to leave this world. Wouldn’t I be more happy in the heavenly world with my Father and Jesus with me?

You know, I’ve asked myself a lot of these same questions.  I think all of us have.  When I meet elder people who come to Christian faith late in their lives, they always ask, “Why can’t God just take me home now?  I’m too old to be a Christian.”

I don’t have an easy answer or a formula for everything you mentioned.  In fact, anything I say on this might be ultimately disappointing.  But I do know that 1) God originally created the world perfectly, 2) the world now is currently not as it ought to be (which we all know),  and 3) the very fact that we can struggle with these things means we are alive, which means our lives have already launched into being.

When I say “our lives have already launched,” it’s like when you begin playing a song or giving a public speech.  You’re now in the middle of it.  You’ve started and now you must finish, and there’s a constant tension of how it will end.  But since it’s been launched, you must choose to do something with it.  So we can either give into pessimism, or numb ourselves with optimism, or keep some healthy balance of both.

Some days I’m overly optimistic.  Other days I just want to yell “Screw you people.”  But everyday, I choose to fight.  I fight evil, oppression, injustice, sin.  I fight for happiness, for joy, for fellowship, for the things of God.  Why?  Some days I don’t even know.  It doesn’t always feel worth it.  Sometimes I choose the right thing and I get screwed over, and I see people do the wrong thing and get rewarded.

But given the current reality of our world and the fact that my life has already launched, I would rather fight on the side of good.  I would rather know for ME (at the very least, and for God at the most) that I am giving life, not taking it, and that I used my life to give it away even when the odds were against me.  That’s ultimately and ironically how we find peace.  By fighting for it.

Continue reading “If The World Is So Evil, Why Fight For Good?”

Quote: Better

“The fact that Jesus is better really does keep me going. So many times, in moments of weakness, it’d be so easy to give in to my own fleeting desires. But, what would it profit me in the long run? Am I really going to find joy in those things? No. Jesus truly is better, and it’s only when that becomes a reality do we defeat sin in our life.”

— Blake Baggott

Blogging Is Easy: Living Your Blog Is Not


It really breaks my heart to see bloggers write things that are not true in their own lives.  They write way too far ahead of themselves, or sort of make up nice-sounding theoretical things to get reblogged, but it falls apart when you start thinking about it.

I only know this because I personally know a few of these bloggers, and really, it would be so much more sincere to admit we don’t have it together.  That we’re not there yet.  That we struggle with the stuff that we call out on others.  Is it so hard to admit that?

It’s okay to say we suck at this right now.  It’s okay to include ourselves in our preachiness. Because without recognizing your failure, you’re leaving a very bad taste in my mouth.  I don’t mean to sound cruel; I seriously take no pleasure in it.  I say that because I love you and I know you could be so much more than your pedestal.

We are not above the things we write.  You cannot ask from others what you’re not attempting yourself first.  We’re all getting by on the grace of God here.

Please don’t say “Confront each other” if you can’t handle rebuke yet.

Please don’t say “Love each other” without acknowledging you’re not good at it either.

Please don’t give “spiritual tips” that aren’t field-tested and life-approved.  It’s cool to say you just don’t know.

This is not to look humble in reverse.  This is to say we’re in the same boat and that I am working on this the same as you are.  A beautiful thing happens when we meet in our brokenness and get to eye-level — a sort of dance that invites others instead of flaunting a desperate perfection.

It’s also not just enough to be honest and stay there.  It doesn’t do any good to tell a man you’re robbing his house tonight.  Change is a process, but that means there is a process.  It means we can start today, where we are, this moment.  But it begins with honesty.

God has grace for us on this, even for the times that we don’t.

— J

Question: What’s The Point of Prayer?

Anonymous asked:

What’s the point of praying about the same thing over and over again? Doesn’t He already know what’s already on our minds anyway? I feel like my prayers get too repetitive and it makes me not want to pray anymore, and wonder why I have to keep repeating it.

Hey there: You know what’s great about your best friend?

Both of you can sit in silence and be comfortable.  You can tell the same jokes, same stories, same catchphrases, and still crack each other up.  You can hang out at the same places, eat the same food every week, do the same activities on the same exact days, and it would still be an awesome rocking time.  Your friend might finish your sentences and know everything you’re going to say already: but they still value your company, and they’d rather be with you right in that moment than anywhere else.

This is much like how it is with God.

If you think this is too “New Age spiritualism,” then check out John 15:15 —

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

In context, Jesus is saying that our relationship with him is a lot like a friendship.  Certainly he is Lord, Savior, and King, but he’s also Brother and Friend.  It’s why he became one of us.

Continue reading “Question: What’s The Point of Prayer?”

Disagreement Doesn’t Have To Be Division


You know what’s nice?

When someone disagrees with me but still loves me.  Still respects me.  Still maintains my dignity.

A disagreement does not devalue an entire person or the whole worth of their opinions.  We do this too quickly.  We demonize others under a sweeping blanket judgment.  One wrong sentence and we throw them under a bus.

Being “for” or “against” an issue doesn’t instantly have to mean division.  It doesn’t have to strangle us into diametric categories: because we are more than categories.  We’re flesh-and-blood people, and arguing over issues doesn’t even begin to address our complexities.

It’s also strange that we can respect those with very different belief systems or religions or philosophies — but if someone inside your own camp differs on one tiny point, we bury them with weaponized dogma.  People within their own communities eat their own.  Maybe it’s easier, or maybe we’re just cowards who hide behind the false strength of our doctrinal towers.  I know this because many times I’m that coward.

I feel like all this could be solved over a cup of coffee.  Which means awkward eye contact, face to face conversation, and listening without interruption or presumption.  Oh, world.  If only.

Thank God for coffee, and for fellow nuanced travelers.

— J

Question: Fell Again To Porn And Can’t Break Free

Anonymous asked:

Hi pastor, I went 11 days without pornography/masturbation. I faltered last night and gave in. The temptation was too strong not only emotionally but very physically.  I could not help it. I prayed for it to go away because I really do want to stop but … I’m stuck and starting to think God isn’t going to help me out. So all I’ve been doing is praying for forgiveness. But since I’ve done this vicious cycle so many times I don’t know if I’m actually forgiven, because I don’t actually know if I’m truly sorry because I’ve been through this so many times … I’m just stumped and don’t know where to go from here, I just want all temptation to go away.

Hey there dear friend.  Thank you so much for your honesty and for even trusting me with such a huge issue.

Please first allow me the grace to link a post that contains every other post I’ve written on porn:

– Mega-Post: Struggling With Porn (Again)

I have to say upfront that you are still just as loved by God as you were yesterday, a billion years ago, and a billion years from now.  I know I’m probably not supposed to say that because it can accidentally make Christians “lazy,” but it’s true.  Whether you decide to receive His grace for good or for bad, either way He still loves you.  That’s the most important thing I could say, and it’s the only motivation strong enough to keep us moving forward from sin towards Him.

You also need to know that fighting sin is a process.  Sometimes it is lifelong.  It’s not something that we can just “pray away” or will disappear one day.  It gets easier to handle, but we will be in battle with our flesh until glory.

After we mess up, we often only look at the tiny microscopic moment of what just happened.  But God sees us over a lifetime.  He knows if you really want to quit, if you are truly repenting, if you are really pursuing Him.  And the crazy thing is: even if you never regretted it, He will still love you.  If you can know His heart this way, then suddenly it’s not about quitting anymore.  Instead, it’s about knowing Him. 

Continue reading “Question: Fell Again To Porn And Can’t Break Free”

Does “Everything Happen For A Reason”?

chocolateyraspberry asked:

Hey, I’m not sure how to ask this but lately I’ve been wavering in my faith and trying to come back. But one thing I’ve been struggling with is the concept of “everything happening for a reason.” What are your opinions concerning that? Also, what are your opinions on rape and who it occurs to and why? By the way, I love your blog and what God is using you to do, it’s amazing and thank you for being a light 🙂

Hey there my dear friend. Thank you so much for your kind message.

You know, over the last few years, I’ve come around to no longer believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I think it’s a very cute proposition that might help us for a while, but it starts to fall apart when you read the news or your child gets cancer or there’s an earthquake that kills millions or your friend is sexually abused or your dad has chronic pain for the rest of his life.

All this means that the world is horribly broken and nothing is really as it’s meant to be. As C.S. Lewis said, “Nothing is yet in its true form.” It means we live in the irretrievable whirlwind of death and loss and nostalgia and permanent “gone-ness” — so to pull lessons from these things minimizes our humanity.

If you talk to anyone who’s involved in such a huge tragedy, you can’t say those cute cliches like “Pain forces you to grow” or “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” It sounds hollow and stupid, and I would slap myself in the face if I said those things too.

I believe more and more that not every pain has a lesson. I think sometimes that pain is just pain, that life can be a mystery, and it’s all part of our weird wild crazy human experience. Pain is part of being human. We don’t need to spiritualize everything. We don’t need to wrap things up with a bowtie. Sometimes there is unresolved tension and we need to let it bleed.

However, here’s why I believe in the Christian faith.

Continue reading “Does “Everything Happen For A Reason”?”

Quote: Restoration

“The point of the cross isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something much bigger: restoration. God isn’t just interested in the covering over of our sins; God wants to make us into the people we were originally created to be. It is not just the removal of what’s being held against us; it is God pulling us into the people he originally had in mind when he made us. This restoration is why Jesus always orients his message around becoming the kind of people who are generous and loving and compassionate. The goal here isn’t simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world, which is why approaches to the Christian faith that deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong thing. It is not about what you don’t do. The point is becoming more and more the people God had in mind when we were first created.

“It is one thing to be forgiven; it is another thing to become more and more and more and more the person God made you to be.”

— Rob Bell

Friends, Enemies, The Cross.

Before you meet God, He was in a certain sense your enemy, and you were friends with sin, Satan, and the world.

What God did was: He set Himself as an enemy of sin, of Satan, of the world, even of death — and He was literally ripped apart by these things at the cross. God did all this so that He could be your friend.

Jesus removed every single obstacle between you and him so that you could be together, in the best relationship there is. Friends are willing to pay the cost for love: and greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

After you meet God, you are now at odds with the world, which is why the Christian life is so hard. But you have Jesus, and he calls you out into the world to help remove those obstacles too. He calls us to cross over the dividing line of the human heart, to change enemies into friends: just as you were changed.

In a way, the Christian is a matchmaker between Heaven and earth. When you’re friends with God, your mission is to hook people up with God.

— J

My Brother Got In A Fight At Church.

My brother does not regularly attend church, and last Sunday he was yelled at in front of an entire Catholic Mass because he broke the communion wafer.

A lady at the altar accused him of “sharing the cracker with his girlfriend,” so my brother opened his mouth to show her the entire thing — already an embarrassing gesture — and the lady called him a liar.  Repeatedly.  My brother argued back, it became loud and heated, and then he walked out.

My brother didn’t know this was a rule, and neither did I — but even if it’s a rule, this is not how you handle things.

The most hurtful thing though is that my brother texted:

“I’ve never been picked on anywhere else except in church. When I went as a kid, those older kids bullied me.  I’m trying to find out the truth but these people won’t let me.”

I felt sick to my stomach.  I remembered when my dad took us to church a few times and those older kids mocked us every Sunday.  They only stopped after I splashed a cup of water in one of their faces.

This is exactly why I was an atheist for over half my life.  And I completely, totally, overwhelmingly understand my brother.

He is genuinely curious about faith — but the church has gotten in the way.  The egotistical few who care so much about their stupid “sacred” rules over living breathing human beings are the very reason that people think the church is a joke, and one jerk makes us all look the same.

I don’t mean to disparage the Catholic Church.  It’s not about that, at all.  I know the church sometimes gets an unfair reputation too.  But if your faith is making you more of a jerk and less gracious, there’s absolutely no point to your faith.  Zero.  It’s better you toss that out the window and start over.

If you’re using the Bible as a weapon against others instead of a mirror to truly examine yourself first, then you have nothing to do with God.  You’re in it for yourself.

I know that no church is perfect.  No community can cater to your every need.  And church-people don’t always accurately reflect who God is.  But every week, I keep hearing about how Christians are hurting other Christians, and I’m so helplessly outraged.  Not even normal everyday people do the kind of crap that so-called Christians do.  I keep remembering that my deepest hurts came from other ministries, from racism and nepotism and favoritism and gossiping and straight up two-faced betrayal.  I’ve met some of these popular Christian bloggers, and the majority of them were a-holes.  I’ve met some megachurch pastors, and a handful of them only lust after the money and the power.  Even deacons in the background be creeping for prestige like a title means so much to them.  I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of some of these things too.

I love my brother.  He’s one of my best friends and one of the greatest people I know.  He’s at least twice as smart as me and he’s been running his own business for over the last half-decade. He is not the kind of person to get in a shouting match this way.  And it’s amazing to me, a damn miracle, that my brother still wants to attend church.  He still wants to go next Sunday.  He still wants to know about God.  Even after being shouted down in front of an entire congregation, he is still seeking.  I think honestly that this is so much more grace than I’ve seen from even the best Christians that I know.

So I exhort you two things.

That 1) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you’re just a jerk, then step down.  Immediately.  Don’t lead again until you realize that unless your idea of God is making you more gracious, however imperfectly, then you’re still just playing around with religion.

And 2) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you have anger issues, then get some help.  Get counseling and mentoring and go to a recovery group.  Your anger doesn’t just “get better” over time.  Get the help, or other people will suffer.  You don’t want to stand before God to explain that one day.

Please pray for my brother.  Pray for our churches.  Pray for grace to permeate our ministries.

God, forgive us for lifting up our buildings higher than You.

— J

Originally posted here.