Life Is Interruption.

The other week I totally bombed the sermon at my church.

I had prepared like crazy: but we just moved buildings today, so we had no sound system, the AC broke, the noise outside was horrible, and my thoughts weren’t gelling together.

I knew that mostly everyone was checking out (except a wonderful group of ladies who sit up front and always take notes).  It was so discouraging.  The environment was affecting me pretty badly too, and the sermon just failed to find a rhythm.  So when the whole thing became unbearable, I cut the sermon short by ending with a metaphor and a story.  For a second everyone listened, and they seemed grateful I had enough sense to end early.  At the very least I was able to land the plane.

I discovered I get easily irritated when “my plans” get foiled by an unexpected turn of events. And really, most of our well-laid plans will get interrupted by inconveniences.  Nothing unfolds the way we picture it in our head.  There’s no ideal room or perfectly isolated space where perfect magic can happen.

It’s during these escalated frustrating times that we need to think on our feet and be flexible enough to serve the reality of the room.  That meant that I had to pay more attention to the people around me instead of just mindlessly marching with my agenda.  It meant I wouldn’t get to unroll everything I had prepared; it meant all my careful research and prayer and prep was getting shafted; it meant that I couldn’t function at my best.  I could only make the best out of a bad situation.

But that’s okay.  I think these moments are necessary to humble us towards the needs of others, to be sensitive to what’s happening.  I don’t think we need to get everything right in a day.  I think I needed to learn how to serve others in an icky, sweaty, gritty sort of setting, because life is not like the movies where the temperature is always perfect and our speech is so impeccable and the day wraps up with a pretty bowtie.  Life is awkward and amusing and raw, and it’s okay to laugh about that.  We can meet each other there.  And of course, there’s always next week.

— J

Question: Stuck In My Past of Bad Relationships

Hello, I was hoping you could just give me some advice but it is quite lengthy. I met this amazing godly man who began pursuing me. However, because of past relationships, it’s hard for me to trust. He continually shows me love but I keep questioning whether he’s lying. He hasn’t given me a reason to think that way but I just can’t stop thinking he’ll leave me like the others, but as well just constantly pick at him if something isn’t up to my high standards. What can I do to move from my past?

Hey my dear friend: I’m really sorry about your past relationships.

Each of us have a particular narrative over our lives based on our past, and we tend to rehearse them into the next season.  Sometimes this can be good because it strengthens our decisions with consistency: but other times it can be bad because it causes unfair judgment, pent-up frustration, and unresolved bitterness.

You know what I mean already.  We’re fragile people, so we carry on our old hurts into new relationships — and this kind of baggage gets messy real quickly.

My narrative has always been, People leave me.  My parents divorced on my fourteenth birthday.  The woman I thought I would marry left me for another dude in college.  I lost a best friend in college after he lost his mind over a woman, and we haven’t been friends since.

But regardless of all this happening, I have to remember that:

Continue reading “Question: Stuck In My Past of Bad Relationships”

Question: Forgiveness Versus Friendship

Anonymous asked:

Is it okay to cut someone out of your life even after you’ve forgiven them? Or does that mean you haven’t actually forgiven them? Is it okay to stop taking someone back as a friend?

Hey there!

I’ve always believed that forgiveness doesn’t instantly mean friendship. Friendship actually requires a good will moving forward on both sides.  So while I believe, for example, that a woman can forgive her son’s murderer, this doesn’t mean they need to be friends.

That’s a very extreme example, but I feel like so many people feel enslaved by thinking “Now I have to be friends with this person who completely broke my trust and keeps hurting me.”  We’re allowed to have boundaries and safety and wisdom with people who are continually a spiritual (or physical) danger to us.

Forgiveness is also a daily process, meaning it’s not always (and almost never is) a one-time event.  You might have to forgive someone a hundred times before moving on.  And that’s okay.  Each day we work with that hurt, wrestle it to the ground, put it on the shelf at night, and it gets easier as time goes by.

At the same time: each of us know in our hearts if we’re even in this process at all.  Most of us know if we’re in denial and still seething in hatred.  So I would definitely check your own heart on this one and see if you’re wishing any ill will towards this person.  Halfway-forgiveness holds a grudge while denying there’s any unforgiveness at all.  It’s a self-deception that can bleed into other areas of your life, particularly with future friendships.

If this other person is trying to be your friend, I would highly consider showing grace and going for it.  It won’t be easy, but it’s worth a shot.  Sometimes cutting off a person is just a bitter method that will only harden your heart, and God might ask of you to reach out despite yourself.  But then: if this person is still stepping on you, I would back way up.  I would maybe leave the door open, but I wouldn’t let them in so easily.

I’ll point you to a couple posts on this too:

– How To Cut Someone Off The “Christian” Way

– When To Give Up On Someone

Will pray for you, my friend.

— J.S.

“He Still Has Some Issues To Work Out”

He leans over to me all quiet-like in church and says, “He still has some issues to work out.”

I want to tell this guy, “So do you.  So do I.  We all do, bro.”

He says in a sly whisper, “He really just needs Jesus.”

So do you.  So do I.  We all do.

So finally I just say it.

“You know, everyone has some kind of deal.  You think it’s hard to put up with this guy because he does whatever annoys you.  But someone else thinks you’re hard to put up with because you do a bunch of annoying things that you don’t think are annoying, and if you don’t think so, then you must be God.  And everyone is just secretly keeping secrets about each other and telling everyone else like it’s cool to know all these secrets, but really they’re just preferences.  They’re your problems, not his.  And no one sinned against you.  No one did anything wrong except what’s happening right now.  So maybe you should talk to this guy and be real with him, or else you’ll be saying the same thing about me and the next guy and you’ll be alone and old and sorry.  I love you man, and probably no one else does because they haven’t told you this.  You need Jesus as much as I do as much as that guy as much as everybody.”

He blinked.

He said okay.

We shook hands.

I hope he works that out.

— J

Question: An Introvert Expected To Be Extroverted

Anonymous asked:

Hi pastor, I am struggling with the way I am at times. I’m suppose to be a leader and reach out to people and check up on them but it’s hard. I’m not the type to text often because I’m more of a person who speaks to others in person. But even if I were to meet someone in person, for some reason I have never said “how are you” to my brothers/sisters at church. I guess I struggle with reaching out to people. It’s not that I don’t care for them but I don’t know how to do exactly that. What to do..?

My dear friend, please allow me to be both tender and tough on this one.

There are some things that are certainly “struggles” in our lives.  When we feel anxiety around other people or large crowds, this is a legitimate issue that might be a lifelong problem.  I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade, and to this day I still have a hard time talking in public without getting feverish and shaky.  I’m mostly an introvert too, so I would almost always rather be at home in my boxers watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway than chatting it up in the church lobby.

BUT — Saying the word “struggle” in our Christian culture often gets abused to mean “permission slip.”  At some point, the struggle must become a battle.  At some point, the little scared insecure kid inside us needs to sit down and take a backseat, and the grown-up needs to get up and do something.  The scared kid inside doesn’t ever completely go away: but neither can he ever dictate the course of your life.

I promise I’m not trying to guilt-trip you here.  I’m just saying: Please do not use your shyness as an excuse to cover your laziness.  Most introverts just don’t want to put on pants.  They would rather watch a rom-com or TV series or a sports game than actually live a dirty, sweaty, gritty life.  That’s just laziness.  It’s not cute, it’s not attractive, and it’s not real shyness.

Getting to know another human being is hard work.  And that’s also true for extroverts.  Most people just don’t make an effort to approach people: and you’ll need to fight the natural inclination to hide in your shell every single day. It’s a daily battle.

Continue reading “Question: An Introvert Expected To Be Extroverted”

The Christian Horror Story: Why Cautionary Tales Don’t Work


There’s always a heavy dramatic moment in a sermon when the preacher begins confessing someone else’s sin, a guy always named Bill, who got addicted to crystal meth and ran out on his kids and punched small animals and screwed up his life, and then the preacher concludes:

“Don’t be like Bill.  Let’s pray.”

The sermon closes and everyone fights for the offering plate.

But …


I can’t help but think: I’m no better than Bill.

I keep wondering: Who exactly did Jesus come to die for?  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to part the universe and galaxies and stars and skies to die on a cross in our place for everyone — except that dirty, disgusting, filthy pagan Bill.

Or the preacher says, “The first guy hears the Word of God and gets saved.  The second guy hears and goes off to the world but gets beat up, so he gets saved.  And the third guy: he stubbornly refuses and he ruins everything.  Don’t be the third guy.”

Everything in me wants to flip a table and yell, “But I’m the Third Guy.  I’m Bill.  That loser you’re talking about is me.”

Is there no grace for them? Because many of those church people are living through the very consequences that we’re yelling about.  Only preaching consequences is like throwing desert sand for the thirsty.

Continue reading “The Christian Horror Story: Why Cautionary Tales Don’t Work”

Question: My Friend Is Choosing Wrong On Purpose

Anonymous asked:

I have a friend who purposely chooses to live in sin and keeps saying she knows what she’s doing is wrong but she is so deep where she may be on the verge of suicide. I tried talking with her but she’s always trying to avoid me. When I tell her truth with love, she thinks I’m against her and am cursing her.  A few days ago I really felt like The Lord wanted me to tell her what was on my heart but she said she was busy which was a lie.  I don’t want to pretend everything is okay. Have any suggestions?

Hey my dear friend: Please first let me commend you on caring so much and genuinely wanting to see your friend be okay.

There’s a very tricky balance in dealing with this, because you want to know when to back up or step in, when to encourage and when to challenge, when to be patient and when to provoke.  I’m afraid I’ll be inadequate to give you all the right moves on this, and anything I say will most assuredly fall short.

But the bigger picture here is: You can’t really save your friend.  You’re not responsible for saving anyone; only God saves.  I know you probably know that already, but we take on such a burden because we care so much, and if you take on a savior-mentality — whether on purpose or subconsciously — you will beat yourself up for everything that happens, and that’s unfair for both you and your friend.

The really hard part in this whole thing is that anything you say or do right now might actually make things worse, because people living in their own kingdom can’t really hear anything else.

It almost has to be outright rebellion for her to come back to her senses.  That’s how it happened with the Prodigal.  He rebelled against his own rebellion.  For most prodigals, going back to church and to God has to feel like a war against their own selves.  This means they have to want it, and there’s nothing in the world you can do to make someone want something.

This doesn’t mean you do nothing.  Yes, step in when necessary.  Speak up when you must.  Say the truth with grace always.  If it comes down to suicide, then intervene as hard as possible.

Continue reading “Question: My Friend Is Choosing Wrong On Purpose”

Please Continue To Pray For South Korea

Excerpt from

“At least 59 people have died in the sinking, and 243 are missing, the South Korean coast guard said early Monday.

“Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police — who were also shedding tears — and past grieving family members.

“Some relatives refused to accept the outcome.

“‘Wake up! Wake up, please!’ one man screamed.

“With hundreds of people still missing, the heartbreaking scene will likely play out over and over again.

“Although 174 people were rescued shortly after the vessel sank Wednesday, no survivors have been found since.

“Nonetheless, 563 divers will continue plunging into the frigid Yellow Sea on Sunday. And 34 aircraft and 204 ships will aid in the search Sunday, the country’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.”

Life Before Christ

I think about my life before Christ, how I used to live for myself and I would do good to look good and get good back.

I think about how something was always missing then, like I would find a particular interest and it would almost click but the edges wouldn’t catch and they’d just slide off the inside of my heart.

I think of how I objectified humans as blunt weapons for my secret dirty desires and planned out my next crime scene like an elaborate diorama: and all this to avoid the God who would speak to me at 3 am in the darkness when I couldn’t lie to myself about the futility of my deceit. I remember how the ceiling fan would accuse me of guilt with its every cut into the sides of my lying mouth.

I think of those moments when the veil of shallow shadow-living was lifted for a blinding second, and my reality was torn open to the idea of a Creator and how there must be more than just collecting toys to build an empire until I die. It was only a glimpse, but everything else around it would be sterile and insignificant in comparison. I remember the drawstrings of my cold protective fortress being tugged by gentle hands that plunged through my lungs, never too sharp, but just enough to know there was something else about this life that life was not telling me, that a cosmic problem existed with a solution that would click as easily as a key in butter.

I think of how even though I ran from Him — God still literally loved me to death and afflicted my selfish emptiness with a love that cost the blood of His only son.

I asked myself then, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew about?” Because before I knew Him, I knew Him, and I dearly missed Him, if only in dreams and whispers and longings I could hardly stand to utter. I was terrified to discover that life wasn’t about me. I was scared to find my Maker — but He found me, and now I cannot go back. I don’t ever want to. I cannot imagine any other way without Him, and He does not imagine His story without me.

— J.S.

Why Do You Believe In Jesus?

Anonymous asked:

Why do you believe in Jesus? I get believing in a creator, but as much as I want to, I can’t always convince myself that there’s evidence for Jesus doing all that stuff, and it breaks my heart because i used to believe it without a problem. I don’t know what to do.

Hey dear friend. If you didn’t know, I’m mostly a skeptical Christian, so you might be asking the wrong person.

There are times when I’m really into apologetics, and other times when I just don’t care about apologetics at all. As a wise pastor once said, knowledge is essential but it is not sufficient.

So as much as I can muster with my weak faith, I believe in Jesus for historical, emotional, existential, and intellectual reasons that far outweigh any other system of belief. There is just enough evidence for Christ that each day, I must conclusively doubt my doubts. It’s tough most days, but it’s often enough.

Let’s consider a few things together, and ultimately you can decide to clamp down upon the meat.

Continue reading “Why Do You Believe In Jesus?”

God, Sun, Dust

A lot of times I imagine God trying to get our attention with a startling beam of sunlight through a slit of glass in a dusty room while we’re rushing on to the next thing, because He wants us to slow down and savor the life we won’t ever get again. I think probably I’ve walked by that sunbeam too many times, drowning in the motion of my autopilot and darting past the perfect swirl of His canvas. But so He has enough grace to draw the twisting fleck of dust in the beam again. Maybe one day soon we will know the artist of that persistent sun. In the silence we might find Him, in the darkness to embrace His certain grip in our trembling hand. In His grace we might crawl up that soft beam, where there is glory.

— J.S.

Quote: Jesus Christ Alone

“Every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; He was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by Him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the Apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? It is because by the Spirit of Christ, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us.”

— John Calvin

Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post


yesdarlingido asked:

Hey man! Love your wisdom & needing some of it. I answered a question about guilt recently & discussed repentance, explaining that God uses love, not fear, to motivate us & draw us to Himself. The anon wrote me back saying that no matter how much I speak of grace, the reality of hell still stands, thus fear persists & remains as a motive for repentance. I don’t know how to answer, and would love any insight you may have on the topic. Thanks! -LB

Hey there my dear friend: First of all, I love your blog.  I think you’re quite popular around these parts and I can totally see why.  Please continue to do what you do.

Your question has actually bothered me under the surface for as long as I’ve been a Christian (which is, admittedly, not too long).  It’s one of those icky things we don’t like to think about very much.  I’ve heard smarter people answer this question while dancing around the reality of “eternal torment” and “the worm that never dies,” and it’s like we mince words or gloss over these realities with tons of verbal trickery.  I don’t think I’ll fare much better.  So feel free to skip around and make of this what you will.

Please allow me to present my former atheist view on the issue.  Basically the problem is posed as:

1) Sure, God offers Heaven through Jesus. But there’s a place called Hell, which according to your Bible, is eternal punishment.

2) So no matter what you say about God’s love, there is only a binary option with God — Heaven or Hell — and that can’t possibly be loving.

3) It doesn’t matter that you say “free will,” because people either must choose God and be rewarded or not choose God and suffer.

4) Conclusion: Your faith is always undermined by the promise of reward and the fear of punishment, which is a barbaric doctrine that reeks of inauthenticity and materialism and a coercive deity.

But the more I thought about this, the more I saw serious problems in this argumentation.  Whether you believe in God or not, at the very least this “binary-choice” argument is vastly Swiss cheese.

Continue reading “Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post”

Ice Cream Talk

When someone tells me the reason I’m burned out is because “You’re not effectively using your gifts in the right place” or “You have unconfessed issues in your life” or “You’ve neglected your own natural rhythms” — well that could all be true, but I also think I’m just a limited finite human being who gets burned out sometimes and that’s part of life and it’s okay, and maybe I don’t want a didactic pragmatic lesson every time I cry for help, and maybe you could just meet me where I’m at instead of describing the water I’m drowning in, and you know, you could graciously offer a hand to help me up. Saying “I’m burnt out” could just mean, “Let’s get ice cream and talk about it.”

— J

Question: How To Be A Great Leader for a Lady

Anonymous asked:

Hey man, I love your blog and you post great stuff. I know you’ve talked about being engaged soon and my girlfriend and I have discussed this too. However, I don’t feel that I am a great leader and I’ve never really been shown how to either. What is some advice on how I can be the leader God wants me to be for her? Thanks J!

Hey my friend, thank you so much for the encouragement.

This will sound overly simplistic, but being a great leader is about following a great leader.

It means loving God with every fiber of your being to the best of your God-given capacity.  If you’re under the authority of Christ as best you can, you’ll no doubt be the kind of person who is fit to lead.  If I wasn’t following God, I’d be following myself, and that has led to some atrocious places where I deceived girls, used them up, and basically made myself a target for any father’s shotgun.

I know most people will mock this idea.  But I’ve never met a great leader who wasn’t under the leadership of a smarter better leader.  That means, of course, you’d do well to be under good mentors, a good pastor, and good older people.  But it ultimately means you are daily humbling yourself before the Word and Will of God.  The only alternative is you’d be following your own advice or some lesser person, and then you’d just have to punch yourself in the face all the time.

I’m imagining my future daughter dating a dude.  Who is that dude following?  What authority is he under?  Who does he answer to?  If it’s not God, then get out of my house and stay away from my daughter.  I know I sound extremely old-fashioned when I put it that way, and it lacks my usual care for nuance and the gray-area — but dude, it’s my daughter.  I don’t want her to date some guy who is following himself.  Would you?

Continue reading “Question: How To Be A Great Leader for a Lady”

Quote: Stand

“Yes, there are many things that are wrong with the world. So many things to be against — but you can’t be against everything. At some point you have to begin to stand for something. Maybe the most important question is not what am I against, but what do I stand for? On my best days, I want to stand for love conquering a multitude of wrongs. I want to stand for forgiveness, for mercy, for beauty, for grace.”

— Jon Foreman

Faith Is More Simple Than We Make It


Many times I’ll talk with Christians who are burdened by the programmatic weight of their religious activity.  They’re shackled by the inadequacy of their spiritual progress.

I meet Christians who say, “I just don’t feel like I’m doing enough.  I only went to church twice this week, I evangelized to only four people this month, I only prayed on the way to work and on the way home, I missed the homeless ministry last Tuesday, I listened to a friend cry on the phone for an hour without saying Jesus once.”

I always want to say, “Dang dude.  Just relax.

I’ll meet other Christians who use these absurd spiritual parameters on each other to measure the “safety” of being near them, as if they’re afraid to catch adultery and they’re allergic to Rated-R movies and any theology that doesn’t end with predestination.  They turn their nose up at people who who are late to Sunday service and have to use the table of contents for the Bible, and they categorize the church into “praise team” and “everyone else.”

I always want to say, “Dang dude.  Just relax.

If your faith is making you more anxious, exhausted, insecure, uncertain, judged, and afraid — I’m really sorry you bought into that sort of faith.

If your faith is making you more categorical, judgmental, bitter, black-and-white, and condescending — your theology sucks, and you’re still just playing with religion.

I used to blame the latter for the former.  I used to think the religious people destroyed the anxious people.  But actually: neither have anything to do with Jesus.

Continue reading “Faith Is More Simple Than We Make It”

As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message titled: As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture.

I go over a repeated phrase we see in the Old Testament, “As for me.” It’s about becoming a countercultural force for the common good without judging others and without compromising ourselves.

Stream here or download here!

Some things I talk about are: The increasingly halfway lazy sloppiness of cutting corners in our non-committed culture, playing around with the numbers on our tax returns, when it looks like cheaters and troublemakers are more successful than honest upstanding citizens, fighting against the mob mentality of gossip, and the 3% rule of changing the world.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Question: No Friends, No Job, No Sleep, No Future

Anonymous asked:

Firstly, I admire your blog & have found it encouraging so thanks. I’m 29 single female no job living at home failing at uni & am struggling through a bout of depression & suicidal thoughts. I’m afraid & feel alone. Have no friends. Been disconnected from God. Super shy & anxiety ridden. No $ for meds or counseling. Feeling hopeless. No motivation. Can’t sleep. Don’t know who else to talk to. Sorry if seems like a lot 😦 I feel lost.

Hey my dear wonderful beloved friend:

Please first know that you are loved.  No matter how you feel and no matter how trite this sounds right now, you are absolutely loved.  At the very least by me and the wonderful blog community, and at the very most by God Himself.

Please also know that all of us go through struggling seasons of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression.  We often daily trudge through a hopeless choking fog that seems to have no end.  The world can be dark at times.  It can feel like your life will always feel this way.

I’ve fought depression my entire life.  And can I tell you a secret?

Continue reading “Question: No Friends, No Job, No Sleep, No Future”