Trust That.

Trust that God is working something in you now, something you can’t imagine, a miracle beyond proportion. Look beyond circumstances, long nights, broken trophies, mental arguments, the swirl of gossip, the false self-talk that you’ve rehearsed over and over. Leave yesterday where it belongs. Don’t cave in to what has happened to you. God says you are more than that — because you are His. As hard as it sounds: you are loved, you are treasured, you are written on the heart and mind of your Creator. Rejoice and revel in what He has done, is doing, will do.

— J.S.

Dialogue: Is More Than Once

When you have a problem with your parents, the pastor, the boss, the teacher, the blogger, your friend —

Most of us try talking with them once, and then we give up.  Me included.  We presume the initial reaction is the whole reaction, so we walk away furious or frustrated.

But one discussion can’t possibly cover every angle of both sides.  A first reaction is usually just the emotional instinct spilling out sideways, and no one ever does this very well.  It’s unfair to shut the door right then.  You can say “I tried and he was still stubborn!” — but basically you stabbed a hole in the guy and left.

It takes a few days to process everything that you told someone.  It’s not new to you because you’ve had time to think on it.  It’s new to them and it will open fresh wounds.  It’ll take more than one conversation to start traction on moving forward.  It even takes dozens of one-on-one talks to push past the uncomfortable, gritty, defensive posture into real dialogue.  If you’re not willing to invest the time, then you’ll have half-formed judgments all over the place without any constructive healing or momentum.

Please don’t narrow down a whole person into a fifteen minute meltdown.  Please don’t presume every single motive based on one phone call.  A back-and-forth over texting doesn’t finish the sentence on anything.  Communication takes patience, effort, grace, empathy, and forgiveness.  Expect the first time to be rough.  And expect most people are just as reasonable as you and are willing to learn, so long as you meet them eye to eye.

— J.S.

Wrestling Through Our Religious Differences and Our Wildly Varying Christian Convictions

wherethecherryblossomsdance asked a question:

Could I ask you a question? Is it a bad thing to want everyone, regardless of their religion and faith to just worship together and love one another? Is it really wrong to want to go to someone who is Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, and go “Let’s worship together?” I feel that as long as different religions and beliefs attack one another, insisting that one is right and all others are wrong, this cannot become a reality, and it saddens me. I want to see us all get along and join together. Is that so bad?

tworoadsdivergedblog asked a question:

Something I’ve always wondered is how we (Christians) all serve one God but differ so much when it comes to doctrine (sure, there are basic things we agree upon, but we also have so many little things we disagree with that we have to label ourselves) ? Are we just simply not meant to fully understand the truth? I get that we are all different, and we can’t put God in a box, but if we are all in a relationship with one God, how is it that we aren’t unanimous when it comes to interpreting scripture and whatnot? We can’t all be right, so how do we know what is right to believe? Our feelings? Convictions?

Hey there my dear friends, to be very truthful: this has always been a tough one for me. Because —

– I’ve had relatives pass away who did not know Christ, and I’ve sincerely hoped that some part of them had accepted Christ and that it was enough.

– If I’m to believe Christianity is real, then I’m to accept that everything Jesus taught on Hell is also real, and this is not a particular reality that I find easy to face.

– Our wildly varying Christian convictions sometimes leads me to think that none of us have it right, and maybe there are different ways to the Truth after all.

– I also consider myself a skeptical Christian, so I might not even be the best person to re-affirm your thoughts here either.

While I know we won’t all see eye-to-eye nor can I hope to answer all your concerns, here’s the bare minimum that I believe.

Continue reading “Wrestling Through Our Religious Differences and Our Wildly Varying Christian Convictions”

The Quick Casual Bashing Dismissal: A Problem With Dudes Who Diss Dudes


When I share a blog-post written by another male with a fellow dude, usually he’s quick to dismiss it or bash it without really reading it, because:

– Men often feel threatened by the possibility of another man’s popularity or intellect, so they protect themselves by thinking “What a pretentious douche.”  We’re quick to write you off.  If you infringe upon another male’s ego, they will mentally murder you with immediate character assassination.

– Men tend to be insanely jealous of other men’s success, usually because they suffer from intense insecurity or a lack of affirmation. It’s not always their fault, but it’s why men will see other men in a gym and say, “He ain’t all that big” or “He probably takes roids.”  When a man gets jealous because his girlfriend is being hit on by another dude, this usually isn’t about his girlfriend, but it’s about the power-struggle of “conquering” his property.

– Most men do not like reading blog posts, or books, or the instructions, or street signs.

– Men will devalue another man’s success by crediting external factors, while blaming his failures on internal factors.  So the big businessman or the famous megachurch pastors have “sold out” by smart marketing or shiny facilities, but they’ve gone bankrupt because they’re incompetent idiots.

– Most men find it easier to complain and criticize, instead of actually working to do something.

– Men like to use the words hater, troll, douche-bag, or sigh, because we perceive a disagreement as an attack on our identity, instead of embracing the “opposing view” as a way to build bridges.

– Men want to have the best story in the room.  Hence, they love to story-top each other.

– Most men think they’re already very enlightened, so they’ll tear down another man who might remotely be smarter than them.  Or we condescend by saying things like “You’ll get it eventually” or somehow think we’re “further along in the truth.”

Continue reading “The Quick Casual Bashing Dismissal: A Problem With Dudes Who Diss Dudes”

What About All Those People Who Never Got A Chance With God?

Art by 52Home

Anonymous asked a question:

I have been raised in a Christian household & attended a Christian school my entire life. However, I only started taking my relationship “seriously” with God after graduating. Why did God choose ME to know of Him and place me in my aforementioned environments? What about those who live life never knowing about God? Why doesn’t God reach out to them? Since I know God, is it my duty to spread His Word? What about Catholics/Muslims etc.? Am i just blessed? But Isn’t that unfair to the nonbelievers?! :/

Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very sensitive gentle heart about this.  As an Asian born in America, I know that I could’ve easily been a Buddhist in Korea or a Shintoist in Japan or a Confucianist in China.  Or even a Communist or Marxist or Socialist.  Or a tribal villager living on a Filipino island.  Or one of those Tibetan monks in the mountains who only eats apricots and lives to 120.

This issue has always bothered me, as I found it rather disturbing that God would geopolitically confine Himself to one people-group for millions of years, and only recently branch out in the church era.  Even then, I would think a “loving God” could offer every person an opportunity to hear about Him, at least once, if He truly loved us.

So let’s consider a few things, some which we might disagree on, which is okay.  This is only from my own limited understanding of doctrine, the church, and our culture.

Continue reading “What About All Those People Who Never Got A Chance With God?”

Justice and Dignity for Ryo Oyamada


Ryo Oyamada, a 24 year old student from Japan, was struck and killed by an NYPD vehicle in a hit & run.  Witnesses say the police car had no lights or sirens on and was going over 70 mph.  The released footage by NYPD was proven to be heavily altered in a cover-up, showing “lights” on the vehicle, when compared to footage from the NY Housing Authority on the same street with the same timestamp.

On a personal note: I know that this will probably not be shared or reblogged very much, because Asians are not very prominent in American culture.  I understand this, because Asians (like me) are partially at fault for being so passive.  But I am begging you to please consider signing this petition out of human decency.  Ryo was just a student walking home, then struck by a nearly silent police cruiser going at excess speed, and the NYPD covered it up.

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the released video footage, including updates from the case.  This article contains a link to a graphic video moments after the crash, showing the body of Ryo Oyamada and NY citizens yelling at the police.  Please advise, it is highly disturbing. 

And the following is an excerpt from the petition, which as of this writing only has 286 signatures.

This was originally posted on my Tumblr, and the post has now gone viral. It’s at over 33,000 notes and there are nearly 7000 signatures for the petition.

*Update* 8/28/14 – The petition has almost 12,000 signatures! Peter Chin, the one who started the petition, has also made an update on the petition page.

*Update* 9/8/14 – Over 66,000 signatures! Please keep it going!

Come on in, the water’s ice cold.

About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Like everyone else, I first saw this as a cheap self-congratulatory trend that would die out quickly in internet history. But to everyone’s surprise, it’s also worked. Up to now, $50 million has been raised (dang), and most of us are now aware that ALS isn’t just something that’s affected Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrig.

I think the world has gone far too dark and far too cynical, and we dismiss these things with an enlightened air of pompous snobbery. But unlike other trends like the Harlem Shake or flash mobs, this is having a concrete benefit to those who are hurting. Even patients with ALS are endorsing it and participating. It’s something silly right out of a movie: and it’s really making a difference.

This is probably the only time ever in pop culture that we’ll get to do something this fun and philanthropic at the same time. Sure, a lot of it is “Look at me for attention,” but so is nearly everything else we do, and it’s not half as helpful. While it’s still a trend: we might as well enjoy it, and donate too.

There are enough downers in the world and enough terrible things that have happened in the last few weeks. This is a bright spot. I hope we’re not too quick to condemn such an enormous downpour (literally) of cheer and good will.

Please also be careful where you donate, because there are just as many corrupted charities as good ones. Or I’m being too cynical again.

— J

Grace Considers The Whole Person.

Grace is thoughtful. It considers a back-story, an upbringing, the entire person, and not just a tiny single slice of their life.

Grace brings wholeness to a hasty judgement; it regards my own flaws first, in light of the grace I’ve also been given.

Grace brings what could be instead of what should’ve been. Grace covers my past and empowers my future. It does not condemn nor condone, but convicts and re-creates.

Grace confronts the worst of a person and does not shy away from surgical rebuke: because at our worst, we realize how much we must confront the ugliness inside. But grace restores there, in the wreckage. It is always healing the fractured fallen weary sinner. It is not what we deserve, but what we need: and Jesus saw what we deserved, but gave us what we needed instead. That’s grace. Love unconditional, undeserved, unrelenting.

— J.S.

Navigating The Labyrinth.

Occasionally we let someone in, we open the folds of our insecurity and give access to the darkest parts of us. We hand over the key, and it’s terrifying. And sometimes they bump into a raw nerve, they say a callous insensitive remark, they ridicule a strange notion we have, they poke at our dreams just a bit. It hurts pretty bad and we push them out and fold up fast. We remind ourselves, “This is why I don’t let anyone in.” And we run.

It’s right here that most people apologize like crazy. They feel terrible. They were trying to figure out how to navigate the labyrinth of your wonderful story. It’s like holding a tiny flash light in a cave of a new world. They didn’t mean to provoke those old wounds. They didn’t mean to poke fun at your dreams. They considered it an honor that they held the key, even for a few frenzied moments.

Intimacy takes work, trust, wounds, hurts, sculpting in the dark: and that takes time. It takes more than a single chance. Of course we can close the doors, at any second, when we know it just won’t work. But there are many opportunities if we had trusted a little longer, reset the tempo, and spoke up louder: it would’ve been okay. Bridges would be built. New stories are made. You find your hand closing around theirs. They begin to traverse the folds of your heart with ease, and they learn to say those things which give life, which give freedom, which grow dreams. Intimacy is formed out of stumbling, but further down the path: there is so much light, so much laughter, so many steps to the horizon together.

— J.S.

Do Christians Have “Stockholm Syndrome” And Make Excuses For Their Abusive God?

eternallyforevereverythinglove asked a question:

Hello! What do you think about the statement that Christians (and generally believers) have Stockholm Syndrome? I’ve picked this up somewhere and did some research. It’d make sense and it makes me feel weird about my faith now. Thanks and God bless!

Hey there my friend: I took some time to read about this, and it seems to be a new form of the argument that “Christians are brainwashed into unquestioning belief and indoctrinated to their oppressive church institutions and cultures.”

Like all accusations against the Christian faith, there is always an element of truth to them because people are people, and we cannot perfectly reflect a perfect God.  We’re messy creatures with mixed motives in a gray-space struggle.

What I mean is: Any argument against the Christian faith will make some kind of logical sense, because it will make sense against everyone regardless of their affiliation. We can blame religion just as much as we can blame human stupidity.

When someone says, “The church is full of hypocrites” — I always say, “Well that’s why you should go.”  Not in a mean way, but I’m saying: There are hypocrites at businesses, schools, hospitals, fraternities, non-profits, and the White House (gasp!), but the difference is, the church is the one place you can admit it and find healing.  Yes, hypocritical Christians have harmed many of us, and we need to confess that.  But as a tactic to dismiss faith, this is a cheap unthoughtful argument that’s a fluffy insubstantial defense mechanism.  Most of these arguments have NOT gone to the bottom of themselves, at all.

So when someone talks about “Christian brainwashing,” here are a few thoughts to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “Do Christians Have “Stockholm Syndrome” And Make Excuses For Their Abusive God?”

Keep The Fight.

Don’t settle for less.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Don’t be rushed into a feeling, a decision, an opinion.

Don’t let anyone talk you down.

Drop the mic often.

Prioritize, for our time on earth is short.

Think for yourself.

Find your vision. Listen.

Do not hide tears; they’re yours.

Trust God. Take heart. Keep passion.

Fight the good fight, fellow traveler.


— J.S.

Before The L-Word, Let’s Talk About The F-Word: Love, Faith, and Purpose

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message I preached for the lively, lovely people of Refuge Full Gospel. 

It’s called: Before The L-Word, Let’s Talk About The F-Word: Love, Faith, and Purpose.

It’s about dating and relationships, and asking the hard questions about faith & life before pursuing love.

Before the sermon, I offer a prayer for Ferguson, Israel, Iraq, and Robin Williams, because I didn’t want to gloss over this in church.

Stream here or download directly here!

Some things I talk about are: The mistake we make when we focus on the methods & techniques of Christian dating, the way we hyper-romanticize mission trips and marriage, important questions to ask before pursuing our feelings and emotions, theological wisdom from Taylor Swift, how to share oxygen when you’re drowning underwater, and going after the absolute greatest adventure of our lives together.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Wisdom For New Christians On Their First Lap Of Faith

fiy-on asked a question:

Any advice for new Christians? How do we continue to keep our faith growing deeper and more personal with the Lord? And how do we “measure” our growth? How do we know that we’re moving forward with the spiritual journey, not merely staying stagnant?

Hey my dear friend, thank you so much for trusting me with such a huge question.  This is one of those things I would love to sit down with you over coffee, but alas I hope I can jumpstart your journey in just a few words here.

I’m afraid perhaps that a To-Do Checklist will make you more neurotic about your faith and you’ll put more hope in a flowchart than Jesus — so please hear me in that the Christian faith is not about doing more or less, but about letting the life of Christ work in you as you get to know Him and rest in His grace.

This is probably very counter-intuitive to everything else in the world: because we’re always performing to a deadline or due dates or demands, and all this for a paycheck or a score.  Our fallen world is only familiar with working for approval instead of from approval.  Yet the Gospel tells us that God already approves of us through His Son, and so we work from that acceptance and not for it.  It’s tough for us to really wrap around the Gospel because we live in a reward-punishment culture.  But the Gospel motivates you by an unchanging relational anchor, which is the only way to have real joy.

Let’s look at the difference between a Boss and a Mentor.  Your Boss says “Do A and you’ll get B.”  Your Mentor says “I’m giving you A to help you do A.”  Your Boss probably respects you and even teaches you, but he’s looking out for his profit.  Your Mentor loves you and even likes you, and he’s looking out for you.  Your Boss will promote you if you do well enough.  Your Mentor has already promoted you to the very highest position.  Your Boss will make you a partner if you work harder than everyone else.  Your Mentor has already made you a co-heir regardless of how much you’ve failed.  Your Boss requires you to be good to earn his respect.  Your Mentor will make you good by simply loving you.  Your Boss might let you go if you’re not performing well.  Your Mentor is like a father to his son: you’re adopted into the family, and you don’t have to “try” to be his son.

This analogy isn’t perfect: but we’re learning that Jesus is all about grace.

Continue reading “Wisdom For New Christians On Their First Lap Of Faith”

My Disability Is Not A Motivation: And Why Ability Matters Less Than Availability


I don’t tell many people, but English was not my first language.  About 99% of the time, you wouldn’t be able to tell: but sometimes it slips, and my insecurity spills out sideways.

I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade.  To this day I still get light-headed when I speak in public.  I also had a lisp and a stutter, both which occasionally seep out too.  For two years of my childhood, I breathed through a machine for an hour each day, in order to open up my undeveloped lungs.  I had asthma and chronic bronchitis.  I’m legally blind.  I’ve had hemorrhoids since I was nine.  I permanently damaged my lower left back when I was fifteen.  I’ve struggled with depression, including a suicide attempt in 2004.  I’m allergic to a lot of stuff: dairy, pollen, bugs, dust, and every single fruit (so I can’t eat pineapple pizza or most ice creams).  I have scars from all my hive break-outs over the years.  I have flat feet.  I’ve never ran over a mile in my life, because I physically cannot.  And I know there are millions of others who are afflicted with so much worse.

I was able to get my black belt by eleven years old but only because my dad pushed me so hard (it also helped that he’s a ninth degree black belt and owned several dojos).  I can max 275 lbs. on the benchpress and part of my job as a pastor is to speak in public several times per week.  But all of that was an uphill battle, and still is.  None of this comes natural or easy or inherent to my stature.

Yet I tell you this NOT because I’m some kind of victorious story and not to brag or to say “You can do it too!”  My disability is not a motivation for some grand story of redemption.  It’s not a cute romantic made-for-TV montage.  Because, in fact, life is way harder than that.  There are many times I wanted to give up because of my physical limitations, or I let that be an excuse to stay home and wallow in self-victimizing pity.

I could be the positive blogger who says “No matter what! —” but really that would be a lie.  Knowing that I will never be fully healthy is psychologically taxing, and some days I grit my teeth and barely get through the day.

Would it be easier if God had made me differently?  Of course.  I have no illusions about “God held me back for a reason” because much of our brokenness points to the reality that nothing is as it’s meant to be, and nothing is in its true form.  I can’t sugarcoat that with pep-talk which denies the difficulty of our circumstances.  I don’t want to be a cheap grinning poster boy for a pseudo-inspirational sales pitch.

The one thing I know is that either way, whether we sit down or move forward, life is pain. 

If I choose to stay home, it will hurt.

If I choose to chase my hopes, it will hurt.

If I choose to feel sorry for myself, it will hurt.

If I choose to stand, clench my fists, grit my teeth, and grab my dreams: it will hurt.

My physical disability is only half the story: because we’re all saddled with the same anxiety, second-guessing, existential panic, and self-doubt.  Our brokenness runs deep, and we all work from pain.  And it’ll hurt anyway.

So I can’t sit down for long.  I do what I can.  I am not merely the sum of my abilities nor accomplishments nor weaknesses.  I am wherever I’m available, to pursue the passions set before me, now.  God help me, God willing, I’m here, to climb this mountain.

— J.S.

Freedom, Forward.

I know that problem feels unbeatable right now.  Where you want to be feels far away.  Your numbness is growing, your heart hardens, the chasm deepens.  You wonder why you keep trying, when it’ll pay off, when your steps forward will be more than the steps back.

Please don’t give up.

When it seems most difficult: the breakthrough is over the next hill.  The freedom from your old self is very, very near: and once you taste it, the effort will have been more than worth it.

Those who gave up were always just two breaths away.

Progress gets harder because you’re getting better.

Only look behind you to see how far you’ve traveled, to see the lessons learned and the laughter had.  Otherwise: eyes ahead.

Don’t give in now.  You’re further along than you think. And even in your stumbling: you are tasting the freedom of moving forward.