When You Mess It Up Again.


God totally has grace for you when you mess it up. He loves you no matter what. He wants you to cast off guilt and shame, because it doesn’t work and it’s not who you are and it’s what Jesus came to die for.

On the other hand: God does want you to recover. He wants you not only to experience the cover of grace, but also His grace-empowered Spirit for a fruitful, passionate, purposeful, mission-driven life.

I believe God will restore you every time you fail for the rest of your life, so when you relapse and go down a porn-binge, God is still going to love you afterward, every time. But my question is: Do you really want to keep living this way?

I’m not asking this to guilt-trip you. I’m only saying that once the old self is dead, it’s not worth it to go back there anymore. I don’t think Lazarus missed his tomb and climbed into his coffin sometimes. I don’t think the healed blind man Bartimaeus wore a blindfold to reminisce on his days tripping over things.

You’ll be forgiven by God every single time, but God wants you to experience the fully forgiven life too.

So if you break a “clean streak,” please don’t wallow in self-pity. When you mess it up, it’s okay. But what’s even better is getting to the place where going back is no longer an option, and you’re so in love with God that turning around is unthinkable. I believe we can get there. I believe our God is that powerful. I believe we are not merely works in progress, but we are empowered by It Is Finished.


J.S. from What The Church Won’t Talk About


He Can Handle That.


Don’t think that you’ve been gone too long to come to Him. God is not some spiritual parole officer waiting for you to fail. If you’ve strayed from prayer, He is not keeping some score. If you don’t feel Him at all, tell Him that: “I don’t feel you right now, God.” Pray with any amount of faith that you have; believe that prayer works; ask for faith if you have none. If you’re mad, tell Him. If you’re ashamed, guilty, confused, afraid, doubtful: tell Him. He can handle that. He is understanding, patient, gracious; He loves you. You’ll soon find you’ll want to talk to Him, because He’s actually pretty awesome to talk to.


— J.S. from What The Church Won’t Talk About


Highlight, Cafe, Garden.


The other night I gave one of my friends a hard copy of my book. I’ve been discipling him for over five years. We sat across from each other at a cafe to read. He asked me for a highlighter and headphones. At once he dug into my book and began highlighting, digging deep, nodding his head. He would pause to tell me a line he liked or a thought that convicted him. Suddenly, in the middle of this cafe, I began tearing up, overwhelmed by the whole thing.

I know who I am. I’m selfish. I’m wretched. I’m weak. I have done a lot of wrong things in this life. I have hurt many people, including myself. Ten years ago, there was zero chance I would be a pastor or write encouraging things or talk about Jesus. And yet here was my friend, actually reading things I wrote and taking them to heart. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It was both horrifying and humbling, and I instantly thanked God like crazy. This is what He does. He’s always doing things like that. God takes the worst of us, the most shattered and damaged and rebellious and prideful, and reverses our entropy into pulsing life. He sees a desert and says, “I see a garden.” God can take a miserable sinner like me and you and breathe something brand new into these jagged veins. This is the work of Christ, shaping us, connecting us, healing us. He loves even us, dear friend.

— J.S.


Book Review: Overrated by Eugene Cho


Overrated
by Eugene Cho

Summary:

Eugene Cho, founder of charity One Day’s Wages and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, writes an honest, searing book about the popular issue of social justice, and how it’s not just a popular issue. Pastor Eugene gets deep into the hands-on grittiness of doing justice that lasts beyond our flashy social media and emotional trappings. He also shares his own personal journey in getting there, a vulnerable season of his life when he was brutally humbled and he honestly confronted himself.

Review:

I must first admit my own bias here because I’m absolutely excited that my own story is in the book. A couple years ago, I donated half my salary to Eugene Cho’s charity One Day’s Wages to fight human trafficking. It was a check for $10,000, and after attempting to raise a matching donation, an anonymous donor contributed $8085 to reach $20,000. What convicted me most to save for the year was hearing one of Eugene Cho’s messages from the Catalyst Conference in 2011, in which he delivered a passionate sermon about really doing justice more than loving the idea; incidentally, it has become the main thread of his first book. Though I’ve never met Pastor Eugene, I’m truly honored that I’m a part of his work.

Here’s a confession. I’ve read over 200 Christian books and I’ve been a pastor for over seven years, and I can truthfully tell you that I’m woefully jaded to the Christianese scene of books, podcasts, and conferences. I’ve read the best there is and have heard the best preachers. I know every great one-liner, buzzword, and knock-out tweet in the entirety of our Christian bubble. There’s not a single Christian book in the last year or so that has impacted me deeply, and perhaps the last truly great book I’ve read is Josh Riebock’s Heroes and Monsters. So while I love Eugene Cho and his charity, I approached his book with some fear that it would encircle the same tropes I’ve come to eye-roll.

Continue reading “Book Review: Overrated by Eugene Cho”

7 Thoughts On Singleness: Is Something Wrong With Me?

Anonymous asked a question:

I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve only dated once but that didn’t go so well. I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed and I’ve asked God for my significant other but honestly sometimes I feel as if God doesn’t hear me. Which then causes my heart turmoil especially when I see other girls getting married and dating all the time. It just makes me feel like there is something wrong with me or I maybe I’m unworthy of someone else. I just really need some peace in this area or my life.

Hey dear sister, I know this is an especially painful season for you right now, but please allow me the grace to share a few thoughts with you.

1) Singleness is not a season of waiting.

I’ve said this before, but: You’re not waiting for a man.  A man is not the focal point of anything.  Jesus is the focal point of everything.

A Western culture indoctrinated in romanticism would lead us to believe that “singles” are simply biding their time, waiting for some significant other to save us from the throes of loneliness.  And I know that the latest pop song or chick flick or young adult novel has awakened some weird feelings in you, and it would even be nice to have someone.

But relationships are hard work, celibacy is hard work, and life is hard work.  There’s really no such thing as waiting for a spouse: your life has launched into being, and there’s work to do.  If God is your priority, then a man who comes along who can even catch up to you would be dang lucky to have you.

Continue reading “7 Thoughts On Singleness: Is Something Wrong With Me?”

Real Healing.


Real healing begins when you scoop out the lies of your distorted thinking and replace them with God’s truth about you. This will hurt. But it’s the only way to real freedom and peace and joy. Everyone will naturally resist this because it feels corny or intrusive, but more than that, it feels undeserved. When we’re so comfortable with the dark, we squint at the possibility of things getting better in the light.

Yet God is so willing to rub the salt of His Word on your wounds so that you can wake up from your own self-loathing. He’s the well of cool water for your bruised tired hands. He’s the only love who could fulfill you enough not to overreact to the pain. God really does want you to know that you are not what has happened to you nor what you’ve done. Jesus came to take your wounds into his own hands and feet, so that you may live. He did this for our final victory in eternity: but he also did this for you today, in this moment, so you may experience a foretaste of that wholeness. And God is going to move at your tempo, never rushing, because He knows that your healing will take a step at a time. But so we must be willing to hold up those truths to our naked hurt, because healing begins with honesty.

— J.S. from What The Church Won’t Talk About


The Coffee Table of Contents



I’m a sucker for long artsy titles and whimsical song names.  This is the official Coffee Table of Contents for my book, released forKindle and now in paperback!  If you’ve been blessed, please consider writing a review!

Love y’all, dear friends. 🙂

— J.S.



JS Park WTCWTA


My Formula For Preaching.


My formula for preaching.
– We have a problem, you guys.
– I have this problem really, really bad.
– This part of Scripture talks about it.
– God is awesome and then plot-twist, Jesus.
– C.S. Lewis, something something C.S. Lewis.
– Last thing: A story with lots of hand motions.
– Oh wait, one more last thing. Story, more hand motions.
– Prayer, which recaps the whole sermon again.
– I go to the bathroom and try not to cry.
– Taco Bus.

— J.S.


Breaking The Perpetual Loop of the Small Town Time-Stamp


There are days when I keep imagining what other people in my small tiny town are saying about me.

You’re not the good guy you pretend to be.  I know who you really are. I know what you’re about. You’re not fooling anyone.

I get into a mental chokehold, a constant tortured paralysis, not allowing myself any joy for too long, because I feel that’s a righteous punishment.

Are we all doomed to our former selves, time-stamped to who we used to be?  Will this loop of self-condemnation never end?

No one likes to flip a page because cynicism appeals to our laziness. It’s less work to bury someone under their baggage than to help them unpack.

But if you were to sit down with me for an hour over coffee, maybe you’d understand a bit more. That we have the same hopes, dreams, passions, and ambitions. That we are not so different. That we’ve both failed. We both have a past. That we love children, love dogs, love good movies, enjoy coffee, laugh at viral videos, and weep at tragic headlines. That we share fears, addictions, complexes, and worries. You’d certainly see horrible things in me, but perhaps you’d feel love instead of judgment, unless you’ve forgotten what love really is.

And you’d see we are both multi-dimensional people who fight the same battles with our multiple split selves, and that you and I are not stock archetypes from a backyard Disney vault. We are real, gritty, imperfect: just people.

Maybe you’d hear the honest struggle, and recognize that we are both breathing human beings who don’t always get it right: and that my failures should not give you a weaponized filter to suffocate everything else I do.

— J.S.


Does God Love Even The People Who Choose Against Him?

waitingforaface asked a question:

You say God loves unconditionally, but isn’t salvation based on an action on our part to choose the grace that is given? Does God love even those who will one day be eternally separated from him? Sorry to ask such a pointed question :/

You know, I tend to get confused about God’s love because I’ve heard it abused in so many strange ways.  And I think the devil totally loves it when we trade simplicity for semantics.

I remember a Calvinist telling me “You can’t say God loves everyone because you’re lying to people who are going to Hell.”  Or I’ve heard that God’s love is conditional because it’s inactive for those who don’t love Him.  Or I’ve heard that God’s love includes His punishment, because He loves enough to “punish the guilty.”

I suppose I understand all those intricate little detailed arguments.  But the plain truth is: God is never contingent on a human response for anything, so His nature is irrevocably independent of our treatment of Him.

No one could possibly imagine what this is like.  We’ve never seen a kind of love that keeps initiating from itself without exhaustion.  We’ve only seen conditional transactions in every interaction on earth, where we expect pay-offs and paybacks and paychecks.  It’s impossible to imagine a relationship where one side is perpetually constant.

So maybe we need to reframe this conversation.  When we think of God in purely abstract doctrinal terms, then it seems like salvation is a kind of “equation” where my choice equals some positive outcome.  But that’s still a transaction, an exchange of goods.  Life is way, way messier than that — because even our choices are full of mixed motives, mistakes, and imperfection.  It would be impossible to know who is really “okay with God” based on our own actions, because really, my current grade would get me burst into flames.

Continue reading “Does God Love Even The People Who Choose Against Him?”

5 Reasons Why Hershel From The Walking Dead Is My Favorite Christian On TV

Nearly every Christian on TV and in movies is portrayed to be an extreme bigot, a closet prodigal, or a gun-toting uptight neo-con Republican. A good screenwriter can manage to squeeze all three in one.

Christians do deserve some of the criticism. In the 1980s, we over-reached our grasp by trying to politicize “Christian morality” in every platform, and we now live in the backlash of trying too hard to force the church into the state. In the 1990s, there was a “Christianese” version of everything, from Testa-Mints to Bibleman to Xtreme Youth Group Pizza Night to the Holy Land Experience theme park. Either we’re getting good stuff like Lecrae and Switchfoot, or we’re getting awful stuff like a tame Nic Cage in Left Behind and yet another Westboro picketing.

For every time that Christians call foul on how they’re portrayed in the media, I always have to say that we’re not helping our case either. It’s true that the media sensationalizes the worst of us: but we’re giving them great material.

So it always surprises me to see a multi-dimensional Christian in the entertainment media, who’s not a dichotomous banner-waver but a modest down-to-earth father, who happens to be a Christian. Hershel from The Walking Dead has some of the familiar tropes we’ve come to expect — a sage-like advice dispenser, has too-perfect Bible verses for the situation, owns an actual farm — but there’s a deep world-weariness and bemusement in his mannerisms that brings a depth we never see in screen-written Christians.

On a show that’s been panned for uneven writing, false motivations, and some bad dialogue (Things-And-Stuff Rick), Hershel’s character arc is one of the best on the show, and one of the best in any show period.

Here are five reasons why Hershel Greene is my favorite Christian on TV.

[Some spoilers follow, especially for #5.]

Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Hershel From The Walking Dead Is My Favorite Christian On TV”

What About The Tough Scary Things That Jesus Said?

dragadiddle asked a question:

How do you interpret Matthew 7:21-23?

Hey my dear friend, you’re referring to this very scary passage said by Jesus:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Please allow me the grace to say something tough here.

Jesus said really hard things that we tend to skip over.

He said that it’s better to cut off your hand to stop sinning than to enter hell with two healthy hands.  Is that a metaphor?  Or Jesus keeping it real?

He talked about a place of unceasing anguish and tormenting fire, where “the worm never dies.”  By worms, he meant that our rotting flesh will continually be feasted on by hungry worms.  Is that a metaphor?  Or Jesus keeping it real?

He said anyone who causes someone to stumble should tie a millstone around their necks and throw themselves in the ocean.  Millstones weighed like a ton.  He probably said this while pointing to a millstone, because all good preachers use object illustrations.

Continue reading “What About The Tough Scary Things That Jesus Said?”

Crazy Blessed: Thank You, Dear Friends.

Best Seller Hot Release Devotionals

On the Amazon Christian Kindle List for Devotionals.



Caleb

My friend Caleb sent this to me. Honored and humbled to be next to the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I also quoted in my book.



LB soap writers block gift

My wonderful friend Lauren from the blog Yesdarlingido sent me this to celebrate the book release.



— J.S.

Get the e-book on Amazon here!

And now in paperback here!


Your Current Slice of Life.



Please do not determine the course of your life based on what you think is possible today.

You might feel like you’re stuck in a rut or circling a doubt or anchored to a feeling: but the thing is, I would never put it past God to uppercut your life. He can, does, and will. When God is in the equation, mountains get moved and any kind of heart in any condition can surprise itself.

We can’t really claim that your current slice of life right now is how you will always feel. Don’t take a tiny percentage of your journey as a reflection of the whole thing. Please be open to the possibility that God will do anything He wants through you.

J.S.
from What The Church Won’t Talk About


The Frustration of Our Timing Versus God’s Timing

movingmountains-andfollowingcats asked a question:

Hey Pastor Park, what are some Bible stories (not just short verses) that talk about waiting patiently when it seems like God’s promises are taking forever? And, what are some stories to read for when you feel lonely? Thank you!! 🙂 (by the way, I love all of the answers you give when people ask questions.. sometimes I have the same questions and your answers are totally wonderful! Thank you for everything!)

Hey my friend, thank you so much for your kindness.  Here goes one of my favorite stories of waiting.  My other advice to you is to check out Acts 12, Genesis 37 and 39-50, and the story of David from 1st and 2nd Samuel. And about loneliness, please check here.

Mark 5.  A synagogue leader (a local pastor) named Jairus approaches Jesus and his entourage.  Jairus has a sick daughter who’s nearly dead, and Jairus knows Jesus can blow it up.  They travel together through a crowd, but at this point Jesus is a rockstar and there are masses of people pushing and bumping and moshing to get to him.

One of them is a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She’s tried doctor after doctor and probably herbal tea and a vegan diet and kale, but nothing has worked.  She grabs at Jesus in hopes that he will heal her.

Suddenly, Jesus stops.  He says, “Who touched me?”  Now in a crowd like this, it’s a ridiculous question.  Probably Jairus and the disciples were like, “Yo master, there’s an almost dead-girl, we gotta go.”  The bleeding lady is on the ground gripping Jesus’s robe and she’s been healed.  For the first time in twelve years, she doesn’t feel the life draining out of her.  She tells Jesus it was her, she had grabbed him.  He tells her, so tenderly, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  By the way, I teared up again just reading this passage.

When Jesus and the J-posse get to Jairus’s crib, his daughter is already dead.  But Jesus says, “Nah son, she sleeping.”  All the professional mourners (real historical thing) start to laugh, like “Lol wut.”  Jesus is angry and he only takes in Jairus, his wife, and the disciples.  He tells this dead young girl, “Talitha koum,” which literally means, “Baby girl, wake up.”  And she does.  She wakes up.  They rejoice.  Someone sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.  I’m tearing up again.

Continue reading “The Frustration of Our Timing Versus God’s Timing”

I Keep Sinning: So Am I Still A Christian?

love-inpursuit asked a question:

What if I keep sinning? Am I not really saved? I can’t pinpoint the fear of losing my salvation.

Hey there my friend: So every once in a while, I get this question from fellow Christians and I see two very different motives.

1) I’m really worried that I’m not doing enough to overcome my sinful selfish inclinations, or

2) I want to know how much I can keep sinning without pissing off God.

Since most people are not binary creatures who fit in a one-dimensional box, your motives might be a mix of both.  But if you’re more #2 (I want to get away with stuff) than #1 (I want to overcome), then it’ll be very hard for anyone to reach you.  It’s like the addict who keeps saying “I can handle a little bit, I know my limits, just once, only one more time.”  If you’re already convinced in your mind that you can do what you want, then I can’t help.  I can only graciously ask you to gut-check your motives.

But since you even asked me this question, I can see that it bothers you that it doesn’t bother you, and that shows you actually care.  This means you’re in the right place, right now, making a step forward.

You see, every spurt and blip of righteousness in your life is a God-given miracle.  Our default mode is sin.  We’re all naturally selfish in the wild.  Left to ourselves, we’d devour each other in Darwinian cycles of the walking dead.

I meet Christians who freak out when they slip up over a melt-down or flip-out or back-slide or relapse, but if you even care that you messed up, that’s a miracle.  An act of Christ-like righteousness is like giving birth.  It’s amazing, it’s supernatural, and it’s worth celebrating.

I don’t mean to pamper you here.  I’m also not talking about “worldly sorrow,” where you’re just sorry you got caught or you’re sorry about the consequences.  I mean: there’s a certain kind of grief when you’re not becoming the person that God has made you to be and saved you for, and if even a tiny seed of that grief is pulsing in your heart, you’re growing in the right direction.

Continue reading “I Keep Sinning: So Am I Still A Christian?”