Three Thoughts on Christian Musicians Who Don’t Say “Jesus”

undergraceanthem asked a question:

What are your thoughts on bands that claim to be Christian but don’t ever use the name of Jesus in their lyrics?

Hey my friend, to be truthful: I’d rather look at the Christian band behind the songs than the songs themselves.  There’s a ton of Christian music that says “Jesus” but they ain’t really about Jesus.

I do think it’s important that Christian music is clear about who it’s about, without question.  It’s too easy to turn Jesus into bae.  But here are a few things to consider.

1) Sometimes Christians wait for other Christians to meet a “doctrinal threshold” before they’re considered doctrinally sound. I’m not saying that you’re doing this.  But when we gate-keep too hard and expect every Christian band to yell Jesus with neon lights, it’s probably stealing our joy to simply be blessed by the aesthetic value of their craft. Plus we all like a juicy story of downfall and failure; we wait for artists to “sell out” and we’re all sick like that.  It’s unfair for us to constantly gauge if the song is using “worldly philosophy” or if they haven’t said Jesus exactly seven times.

Continue reading “Three Thoughts on Christian Musicians Who Don’t Say “Jesus””

Should A Christian Artist Stick With “Christian” Art?

mangobobatea asked a question:

Hey. Hope all is well. I wanna ask your opinion. So I’m very imaginative when it comes to story telling so I like fiction/sci-fi./adventure. I want to write a fictional book/web-series just for fun. I had someone at church that I esteem highly tell me that fiction is useless, no one can learn anything from it and a waste of time. I didnt mention me wanting to write. As a believer, is fiction useless? (IDK how to even ask the question) But what are your thoughts. BTW I ❤ you!

Hey dear friend, I’m really sorry you heard this in your church.  Please first allow me the grace to point you here:

– Does Everything Have To Glorify God? — A Mega-Post On When Idolatry Is Not Idolatry

Though I try to understand every angle of a situation, I get pretty angry when the modern church dismisses art and creativity.  For any member of the church to actively hold down our impulse to create also neglects the thousands of years when the church was the very forefront of amazing creativity.  I can’t imagine a world without Bach, Dostoyevsky, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, or Maya Angelou.  Perhaps the greatest fiction ever written was by Tolkien and Lewis, who were both devout Christians.

In between reading books to prepare my sermons, I would regularly read Stephen King or an old classic like Watership Down.  I learned at seminary that a Christian’s reading ought to be the most diverse, well-rounded kind of intake compared to anyone else, because 1) we can discern what’s wise and unwise, and 2) we can enjoy any kind of art under the divine umbrella of God’s creation.  Imagine the deep fountain of joy we have to know that this art from another human being is a potential glimpse of the beauty and glory of God.  There are times I literally worshiped God while reading Hemingway or Michael Crichton.

Your creativity doesn’t even need to be “Christian-based.”  I don’t believe we should be making the “Christian version” of anything.  Like DC Talk once said, If it’s Christian, it oughta be better. Our books and music and dance and art shouldn’t be in some isolated category apart from regular culture.  While I’m not against primarily Christian-based art, I think we too often settle for mediocrity and then hope that Christians will show “grace” for us and settle for less.

Continue reading “Should A Christian Artist Stick With “Christian” Art?”

I Am With You. I Hear You. I Am Here.

image

I get a ton of messages like this:

“I screwed up real bad this time.”

“I don’t know what happened, I fell again.”

“I keep messing up and I’m numb to myself.”

“I can’t ever get back to how it used to be.”

“Please help, I can’t get past this.”

“I’ll always be stuck. I will never move forward.”

I read each message two or three times, top to bottom and as slowly as possible. I try to reply to every single one, but there are so many and so heartbreaking that it gets overwhelming.  Even now, I’m shaking from the emotional overload of such honest, busted up hearts.

Here’s the thing. If you even cared to reach out to ask for help, that’s an amazing first step in the right direction.  To those who say, “It bothers me that I don’t care anymore,” the fact that you’re bothered about not caring means that you care.  If you’re compelled towards the tiniest shred of honesty about your issue, this is worth celebrating. Really.

It’s because you’re getting to the end of yourself. You tried it your way and you’re seeing it doesn’t work.  You’re owning up to it.  You’ve stopped blaming others or your city or your job or the house you grew up in. No one wants to get humbled the hard way, but it’s happened: you’re now able to say, “It’s me, I’m the problem, and I want this to change.”

This is nothing short of a supernatural miracle.

Continue reading “I Am With You. I Hear You. I Am Here.”

The Impossible, Implausible, Uphill Task of Loving Others

sureles asked a question:

The bible says to: “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” and I want to so badly. I want to be joyful, full of words of encouragement to those who need it. To love others well–especially those closest to me. But I am finding that I am unable to. I am finding myself to be more selfish and needy than I want to admit to myself. How can I love others well when I feel so weak and needy myself?

Hey my dear friend, the truth is that loving people was never going to be easy, because people are not easy.

They’re difficult, fluctuating, frustrating, and completely the opposite of math, because they’re unpredictable.  Even loving a person well is no guarantee that it’ll turn out okay.  And since each of us are just people, it’s also difficult to muster up feelings to love someone.  As Francis Chan once said, if we find it tough to love a perfect God, then of course it’ll be even tougher to love imperfect people.

Here’s the deeper truth. 

Continue reading “The Impossible, Implausible, Uphill Task of Loving Others”

Confusing Nostalgia With First Love: You’re Growing More Than You Think

A lot of preachers tell you, “Remember when you first came to Jesus? Remember how awesome that was? Wasn’t there a time when you were more spiritually high than today? And look at you now.”

I understand what they’re saying. They always quote Revelation 2:4-5, because that’s a scary book with a scary name with scary verses. What they mean is: You’ve grown cold to this whole thing, it’s become a routine to pray and praise, you’ve seen all the Christmas plays and Easter revivals, you’re getting jaded to the dress-your-best on Sunday thing. So get back to where you were.

“Wasn’t there a time when you were more spiritually high than today?”

But — this is always true. It presumes a false scale in which hyped-up emotions are equivalent to “first love.” We can look back on Sunday School and call those the glory days, but a lot of times we’re confusing childlike faith with childish feelings.

I get why preachers use this kind of guilt: because it’s quick, efficient, easy, and they’re probably doing it the way they’ve been taught.

Yet if we’re motivating others by moving backwards, we’re only beating up the dead.

Continue reading “Confusing Nostalgia With First Love: You’re Growing More Than You Think”

Now Part of the X3Church Team!

JS Park XChurch


I’m super excited to be a part of the blogging contributor team for XXXChurch!

For all my posts, check here.

If you don’t know, XXXChurch is led by Craig Gross, who has led the frontlines on awareness for porn addiction and founded X3Watch, the leading accountability software.  He also nationally debates former porn-actor Ron Jeremy about the dangers of porn.

Craig and I made contact after I shared my book on quitting porn, which he found highly practical and different than the current resources on the market.  I was a bit star-struck since I consider Craig’s books to be one of the primary helps in quitting my own porn addiction (I’ve been sober for over three years!). I’m looking forward to teaming up with him!

My first blog post for XXXChurch is here!

— J.S.


So About Transgender People: Also Known As “People”

michchen asked a question:

What is your opinion on transsexual people? Besides the fact that God loves them, what does the bible have to say about it? I’ve been reading a lot of articles and I really don’t know what to think. I really respect your answers and wanted to know your take on it. Thanks 🙂

Hey there dear friend, I believe you’re referring to this post.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more to say than “God loves them” and that we’re called to love them, too. I’m afraid the Bible doesn’t go into specifics about this, and there’s probably a good reason for that.  Here’s why.

Some of us will be individually called to reach out to a certain group of people, whether gay or transgender or Republicans or the poor.  It will be helpful to understand that particular culture and language if you’re called to do so. But the moment we begin to see a certain group as a “charity case” or a “working project,” then we lose sight of the fact that they’re just people too, like you and me.  We’re not the savior and they’re not some secondary character to fulfill our hero-narrative. I’m not saying that this is your motive, but we too easily slip into main character syndrome and treat others like the props in our catharsis.

When I first began looking into gay rights and the abortion debate, that was my problem: I was treating it as an issue instead of seeing the people inside the issues.  I had to address the entire person as a whole, not by their “problem.”  Sure, I wanted to know what was offensive and what was acceptable; I wanted to know how God’s grace actively applied to each distinct context. But by seeing their problem as a problem, I was inadvertently calling attention to their “disadvantage” as a pseudo-savior instead of entering their world as equals.

In Asia, there’s currently a growing boom of cross-dressing and transgender individuals.  When I last visited (in the Philippines last year), I really just tried my best to see this person as a holistic life, who had to go home and pay bills and resolve conflicts and make it through rush hour and endure insults and visit the doctor and find God.  My priority as a Christian is to see the heart, because this is where love is most crucial — it is not to change someone’s behavior or opinions or appearance.  I can bring grace, truth, and conversation, and God will show up, like He always does.

Continue reading “So About Transgender People: Also Known As “People””

Really Hearing the “Voice of God”


I’ve always had trouble with this idea of “hearing from God.” I always side-eye those super A+ put-together Christians who were hearing from God every week, and somehow I was outside the door of some secret club where God was throwing around fortune cookies full of His life-changing secrets.

Let’s consider that God does speak to us every week. Let’s consider photosynthesis, the spinning of atoms, the burning of stars, the breath we just breathed, your child’s messy drawing, the twitching of your neurons to fire off emotions, a hug from your best friend. Let’s consider the sustaining of our molecules, which is purely by His grace. Let’s see all we are missing when our eyes are locked on a screen when the world is unrolling around us, as God makes His glory known through nature and coincidence. Let’s consider Christ, who is God’s spoken word and His very own glorious radiance (Hebrews 1:2-3). Let’s consider that God is already within the silence, and that even when we do not “feel” Him, God is okay with this too.

— J.S.


Meeting Fellow Travelers


Finally got to meet my dear brother Todd and got his book as a gift! Todd also wrote the Foreword for my first book. My wife and I got him onto Korean food in K-Town of Atlanta. Love you brother and so glad to have met you face to face!

His book here: Unwritten Letters To You


Love: Enemies: Neighbors.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Why Should The Church Ever Make Money?

kaandogan12 asked a question:

I have an honest question, why do you make money off of the gospel? If I had the talent to create such great books I would be handing them out in the hundreds.. No disrespect I just don’t understand why profit should be made from preaching something that people can read in Gods word.

Hey dear friend, I really appreciate and applaud your passionate heart to maintain integrity.  I absolutely agree with you: no one should ever, ever squeeze a profit out of sharing the Gospel.  Instead of defending myself though, please allow me to share some thoughts that you may feel free to agree with or disagree with.

– The Gospel, or the Good News of Jesus, is 100% free and the only true free gift in the world. But the methods to deliver the Gospel have a cost.

In an ideal perfect world, everything would be given away free.  Food, water, shelter, healthcare, education: all these things should be given to anyone who wants it.  But in a realistic world, the people who offer these services must work hard to procure them for you and me.  I could be mad that a plumber must charge me to fix my sewer, but then I’m not realistically assessing their needs for their living costs.  In our current world, it’s fair to pay someone so they can continue to provide their services, and this includes spiritual ministry.

I think there’s a huge difference in offering the Gospel for free (which is a mandatory necessity) and the means by which we offer the Gospel. Let’s consider where you heard about Jesus.  Maybe it was from your friend, who heard it at church or got it from the Bible.  The church has a building cost and regular bills to pay; the Bible requires a printing press with a maintenance cost and employees for hire. While you could logically say, “Pastors and ministry workers should never get paid for what they do,” the church offers an intangible provision of fellowship, counseling, community, and leadership, and I’m glad to support my local ministry so they may continue to keep on the lights and upkeep their building.  Biblically, you can make a case that ministry workers should be paid too.

After C.S. Lewis passed away, it was discovered that he lived near poverty status despite his books all being bestsellers.  He constantly gave away all he had.  If I could take a time machine and go back to Lewis, I would’ve gladly supported him financially for the rest of our lives.  Lewis has been the most influential thinker in my own faith and life; I could never repay him.

To buy a book from a pastor, a Christian author, or a local ministry (or even secular artists) is my way of both appreciating their work and supporting their living.  It’s my way of saying thank you to those who helped formulate my faith.  And by buying a ministry worker’s book or their materials, I’m trusting them to use that money wisely for their family or ministry or continued work in God’s Kingdom.  No one forces us to do this, and you never have to.

Continue reading “Why Should The Church Ever Make Money?”

“4 Reasons Not To Give An iPhone To Your Child”

4 Reasons iPhone child xxxchurch


It’s an honor to be published for the first time at XXXchurch.com!

The post is titled “4 Reasons Not To Give An iPhone To Your Child.”

It’s a balanced look at how technology affects our communication and relationships, and how we can adjust to the rapid pace of growing tech.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.


Coercion, Coffee, Conversation.


I saw a guy with his Bible open at Starbucks teaching theology to another guy. He was unloading all kinds of information about creation and moral laws and prophecies and pneumatology and atonement, and it was all very good and knowledgeable and I applaud him for that — but I guess the one thing I would’ve done differently is just ask questions. “What’s always bothered you about Christianity? How’s your church experience been? How’s everything going with you? Do you want me to pray for anything?”

I don’t mean to diminish this guy and it’s actually really hard to do what he was doing. He’s much braver than me. I also know we don’t have to pit theology against fellowship; we can do both. I just wonder how many times I tried teaching someone all my impressive information without listening first. I wonder how long I let myself get into lecture mode without really caring about my fellow human being who didn’t need extra theology, but needed the theology to be me, by his side.

— J.S.


Five Ways For Leaders To Stay Fed

ipromiseyouwontknow asked a question:

Hi Pastor Park, Just curious, as a Pastor how do you get fed?

Hey there dear friend, while I can’t say I’ve got it all locked down, I can tell you the things I actively try my best on.

1) I read tons of books.

In the last three years, I’ve probably read about 150 Christian books and about a dozen fiction books.  This is not a replacement for Bible-reading or getting mentored, but it’s definitely helped me round out my thinking.  Doug Wilson talks about copiousness, in which our imaginations are struck by the constant perusal of literature.  It’s tough, but I’m thankful that God even gave me a high love of reading.

2) I listen to tons of podcasts.

I’m a sermon junkie.  I probably listen to about eight to ten hours of sermons per week in my car or before I sleep.  Again, this is no replacement for Bible-reading, and there are plenty of dangers in over-listening to podcasts.  But 99% of the time, I’m listening to sermons for me and not to grab ideas.

Continue reading “Five Ways For Leaders To Stay Fed”

Engaging With “Unsaved” Family and Friends

pfahlercommakatelyn asked a question:

How do you deal with your mother and other people not being saved? Do you have any hope for them?

Hey dear friend, I have a ton of hope for my family.  I have a ton of hope for everyone else in my life who doesn’t know Christ.

I understand two simple things.

1) They have a completely different worldview than me, and I need to adjust my dials for them — not in a way that compromises my faith, but in a way that shows grace. I don’t ever force them to bend to me.

Continue reading “Engaging With “Unsaved” Family and Friends”