The Furious Force of Binding Bullet Wounds and Disarming Self-Made Weaponry

This is a handwritten journal entry about my frustration with my own pride.
Just wanted to share. 

 

I see firsthand what pride, idolatry, greed, and vanity can do to people.  It causes us to (as if we are not the direct cause! how postmodern to relay the blame to external third-person lingo) manipulate a situation, to course-correct our own selfish behaviors by justifying and compensating for our angry outbursts with thousands of retcons and fanwanks and plot hole bandages, to wrestle control with stubby fingers and never admit we are wrong — as if wrongness is tantamount to losing the flag and giving up the fort.  So much overblown drama would crumble if we could simply say, ‘it’s my fault” — but this is too painful for many to bear.  It’s like surrendering a child to armed forces, handing over the keys and your badge and your gun — I cannot lose! I am own my own campaign manager! I refuse this inquisition of my ego!

No one enjoys frank self-awareness (everyone already hates frank — he’s never invited to cocktail parties and hipster shows) because it’s too threatening to examine the self. 

Imagine those movie scenes where the hero removes a bullet from his gut with rusty forceps and a discount lamp — he has to do it or he will die, and extracting the bullet is only the first step to healing.  He has to sew up, preferably with that semi-circular cat claw of a needle and fishing line.  He needs Vicodin and a wide-spectrum antibiotic and bed rest and Aquafina and — you know, he should probably look for another line of work.

Everyone hates this part.  Yes, it looks heroic and manly in movies.  But I cringe — because I don’t think I could do it.  I hate self-surgery and examining my motives and baring all before God.  I’d rather dig for the bullet than dig in my heart.  Physical pain is nothing like the spiritual stab of unveiling pride, dropping excuses, seeing my childish control games, and looking someone in the eyes to say, “I’m sorry and I’m wrong and please tell me how to make it right” — without adding the desperate death grip of “But.”

Continue reading “The Furious Force of Binding Bullet Wounds and Disarming Self-Made Weaponry”

Two Ways To Confront a Crisis of Faith

Image by DFNKT

shatteredclay asked a question:

Pastor! I find so much joy, hope, truth, and God in your words on an almost daily basis. Recently, I started a new job that isn’t my *first* choice, but I needed work, God gave me work, and I am trying to honor Him by doing this job the best I can. Yesterday, a coworker asked me how he could confront his recent “crisis of faith”! He’s doubting God’s existence, etc. I’m honored he shared with me, and scrambling to help him without overwhelming him! I KNOW you’re the man for this question!

Hey dear friend, thank you so much for your trust with such a huge issue, and I’m completely humbled by your love for your coworker. You’re really doing a good thing.

May I first say: Every person in the world will run into a crisis of faith. It’s inevitable. We need to know that this doesn’t make us “bad” or “sinful” or “back-sliders.” You don’t have to read very far in the Bible to see men and women of God who also doubted and panicked and became mad at God.

I think doubt is a good thing, because it forces us to confront our deepest beliefs. Unfortunately, many Christians are taught that doubt is “disobedience” or “unconfessed sin,” so they either guilt-trip themselves into a faith-frenzy or just walk away altogether.

There are two helpful things to consider in a season of doubt. The first is intellectual fulfillment and the second is existential satisfaction.

The Christian — and really, every person alive — needs both things to thrive and survive.

Continue reading “Two Ways To Confront a Crisis of Faith”

Persuasion vs. Presence.


If your friend is going through some horrible pain right now at the hands of another person, it’s not our job to explain this within the box of our theology. That’s a harsh thing to do. Jesus never did this: he only wept when he heard of Lazarus, he wept over Jerusalem, he stayed at the homes of lepers and demoniacs, he fed the hungry multitudes.

More than our persuasion, our friends need our presence. This is what God did when He became one of us, and this is how we embody love — by mourning when others mourn, by giving space to grieve, and by allowing joy to find its place at the right time.

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


“How Do You Keep Believing In All This Faith S—t?”

[A pastor’s confession.]

Often I’ll have a friend from childhood find out that I’m a pastor and they’re downright incredulous; they’re just as surprised as I am that I ever went from atheism to Christianity, much less ministry. “I thought you were too smart for that” or “You were always the wild guy, never thought you’d settle down.” Most of my friends went the other way and fell out of faith like it was a varsity jacket, or an old diaper.  They ask, “How do you keep believing in all this faith s–t?” – not because they’re trying to trap me, but because they’re genuinely curious for a coherent explanation. They do want something.

To be truthful: most times, I don’t have a good answer.

I often wonder myself, How do I keep believing in all this faith s–t?

Sometimes, I find the whole thing just crazy. When I reduce Christianity down to one or two sentences, it sounds ridiculous coming out of my mouth. I believe that if I telepathically offer my cognitive affection to a Jewish zombie who tells us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, then I’ll have immortality and half a better chance to run for political office.

A fellow Christian will tell me, “Oh no, doubt is a good thing, it means you’re at the edge of solidifying a deeper faith by investigating your most foundational beliefs.” Which I guess could be true.

A fellow atheist will tell me, “Oh no, doubt is a good thing, it means you’re at the edge of coming back to reason and shedding a fear-based crutch that’s having less relevance and respect in the world.” Which I guess could also be true.

Both would say, “You’re finally being intellectually honest.” Both say, “You’ll come around.” Both say, “If they could just admit they don’t have everything right.” Both say, “They’re just so blind and have the same boring arguments and the ‘burden of proof‘ is on them.” Both are rude, unthoughtful, unmoving. And of course, they both love to yell ad hominem.

It all just sounds the same to me. I could quit believing. I could keep believing. I could walk away. I could walk harder.

Continue reading ““How Do You Keep Believing In All This Faith S—t?””

Please Donate for the People of Nepal


Please consider donating to One Day’s Wages for relief to the people of Nepal.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake was the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years, and has devastated central Nepal near Kathmandu. Over 2,500 people have died and thousands are in need of emergency medical care. There are fears that the death toll will continue to rise as search and rescue teams are able to access communities closer to the epicenter.

— J.S.


What’s The Point of Prayer? Why Should I Pray? In Less Than Two Minutes


What does prayer do? Is it just asking for things? How do I pray?
A view on the glorious discipline of prayer in less than two minutes.

Subscribe to my channel here. Love y’all!

— J.S.

[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]

What About Female Leaders In The Church?

godgirlthings asked a question:

Hello pastor! I had a question and was thinking of someone who would help me, you came to my mind because of how much God uses you to inspire me. So, I’m a bit confused. My dad and I were talking about how women are not allowed to lead in certain churches and if it’s right for a woman to be the leader of a church, could you let me know what the Bible says about this? Thank you so much, God bless you!!

 

Hey dear friend, I know this is a very divisive issue with many viewpoints, and I know we won’t all see eye-to-eye on it. I did write a super-long post that partially answers your question here:

– Mega-Post: Female Pastors, Neo-Feminism, and The Scary Words Submission, Quiet, and Penis

(Please forgive the sassy, off-color title. I wrote this when I was a little bit more snarky, back in the day.)

I’m very much open to women being leaders in the church – mainly because the early church was so pro-women that it would be impossible to say it’s not. I mean the church herself is called the “bride,” and I just don’t think theologians can keep word-playing themselves out of that one. The verses we’ve used to “shut down” women in church are surrounded by a much larger context that requires some digging. And if anything, the Bible is incredibly tough on men, with a much more brash upright tone with them.

If men are about to use the Bible as a patriarchal tool, they better cut out all the parts from Genesis to maps. And if men are so desperate to be leaders: I hope we know what we’re getting into. That’s not some kind of easy position to play around with.

Continue reading “What About Female Leaders In The Church?”

My Book Just Dropped In Price!



Hello wonderful friends! My book has just dropped in price to 8.99 on Amazon!

It’s called, What The Church Won’t Talk About: Real Questions From Real People About Raw, Gritty, Everyday Faith.

The Foreword is by the amazing T.B. LaBerge of tblaberge and the cover art is by my most excellent friend Rob Connelly.

I talk about a ton of things, including doubts, dry seasons, depression, relationships, porn addiction, trials, abortion, sexuality, social reform, family conflicts, and apologetics. If you’re blessed by the book, please consider writing a review on Amazon!

Love y’all and be blessed, dear friends!
– J.S.


What Does It Mean To Really Love Someone?


How do we actually love someone? What does it mean that God loves us? What is the “Christian” concept of love? Why is it unique?
Defining the gritty, painful, crazy depth of love in two and a half minutes.

Subscribe to my channel here. Love y’all!

— J.S.


[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]


At The Bottom, When Everyone Else Left: There Was One.


Photo & Art by Chris Wright


I was there at the bottom when everyone else left, and He was the only one there.
When they say rock bottom,
you find He’s the stone under your feet,
the dry ground in shaky seas,
the grace that does not leave.
When my mind wanders, my heart remembers the rock.

— J.S.


The Constant Insecurity of Always Being a Hypocrite

appoljuce asked a question:

I love to share God’s Word and Truth on social media, but sometimes even when I know I have shared a sound biblical principle I sometimes feel odd. I sense a small fear of saying something incorrectly and I double guess myself. Does this ever happen to you?

Hey dear friend, yes it does.

The truth is, most Christians have a paranoia that we’re “tricking” people into a faith that we’re not entirely sure of ourselves. Some of it’s because we feel inadequate to say such glorious truths, some of it’s because we’re not fully living them, and some of it’s because we’re scared that some theologian will shoot us down from our perch.

It’s true that we might believe some incomplete things right now. But that’s true in all things of life. All our “first loves” are a little embarrassing and immature. Our first created song or poem or sermon or dance or painting will be looked back on with a little sheepish amusement. But that’s okay. This is all part of the journey. Learning too much technique and perfectionism can suck the fun right out of it – and if anything, knowing God is joyful at its very core.

Continue reading “The Constant Insecurity of Always Being a Hypocrite”

What About Healing In The Church? Six Thoughts About “Christian Super-Powers”

Artwork by Anthony Burrill

Anonymous asked a question:

Hi there, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the church having supernatural powers and providing healings in God’s name. I know someone who attended unnamed ministry and has posted videos on Facebook of him and his friends exuberant after healing people. I know God has the power to heal of course, but something about the videos he posted and the church gives me weird vibes. I was looking into the church a little bit this morning and really searching my bible for what God says about it all and I was just wondering if you had thoughts or scripture references to share. Thank you for your consideration 🙂

Hey there dear friend, thank you for the very gracious and sensitive way you asked this question. Though I know we’ll all see differently on this topic, please allow me the grace to offer a few difficult thoughts about healing within the Christian faith. Please know that I’m rather hard on this issue because I’ve seen the way it’s hurt sincere people, and while I’m open to these things, I also don’t want to mince words to cater to anyone. Usually I attempt to be very nuanced on both sides of an issue, but I speak with a grieving heart of love for those who’ve been damaged by shallow doctrines. I’m coming from a tender heart of witnessing reckless spirituality all over the place.

I know I’ll probably alienate a few dear brothers and sisters in Christ here, so I can only admit I could be wrong, that I’m limited in knowledge, I’m open to correction, and these answers are informed by harmful experiences. Please totally feel free to skip around and to disagree.

1) What about the hospital? What about the shelters?

If I knew for a fact that I could heal people, I would be at the hospital or a homeless shelter. Immediately. I wouldn’t post videos on social media. I’m not condemning anyone who’s excited enough to post about it on Facebook, but really: if I suddenly learned how to fly, I’m dropping off Happy Meals at the inner city. Life is too short and too precious to play around with this kind of stuff.

Continue reading “What About Healing In The Church? Six Thoughts About “Christian Super-Powers””

“3 Ways To Move Past Sexual Regret”


Here’s an article I wrote for XXXCHURCH, called “3 Ways to Move Past Sexual Regret.”

It’s about how to overcome sexual regrets, especially in a viral culture of public shaming and hyper social media. I go over some heavy stuff, from suicides caused by leaking photos to Monica Lewinsky’s recent confession. I also go over three ways that we as a community can help each other move forward from our past.

Here’s an excerpt:

We each need a safe place to talk about our regrets, no matter how sordid they may be. A person who regrets their past has already been shamed by their own guilt for long enough. They already walk into their home and their church and their workplace with a storm-cloud of remorse chasing after them. We can either be a voice that someone must overcome, or a voice that helps someone overcome.

The post is here!

– J.S.

I Wrote A Few Books.


I wrote some books. They’re in paperback and ebook. If you’ve been blessed by them, please consider leaving a review on Amazon!

– What The Church Won’t Talk About

– Mad About God

– The Christianese Dating Culture

– Cutting If Off: Breaking Porn Addiction

— J.S.


The Christianese Demonization of Secular Music & Media

Photo from Theron Humphrey at This Wild Idea

erelah-tabbris asked a question:

Do you like secular tv shows and movies? do you find this keeps us off the path of Jesus/condemns us?

Hey dear friend, to be very truthful, I’m a huge fan of TV shows and movies. My favorite TV show of all time is 24, and I currently watch Person of Interest and The Walking Dead.  I’m secretly a noir film buff and I love the old 1940s-50s black and white detective films, particularly with Humphrey Bogart. As an Asian-Easterner, these sort of Western tales are hugely fascinating, with their strong feminine characters and self-deprecating anti-heroes.  I’ve read nearly all of Raymond Chandler’s work. I’m also a sucker for Michael Crichton and Stephen King. Oh, and Marvel and DC (why not both?).

I try not to think of entertainment as “secular” versus “Christian,” because this “sacred/secular” divide unnecessarily stirs up a self-righteous superiority, as if art can only be art when “I say so.” There’s no special medal for skipping The DaVinci Code. It also excludes a wide variety of creative expression, which gets a little bit too much like an authoritarian tyranny to me.

Continue reading “The Christianese Demonization of Secular Music & Media”

The Unlikely Power of the “Law of Attraction”

msjbobby asked a question:

Hi! May you share your thoughts regarding the law of attraction related to Christianity? At some point, it’s true that God asks us to be grateful for all things, ask for things we want, and have faith so strong that it could move the mountain. But really, what do you think?

Hey dear friend, as far as I know, I don’t believe the Law of Attraction can really mesh with Christianity all too well. As for me, I don’t always feel like my faith can move a mountain, much less a mole hill.

The Law of Attraction says “like attracts like,” so that if you want something bad enough, it will be drawn to you. I might be simplifying it, but that seems to be the whole concept in a sentence.

There’s a little bit of truth to this, as with all philosophies. If you’re a constantly negative person, then of course, it will cut off opportunities and disregard positive people. If you’re a constantly optimistic person, then the hard times can be handled with poise and perspective.

The problem with many of these self-help philosophies is that they will never work in impoverished areas and third world countries. That’s always my first test. Most bestsellers with a “prosperity” message only work for a certain demographic. My friend, who used to do music gigs for Scientologists, used to say, “You don’t see Scientology centers in the ghetto.” They have exorbitantly high costs to be a member.

Continue reading “The Unlikely Power of the “Law of Attraction””

The Problem of Dealing With Racism Without Being Smug & Snarky: And Two Questions That I Ask Every Racist

Racism exists, and I have the scars to prove it.

But when we hear a racist remark, it doesn’t automatically mean this person is a Nazi who reads Mein Kampf for breakfast. When we confront racism, we often confuse “overbearing Hollywood-type racist portrayed in movies” with buried, implicit, culturally conditioned racist attitudes. It means that most of us have layers of systemic, racist dogma that have been indoctrinated over years of apathy and ignorance.

If we attack racism with the force of a sledgehammer, it’ll preach to the choir and win internet-points — but it will change no one. We need the subtle skill of a surgeon to extract and kill a racist attitude. It doesn’t mean we’re pampering or wearing kid-gloves. It doesn’t mean we overlook the very real violence of hate crimes and racist-affirming groups. But all throughout history, the undercurrent of culturally ingrained racism was dismantled by patience, firm conviction, and open dialogue. It’s how Daryl Davis, a black musician, effectively helped to end the Ku Klux Klan in Maryland. (Give the podcast a listen, it’s incredibly moving.)

The reason I believe Martin Luther King Jr. had such a sweeping effect on our national psyche is because he managed to be both compassionate and just. He asked the right questions and navigated with the right surgical touch.  He reached across dividing lines to the people in authority and was able to negotiate without haranguing them. He believed that people could change: not by smug, snarky, sarcastic eye-rolling or throwing lyrical grenades over a fence, but by challenging others on common ground without capitulating to hateful, reactionary methods.

Systematic change began when someone entered the system through wisdom instead of slamming against it from the gates — and I believe we can be wise enough to do this today.

Continue reading “The Problem of Dealing With Racism Without Being Smug & Snarky: And Two Questions That I Ask Every Racist”

Forgiveness: Not a One-Shot Moment, But a Daily Battle

setapartformyking asked a question:

What is your best method you have used or use to let God fully take away any remainder of bitterness? Been struggling with being free from the chains of bitterness and fully forgiving and I don’t like what it’s doing to me.

Hey dear friend, thank you for being so honest and please know: forgiveness is an immensely difficult, uphill climb that often takes a lifetime.

Perhaps the best thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is that forgiving someone doesn’t always happen in one shot. Though it can certainly happen this way, for most of us, it takes a daily wrestling to really be free of our old wounds. I tend to be a slow forgiver, and it’s a process that needs daily work, sometimes even multiple times per hour.

Continue reading “Forgiveness: Not a One-Shot Moment, But a Daily Battle”