The Dragon Conqueror.


As far gone as our world might be, we have a sense that wrong must be vanquished and wrong must be atoned for.
I am a shouter at the dark.
I have a feeling you are, too.
We inherently want to conquer the dragon.
But very possibly, we already know a dragon conqueror.
And very possibly, we have the conqueror’s fingerprints beating in our hearts.


— J.S. from Mad About God


The Big Christian Secret (That Isn’t So Secret)

MAG cover paperback


The Big Christian Secret is that every Christian in history has run into doubts about God. The doubt that He exists. Even the “best Christians” get lost in the hallway. It’s more than just a phase or a season or a dry spell; it’s a thick, nauseating fog. There are days I read the Bible and I want to throw it in the trash.

When pain hits home and you’re walking through that cancer or car accident or earthquake, you want the kind of faith that can face death.  In the end, I want a faith that doesn’t just tickle my inspiration or give me cute slogans, but a faith that can get beat up by suffering and scholars and satanic evil, and will keep on standing.

True faith, the kind that perseveres through pain and trials and urgency, takes a surgical navigation through all the very difficult questions of life.  Only doubts will ever get you to ask them.

The best thing I could tell you is to question everything, because by questioning everything, you will toss out what doesn’t work. You’ll eliminate easy answers that could never sustain the hardest seasons of life.

— J.S. | Mad About God


Waiting To Die, I Survived — A Testimony

MAG cover pose


The doctors were sure if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up. 

It was too late to pump my stomach. Half a bottle of Excedrin. They were about to insert the tube down my throat. Instead they fed me liquid charcoal to neutralize the acid. My vomit was the color of midnight, of tar.

I waited. I fell asleep. 

You can feel death, you know.  It’s like someone is unraveling a thread at the back of your skull, like sinking into yourself.  My legs felt like they were dangling in water. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. It would’ve been so easy to keep falling, to sink, to follow the thread to the bottom.

But in that moment, hanging over the abyss — there it was.  Not some neon sign or some grand eloquent entrance, not a voice from the rafters, but a simple expression of something beyond this world. 

“You’re not done yet.  You have more. You have Me.”

I woke up.  I was Baker Act’ed into a mental hospital. I wore someone else’s clothes. A man with a clipboard asked me questions about my father. A patient in the next room pulled the fire alarm and tried to jump out the window. Another patient tried to fight me. I was let out after regaining “social acceptability.” I lost thirteen pounds in three days and had roomed with others who had far worse problems than I. 

Back into the sunlight, I suddenly didn’t want to waste my life anymore.  I couldn’t stand the thought of having died in that hospital bed.

I wanted to believe it all had meaning,

that a purpose awaited me,

that I was made to save a corner of this universe,

that I am much more than what I feel. 

It took inches before death to find the beginning of trusting Him. Maybe part of trusting God was trusting that He might actually like me — not because of what I could do, but simply because I was breathing the air He had whispered into my lungs.

I thought of the verse: It does not profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. If this is true, it means your soul and mine has infinitely more value to God than the whole world.  For every person who is tired of living, God says,

You’re not done yet. 

You have more. 

You have Me.

– J.S. | Mad About God

Spoiler: Everything Turns Out Okay.

image

When I go to the bookstore, I’ll grab books and read the last few pages. I want to know how it ends. I want to know where we end up. Hollywood executives always read the first and last page of a screenplay, and if the characters don’t change, they toss the script. We inherently want a landing, a safe conclusion, a final punctuation on the sentence of life.

When I first read the Bible for myself, I started at Revelation. I wanted to know if everything was going to be okay. I heard about the Fall of Man and all the ugly things that happened in Genesis; I knew about the flood and the tower of Babel and the incest and the wars. In Revelation, I was overwhelmed. Everything was getting put right again. Justice was unrolling from Heaven, angels speaking with mere men, evil squashed to pieces, healing was all over the place. Since then, I read the Bible very differently. I know that the first page doesn’t get to say everything about us, and we get a landing, a final sentence of victory. We get to win, because God does.

J.S. from Mad About God

 

Thank you, Peter D. Webb!


Thank you to my dear brother Peter D. Webb, super Christian blogger and awesome friend for picking up my new book on persevering through pain! I quoted him in it as well.

Pick up my book Mad About God!

[Photo from Peter’s blog here]


Four Thoughts About Finding God’s Will

Image by Grant Snider

alittlebitgoesalongway asked:

Hi, I have a question for you based on what I read from another post. It said, “If the voice is God’s all three will agree:
 1. The Word of the LORD in the Bible. 
2. The Word of the Spirit in our hearts. 
3. The circumstances of our lives, which have been arranged by God. 
All three must point one way; it is never enough for any two of them to be taken as showing God’s will.” Do you agree or disagree with that statement (scripture references)?

Anonymous asked:

Hey J.S.! How do you know if what you’re doing is part of God’s plan? How am I supposed to know I’m doing the right thing? I just applied for an internship for my favorite company and I’m anxious. Will I get it? Do I simply wait and trust God? Does He approve of it? If not, then how do I know I’m even in the right direction? I can’t tell/feel the difference between making my own decisions and making the ones based on God’s will. Help?

 

I would say it’s pretty good to have a checklist and it’s certainly not less than those things — but finding God’s Will can be pretty dang tough. 

The further I move along in my faith, the more I find that faith is a sticky, grey, messy, murky journey.  While God’s commands are obvious (that’s His moral will), His plan is tougher to discern (that’s His sovereign will). 

What if there needs to be a snap decision and we can’t survey the entire Bible on the spot?  How do we know it’s the Holy Spirit and not our own voice?  How do we interpret “signs” and circumstances?  What if we come between two impossible decisions?  What if both are equally good, or equally bad?

While we could ponder forever on these things, let’s consider some thoughts on His Will.  Please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “Four Thoughts About Finding God’s Will”

My Podcast on iTunes!

JS Podcast instagram


If you didn’t know, I have a podcast with every sermon I’ve preached and more. It’s free & you can download directly to your phone. Please also leave a review or rating!

iTunes page: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/j.s.-park-way-everlasting/id395594485

Main page: http://thewayeverlasting.libsyn.com/

— J.S.


The Mind-Blowing Mystery of the Trinity in Less Than 3 Minutes


How is God three in one? Why does the Christian faith need a Trinitarian God? Does any analogy really work?
An explanation of this unexplainable doctrine in less than three minutes. And a unique way to see the Trinity. I got really excited about this one.

Subscribe to my channel here. Love y’all!

— J.S.


[Thank you to Steven Hause of pudgyproductions]


A Road To Converge: Letting Go of the Pain You’re Passing On

 

I know a pastor who was dating a girl, and the girl eventually left him for another pastor in the same church.  They all had to work together for a while.  I can’t imagine how hard this must have been.

Years later this pastor planted a new church, but he took all his hurts with him.  He hardly opened up to anyone; viciously arm-wrestled for authority; shut off anyone he didn’t trust; boiled hate at other pastors; and viewed his ministry as a project he had to maintain under a strict disciplinary cage.  Some have said this was his personality — but I knew him before the girl left him.  He wasn’t always like this.  He used to be so full of life and joy and laughter.  Now he’s passive-aggressive, distant, moody, cold.

I’m not friends with him anymore, either.  I no longer meet his invisible standard.  There was a time when I was really mad at him for this: but the more I think about it, the more I understand.  If the same thing happened to me that did to him, I might have carried over all that baggage too.

But the thing is: We all go through crap.  We can let it hold us down, or not.  The trauma and trials that we go through are not the worst things that can happen to us.  The worst is when we let it give us permission to define us by a toxic lie — that somehow the world owes you, that you never have to trust again, that you can retaliate first, that you’re entitled to bitterness and contempt.  The worst is when you rehearse your own sad story to the point where even the future is to blame, and every new face must pass an impossible test designed to fail. It is a harsh whisper in your heart that says, “Never again.  I’ll show them.”

All this self-pity and victimization is understandable.  I’m on your side about that.  But this constant sour whisper will slowly destroy you.  It will destroy everything you touch.  I know this: because I lose a great friend by it.  I have tried to tell him this: but he refuses to listen, and it hurts my heart to see him stomp his way through life with closed fists.  It hurts me to see him interpret all disagreement as opposition or to take the most innocuous things so personally.

I know why you feel this way: But you cannot define your life by the losses you have incurred.  You may have been embarrassed, shamed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and cheated — no one’s saying this isn’t wrong — but it’s even more reason to find healing and peace, or else you will not pass on wisdom, but pain.

I know it hurts.  I pray you find healing, my friend.  I still love you dearly, and I would still gladly die for you in a second, no matter how much you despise me for the reasons you’ve rehearsed.  Life has not gone the way you wanted: but there is still life left to serve God and to serve your fellow comrades in our journey together.  Perhaps our roads will converge one day again.

— J

A Letter To The Tenuous Christian Who Has Left Church and Is Hanging On By A Thread



I know there are some of you who are barely hanging onto the “Christian scene” — it was part of your youth, you like Jesus, you like some of the music, you find many of the teachings and verses to be inspirational, you’re into grace and humility, and you understand that not every screaming Westboro picketer represents the movement of Christianity.

But mostly: it’s not a part of your life. You haven’t been to church in a while. You feel largely removed from your former Christian friends. You don’t care to go back, and you feel like you’d be judged if you did.

Sometimes you miss going, but you’ll see some horrible news story about another group of crazy church people or you’ll see how the drama is destroying your friends who still attend — and you remember why you left. You’ll remember the old wounds, the hurtful things the pastor did, the way the church gossiped, and those one or two opinions that really bothered you.

My dear friend: I’m sorry it’s gone this way. I’m sorry the church as a whole has been so awful. Speaking as a pastor and your friend, we’ve done a poor job and there’s no excuse for that.

Yet — I know you still think Jesus is pretty awesome. I know you’re thoughtful enough to still be attracted to God somehow. And you have some decent Christian friends who don’t act all uppity nor pretend they have it all together. You occasionally check out some Christian blogs, and they’ve even been a big encouragement sometimes.


I know this is a huge leap here: but I’m writing this for you to say, Please don’t completely write off the church just yet.

Please consider that there is still one out there, just for you, that isn’t perfect but is still very passionate for the truth and love of Jesus, and one you could possibly call home.

I have been to many, many good churches that are still faithful, loving, and kind. There are still many churches that really care, where you are free to be yourself, where it feels like God is actually in the house. They still exist. I’m not saying that drama never happens there, but they are honest about it and they love one another through it all.

Sure, church is always going to be a messy sloppy place. But the most gracious ones are also absolutely beautiful in the mess. It’s because they meet each other where they are, like Jesus does. Deep down inside, some part of you wants to be a part of one of those. It probably scares you like it scares me — but but it’s like that moment when you take the chance on love again. It’s terrifying, but you’re right at the edge of adventure. It could be something incredible.

Please think about just asking a friend to attend a church event, or even this Sunday. If it goes bad, try a few more times. Keep an open mind. It’s a lot to ask considering all that has happened — but certainly we’ve invested far more time into things we had less faith on. I’ve seen so many people come back to church and find healing again. Maybe you’ll find a new safe place where you can reconnect with God and start once more. At the very least, you’ll know where not to visit again, and perhaps you can try elsewhere one more time.

I’m excited for you. I’ll be praying for you. If you’re excited: don’t hide it. Tell your friend. Get your hopes up a little! Enter with the anticipation of Jesus welcoming you with wide open arms.

God loves you and so do I.

— J.S.

Five Simple Truths About Fighting Depression

jesuspaidtheprice asked a question:

What would you do to overcome depression?

Hey dear friend, thank you for your honesty in asking. I was actually struck with a heavy episode this week. While there’s no easy formula to just “overcome” depression, here are a few firsthand thoughts. Please know that this isn’t a comprehensive list that will cover every angle, and if you need help, please seek it immediately, anywhere that you can.

1) Depression is not your fault. It’s not because of a “lack of faith” or unconfessed sin or unclaimed promises. Most cases of depression have no rules or rhyme or reason. We can’t just choose our way out or recite some magic incantation.

2) Define depression. There’s a huge difference between self-pity and clinically diagnosed depression. It’s completely unfair when someone uses “depression” as a mantle of pride, as if it’s a trend or an outfit. At the same time, it’s just as unfair to dismiss someone’s depression as a “phase” or a first world problem.

Continue reading “Five Simple Truths About Fighting Depression”

What It Means To Be Spiritually Mature

Image from SS Print Shop

Anonymous asked a question:

Hi, I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog! Thanks for taking your time to write these posts and answering questions. What does it mean to be spiritually mature? Does it just mean someone is far in their walk with God or receives many visions and revelations? Sometimes I feel like Christianity is a race to see who can achieve this maturation the fastest.

Thanks so much my friend.  I love what I do and I love every one of you I can serve, even if it helps just a few.

I appreciate your question too. You’re not alone in thinking this.  Many Christians are straight up exhausted with all these absurd spiritual parameters that we throw on ourselves.  Most of them are not from, you know, the Bible.

I get pretty sad about this one because I meet Christians who will say, “I just don’t think I’m growing.  I read the Bible morning and night, I attend church nine times per week, I talk with God at sunrise and in the car and during my lunch break, I evangelized to only four people this month, and I listened to a messed up kid for an hour without saying Jesus once.”

I keep thinking, “Dang dude — you’re actually growing a lot.”

When we set such high ridiculous standards, I think we go into morbid self-punishment by 1) measuring our quantity, 2) measuring our intentions, 3) grading our intensity, and 4) comparing to other “good Christians.”

I feel like Satan is laughing his butt off while we run around trying harder, doing more, hyping up our feelings, and defining our spirituality with distorted definitions.

Continue reading “What It Means To Be Spiritually Mature”

Finding a New Dream In The Wreckage

Image from worshipgifs


Everyone has their own idea of the future, and at any moment it can be smashed to pieces. We’re not in as much control of our lives as we tend to think. And the more you plant your hope into something so untenable, so will your soul dry up into a soul that is collapsible.

I am begging you now: If you’re in this place of over-attachment to anything outside of you, please find a healthy way to handle it or just leave. Otherwise you will crush that person, that dream, that future, and you will be crushed by it too. Nothing can be sustained under the weight of your idolatrous expectations, including you. It’ll be worth your time to seek counseling, seek outlets, seek real help — and don’t get addicted to the recovery either. You need to learn to be alone with the silent vacuum of your own thoughts: because when you honestly confront the ugliness inside, you will be liberated from the weight of yourself.

I’m not writing this from a wrapped-up bowtie of a life. I’m still fractured in so many places of the soul; I still feel depression sinking its bony fingers into my sides. But I’ve also found that in the healing, by the grace of God and through wonderful friends, that life is worth living. If you think it hurts right now — healing hurts even more, because you have to get up and move. But I’d rather hurt this way. If life has to be pain, then I’d rather hurt moving forward than sitting down.

— J.S.

The Heartbreak of Watching Friends Walk Away From Faith

Image by designbywas

jillianchan asked a question:

As someone in ministry, have you seen many people fall from faith? If you have, how do you handle it?

Hey dear friend: I’ve been through this too many times to count. It’s happening now, too. It’s always heartbreaking and always a punch in the stomach. To be truthful, I still grieve for so many friends who went their own way and chose self-destruction. I still lose sleep over it. It’s something you don’t really get over, and something I pray about every day.

I’ve blamed myself; I’ve blamed God; I’ve blamed bad influences; I’ve blamed the church. In the end, I know I can’t persuade anyone to stay faithful. It’s their choice and their autonomy.  I must respect that. As God respects our free will, so must we.

The only thing I can do is stay in touch. I text or call or email, at least a couple times per week. It’s difficult, you know. I feel like I’m being annoying or that I’m wasting my time (and theirs). I feel bitterness and disappointment and helplessness. But I want them to know: I’m still here for you. I’m staying. I don’t care if I look like an idiot. If it means my life, I’ll keep loving on you.

Continue reading “The Heartbreak of Watching Friends Walk Away From Faith”

Hijacking “The Struggle” and “Broken”

Photo from Digital Spark, Quote by Ralston Bowles


Words like “struggle” and “broken” and “weakness” (and process, progress, victory, sobriety, and recovery) are often abused to water down very real selfishness.

I do believe that brokenness is real, of course. I think addiction can be a near-impossible monster to overcome. Anyone suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts or anxiety shouldn’t have to constantly explain themselves. We can be broken by traumatic events or sexual abuse or catastrophic changes. Which means that the word “broken” has even more reason not to be twisted for obvious agendas, because then we would be diminishing the truly broken.

The thing is: I don’t ever want to be fake or inauthentic about my “struggle.” Yes, we do struggle. Yes, we have hurts and holes and leaks in our souls. Sure, many of us will limp across the finish line. But I don’t want to sugarcoat my motives with a bunch of soft talk that enables me into a smaller version of me. I need the kick in the pants; I need the initiative and the drive to become all that God has created me for. I do need to relax on many things, but I don’t want to let my guard down. We just get the one life, you know. I’m not going to pamper myself with a lot of fluffy wordplay to stay comfortable in my dark artistic corner. That’s flaking out on life.

— J.S. | Mad About God


All Four Books in Paperback!

JS Books instagram


All four of my books are now only 5.99 to 8.99. They’re available on my Amazon author page here:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00NZ70FDW

(Please consider leaving a review for any you might have read!)
Be blessed and love y’all!
— J.S.


The Two Kinds of Faith: Warriors and Worriers


Image from Amboo, CC BY 2.0


I imagine that when Moses split the Red Sea, there were two groups of people.

The first group was composed of victorious triumphant warriors saying, “In your face, Egyptians! This is our God!” They were pumping their fists and thrusting their spears. The second group was composed of doubtful, panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton.

I’m a Screamer. I’m a cynic. I’m a critic. I’m a Peter, who can make a good start off the boat, but falls in the water when my eyes wander.
I’m not endorsing a halfway lukewarm faith. I believe God wants us to have a robust, vibrant, thriving relationship with Him. But as for me, I’ll be limping to the finish-line. I’m more of a Thomas than a Paul. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more David than Daniel.

Yet the Warriors and Screamers all made it through.

It’s not easy to have faith the size of a mustard seed. But Jesus promised that this would be enough to move mountains, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

— J.S. from Mad About God


Shaming The “Impure” and Those Who Stand Up For Them

Image by Brittney Borowski

ariseandawakenme asked a question:

Hi can you check out “sadmomhair” she’s a young sister in Christ who posted something kinda controversial and I feel like I kinda know where he heart is but I’m not sure how to speak up about the whole thing Thanks in advance 🙂

Hey dear friend, I read up on her blog, and I think it’s great. Normally I would never comment on another blog this way, but she is very refreshing and very clear, with a very strong viewpoint that’s missing in so many voices today.

If I may summarize, I believe her thoughts about purity in one sentence is, “It doesn’t make you a better Christian if you’re a virgin, because God’s love will redeem us all.” I know I’m simplifying what she said here, but that seems to be her thesis. And she’s absolutely right. God will accept and redeem and offer grace to anyone, in any condition, or else He isn’t the God of the Bible.

I also saw all the comments and anonymous messages thrown at this blogger (who by the way, is 18 years old and needs much grace and prayer for her influence and leadership), and I was once again disheartened by our hasty church-culture.

Continue reading “Shaming The “Impure” and Those Who Stand Up For Them”

My New Book on Trials & Suffering: “Mad About God”

Mad About God final cover


This is my newest book, on persevering through trials and suffering, called Mad About God: When We Over-Spiritualize Pain and Turn Tragedy Into a Lesson.

When life hurts, we often turn the pain into a teachable moment: but not every pain has a bow-tie. Sometimes life just hurts, and we need the space to grieve. In this journey, we discover the nuances of loss and grief. We encounter real stories of suffering from real people, with no spiritualizing and no easy answers. In dismantling what doesn’t work – we might find what does.

If you or your friend are in the middle of a mess: this book is meant for ground zero. I also go over handling depression, faith-shattering doubt, “sexy cancer,” second world problems, misquoting verses for inspirational Instagrams, the hijacking of Jeremiah 29:11, and the theology of True Detective, Louis C.K., and The Shawshank Redemption.

Here’s a video on the themes of the book.

The book is available in both paperback and ebook.
Love y’all and be blessed ..!
— J.S.


When Life Hurts and God Has Apparently Checked Out: A Mega-Post on Pain, Trials, & Suffering

Photo & Art by Abigail Green

Two anonymous questions:

– What are you suppose to think when all you can think is God is taking everything I love out of my life?

– So, what do you do when you feel in over your head? One of my best friends is struggling with faith, my husband is struggling with a lot of stress from his job, and my mom is struggling in a relationship with her bf. Then I read the news, and everything looks so dismal. I feel like there is so much hurt around me. I know my prayers are effective, and that God is sovereign. But I just want to stop all the hurting. Any words of advice?

Hey my wonderful friends, I must first say: I’m really sorry about everything that’s happening and I dearly love you both.  I know it can’t help much, but you must know before I turn into super-advice-robot or go off on Christianese cliches that I know how it is, being in a whirlwind of hurt with seemingly no way out.  So anything I say here couldn’t possibly be a magic formula or silver bullet to instantly re-arrange your feelings, and I can only hope to cheer you on for just one more step, which will be enough.

Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on all this.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

– Sometimes pain is just pain, and there’s no spiritualized lesson.  I’ve said before: Not every pain has a lesson.  Not every hurt can be spiritualized into a moral fable.  You don’t have to force anything good out of this.  When it feels like all our blessings are being taken from us, it’s wrong to say, “God is teaching me to live without them.”  Maybe He is, but who’s to say that while it’s happening?  When there’s one more shooting or funeral or CEO getting away with fraud, I’m not going to say, “But God is using it for good.”  God is mad at injustice too.

It’s possible that we get to see some good from pain, but it’s not for me to connect-the-dots on “why” this or that person was hurt or betrayed.  My hope can’t be in things “working out” or else I’ll idolize results instead of helping my fellow friend. We often say “I passed the test and got the job, so God is good!” — which is okay to celebrate, but that can imply that God is only good to the good kids and somehow neglects all the other people who didn’t make it.  We can’t connect every blessing this way either.  To spiritualize any of this is cruel and dismissive.

When I hear other Christians say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Pain is what forces you to grow,” I get what they’re saying, but this falls totally flat when I’m actually going through something.  It doesn’t work.  It’s like when I get migraines, there’s always someone who says, “Drink some cold water.”  Nice gesture, but that’s a bandage for a bullet wound.  Which leads us to —

Continue reading “When Life Hurts and God Has Apparently Checked Out: A Mega-Post on Pain, Trials, & Suffering”