Christianity Is Making Me Worse

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rosemarychungphotography asked a question:

Is it possible to be a worse person after attending church for so long? I feel like I was more disciplined and had better character and integrity when I wasn’t a Christian.

Hey dear friend, thank you so much for your honesty and for bringing up something that we all feel, but don’t dare to express.

I think the answer, as unhelpful as it might be, is yes and no. I notice a similar pattern among Christians – most of us experience huge growth spurts in the beginning because it’s all so exciting and new, but then it turns into begrudging obligation and critical self-punishment. It seems to happen in about 99% of the Christians that I know.

The irony perhaps is that the stronger you grow in faith, the more you become aware of your own faults and flaws. Christians are sensitive to their own shortcomings because we actually care, and when we grow in maturity, we stop making excuses and we quit the rationalizations. A sure sign of an immature person is one who cannot take responsibility for their own actions and won’t own up to their part; it was always someone else’s fault or an environmental factor. It could be true, but it doesn’t make us less sinful.

So you’re becoming self-aware, and seeing how bad our sin really is. When we get a glimpse of God’s holiness, we can’t help but feel wretched and naked and low. Even in the presence of better people, of skilled musicians or writers or scholars, we tend to feel like our progress was “dirty rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In the presence of God, this is amplified to an unbearable level. Because of Scripture, we suddenly have a very clear view of our issues – we regard them as sin instead of mistakes, and so we get very hard on ourselves.

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To Remain Teachable.

I always want to know when I’m wrong. Really. I’m aware I’m never the smartest guy in the room. I want to remain teachable. Being wrong is not the end of the world. I want to be open to a thought I’ve never had, even if it threatens what I’ve always known. Even if we disagree in the end, I want to have considered every possibility before landing on solid ground.

If there’s a better way or some angle I’m not seeing, I’d like to know. If even one percent of what we’re saying can help someone see a little further, it’s worth saying and worth learning. There’s no pride or joy in holding onto an idea just because “we’ve always done it that way.” Some convictions are lifelong and eternal, but there’s so much that is fluid and flexible.

I hope we can give someone else the chance to change their mind, too. No one gets it right every time, and almost never the first time. And I hope we can respect those who remain firm. There’s a difference between rigidness and resolve. One is stubbornness but the other is integrity. One is a wall that must be broken, and the other is a seed that must be nurtured.

— J.S.

A Faith Bigger Than Feelings.

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I default to doubt very easily. There are entire seasons I’m not sure He’s real and I’m ready to throw the Bible in the trash. Maybe that’s too candid, but I look at our “Bible heroes,” and they often skated the edge, too. Their victories were interspersed with so many valleys.

But you know, I keep serving anyway. I keep acting like God exists. I keep loving people. I keep obeying His commands, as far-away as they feel. I force myself into the church community. I put my tiny little shred of faith into His Son. I pray, even if it’s a few words at night. I read Scripture, my heavy head on a pillow as the app shines its tiny little screen into the darkness. And most days, that meager little mustard-seed-faith is just enough.

It sounds like legalism, but effort is not legalism. It’s only legalistic to presume that God’s law can save, which leads to self-righteousness. I don’t believe merely following God’s law will save me. I believe following His law will lead me back to the heart who made me. As C.S. Lewis said, I’m trying to trace the sunbeam back to the sun.  The days I succeed, I praise God. The days I fail, which are many, I continue on by the bare skin of my teeth.

I’m learning this is okay. I’m learning we are works in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus.

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

Terrified of Seminary: Wisdom For The Rookie Seminarian

faithunsinkable asked a question:

Any advice for someone wanting to go to seminary or divinity school but it terrified of losing their faith?

Hey dear friend, thank you so much for your honesty. It sounds like you’ve heard all the horror stories about people going to seminary and completely losing their faith by graduation. It happens frequently. As a pastor once said, “Knowledge is essential, but not sufficient.”

I think the academic angle of learning the Christian faith is absolutely important, but it does tend to dry up our relational connection with Him and the church. I clearly remember this happening to me during my first year, and though I didn’t have it as bad as others, I had to fight hard not to get jaded.

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The “Holy Spirit Chills” and Chasing Emotions In Church

tavanilla asked a question:

Do the “Holy Spirit” chills really come from the Holy Spirit? I feel like Christianity nowadays is based purely on feelings. I myself am a victim of this; chasing after that “feeling”. I know a relationship with God is more than just that feeling, but I want to ask you, what is “that thing” the surpasses those chills the come out of nowhere?

Hey dear friend, I’ve also heard of the “Holy Spirit chills,” also known as “the Spirit is really moving” or “I got the Ghost” or “I got totally wrecked.” I honestly thought it was a fun, goofy way of saying that we’ve connected with God on an undistracted level, but some of us are also very serious about the Spirit changing our body temperature, instead of changing our hearts. (#JesusJuke)

The thing is, I have nothing at all against the emotional element of Christianity. It can certainly be over-emphasized to a fault, but we’re all emotional beings. We’re meant to feel. Denying emotions can kill us. Some of us are never bothered by injustice or sin or never taken up by beauty and glory. We need to be spoken to in this emotional place if we’re to be well-rounded individuals who can have joyous community. Feelings are not the point, but without feelings, it’s all pretty pointless.

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How Others See How Christians See Others.

Every once in a while I’ll meet someone with a lot of tattoos or a ton of piercings or who curses a lot, and when they find out I’m a Christian, they suddenly apologize for their demeanor and try to cover up. I always feel terrible and then I have to apologize just as quickly – because I don’t ever want anyone to feel pre-judged around me. But that’s often how Christians are seen. We judge, condescend, categorize, divide, bicker, and moralize. This is the message we give the most, and it really breaks my heart. I wish new people would feel the most comfortable and safe near me, like they did with Jesus. When someone says, “I knew you were a Christian,” I’m always hoping that’s a good thing.

— J.S.

Pain Is Not A Lesson.


Image from worshipgifs

I believe that sometimes, pain is just pain.

Sometimes it just hurts.

Until we see the face of God, we mostly won’t know the why. Even then, I’m not sure there will be a neat bow-tie at the end.

In the waiting, I don’t want to moralize my pain. I refuse to connect the dots at someone who is hurting in the lowest bottom of their soul. I cannot pretty-up grief with retrospective hindsight or poetic reflection. I will not diminish someone’s tragedy into an allegory. I cannot take a human wound and flip it into a cute outline for my logical sensibilities.

Pain sucks. It’s dirty. It’s not fit for books and movies. It doesn’t always resolve. It’s not romantic. It doesn’t need an answer or a fix-it-all. That drives me crazy, but nearly every answer has always come up short and trite and impractical. Pain is a terrible teacher who we try to force answers from, but maybe we’re demanding something that it can’t give.

I want to let pain be as it is, because it’s part of what makes us human. It’s to be experienced, not always explained. I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m trying to live with the wounds. I want to let life unfold, not to escape or avoid or deny, but to let the deepest hurt become part of me, a part of our human story.

No Purpose? No Problem

You don’t have to have it all figured out yet.

Maybe a few hundred years ago, a 12 year old had to bodyslam a bear and turn it into a raincoat while marrying his third cousin in the shelter he made from a cactus, but these are not those days. Don’t let someone guilt you into the “Golden Years.” You are you, this is today, and it’s okay to be searching a little.

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I Want My Faith “How It Used To Be”

Image from Pogonotomy

Anonymous asked:

How can I return to my First Love? I feel like I have a really strange struggle: I don’t desire God. I’m not doubting God, but I doubt my devotion cause of my idolatry. I’ve had this problem for a few years: I love reading books on systematic theology and listening to online sermons and serving, but I struggle to read the bible or pray or love God daily. Maybe this is just the curse of a reformed Calvinist (you joke about us all the time lol). I almost want to unlearn everything to love Him again.


My very dear, dear friend: welcome to the Christian life.

Let’s tackle this one at a time.  Please feel free to skip around.

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What To Do About Legalists, Fundies, and Pharisees

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freewingthefree asked a question:

Hey pastor! Question. How should we react to all the hurt that gets caused by Christians more focused on being “right” and legalistic? It makes my heart ache to see all those who have been hurt by legalistic Christians who are oblivious to the pain they cause.

Hey dear friend, I’m hurting along with you. It grieves me to see self-righteous brothers and sisters who claim the name of Christ and continue to morally suffocate others into a neurotic, twitchy, self-condemning mess. I’ve been a victim of it, and it still hurts.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to make excuses for the overly religious Pharisee: but I also can’t demonize them either. They need grace, too. I think the church fluctuates wildly between uptight, legalistic Bible-thumper to laidback, relevant, smoothly spiritual hipster, and while both sides sneer at each other, there are hurting people caught in the crossfire. Hyper-grace is no better than hyper-law. A knee-jerk reaction to one type of religion will only imprison us further.

Hating on the Westboro folks or fundie televangelists is easy mode. Anyone can do that. It’s easy to say “I’m not like those other Christians.” What’s hard is transcending such pigeon-holed categories like Jesus did, who extended his hands on a cross for both the running prodigal and the angry preacher. What’s hard is reaching across every divide, from pimps and politicians to aristocrats and blind beggars. What’s hard is not perpetuating the cycle of hurt that you’ve been plunged into, and instead looking forward and above.

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The One Thing That Job’s Friends Got Right.

Photo by Abigail Green

Job’s friends got one thing right. It’s not what they said, but what they didn’t.

There’s certainly a time to speak. God did that when He showed up.

But there’s also a time to weep. Your friend needs this, and so do you.

That also means I don’t need to talk heavy theology all the time. I don’t need to talk about my hurt whenever you’re here. It doesn’t always have to be morbid and dreary and grave. Sometimes I just need Netflix and ice cream and a greasy hamburger with you. Sometimes your friend needs you to force them to get dressed, go to that revival, go to that birthday party, go to the charity, go to the gym. I want to ice skate and fall down. I want the dumb movie. I want chicken noodle soup, and not a cup, but the bowl. Your friend needs sweat pants and pictures of cats. I need you to get ready for one moment of laughter and the next moment of tears. But mostly, we need to see the colors again, even through the weeping.

J.S. | Mad About God

Why Do We Need The Bible If We Can Just Ask God?

jillianchan asked a question:

I’m reading your answers to questions about the bible and they’re so helpful! The question I have is kind of strange and maybe I already know the answer: why does God give us the bible? If we have the holy spirit, why do we need the bible?

Thank you so much dear friend! I’m encouraged that you’re blessed.

I think it’s probably romantic to believe that we don’t need the Bible as much as we need the “prompting” of the Holy Spirit. I once heard two different pastors ask this question in a sermon: “If you could only pray or only read the Bible, but not both, which would you choose?” Both pastors answered differently. Unfortunately, this sets up a false dichotomy to pit things against each other that were never meant to be in conflict.

The thing is, without the Bible as an anchor to guide us, then all of us could say the “Spirit told me.” Too many people try to pull “God’s Will” as a trump card, but we already have God’s Will: His written word (that was a sick Jesus Juke, come on).

On the other hand, without the Spirit, then we wouldn’t have an individual intimacy with God for the different ways He gifted us and made us. For some of us, it’s to be missionaries and pastors and praise leaders – for others, it’s to be the best doctor or lawyer or politician or scientist we can be.

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The Scary Uncertainty of Following God’s Will: A Mega-Post on “The Calling” For Your Life

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light-unshakable asked a question:

Hey Mr. Park, I have to say I’m always inspired by your thoughts/ideas/writings. I’m wondering if you have any advice or encouragement on following your calling. I have a few things I’m interested in, but not sure what will end up blooming from it all. Thanks! -Steven

sjpark11 asked a question:

Hey Pastor Joon! I read some of your replies to people’s questions and really liked all of your responses. I was wondering if you could give me some advice! I’ve been thinking about my future and what God has planned for me. I have a heart for ministry, worship-leading, and sports therapy. So, I don’t know if I should go into Ministry, either part-time or full-time, or pursue the career that I desire. How do I decide which path to choose knowing that it is in God’s will? Thank you so much!

Hey there Steve and John, thank you for trusting me with these huge questions about your future.  While I can’t hope to give you a total solid answer, I can do my best to point the way and to jumpstart your own process.  As always, please feel free to skip around.  I’ll be throwing you guys a prayer.

1) God’s Will is not just about what you do, but about who you’re becoming.

This probably sounds like a cute cliche on a cat poster, but really: Decide who you want to be before you decide what you want to do.

When you’re about to decide on your college or career or spouse or city or home, always ask, Is this leaning into who I want to become?  Or even bigger, Who does God want me to be in where I’m going?

And at the same time, don’t hesitate to keep serving, keep giving, keep trying new things.  We don’t need to wait for a fully fleshed out answer of your identity, and I don’t want to paralyze you with such a daunting question all at once.  You don’t have to figure out your life in a day.  If you’re really very lost, then try everything.  Out of your heart emerges what you do, and what you do with your hands will work its way into your heart too.

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17 Things I Miss About Youth Group

Photo from Youth Celebration Night 2007, KFBC

Youth group gets a bad rep, but it wasn’t all that bad. It’s been over ten years now and I only got to experience it for a couple years, but some things I miss:

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Thank you very much, dear friends!

Mad About God six purchases

Thank you so much for getting the books, dear friends!

They’re all available here on my Amazon authorpage from 5.99 to 8.99. The ebooks are even less!

If you’ve been blessed, please consider leaving a review. Love y’all!
— J.S.

“He’s Gone Liberal.”

Whenever I see a Christian leader begin to do great things in the news and gain traction in their community, I often hear, “He’s gone liberal. She’s straying from Scripture. He’s catering to the mainstream. She’s been going that way for a while now.”

I wonder if these things are said out of real concern or just insecurity. And it sort of grieves me that we can so quickly dismiss our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who actually have their sleeves rolled up. It worries me that we force each other into a microscopic checklist of dogmatic doctrine by weaponizing the Bible into a noose. It’s terrible that we think “serving the community” means we’re somehow going soft on the Bible or compromising some Christian standard – when serving actually means we’re going hard with the Bible and raising the bar.

Maybe no one’s going “soft.” Maybe the more you hear about hurting people, the more you want to get involved in the mess, regardless of beliefs or qualifications. Maybe the more we walk with someone, the less we want to talk at them. Maybe the more we love Jesus, the more we want to step out of our tribal isolated ivory towers and into the real world of fractured, faithless lives. Maybe the older you get, the more you push back against those four walls of the choir. Maybe those political lines and labels are just phantom platforms to bolster our egos, when Jesus came to crush those things, because our neighbor will always be more important.

– J.S.

Ten Thoughts About Loving The Unlovable

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Two anonymous questions:

– How do you love people who are difficult to love? Some people will accept your love and help with open arms, but some people hurt you the more you try to love them and reach out to them. I know it is God who works through us, and God who gives us His perfect, unconditional love, but sometimes it is discouraging in ministry when members place unrealistic expectations on us, and simultaneously expect us to care more …

– What is the Biblical way to love a self-righteous person when I am asking God and trying really hard not to be self-righteous, myself? To what extent is it okay that self-righteousness bothers me? What are indications that it’s bothering me too much? Ahh Holy Spirit, please guide the way…

Dear friends:

This is a broadly complicated issue where I can only hope to encourage you for one more day. Love is such a messy organic creature that I couldn’t possibly cover all its nuances.

So please allow me the grace to offer some simple thoughts to consider. Each thought is meant to balance each other out for a rounded view on Christ-like biblical love. Please feel free to skip around.

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Why Did God Make Emotions? A Mega-Post

pineapplebits asked:

Hi! What role do my emotions have in my [spiritual] life? I know my emotions don’t change who God is to me, or my responsibilities in living out my life for Him. However, when it comes to making decisions and daily living, it seems that emotions often get cast aside as a non-factor. God has made us to be emotional beings, yet how do we embrace our emotions without being naive or blinded by our feelings?

This is a great question and your balanced approach is very good.  Let’s start from the ground-up and see why God gave us these pesky colorful shades of feeling, then see if we can draw some left-right boundaries. This is sort of a mega-post, so please feel free to skip around.

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