Thank you, Rachel Denk!


Very thankful for Rachel Denk’s wonderful review of my latest book, Mad About God.

An excerpt from her review:

“How many times do you feel like you have to be ‘in the right mindset’ or at a ‘good place’ with God in order to come before Him? Don’t you ever feel like you’ve been told since God is almighty and righteous that we have no right to be upset or angry with Him? And when we can’t suppress pain, anger, or bitterness, all of that is somehow transformed into guilt.

“… J.S. Park beautifully deconstructs all of these notions that have been drilled into us for far too long. And guess what? It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to not understand why things happen and question God.

“J.S. asks the hard questions. He prompts the difficult ideas. He opens the can of worms that may never truly be shut. My favorite passages from the book include Hijacking And Reclaiming Jeremiah 29:11, Our Hollywood Craze To Live An Epic Life, and The Problem With Job: As We Bleed, We Find Our Deepest Need. Sound intriguing just from the titles? You better believe it. These passages floored me – I often caught myself reading this and thinking how someone seemed to understand this little aspect of my heart and soul that had been secretly struggling for so long.”


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Alex Koo’s Book Review of The Christianese Dating Culture

Alex Koo Christianese Dating Review


Thank you again for the review, Alex Koo!

Also up the rankings on Amazon. Very honored and humbling to see my book up there with some of the greats.  I quoted both C.S. Lewis and Francis Chan as well. The book is on Amazon now in both paperback and e-book!

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.



Book Review: Disciple


Disciple
By Bill Clem

Summary:
Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church writes a work on defining a disciple of Jesus Christ, an ultimately disappointing book that is far too American and seldom convicting. While there are brilliant sections strewn throughout, the book is neither groundbreaking nor wholly biblical. A missed opportunity for a much needed discussion.

Weaknesses:
Despite my best efforts and Bill Clem’s best intentions, this is the definition of disciple that I gleaned from his work:

A disciple is someone who looks like Jesus and joins a small group community.

Of course, I doubt this is Clem’s goal. Yet the book is so American that I could never see it working in an urban or third world context. With an almost abstract, self-help style, Clem writes in largely conceptual strokes about mind-molding and relational-sharing, but hardly ever touches on the Great Commission to Go and to Make.

It might be unfair that I expected a book like Radical. David Platt’s seminal work on discipleship felt much closer to the biblical reality of carrying the cross, denying the flesh, and giving your all for Christ. When I read a book about disciples, I expect urgency and adventure, not megachurch-style small groups isolated in an upper-class neighborhood.

While Clem gives a nod to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the great anti-Nazi preacher who authored The Cost of Discipleship and was hung for plotting against Hitler — in Clem’s work there was never any sense of risk or rejoicing. He instead makes discipleship appear like a nagging grandmother’s task of checklisting spiritual progress and attending church to copy the “stoic” personality of Jesus.

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Book Review: Dug Down Deep


Dug Down Deep
By Joshua Harris

Summary:
Having largely known Joshua Harris from his books on dating (and having not read them, largely due to the maddening pop culture surrounding his ideas), I dug into Dug Down Deep with some trepidation. I was surprised to find that Pastor Josh sheds off much of this “Christian-Dating-Guru” image and conveys a warm personality here with great theological depth in everyday language. I ended up buying several copies for friends who were struggling or new to Jesus.

Strengths:
As both an autobiography and a statement of Christian doctrines, somehow Dug Down Deep succeeds at both. Joshua Harris’ treatise on the Christian faith is a highly readable work that will stir both the young believer and the church veteran. We do not often stop to think on what we actually believe, and as Harris writes, what we think of God determines everything else: feelings, choices, character, our fate.

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Book Review: Gospel Wakefulness

Summary:
Jared Wilson writes a stirring work with such a flawed premise that he continually detracts from his own passion and eloquence. Because of his elitist, New Age “Gospel Wakefulness” that he drills over and over, at times he appears insincere in marketing a new breed of religion that ascribes transcendental experience as orthodoxy. While he spends many pages protecting his own idea with reasonable disclaimers, this isn’t enough to ward off the uneasiness that this is his idea, an extrabiblical concept for a secret club of those who “get it.”

Weaknesses:
There’s no doubt that Wilson is a great writer, but because of his blogging background, much of his work is strung together randomly as if he copied-and-pasted some old blog posts with tenuous transitions. Nothing flows evenly. He also uses distracting superlatives that are not grounded in the reality of everyday Christians. There is a ton of analogical language that sounds pretty but has no function in the gritty hurt of real life. I kept thinking Hallmark.

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Book Review: You Can Change

You Can Change
By Tim Chester

Summary:
The danger in Christian books about change is the bogeyman of legalism. Some of the “classic” Christian literature is nothing more than a manifesto of Do’s and Don’t’s that have nothing to do with the Bible, much less Jesus. Tim Chester does not avoid these familiar pitfalls: half of his work is a brilliant call to holiness while the other half is counterintuitive to his own goals. It makes for a frustrating read that at times connects deeply but often succumbs to being another screaming manifesto. Overall though, the Tim Chester’s work, despite its “self-help” vibe, does call to a boldness in our ownership of sanctification.

Weaknesses:
First the negatives. Tim Chester, who can be a good writer, writes this book in a clinical, abrupt, academic form that never really “breathes” like one human being speaking to another. For a work of this sort, it makes for a dull read that smears together like a textbook. It’s as if Chester included all the necessary doctrine so that no one would fault him for being shallow. The result, perhaps unexpectedly, is a bunch of fluff that is neither interesting nor practical.

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Book Review: Redemption


Redemption
By Mike Wilkerson

Summary:
Absolutely one of the best books on grounding your identity in Christ beyond the troubles and treason of the past, Mike Wilkerson has written a theologically sound work with painful true stories and great application. It’s a masterwork on freedom from idolatrous destruction. His comprehensive overview of freedom from idolatry is for every manner of spiritual stigma, whether it be suffering from sexual abuse, substance addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or self-harm. It’s a sobering work that is at once gentle and aggressive. Wilkerson also paints a big picture of the Bible that creates a big picture for us in God’s story.

Strengths:
The most effective parts of Mike Wilkerson’s work is the continual gutting of all excuses and rationalizations. In his lifetime of gritty ministry he has seen and heard it all, and the prominent problem is our belief in The Lie. Wilkerson kills lies like a sniper. The best a book such as this can do is talk to you, and I found many lies in my own life that I had to rip out from the roots.

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Book Review: Generous Justice


Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Summary:
Christians have some dirty words burned in their collective conscience that conjure up liberal danger: psychology, anthropomorphic, emergent, and of course, social justice. Dr. Timothy Keller unpacks the Christian duty to do justice in the world, including the reasons, motive, how-to, pitfalls, and results. It’s a daunting task that Dr. Keller tackles as easily as the alphabet. In both idealistic and realistic sweeps, the book paints a picture of restoration that the Gospel demands from every follower of Christ. It is a sensitive work without being preachy, an honest look that is not naive. Your safety zone will be challenged.

Strengths:
At some point in recent church history, it was deemed that social justice was a liberal cause void of eternal purpose. We can’t change the world, it was said, so let’s focus on ourselves. There was a prevalent fear that soup kitchens and thrift stores were replacing evangelism, that at the cost of the Gospel we were building temporary houses. It’s a valid fear, but Dr. Keller dispels the notion that both concerns must be exclusive. It is the outworking of our faith through justice that would call others to Jesus’ grace. It is also Jesus’ grace that compels us to do justice.

It sounds simple until we face the dizzying factors of our generation: every social disadvantage feeds into each other until entire groups are fundamentally crippled. Poverty affects literacy which affects job opportunities which leads to crime which ripples through city structures which keeps collapsing in on itself in a vicious cycle. It’s easy to throw our hands up and stick to preaching and teaching. But as Dr. Keller shows over and over, God cares a great deal for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, the disadvantaged. Biblically, not caring for them is the same as injustice. Dr. Keller paves a familiar yet convicting groundwork on why and how we should go about real justice. Asides from the moral discussion, he also provides practical steps that will get you to your feet rolling up your sleeves.

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