You Matter.


If you’re breathing, you matter, because you matter to the One who gave you breath.
J.S.


Art by worshipgifs

“The Gospel in Real Life” – Messages for Students from Yale


Hello wonderful friends! This is a series of three messages that I gave to students of Yale University, about the relevance and reason of Christianity.


The first is called: How Christianity Breaks Us Open and Painfully Puts Us Back Together.

It’s about how the Gospel uniquely differs from every other kind of motivation and completely restructures us.

Some things I talk about are: A meta-deconstruction of the Sunday church service, how to bomb a TEDTalk, the last two things I hear from dying patients in the hospital, the haunting of l’esprit de l’escalier, de-romanticizing adoption, the list of my flaws I gave to my wife before we started dating, and how a nine-year-old showed me the heart of Christianity.
You can also download it here.


The second is called: The Eternal Itchy Longing Within Us: Jesus Is Complete Fulfillment.

It’s about how the Gospel solves for two universal human problems and the greatest human need.

Some things I talk about are: How to tell an alien about the human race, conclusions about humanity after a survey with 700 replies, the instant anxiety when you walk into a crowded room, the itchy self-conscious moment when someone is slightly more talented at “my thing,” that loopy moment at night with your best friend when you start confessing everything, two universal human problems and our greatest human need, and the absolutely most important linchpin verse in the Bible.
You can also download it here.


The third is called: Where We Come From and Where We’re Going: Red Sea to Redeemed & Free.

It’s about how the Gospel compels us into action, neither by guilt nor religion, but deliverance.

Some things I talk about are: How long it actually should’ve taken the Israelites to get to Canaan from Egypt (not forty years), the moment right after the wedding, how the grace of my first pastor completely tenderized and galvanized me, the Christian life beyond “overcoming-sin,” and seeing God in the Philippines and a homeless shelter.
You can also download it here.



More messages on iTunes here or my podcast page here.

Be immensely blessed, dear friends! — J.S.

Photo by Alex, CC BY 2.0

True All Along.


“All along, I was worse than I thought. But all long, I was more loved than I thought.”
— Timothy Keller


Singleness Is Not Waiting For “Completion”


Singleness doesn’t define your value, ever.

What exactly is “singleness”? I wish we would stop defining things by the absence of something else. Being single doesn’t mean you’re somehow “incomplete” until someone else completes you. Let’s pause to consider that even the idea of singleness is false at its best, and oppression at its worst.

In the first century, Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7 specifically to address single people. To paraphrase, he said, “If you want to get married, good. If you want to stay single, good, and it could be better.” To you, this might sound ordinary. But at the time, it was a loaded bombshell. This was actually an entirely revolutionary view of sexuality that had been previously unheard of.

During Paul’s life, the Emperor of the Roman Empire was actually charging a fee for the unmarried because it was considered bad for the economy and the family (never mind that Caesar was already bad for both). Being married with a family was considered the gold status of society, and a single person could only have been a widow or prostitute; there was no middle ground.

So Paul comes along, and moved by the Spirit of God, completely wrecked the whole idea of family and marriage and singles. Though marriage is desirable, it’s not a “state of completion,” and we have an entire church of brothers and sisters in Christ who are meant for deep soul-community, for both singles and couples. Paul legitimized singleness as an absolutely acceptable life-choice, but more than that, said it can often be better for carrying out God’s mission on earth (1 Cor. 7:29-35). Paul himself was single, which itself would’ve been quite a scandal.


— J.S.


Testimony From A Couple.


I received an email from a couple who recently picked up my book on relationships, and it made me quite emotional to see how God was moving in their lives. It’s always overwhelming to see how grace can travel the planet to people you never met. This isn’t about a book, but what Jesus can do when he crash-lands into our lives with reckless grace. With their permission, this is their testimony.

The lady said, “I just had to tell you what a huge difference your Christianese Dating book has made in my boyfriend and me. I discovered it on Amazon as I was desperately searching for something about ‘Christian dating,’ because I am in my first relationship and felt pretty clueless. Your words of grace were so helpful for me. I am a legalist by nature and was looking for some hard and fast rules, but your message was just what I needed to remind me that I am not living in a black and white world, but serving a loving savior.”

The guy said, “For me, having seen so many relationships go bad, I was almost of the opinion that having a girlfriend was some sort of necessary evil. A minefield that contained very little room for error and even less grace. Your book helped me look past the legalistic views constantly being pushed onto me and remember what is true: that a God-centered relationship is filled with an abundance of grace and can be an overwhelmingly positive experience!”

Love y’all and praying for each of you today.
— J.S.


I Got Marriage Fever: The Desperate Hunt For A Spouse

isaacbeerkowski asked:

Hey pastor. I’ve recent realized that I have a habit of going to church and looking at all the ring fingers on the beautiful godly women around me. Its not that it’s a common thing in my lifestyle. I try very hard to stay pure and prepare myself accordingly for my bride. But it seems like when I go to church, a pretty specific time when I should be focused on other things…I seem to instantly become desperate to find my bride. Idk what’s going on. Are you familiar with this struggle?

Hey dear friend, you’re definitely not alone in this.

There was a time in my own life (high school & college) when I just couldn’t stand to be single. I would go after every new girl in the room. It doesn’t mean I got them; it’s just that I desperately wanted to be in a relationship all the time. Of course, when I got in one, I wanted out. It was a selfish, vicious, stupid cycle that I confess to my own shame.

I’m not saying this is where you’re at. But in psychology, there’s an informal phenomenon called an aspirational crush. It’s sometimes a paranormal relationship. It’s not exactly sexual or even relational, but it’s that thing when you have a crush on every person who makes your stomach flutter. You could call it “girl-crazy.”

There are all sorts of reasons this happens, especially because we live in a culture that’s bombarded by overly sexualized media. The church is just as guilty. There’s a church in New York that has an entire wall of pictures of married couples who met at the church, and while I understand they want to celebrate this, apparently the church is huge on hooking up singles. I can’t imagine what this does to the “less socially acceptable” single people. Overall, I find it a bit tacky and demoralizing.

But ultimately, this comes down to reflecting on what you’re really about.

The two best things I can say are:

Continue reading “I Got Marriage Fever: The Desperate Hunt For A Spouse”

About Purity, Prayer-Sex, and Looking Past A Person’s Looks

Three questions about dating and relationships!

y-a-h-w-e-h asked a question:

What is prayer-sex (and why is it a sin)?

Continue reading “About Purity, Prayer-Sex, and Looking Past A Person’s Looks”

Christianese Dating: The Adventure of Dating and The Reality of Relationships

Christianese Dating Logo


Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a seminar I gave on dating and relationships to a wonderful ministry of college students and young adults in Gainesville FL, aka Gator Town.

It’s called The Adventure of Dating and The Reality of Relationships. It’s about the exciting prospect of dating and the gritty, difficult, raw reality of relationships. Stream here or download directly here!

Some of the content is from my new book on relationships called The Christianese Dating Culture.

Some things I talk about are: The romantic theology of Taylor Swift, that time I overheard a girlfriend catching her boyfriend with another woman, two soldiers at war gossiping about the Kardashians, the best Christian pick-up line ever, the gritty raw painful sweaty work of theater actors and ballerinas, the difference between “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker,” three directions that every relationship takes, if my fiancé gained 200 lbs, the scary anxious fear of marriage proposal and possibly hearing “Nope,” and a Q&A Session including the truth about “wives submitting” and how to find “The One.”

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.


Thank you, Lauren Britt!


The wonderful Lauren Britt of yesdarlingido wrote the Foreword to my new book on dating and relationships! So thankful for you, Lauren!

Pick it up on Amazon in either paperback or e-book! If you’re blessed, please consider writing an honest review. 🙂

In the book, some things I talk about are: The weird neurotic subculture of dating in the church, Joshua Harris and courtship, Taylor Swift’s sexual theology, how we give more attention to “attractive people,” my friend failing her first Beauty Pageant, that icky moment when you play a song you wrote in front of your friend while making eye contact, the lies about lust and purity, feeling like it’s “too late” if you already messed it up, recovery from my fifteen year porn addiction, the time I tried to kill myself over a girl, and the painful non-romanticized journey of getting engaged to be married.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.



Pick it up on Amazon for only 8.89!


“Sex and the Romantic Solution” by Timothy Keller


This is an absolutely brilliant sermon by Timothy Keller called “Sex and the Romantic Solution,” in which Pastor Tim does a cultural breakdown of popular love songs and Hollywood romance from decades past and recent, including Bruno Mars and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and talks about the painful quest of the human heart for romantic love.  He makes a case for exclusive sexual love and how Christianity offers the best possible way for romance.

Pastor Tim Keller has had a huge impact my own faith and writing, and was threaded throughout my recent book on dating (I quoted him 7 times, and his influence, also my influence, C.S. Lewis, 8 times).  This is worth the entire 27 minutes; there’s both great humor and cutting insight.



Impossible Fruits: Completely Jaded About The Unchanged

It happens to all of us: you pour out your heart and life and hours and pockets and energy into a fresh-faced person, hoping to see them out of the miry pit and into victory — when the end result is cataclysmic disappointment, worse off than before, down the spiral of prodigal wastefulness, a bitter mess of nuclear ground zero.

I keep thinking of them, You could be more than this. You were almost there.

Years and years of ministry has jaded me about how people change. In the jailhouse and the homeless shelters, it’s not so bad: people know they’re at rock bottom and there’s a fervent dependency on God you don’t see in your superstar theologian. They have little excuse. Their faith has been chiseled into its rawest form, a pure reliance on God’s power, and their life everyday is, Only God can do it now.

But people who can fall back on rationalizations, chemicals, alcohol, ex-boyfriends, more money, and mindless luxury never hit that rock bottom. Oh, they think they do. The people who claim, “I really want to change” will cry those big effortless tears and make their own sob-story so unique. But around the corner is some justified defense for their actions, a simple twist of words that makes sense in their mind, a little bottle of distraction to numb good senses, a secret silent motto of I can do this myself.

Or they will make you the bad guy, you’re the one with the problem, your truthful words are unhelpful criticism, your help is just a nuisance, and you’ll be the one person they cut out from their life.

I’ve learned over and over that no one — I really mean no one — can handle rebuke. None of us are good at this, and you can add me to that list. The second you tell someone the truth about themselves, it’s very rare when you see humility, conviction, and repentance. It’s either a total emotional meltdown full of self-guilt-tripping despair (no matter how nice you were in your rebuke), or it’s an insane explosion of throwing-things, kicking-doors, punching-walls, and all sorts of childish temper tantrums.

People are comfortable with the lies they’re living in. Ripping the roof off the lie is a dangerous move, like getting near the den of a bear. I keep saying the phrase, “You know you’re better than this.” But the more they keep doing that stupid thing and believing that dumb lie, the less this is true. We eventually become the lie we’re living.

As I’ve heard before, when you confront a friend: you’ll either get Real Grown Folks Time or Senseless Drama. It is now the minority exception to see grown-ups working together to work through real issues. People would rather deny their sin all the way to Hell by paying the price of their own souls. Satan is cracking up at us. I’m just grieved, tired, and jaded. I wish I wasn’t.

I would like to be gracious every time, the patient pastor who listens and nods and understands, the dude anyone can talk to. At times, I am, by the good grace of God. But most times I want to grab someone by the face, shake them half to death, and yell, “Stop it man, just shut up and stop.” I’ve done almost that a few times, and it worked for a little while, but shame never really changes anyone. It’s a short-term band-aid for a deep soul-wound.

It’s a serious calling to be the guy who unravels the lie and tells the hard truth. It demands your whole life.

Continue reading “Impossible Fruits: Completely Jaded About The Unchanged”

To The End




… When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

— John 13:1

“The worst tool for evangelism” by Jon Acuff


Jon Acuff on using shame in evangelism.  Absolutely right on. 

Excerpt:

“If you’re 99% saved, then you’re 100% lost!” Church sign I just drove by. I guess they didn’t have the letters for “Visitors keep out.”

What does “100% saved” mean? Who is measuring that? The pastor of that church? The elders? Is there a chart? What is the 1% that makes all the difference? What do you do with the guy in Mark 9 who asks Jesus to heal his child “if you can?”

Jesus replies, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

To which the father says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus, sensing that the father was only 78% saved says, “Can’t do it. Disciples, get my boat! It’s time to bounce.”

Or he heals him and moves on. One of those two things happened.

Have you ever met someone who said, “I became a Christian when a friend of mine shamed me badly. They shamed me into the arms of Christ.”

I haven’t, but I have heard this story countless times:

“A neighbor loved me when I was so unlovable to them. Their love made no sense. Finally I had to ask them, ‘Why are you so different? Why are you so kind to me? That’s when they told me about this guy, Jesus Christ.’”

Continue Reading at Jon Acuff’s blog


A Relational Quandary: When We Find Out Who Our Friends Are, aka Why Jesus Is More Like My Unbelieving Friends

The other day I pretended I had cancer. I don’t do this a lot. Tuesdays are typically not Cancer Day (that’s Ebola Virus Day).

I went through my phone to see who I could call about it. Out of so many numbers, I came up with just a few names. Everyone else: too dramatic, critical, self-centered, unhelpful, unpleasant. Maybe I was being harsh. But still, no thanks.

I imagined other scenarios. God forbid I had just cheated on my future wife, let’s say. Or caught with porn at church. My future kids run away from home. Unforeseen debt. Got into a fight at the bowling alley. Wife miscarries. Doubting God again. Miserable about family, life, faith. Wanting to quit ministry.

Again: only a few names from the phone. Everyone else: too judgmental, snappy, quick to fix, short tempered, too religious. Was I being just as critical?

But an even weirder, troubling truth was that I felt safer talking to non-believers like my mom and brother instead of good old-fashioned church people. Because they wouldn’t be so fast to throw a Bible at me, or spiritualize everything, or connect it to the mysterious sovereignty of God.

I was sure they’d talk to me like a human being, with grace and dignity, capable of seeing past my poor choices.

No, they couldn’t offer Bible verses or Christ-centered counsel. But they wouldn’t look at me like some anecdotal success-story waiting to happen. Not just some damn discipleship project they could brag about at church like God would turn it around by the end of the episode.

And I knew then that something was wrong with this.

Continue reading “A Relational Quandary: When We Find Out Who Our Friends Are, aka Why Jesus Is More Like My Unbelieving Friends”

Question: Great Guy, Not A Christian

Anonymous asked:
I have a friend who is on my back all the time about how I’m not dating a Christian and how in the past he used to be a terrible person who would date around. She tells me that God doesn’t want a Christian and a non Christian to date and that we should break up or else i’ll be sinning against God. He’s not a bad guy.. we’ve been dating for 2 years but if its not what the Lord wants I would. What do you think?

I wish I could be so nice and pandering and sympathetic for you here. Please believe me when I say I got nothing but love for you. But please also believe me that unless you’re doing everything in your power to get that dude to Jesus, you’re making a mistake.

I get it: It’s been two years. Your friend who said it’s a “sin” was not being very open-minded. You don’t like it when people tell you what to do, especially about your boyfriend. He’s a “good guy,” which I could also say about my dog, who generally doesn’t pee in the house or curse out my neighbors. I can also say that about most Christians, who generally keep to themselves and nod when told.

Continue reading “Question: Great Guy, Not A Christian”