“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

A Relevant Faith: Connecting Abstract Belief to The Everyday

axopia asked a question:

Let me start by saying that you’re an amazing human being. You’re so graceful and friendly and warm, sometimes I can’t believe you’re real! I feel like you’ve been my friend forever even though we’ve never spoken, it’s unbelievable. Anyway, I’ve been a Christian for about two years, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing something wrong. I feel like I’m too involved with my own life and I’m not focusing nearly enough on my faith. Do you have any advice on how I can become closer with God?

My dear friend, I truly did need your encouragement today. Thank you so much for your wonderful words, which I know I don’t deserve. Truly do appreciate you.

I believe that all of us at some point will feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m doing something wrong. It’s all a part of our faith-journey. It’s part of being human. And sometimes it only means that we’re being too hard on ourselves.

Continue reading “A Relevant Faith: Connecting Abstract Belief to The Everyday”

I Don’t Have It All Figured Out Yet / Perpetually Skeptical


Hello dear friends! This is an audio preview of my book Mad About God: When We Over-Spiritualize Pain and Turn Tragedy Into a Lesson, about persevering through pain and suffering.

Preface 1 – I Don’t Have It All Figured Out, and That’s Okay
Preface 2 – Perpetually Skeptical: Screaming Through The Red Sea

Preface 1 is about our crazy need to connect pain with a lesson.
Preface 2 is about the constant, uncomfortable doubts about the existence and goodness of God.

Stream here or download directly here. The book is both in paperback and ebook.

Love y’all and be blessed!
— J.S.


The Horrifying Moment When All This Faith-Stuff Sounds Crazy


I often have these troubling moments when I totally don’t believe in God anymore, and I wonder what it would be like to live without Him.

I was an atheist for most of my life, so these thoughts are comfortable and familiar, like the blue plaid super-hero cape I wore in third grade. I go down a spiral of binge-reading atheism blogs and I can’t stop myself. I start to wonder if God even does anything because there’s so much horror in the world, or if He’s just a construct of a hopeful mind looking for momentary relief. It can take days to pull back from this, and doubts never really fade; you just live with them.

I remember the words of that father with the demon-possessed son, who told Jesus, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” And Jesus healed him. He didn’t shut them down. He didn’t say, “You better believe all the way first.” I get to thinking there must be more than all this, and that God did break into this fractured world somehow and began a healing at some point in history for all of eternity, an invitation to a new story, a reversal of entropy. I get to thinking we’re not just spinning alone out here, and that this is all going somewhere, and I have this tiny mustard-seed-sized faith that Jesus tells me can move mountains. I think even if this isn’t true, I so badly want it to be, and maybe that’s okay too. I do believe, and he doesn’t shame me for my unbelief. For that, I can believe Him — and for a moment, the mountains get shaken.

— J.S.

It Was A Good Life

Sometimes a friend will ask me for advice because they feel like they’re going nowhere in life.  They tell me their whole story, whether for two minutes or two hours, and I listen.

I can see they’re totally dead inside. Their eyes are hollowed out. Their hands shake. They have that numb zombified look of giving in to lesser things. They have the desperate look of the Reaper coming to collect their corpse. 

It’s always because of a boyfriend. Or a lack of purpose. Or terrible parents. Or a ninth year in college. Or an addiction: porn, heroin, meth, weed, people. Or a low-grade haunting fatigue and depression and cynicism with no discernible cause. 

It’s all these things but none of these things. It is emptiness, and we try to fill it by finding a god in things that are not God. 

At this point, I tell them:

Continue reading “It Was A Good Life”

Four Obstacles To Break On The Way To A Breakthrough

All kinds of motivational literature are good at telling you what’s good and bad. The church is great at beating the dead horse of consequences, drenching it in lighter fluid, and lighting it with napalm. We get it. Sin bad, God is good.

You might as well describe the water that the person is drowning in.

There are always real obstacles in the way of breaking free to a breakthrough. Like spiritual blocks that cut the momentum. What might not seem like a big deal to you might be a big deal to them. Because not everyone thinks like you. This is where it gets messy, messed up, and it’s not so black-and-white. Moving forward is not a straight line, and “sanctification” is less of a light switch than it is a journey.

God understands this and wants to break down each obstacle in the way, one at a time, until you can step forward unburdened by blind spots and dead weight. None of these obstacles make you a bad person, but just misinformed. Jesus didn’t come to make you “un-bad” anyway. He came to give you True Life.

Here are four obstacles to tackle to really break through to the other end of God’s vision. These things are not your fault, but you can choose not to wallow in them.

Continue reading “Four Obstacles To Break On The Way To A Breakthrough”