J.S. Park

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Drive-By Witness

It recently happened again.  It always grieves me.

jspark3000:

Occasionally someone will take me out to lunch and really take an interest in the drama that I’m going through. They nod, listen, show support, encourage, and even pray.

But then I never hear from them again.

That’s when I realize —

1) They were just curious about the latest gossip in town, 2) they feel like hanging out once is their good-enough deed for the day, or 3) they did it to impress me and puff up their ego.

 

It’s a bit heartbreaking because —

1) They were really good at acting like they cared, 2) I was excited to have someone who could walk through my struggle, and 3) it’s so hard to find trustworthy friends these days.

Of course I’ll continue to open up to people.  It won’t stop me and I’m okay with taking the chance. 

But please don’t be a drive-by witness. People are not hotel rooms: you can’t just check in and check out.  If you’re going to be there, then be there.  And really care.

— J.S.

Sometimes when you hear an awesome testimony, read certain Christian books, or see the way another person sings in worship service, it’s easy to become discouraged. Why can’t I have a faith like that? Am I doing it wrong? Do I really get it? What am I missing?

This is a losing game … So much of church relies on emotionalism and “feeling God,” so when we no longer feel God, we think something is wrong with us. The truth is: the Bible never calls us to continually duplicate our highs. We’re called to remember the Most High in our lows.

If you tried to have a wedding every day of your marriage, it would get exhausting. Preachers often try to do this to you in church, and this is why we keep hitting a dead end. Churches try to whip up a sacred moment out of thin air, but instead should really be reminding us of the reality that Jesus is present in both our mountaintops and valleys.

- J.S. from this post 

Hello dear friends!
If you haven’t yet, please consider clicking “like” on my Facebook page!
There are daily pictures, quotes, and updates. :)
Thanks and love y’all!
— J

Hello dear friends!

If you haven’t yet, please consider clicking “like” on my Facebook page!

There are daily pictures, quotes, and updates. :)

Thanks and love y’all!

— J

Faith Mosaic.

Your faith won’t look like the faith of your neighbor. We love Jesus and we love people: but beyond that, God has wired us with a colorful diversity of connections to Him. All the people in the Bible experienced God in different ways through their varying personalities.

Moses saw the back of God’s glorious rear, while Elijah heard the still small voice of God after a mountain exploded. Gideon was so doubtful he kept asking God to do weird things like burn up meat or throw water on a sheep rug; Jonathan was so confident that he provoked the Philistines to war without really consulting God. King David was a pensive, ferocious poet with an ear for music and lyrics; Jeremiah and Habbakuk wept loudly for their people with tons of uncertainty. Jonah hated ministry but went anyway; Isaiah said “Here am I, send me.” Ruth bravely proposed marriage in hopes that God would provide; Leah desperately begged Jacob to provide her offspring. Noah was a drunken slob after all his trouble; Joseph re-affirmed God’s sovereignty though he had been left for dead by his brothers. Peter was a brash thick-headed emotional hot-head who was ready for Jesus to unleash the Kingdom; Timothy was a sickly scared baby Christian who needed a lot of reassurance from Paul. Martha was practical and efficient; Mary was relational and affective. The Samaritan woman at the well needed a face-to-face encounter with Jesus; the Roman centurion trusted that Jesus had healed his sick servant from afar. Nicodemus the Pharisee went to Jesus late at night to avoid peering eyes; all the blind beggars went to Jesus in front of everyone to have their eyes opened. James & John expected Jesus to rain down fire on the enemy; Thomas doubted Jesus was ever the Messiah. James the half-brother of Jesus was all about God’s commands and obedience; Paul spoke of grace abounding all the more. Paul was the better writer but a weaker preacher; Peter was a fiery preacher for an ordinary fisherman. John was a loving patient sensitive man; Simon the Zealot was a political terrorist. Matthew Levi had been a greedy tax collector who followed Jesus on the spot; Mark was there when Jesus was arrested and fled the scene naked. In the end, Matthew and Mark wrote very different accounts of Jesus’s life and death, and so did Luke and John. Yet each one fills out the other, just as so many different hues in a mosaic.

— J.S.

When you can let go of the idols of relationships, wealth, intellect, success, beauty, and career: you can actually enjoy them for what they are. You don’t expect salvation or redemption from them. You don’t crush them with expectations or demand them to serve your every whim. You instead see them as gifts, as privileges, as an honor to respect and to cherish. Treat the earthly as divine and you will lose both; treat the divine as your treasure and the earth will be just as beautiful.

- J.S.

Struggling With Loneliness: How Is God Enough?

- In the book of Genesis, there’s a verse where God said that it was not good for man to be alone so He will make a helper for him. I think this extends even beyond marriage to say that we were made to have close relationships in our lives. What’s confusing is how this applies when we feel lonely? It’s not all about us & what we want but, how do we cope with loneliness when we were made to have those close friendships to walk through life together but also know that God is all we truly need?

- Hi, I have struggled with loneliness for a very long time. God has been healing me but I still have problems with it. During my lonely times, I would listen to sermons, sing praise songs, or just do activities I enjoy but sometimes, I just get wrecked and end up sinning. I belong to a church and try to catch up with friends but because relationships are like revolving doors- they come and go, it doesn’t really help. How can I trust God when I am an emotional wreck.

 

Hey there dear friends: thank you for trusting me with such a huge important issue.  I think it’s very rare that we get to hear about a theology on loneliness and companionship, and while I know I can’t possibly remedy all your concerns today, we can chip away a few layers of this together.

Please first know that loneliness is part of who we are and is NOT wrong or bad or sinful.  In other words, being lonely actually shows you’re human, and not anything else.

To quote Timothy Keller, he says:

Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect. Adam was lonely because he was like God, and therefore, since he was like God, he had to have someone to love, someone to work with, someone to talk to, someone to share with.

All of our other problems—our anger, our anxiety, our fear, our cowardice—arise out of sin and our imperfections. Loneliness is the one problem you have because you’re made in the image of God.

 

But of course, it’s not just as simple as walking into a party or a college campus or a church and suddenly finding all you’re looking for.  While I’m not sure I can hit everything you’re thinking, here are a few things to consider.

 

- Having a lot of people in your life doesn’t guarantee you’ll be any happier.  You can constantly be where the action is but never actually make a connection.

 

- Intimacy requires an intentional effort.  You probably saw this coming: but it’s totally okay to put yourself out there and find people with a common ground and likes and interests.  It might feel embarrassing to “look for friends,” but it’s absolutely okay to pray about finding some and then putting yourself in environments to meet them.

 

- Intimacy doesn’t work with everyone.  We’re not obligated to be friends with every person we meet.  Friendship is a privilege of trust and permission and healthy boundaries and shared joy.

 

- Some friends are for a season, and then they go.  As painful as it is, friends can inevitably drift in distance or direction, and occasionally those friendships need to be let go.  Some of your friends will be lifelong, but many others will have less of a place in your life as life goes on.

 

- We’re not meant to walk this spiritual life alone, as if being alone is some kind of “qualifier” for how much you’re relying on God.There are some of us who are convinced that being in solitude all the time is so righteous and godly and pure, but this is crazy and unbiblical.  The love of God becomes so much more real when you’re amidst other God-loving people who love you.  It’s why 1 John 4:12 says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

Of course codependency and people-pleasing and caving into unfair demands are all harmful.  But it’s also a bad idea to assume that our godliness is measured by how much we “de-idolize” people in our lives.  To idolize anti-idolatry is still idolatry, and it’s not healthy.  God made us for face-to-face, eye-to-eye, chair-to-chair encounters with people, as much as we can.

 

- Try to know your own rhythms and whether you lean towards introversion or extroversion.  I know that being an “introvert” or “extrovert” is not exactly a dichotomous clear-cut science, but it especially helps to know if you’re an introvert who needs to recharge from people, or you’re an extrovert who needs to make connections everyday.  Extroverts will become more lonely more quickly, and will need to find the line where they’re becoming too needy.  Introverts will tend to push people away, so they’ll need to find the line where being a snuggie-wearing hermit is getting a little weird.

 

- God has specifically put people in your life to love you, lead you, help you, and root for you.  Many of us have our eyes closed to this, because we’re looking for a cool attractive person to fall into our lap who meets our invisible standards.  But it’s also possible that God wants you to have real time with the 80 year old grandma in your church or the quirky professor or the older married couple or that one kid no one will talk to.  Sometimes we’re not really lonely, but our standards for companionship are too high and awfully shallow.  We’d be surprised to encounter some very awesome people when we step out of our own safety. 

 

- Friendship is not about fighting loneliness, but finding life.  Friends can’t be about “filling a void.”  That’s like eating cardboard when you’re hungry.  Friends are about sharing life and laughter and love together, and if you can correctly estimate both their limits and their needs, you’ll be much healthier in how you interact with them and spend your alone-time as well.

 

- No matter what, intimacy with God is the priority. 

There might be long stretches of time when you won’t have a real connection with anyone, and it’ll be painful.  There might be seasons when people reject you or you’re ridiculed or the rumors make you a pariah in your own town.  You’ll be misunderstood or ethnically in the “wrong” place or there will just be a secret dividing line between you and the inner-circle, for all kinds of unfair reasons.  I’ve been there.  It’s almost unbearable.  And it’s these times I had to dig my heels in the ground and preach to myself that my dignity and identity cannot be wrapped up in other people.  Because they’re just people.  It’s crazy that I would even let human opinion dictate my own value.  It’s not that I dismissed them or got prideful or stuck up my nose: but I recognized that they’re not my glory, that they do not have qualitative weight over my worth, and they cannot control how I feel about me.  I was able to love them more but need them less.  I was able to connect without being clingy.  I was able to let go of friendship and validation as a pseudo-savior, and instead trust that God was my one unchanging constant.  We cannot expect our friends to die for our loneliness.  They cannot be everything we need them to be all the time.  But Jesus loved us enough to die, that he might be with us always, that he might meet all our needs. When you begin there, you’ll have the strength to stand with friends and to stand alone: and you will find, you are never truly alone.

— J.S.

Jesus saved us on a cross: but he also reversed death in a grave so that even death would work backwards through our hearts, and all that sin ruined would be made right and restored.

- J.S. from this message

The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind
J.S. Park

Hello lovely wonderful friends!

This is a message I had the privilege to preach at an amazing college ministry in Gainesville, FL. 

The message is titled: The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind.

Of anything I’ve ever preached, this one is the truest message of my heart: that we would become a community of reckless honesty that gets entrenched into the mess of real lives with thoughtful nuance and that costly love called grace.  Whether you hate church or you’ve attended your whole life, I believe this is what God is after.

Stream above or download here!

 

Some things I talk about are: My time at the mental institution with drug addicts and sex addicts and recovering mental patients, the awkward harrowing nerve-racking experience of bringing your friend to church (and it happens to be sacrifice-a-live-animal day), the cringe-inducing moment when the preacher goes political, finding out what percentage of the church is actually God’s intention, the recent trend of movies where bad guys are not really bad but have a tragic back-story, what saying “I do” really means, that time I fought a pastor in a parking lot, and sculpting a real eye-to-eye face-to-face friendship over coffee.

Here are other messages from the podcast.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Besides your own, what are some other good podcasts?

Hey my friend, that’s really very kind of you to say.  I’m always so critical of my own preaching and I’m so much more comfortable writing.  My podcast is here, or is tagged on my blog here, and also on iTunes here.  Would be absolutely grateful if anyone left a review or star-rating on iTunes!

I currently listen to:

- Francis Chan. He’s been preaching at Reality Church in San Francisco.  I get scared to listen to him because he’s always so convicting and real, but that’s exactly why I love him.  Look up his recent message “20th Anniversary” from Cornerstone Simi Valley.

- Timothy Keller.  Rich, vibrant, intellectually satisfying preaching.  Look up his recent trip to Belhaven and also “On The Mountain.”

- Andy Stanley.  I know some say he’s “lite” or “diet faith,” but he has such a great practicality in his teaching.  I was really blessed by his two recent series, “Ask It” and “Right In The Eye.”

For my favorite sermons of all time, read here.  These were formative in my spiritual journey.

For the dangers of becoming a sermon junkie, read here.

And if you haven’t yet, go purchase The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis.  It’s a book of his best sermons.

Fellow bloggers: Please make suggestions!

— J.S.

If you ever decide to abuse your friend’s trust to your own advantage, please keep in mind: they will probably forgive you, but they don’t ever have to be your friend again. The day you decided to leverage their trust for your own agenda is the day you decided the friendship was over.

— J

jspark3000:

Whenever someone asks me my opinion about gay people, or people who support abortion, or people who picket funerals, or people of other religions, or transgender people, or overly religious people, I usually say, “You mean what do I think about people?  Well I’m a people too, and we’re all pretty screwed up.  And I think we all need Jesus.”

God loves people.  We’re all invited.  End of story.

— J

How To Write A Tumblr Will.

- Queue a post that will be published in a couple months.

- Write down everything you want to give away to each of your friends and family.

- Write down everything you always wanted to say.

- Tell the people you’re mad at that it’s okay now.

- Tell the people you loved what you love about them.

- Make requests for your funeral.  Like music, food, your favorite videos, or confetti and streamers and balloons.

- If you’re not married, write a letter to your future spouse and your future kids.

- Every couple months, edit your Tumblr Will.  It’ll sober you up.

- Make sure it doesn’t accidentally get published, or you’ll get some concerned messages.

- But live like it’ll get published, every day, today.

— J.S.

There are some Christians who prefer structure, authority, discipline, and hard work. They want to schedule their Bible-reading and they need to check off a calendar and they want to attend church on a weekly planner. They tithe to the exact dollar and they dress up every Sunday and they would never ever curse, not even after getting a papercut from their latest Oswald Chambers devotional. And I think that’s okay. I don’t think religion has to be such a bad word all the time. Again, effort is not legalism, because legalism is legalism.

I think God has room for the highly devout church guy who sits in the front row because God respects our individual dignity and personalities. God does not mock the button-up bravado of the sincerely stiff worshiper — because this sort of Christian is still a sinner in need of grace, like you and me, and we’re not called to treat him based on any other parameter.

God has wired each of us differently. Some Christians will drink a beer and smoke cigars and get tattoos and pray in the woods by the river with a handmade journal and Lecrae and Mumford and Sons and Nirvana in their iPod — because this is how they meet Jesus. God has a limitless imagination to speak to each of us in a wild variety of ways. To limit this is to limit God, and I don’t ever want to suckerpunch His sovereignty.

- J.S. from this post

Hello Pastor Park! I was reading one of the questions that you answered on how to become a pastor. I remember you saying that you have to feel a burning passion for God and the people I have been feeling this burning passion to go to seminary. I would really like to be able to minister to women and maybe even do christian counseling. I just have a strong desire to serve God and hep people in whatever it is that I do. Can you offer your opinion or any helpful advice?

Hey my friend, it’s very much a blessing to be called into ministry: and it’s also so much more insanely difficult than I could prepare you for.  I encourage you to check out my tag for seminary.

I don’t mean to scare you at all, because certainly we need more willing believers to enter into ministry.  But please research as much as you can, get many different opinions, and have as much encouragement and strengthening as possible.  Get some real talk with pastors and mentors.  As best you can, try to dispel any illusions or false ideas about ministry by really knowing all you can before heading in. 

Ministry is like nothing else.  It has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  You are literally living with people through their pinnacle moments.  You’ll be there for graduations and weddings and births and baptisms and hospital visits and prison visits and funerals.  You have no off days.  You see a person at their best and their worst.  That’s really an honor, and sometimes a burden.  You have to love people, no matter what, and that’s much less romantic than it sounds.  It can also be totally wonderful.

I will throw you a prayer.  The best thing for now is to be prepared.  Much love and blessing to you on this journey.

— J

CAN YOU BE MY SPIRITUAL MENTOR?

That would be really awesome, my friend.  I’m honored and humbled you would even consider me slightly worthy for such a monumentally difficult task.  However, I’m a nearly faceless blogger who’s probably hundreds of miles away and can’t do any good up close.  I’m sorry if that sounds like a stiff uptight answer.  I don’t mean to sound dodgy or “too good” for anyone.  I just sincerely believe that God has put people all around you in your life to mentor you.  Maybe they’re not as cool as you want them to be: they could be an 80 year old war veteran or a single mother of five or an eccentric college professor (I would love any of those to mentor me, and some have).  But seek someone close by who can take your calls and sit with you over coffee and is willing to pour into you within close proximity.  Real mentoring requires in-your-face-ness.  And of course, I will be here to receive your messages and pray for you. 

Fight the good fight, and may you find a mentor who loves Jesus.

— J