J.S. Park

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Aug 1

jspark3000:

There is no perfect church.

There is no perfect service, no perfect sound system or praise team or preacher or sermon or environment or seating or set-up or video guy or audio guy or room temperature or bulletin grammar or body odor or carpet color or ending prayer. 

But — there is a perfect God.

And He is in charge of your imperfect church.

Forget the distractions.  Love Him, love your people, and have grace for all the grey in between.

Praise Him, and everything else will be fine.

— J

Aug 1

My fears are getting the better of me lately, no actually, my whole life. I am socially awkward, shady, shy, and spiritually weak. & I'm scared of being judged and rejected. Because of the way I am, i lost and hurt so many people in my life that cared about me. I recently went to church camp and the pastor was talking about fear and how it can overcome and break you &learned that Trusting in God is the answer. But how do i strengthen my trust for God? How do I find the courage to fight my fears?

Hey my dear friend: May I first please say, without going into advice-mode, that you are absolutely loved by me, by our fellow bloggers, and our God Himself.  Even with a tiny thread of belief, whisper this to your heart, no matter how small it seems. 

Please allow me to point you to a few posts here.  As always, feel free to skip around or skip them all.

- I Am Just Struggling Like Crazy

- Struggling With Loneliness: How Is God Enough?

- The Desperate Difficulty of Knowing God’s Love

- Fighting Off That Stress

- The Fear of Man, Image, and Reputation

- I Am Anxiously Anxious About Being Anxious

- I’ve Totally Screwed Up and I Can’t Pick Up The Pieces

- Why Did God Make Emotions? A Mega-Post

 

I know there are no magic words to make this all better, but the best thing I can encourage you to do is find a mentor, a pastor, or a mature believer to talk all these things out.  Maybe you’ve tried this already, but please try more than once and keep trying.  It really helps to articulate your worst fears out loud, because we cannot carry all these burdens alone.  God often aims for us to find Him by finding His love in others, and if you’ve never heard that before, 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.  You will find a safe place where you can tell your story and then decide to change directions by His grace — and that starts with out-loud eye-to-eye conversation.

May I also leave you with an awesome quote by one of my favorites, Brennan Manning.

For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow or alteration or change. When Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,’ He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love. He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, betrayal would sap our spirits; that the day would come when faith would no longer offer any drive, reassurance, or comfort; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress …

What the disciple has not learned is that tangible reassurances, however valuable they may be, cannot create trust, sustain it, or guarantee any certainty of its presence. Jesus calls us to hand over our autonomous self in unshaken confidence. When the craving for reassurances is stifled, trust happens.

— J.S.

Aug 1

Glad I ran into your post about having negative emotions. I feel like I have been feeling bitter and negative the past week and have been feeling pretty guilty about it. Was a good reminder about His grace.

Hey there, I think you’re referring to this post.  Thank you for your honesty.  I think sometimes we feel like a bad day is a bad life, when really it was just 0.00001% of our entire lifetime.  God has it covered.  Thank you again :)

— J

Aug 1

One thing I love about you and your blog is that you're REAL with us. You allow us to open our eyes and see that EVERYONE in Christ make mistakes and that there is SO MUCH GRACE FOR THAT. Praise God! May He take you from Glory to Glory in Jesus name.

Thank you so much, my friend.  Over the past week I’ve lost quite a few followers after writing this angry post.  And that’s okay.  It’s tough to always be the cheerful pastor or the “positive blogger” persona all the time, and I guess we all have bad days.  Thanks again for such grace where we’re not afraid to be honest.

— J

Aug 1

We can abuse God’s love without ever changing, because His love is inexhaustible: but why would we even want to? Why settle for a halfway grace? God is offering a glorious life of freedom ahead. I’ve tasted that freedom and I can’t go back anymore. I wouldn’t trade that joy now for anything. I hope you’re desperate enough to find that joy, and that you really mean it.

- from this post (via randjohnyanez)

Aug 1

Dialogue: Is More Than Once

jspark3000:

When you have a problem with your parents, the pastor, the boss, the teacher, the blogger, your friend —

Most of us try talking with them once, and then we give up.  Me included.  We presume the initial reaction is the whole reaction, so we walk away furious or frustrated.

But one discussion can’t possibly cover every angle of both sides.  A first reaction is usually just the emotional instinct spilling out sideways, and no one ever does this very well.  It’s unfair to shut the door right then.  You can say “I tried and he was still stubborn!” — but basically you stabbed a hole in the guy and left. 

It takes a few days to process everything that you told someone.  It’s not new to you because you’ve had time to think on it.  It’s new to them and it will open fresh wounds.  It’ll take more than one conversation to start traction on moving forward.  It even takes dozens of one-on-one talks to push past the uncomfortable, gritty, defensive posture into real dialogue.  If you’re not willing to invest the time, then you’ll have half-formed judgments all over the place without any constructive healing or momentum. 

Please don’t narrow down a whole person into a fifteen minute meltdown.  Please don’t presume every single motive based on one phone call.  A back-and-forth over texting doesn’t finish the sentence on anything.  Communication takes patience, effort, grace, empathy, and forgiveness.  Expect the first time to be rough.  And expect most people are just as reasonable as you and are willing to learn, so long as you meet them eye to eye.

— J

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

jspark3000:

Perhaps the one sermon I ever preached that could be my last one.

About grace, upon grace, upon grace.

— J

jspark3000:

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.

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.

Stream above or download here!

Here are other messages from the podcast.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

There are some people who immediately disqualify themselves from having an opinion about you. They’re not really haters or trolls or even all wrong; they’re just desperate to relieve their own insecurities and you happen to be the closest one standing by. Do them a favor: let them keep talking, so that maybe they will hear their craziness out loud.

- J.S.

jspark3000:

You know, us Christian bros need to stick together.  There’s enough hate and envy out there.  We need loyalty and fist-bumps and long talks about Jesus.

— J

There is no end to pleasing people. Whether it’s school or work or family or yourself, everyone demands a piece of your soul that always seems to fall short anyway. God is the only pleaseable one, because He’s already accepted you in the full grace of His Son. You only need to believe it — and in Him is the infinite validation, affirmation, and encouragement we’ve been looking for. You can be free to rest in His total grace and meet the world’s demands without bowing to them.

- J.S.

Writing them off.

jspark3000:

To the men: There’s something in us that makes us look at another girl’s boyfriend and instantly think, “Douche-bag.”

To pastors: There’s something in us that makes us hear another pastor’s sermon and think, “That was weak. What a show-off. He’s copying that famous guy. Sloppy theology. Bad delivery. I could’ve said that better.”

To bloggers: There’s something in us that sees another blogger and thinks, “He’s just hype. She’s so off. Yeah well what about ____? She missed the whole point. He’s only famous because ____. So pretentious.”

So maybe we could admit this is probably 1) jealousy, 2) insecurity, 3) passive-aggressive haterade, 4) discomfort with someone who’s slightly better than us, or 5) a critical spirit that isn’t really happy with anything.

And instead, we could 1) celebrate each other, 2) learn from others, 3) look out for their best, 4) cultivate potential, and 5) make every effort to resist holding someone down.

Please don’t be too quick to write someone off, especially if you could learn from them. I’ve made this mistake too many times and it left me uppity, intolerable, and alone. Now I just look forward to celebrating others who surpass me, because anything I can do to promote the work of God in that person: I’ll do it. Get me out of the way on that one.

— J

When God gives you a command, He’s not telling you, “Don’t do this, and do this.” He’s not to trying to restrict your behavior - He’s trying to deepen and widen your joy. He’s saying, “This is reality and how I made things, and this is how things work. This is what is for your best. I have your best interests at heart. This is the way the universe was designed to be in perfect harmony.

- J.S. Park (via prism0prone)

Do Christians Have “Stockholm Syndrome” And Make Excuses For Their Abusive God?

eternallyforevereverythinglove said:

Hello! What do you think about the statement that Christians (and generally believers) have Stockholm Syndrome? I’ve picked this up somewhere and did some research. It’d make sense and it makes me feel weird about my faith now. Thanks and God bless!

 

Hey there my friend: I took some time to read about this, and it seems to be a new form of the argument that “Christians are brainwashed into unquestioning belief and indoctrinated to their oppressive church institutions and cultures.” 

Like all accusations against the Christian faith, there is always an element of truth to them because people are people, and we cannot perfectly reflect a perfect God.  We’re messy creatures with mixed motives in a gray-space struggle. 

What I mean is: Any argument against the Christian faith will make some kind of logical sense, because it will make sense against everyone regardless of their affiliation. We can blame religion just as much as we can blame human stupidity.

When someone says, “The church is full of hypocrites” — I always say, “Well that’s why you should go.”  Not in a mean way, but I’m saying: There are hypocrites at businesses, schools, hospitals, fraternities, non-profits, and the White House (gasp!), but the difference is, the church is the one place you can admit it and find healing.  Yes, hypocritical Christians have harmed many of us, and we need to confess that.  But as a tactic to dismiss faith, this is a cheap unthoughtful argument that’s a fluffy insubstantial defense mechanism.  Most of these arguments have NOT gone to the bottom of themselves, at all.

So when someone talks about “Christian brainwashing,” here are a few thoughts to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

 

1) It’s true that the mainstream church has damaged people with cult-like behavior, and we must absolutely be aware of this and apologize.

If Christians can’t admit this, there’s no point to having this discussion.  When someone slams the church, I always end up agreeing with their criticisms.  I don’t mean that it makes me doubt God: but their feelings are valid and they’ve been genuinely hurt by the church.  We have to start there.  We need to talk about it.  We can’t defend all our behavior, because some of it has been atrocious, and we must apologize. 

Also, here are Five Signs You’re Probably In One Of Those Cults.

 

2) We are all indoctrinated, into a particular system of belief, no matter where we roll.

Most Western individuals don’t realize that they live inside a Post-Enlightenment individualistic “rational” mindset that’s Pavlovian-conditioned to reject anything outside of naturalistic explanation.  Our dear brother C.S. Lewis called this chronological snobbery, in which we believe our current slice of time is far more advanced than other any other time in history. 

We’re largely a product of our times.  We have ALL bought into paradigms that enforce certain restrictions on our values.  Even the value that “I’m above these values” is still a specific constrained worldview.  So when you accuse someone of being brainwashed, you’re just as brainwashed into the opposition of whatever view you’re accusing.

Of course, most Westerners who disagree with Christianity will say “You’re a narrow-minded intolerant bigot.”  A Westernized brain will instantly dismiss the spiritual realm and conservative values.  But dismissing an entire group of people because of their ideology is still an ideology.  To say, “I tolerate everything except intolerance” must deny its very own rule.  

If you’re beholden to your own particular views in fear of betraying your camp or being ridiculed, you’re being held hostage, and this takes a blinding self-rationalization that’s — oh right, just like Stockholm Syndrome.  This happens with both the very religious and the very secular: and if you deny that it happens with you, you’re proving this exact point.  Everyone is a captive to their own particular set of beliefs, no matter where you turn. 

I know what I’m saying will bother the typical Western person (and if you’ve been indoctrinated by secularism long enough, you’ll feel you’re superior to all this too.  You’re not, and neither am I).  But when I was an atheist, I became weary of atheists because they thought they were so enlightened.  When I was a Reformed Calvinist, I became weary of Calvinists because they thought they were so enlightened. 

Really, they were both nearsighted and full of retconning, fanwanking, and preprogrammed defenses for their own little gods.  And as an Eastern-Western hybrid, I recognize the arrogant self-important myopia of both sides.

If you’re still not okay with this, let’s try an experiment.  Stockholm Syndrome says, “I understand why he abused me, it’s probably for the right motives.  I get why he’s correcting me, because there must be a good reason.”  Those are bad rationalizations that could get you killed.  But let’s take that to the opposite extreme.  What if every time my future spouse did the slightest thing I disliked, I suspected a false motive?  And what if every time my future spouse contradicted me, I shut her down?  That wouldn’t be a real marriage.  I’m demanding a robot.

Someone who says, “I don’t want a God who could ever do something I dislike” or “God can’t correct me” really just wants a robot-god.  And someone who is enslaved to Post-Enlightenment Western thinking has already determined their own robot-god too.

 

3) The old argument that “God will send you to Hell if you don’t worship Him, so He must be a terrorist” is a tired argument used by only the most earnest first-time philosophers.

For that, I will point you here:

- Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post

 

4) God’s heart for us is that we freely choose Him.

Christianity in its purest form will invite questioning.  It’s open to deconstruction.  If you’re frustrated with God, you can yell about it, ask about it, shake a fist and vent.  You can disagree and stomp the ground and throw things and yell “Why.”  Just read the Book of Psalms or Jeremiah or Lamentations.  None of the writers were rationalizing what God did, at all.  There was a ton of unresolved tension, and some of my first questions in Heaven will be about that crazy Old Testament.

But really, I believe the God of the Bible is open to our challenges.  He’s okay with all our fist-shaking.  As I’ve said before, I would much rather be mad with God than mad without Him.

Also: Our entire world of false dichotomies forces you into one fixed viewpoint or another.  Most people get upset if you try to re-arrange their bottle of dogma.  Most systems of belief are self-contained dominions where nothing goes in or out.  A Democrat is expected to act one way, a Republican another. 

Which is why Jesus was so wholly unpredictable and angered both sides.  Jesus himself was a safe haven who is not defined by dogmatic party lines, but by his gracious solidarity with real human beings caught in the messy crossfire of a broken world.  There are no clean-cut solutions here.

I’ve managed to piss off both conservatives and liberals with my stance on homosexuality.  Take that how you will.  The Christian is able to keep multiple viewpoints within tension because true Christianity does not usurp our identity, but at once draws out the true self while creating a unified ground. 

In the end, God is not holding us at gunpoint here. He wants us to think for ourselves.  He also has our very best interests at heart, so of course, He would want us to choose Him.  If God was the most glorious being in the entire universe, He would be wrong not to point to Himself as the most worthy of all glory.  But neither He will ever force that upon us, because He gave us the free will to choose.  That’s what makes us human, and not hostages.  God wants the purest relationship with us, without coercion or agenda or even a mutual exchange.  How could we ever give to God more than He ever gives to us?  When we are with Him, it is always an abundance of grace.

I’ll leave you with two wonderful quotes by C.S Lewis once again:

"The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free."

"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

— J.S.

Pursuing God is about realizing more and more that He has been pursuing you all along, and slowly waking to this reality. It’s knowing that every ounce of effort you’ve made towards Him has been His wooing grace, beckoning you ever closer.

- J.S.

About Mark Driscoll and Idolizing Celebrity Pastors

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It appears Mark Driscoll keeps getting in the news for (mostly true) accusations of plagiarism, misogyny, sneaky use of funds, and being an overall poopy-face who needs a good spanking from John Piper.

Usually with these kinds of public lightning rod meltdowns, the followers emphasize all the great things their leader has done, while the bashers keep bringing up the terrible awful stuff — and so you have one side that’s blind to the obvious flaws, and the other side blind to obvious grace.

Yet the one thing I don’t understand is how Mark Driscoll’s church members get labeled “idolaters” or that they’re “idolizing” him.  Because all this online bashing of Driscoll and blasting other flawed celebrity pastors already points to a problem of idolatry and pedestal-platforms, whether it’s positive or negative, and anti-idolatry is still idolatry. 

There is zero difference between either the blindness of fanboy-ism or the blindness of tacky tabloid cheap shots.

This obsessive fascination with Driscoll’s personal shortcomings, whether you’re attacking him or defending him, points to a pre-existing issue with our encroaching celebrity culture.  The second you jump a Driscoll-defender for protecting him, you yourself have elevated Driscoll to the poster-boy for everything that’s wrong with Christianity, which means you’re legitimizing his pedestal from the other side of the fence.  Just think of how crazy this is.  It’s completely nuts that we’re even able to know about some random pastor in Seattle who messed up a few times and we have a voice to share our opinion. 

I can’t be the only one who thinks we’ve done a terrible job of speaking about this with any kind of thoughtful, productive discussion.

I just wonder what Pastor Mark is going through right now.  He has five kids and a wife.  He’s a fellow brother in Christ, no matter how much we disagree with him.  He’s in a position that no one could ever possibly understand.  His ministry will be tainted forever.  He’s been looking half-dead.  He tried to fess up and apologize, but both the church and the outside world ate him alive.  I wish I could just label him and be done with it: but I can’t.  I can’t so casually dismiss a father and a husband and a fellow pastor with a black-and-white judgment.


I’m not defending his actions.  I’m not saying plagiarism and misogyny are okay (and if you even thought I was endorsing them, then that’s part of the problem of our presumptuous blogosphere).  I just believe that if we think Driscoll is this bad, then this ought to drive us to our knees to pray for him.  It ought to move us to grief and grace, by both acknowledging his wrong and rooting for his restoration. It ought to bring us to question ourselves:

Why do we place such a spotlight on big-name pastors with big churches and big platforms?  Why am I adding this one more voice to a sea of mad voices?  How can I contribute constructively to a dying church culture that needs grace more than ever?

At times I think we’re so intoxicated with the romantic idea of grace that we forget it actually takes a real grit to hang in there with a messed-up brother, and it’s not only for the pretty people worthy of our social redemption.

If you criticize but do nothing, you sort of revoke your own right to criticize.  Anyone can blog from a basement; the true fighter brings love to the trenches.  While we’re all having arguments online to questions that no one is asking: there’s a real world dying out there who needs the hands and feet of Christ.

I could type angry on a keyboard and preach to a blogging choir.  Many bloggers build their fanbase this way.  It’s easy to jump a hater-bandwagon, even if your motives are right.  It’s easy to find something wrong with everything.  But until we are offering a way forward with our sleeves rolled up and our minds full of Christ-driven truth, then we’re only adding to the darkness of a directionless world.  We would only be tightening the strangle-hold of our strange celebrity voyeurism instead of remembering that people are just people, and anyone can lift them up or tear them down, but it takes a special heart to get in there side-by-side in the dirt.  I have failed so often at this too, and I only hope I can examine myself before I throw down the gauntlet on anyone else.  I would hope you do the same for me.  And maybe then we can turn this all around.

— J.S.