J.S. Park

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Sep 2

jspark3000:

Note to future self:
When you don’t get it right —
Apologize quickly and let go.
Don’t beat yourself up or defend yourself too long.
Humans are squishy with small brains.  We don’t get it right every time.
And that’s okay.  Being wrong is not the end of the world.
Learning this now.

— J

Sep 2

I’m starting to find that everyone’s Christian faith is utterly, uniquely different. Not so different on loving Jesus and loving people — but the way we wrestle through doctrine by strict academia or by poetic reflection, how we sing at the top of our lungs or in quiet osmosis, how some of us pray at sunrise in a pew or at three a.m. on a beach, how some of us are dying to journal or would rather die than journal, how our political tensions clash so broadly and brutally, how one forgives so quickly and the other is bitter indefinitely, how some of us are strong in faith or we’re faith-weaklings, how we each hold onto quirks like Bible translations and worship genres and preaching styles, how we like to gather in crowds of thousands or a group of a dozen.

There’s no need to fight over these things. No need to accuse another of being wrong, or to try to be better than the ‘other’ church, or to recast the same mold. We are so many shades of an endless jewel, a glorious community of unified diversity fueled by the endless imagination of God. I hope we don’t dash ourselves on our personalities. There is room for you and for me in this Body.

- J.S.

Sep 2

Doctrinal Deathmatch: Catholics Vs. Charismatics Vs. Protestants - When Doctrine Divides Us (And Why It Doesn’t Have To)

bare-memoirs asked:

Hey J.S. I have been seeking more to my faith than what I’ve got now. However others have put me down by saying I’m just seeking to ‘work’ my way into heaven. I have asked for advice from others and also was put down. But I find much comfort in all of the thought that goes into the stances that Catholics and Orthodox holds. They give me much guidance when others haven’t even thought of the issues I have encountered … Is the condemnation that I’m receiving for seeking insight from the more traditional churches really within reason? Am I wrong for wanting more to my faith (and going this route)? …

lmazel asked:

Hey, Pastor Park! Hope you’re doing great and hopefully getting some well-deserved rest. I had a quick question- what are your thoughts on charismatics? I just went to a charismatic church for the first time and I certainly had never seen anything like it; I would love any information you have.

 

Hey my dear friends: I want to commend you right upfront about your constant searching for truth, for good theology, for a vibrant pulsing faith.  All of us are still learning and seeking and not fully arrived, and I appreciate your earnest hearts in this. 

I’m also sorry for any ridicule you might have faced from your own church community for bringing up such curiosity.  No one should ever shame you for having sincere questions about faith, tradition, church, and history.

Please allow me first to quote the inimitable C.S. Lewis about other religions, which is also helpful to understand our view on Christianity itself.

"If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through … If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest one, contain at least some hint of the truth … As in arithmetic - there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others."

I’m going to extrapolate Lewis’s idea further to mean that even within Christianity, there are slight differences in traditions and cultures and people-groups that will create a distinct flavor for Christian faith in different parts of the world.  And while there are definitely false man-made institutions with Catholics or Protestants or Pentecostals, each group has at least a core foundation of truth with a capital T.

 

So really, Christianity will look different for most people while maintaining core truths about Jesus, because Christian faith has the nuance to respect individuality while sharing a collective universal unity.

I think if we get to the bottom of what we truly believe and ask the very hard questions, we’re each capable of the discernment to separate the good from the not-so-good here, or as Aristotle reportedly said,

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

 

If we’re being honest here, then we find that there are strengths and weaknesses among the traditions of Protestants and Catholics and Pentecostal/Charismatics, each able to fill out where the others are lacking.

The following will probably be over-simplifying and generalizing, but short of writing a book, here are some important things that every Christian tradition can be aware of.  I apologize in advance for my ignorance in some areas and I’m very much open to being corrected.  I also hope we have enough humility and self-awareness to see the flaws in each of our subcultures.

 

Protestants tend to really emphasize the relational love of God; it proposes a faith that tosses out performance-driven anxiety by the go-to verses Ephesians 2:8-9.  The Protestant service really showcases the sermon as the axis of worship service because the Word of God is what changes lives.  There’s often a raw authenticity in church, a need for community and conversation and relevance.

Yet Protestants tend to be weak about emphasizing the Greatest Commandment, especially “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  Almost never do I hear Protestant preachers say, “I love you, God.”  We’re too busy saying, “God loves us.”  It turns Jesus into an abstract concept of fuzzy warm acceptance.  We’re in love with the idea of love, but very rarely do we consider loving God in return. 

So while Protestants have a decent track record of generosity, social justice, fellowship, and feel-good faith, they’re pretty bad about purity, hypocrisy, spiritual disciplines, and taking the church seriously.  There’s a sort of lite diet fluffiness in most Protestant churches that leads to laziness or lukewarm living.  Protestants are so anti-legalism that we make a legalist into a Nazi boogeyman, and we throw out the nourishing depth of the biblical commandments. 

 

Catholics have these wonderful buildings that truly reflect the beautiful aesthetic of God.  They take all the sacraments seriously.  Their rituals are breathtaking.  And though there’s a lot of joking about “Catholic guilt,” I’ve said before that guilt often points to the truth that something is broken in the world, and to dismiss guilt completely is also to deny we’re human.  Yes, it’s wrong to shame others.  Anyone in Christ is free of condemnation.  But Protestants take this to the extreme and yell “Don’t guilt-trip me” all the time. It’s almost impossible to find modern millennial Christians who are guilty over anything, so they don’t much care about what God cares about. 

The Catholic tradition takes Ephesians 2:10 very seriously, with our good works being the fruit of our genuine faith.  Catholics recognize the cost of grace, particularly by keeping the crucified Jesus front and center in all their iconography.  It’s too simplistic to say that Catholics are all about “works save you,” but a thoughtful view of Catholic doctrine shows that good works are absolutely important in the believer’s life.  Again, I think Protestants are too quick to yell “Pharisee” and we think "effort is legalism," but it’s not.  Tradition and rules and commands are important.  Protestants like myself could really learn from this.

Yet Catholics (and I want to be fair here, because I’m an outsider to this), do tend to be nominal and ritualistic.  Sometimes they take the institutions too far, like the time my brother almost got in a fight at a Catholic church.  And while Catholics are pretty good about discipline and purity and knowing the richness of church history, they’re not always the best at radical generosity.  I see these huge cathedrals and I can’t help but wonder if that money could’ve gone to the sick and starving.  Much of it feels self-involved and overly pietistic, but not engaged with culture.

 

Pentecostals and Charismatics are just awesome.  I mean come on: our faith needs joy.  Our faith needs the Holy Spirit to do anything. And many of our traditions today, like praise music on Sundays and raising hands during worship and on-fire preaching, ALL come from the Pentecostal tradition.  I’m jealous of my Charismatic friends who are so free and boisterous and joyful in Christ.

Yet of course, I’ve seen the danger in Pentecostal churches all over South Korea.  You think those Prosperity Preachers are bad in America, you really haven’t seen anything until you visit Asia.  The emotionalism and outright bad theology leads to corruption, hierarchies, cults, and all sorts of wild floor-rolling and visions and tongues and bizarre eel feasts.  Unfortunately, the extreme end of Pentecostalism results in a frenzy free-for-all, and it can be impossible to rein it in.

 

You see: God is the light and we are the prism.  No one has the absolute say-all singular doctrine on Jesus.  No one gets to monopolize him with their tiny little 3 lb. brains.  Jesus is the same truth, yet we all reach him quite differently: because we’re all different.  And we need each other.  If every Christian looked the same as you or me: we wouldn’t have the church, but tyranny. 

Some of us are dying to journal or we would rather die than journal.  Some us get Jesus from Chris Tomlin and others are more Switchfoot and symphonies.  I get more out of Les Miserables than Kirk Cameron.  I’m a Reformed Calvinist but I’m not okay with double election and a bunch of other bullet points in the Reformed camp.  Consider that Philip went to the Ethiopian eunuch and Jesus went to the Syrophoenician woman and Paul went to the pagan Gentiles. And faith is way more simple than we make it.

In the end, we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  And those who are not in Christ are still our neighbors, so we love them too. If we truly believe someone is wrong about their theology, then we should be on our knees praying in tears for them instead of feeling superiority.  And ultimately, our traditions serve us and we do not serve them.  We serve Jesus and each other.

If someone would shun your curiosity for investigating the rich customs of Christian liturgy and history, both the good and the bad: then certainly this person needs a gracious conversation about why our forefathers matter, and how even the greatest thinkers were still wrestling with our questions today, and we’re all still seeking every facet of Jesus as the colorful body of Christ.  It is possible to learn from both the ups and downs of our ancestors without diminishing the whole thing.

Jesus has a much bigger imagination than you or me alone.  Heaven will not be divided by denomination nor our boxed up thinking.  God can bring together our cultural values and individual stories into a wonderful mosaic of glorious truth, a tapestry of Christian heritage that makes us more human, and not less.  We can learn together, and from each other.

— J.S.

Sep 2

why should i carry on living?

Anonymous

writingsforwinter:

Birthdays. Setting fires. Holding hands. Making stew on cold nights. Mountain climbing. Sleep. First dates. Vacation. Spending the day in bed. Buying wedding rings. Exploring a forest. Playing peekaboo with a baby. Watching someone smile genuinely. Camping. Stargazing. Counting rings on a tree. Realizing that someone loves you. Returning that love. Getting drunk for the first time. Smell of old books. Looking through black & white photos. Learning your ancestors’ names. Laughter. Hot chocolate. The feeling of getting back up after falling down. First day of college. Last day of college. Acing a job interview. Screwing one up and realizing it’s not the end of the world. Collecting shells. Sunbathing. Listening to someone’s heartbeat. Sound of waves crashing against shore. Rain hitting a tin roof. Heartbreak that turns into heart-healing. Your own house. Decorating that house. Coming home to someone you love. Hearing the sound of their footsteps on the stairs. Honesty of fall leaves. Their colors. Fresh snowfall. Singing favorite songs off-key. Seeing love come into someone’s eyes. Watching your parents look at each other like the very first time. Sunrise. Sunset. The way fire burns into ash. Smell of a campire. Waking up with light spilling over the sheets. Breakfast in bed. Living long enough to watch wounds heal over. Change. Wilderness. Forgiveness. Change some more. More change. Spring. Flowers blooming, opening up like you can. Good memories. Learning how to forget bad ones. Warm feet in a cold bed. Sleeping with the only person you care about. Waking up to their mouth and arms. Smiles that reach all the way to the eyes. Letting go of balloons like dead weight. Floating in water on your back. Skydiving. Risk. Adventure. First C on a test. First A. Favorite teacher. First poem. Last poem. Holidays with family. Roadtrips. Changing the sheets. Your father’s gnarled hands when he grows old. Grandchildren. Children of your own. Their first day of college. Their graduation. Their wedding. Anniversaries. Making daisy chains. Smell of freshly-cut grass. Pride. Feeling good about yourself. Loving what’s in the mirror. Not being afraid anymore. No more heaviness. No more grief. Survival. Picking berries til your fingers are stained dark. Frost on windows. Holding someone without sex. Sex with love. The joy of swearing. Counting the years you’ve lived. Another candle on the birthday cake. Another mark of victory. That bellyache laugh that hurts all over. But hurts so good. Breath freezing in winter. Feeling that breath on your skin. Someone’s eyelashes blinking into your palm. Accomplishment. Self-worth. Love. Triumph. Sitting under willow trees without weeping. Apologies that get accepted. Understanding that comes from forgiveness. First fight. First makeup afterward. Less hurt. More good.

Everything.

Sep 2

"No one will miss me", "I’m better off dead"

after-crisis:

When I worked at a non-profit that handled suicide prevention, I had access to the donation records. Each month, a specific man donated 15$ to our organization. It was like clockwork.. same day, same man, he had been doing this for over 4 years. It always seemed odd to me but I never questioned it… until I saw a note attached one month. "For Noah- Dad"

his donation was once his child’s allowance.

I can promise you, they would miss you for the rest of their lives.

Sep 1

The next time you walk into a room full of people, I want you to see how they talk and interact and exchange and tell stories and make jokes. Simply watch, listen, soak it in.

Soon you’ll see there’s a hidden anxiety underneath all their language, a deeper sort of quest for each person to validate their individual existence. You’ll see this web of tug-of-war where everyone is pulling, clawing, scratching, grasping for this weight.

It’s like there’s a secret limited stash of golden currency in the air, and everyone’s fighting for it by telling the better story, bragging about their bank account, trying to be the funny guy, showing off their intelligence, dropping famous names, wearing a name, holding up false bravado, pretending to be a mystery, masking their voice in tight controlled expressions of eloquence.

You know what this is: insecurity. Everyone’s fighting for glory to cover the emptiness, that vacuum fracture. And even when they get the glory from that room, it will never be enough: because we weren’t made for the temporary glory of this earth. Our true glory is beyond the room, outside one another, from on high.

- J.S. from this post 

Sep 1

Our Story, Carved of Grace and Glory: What It Means To Glorify God, The Most Important Purpose of our Lives
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This message is titled: Our Story, Carved of Grace and Glory: What It Means To Glorify God, The Most Important Purpose of our Lives.

It’s about the very Christianese phrase “glorifying God” or “bringing God the glory,” and why this is perhaps the most important thing we could learn about the emptiness and fulfillment of our lives.

Stream above or download directly here!

 

Some things I talk about are: Our Christianese church-language that we never question, when you walk into a crowded room and you suddenly hear the desperate clawing fight for validation, the Main Character Syndrome when we treat everyone like supporting props for the Movie of Me, the insane frothing monster we become in rush hour traffic, the overarching meta-narrative of the Bible in one rushing swoop, how to anonymously donate a kidney, and when Jesus finally returns with 100 million angels at the final conclusion of the universe.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Sep 1
“Be humble. The world is bigger than your view of the world. And certainly, God is much bigger than your view of God.”
— Eugene Cho

Be humble. The world is bigger than your view of the world. And certainly, God is much bigger than your view of God.

— Eugene Cho

Sep 1

 

Eugene Cho has just released a book today called Overrated: Are We More In Love With The Idea of Changing The World Than Actually Changing The World?  The foreword is also by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz.

One of the other reasons I’m so excited for this book is because Eugene Cho put in my testimony, about the time I gave away half my salary to fight human trafficking.  I’m just crazy honored and humbled to be part of his work.

Back in 2012, I wrote a check for $10,000 to the charity One Day’s Wages, and after an awareness campaign, someone anonymously donated enough to make a matching contribution of another $10,000.  If you want to see what the money does, check here

It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, and I don’t say any of this to brag.  I say this to brag on God, who makes all this possible, and to brag on the millions of untold stories of real sacrifice, courage, and reckless grace.  In a world so hurting, there are still people fighting for real change.

— J.S.

Sep 1

jspark3000:

The only way to real healing is to really know God the Father, God the King, God our friend. That sounds corny until you try everything else. All of it can distract and entertain for a while, but only eternity was ever meant to fit the endless vacuum of our hearts. No one was meant for anything less.

— J

Sep 1

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Cast all your anxiety on Him
because He cares for you.

- Psalm 34:18 / 1 Peter 5:7

Sep 1

Is Suicide An “Unforgivable Sin” That Will Send You To Hell?

alotoflittlecandles asked:

Maybe this is too big of a question, or just something we can’t know for certain, but how do you think God views victims of suicide?

h-hopkins said:

What does the bible day about suicide? If you are a born again believer that commits suicide, where would you go?

 

Hey there dear friends: First of all, if you have even a tiny inkling of anyone who is contemplating suicide or self-harm, please do everything you possibly can to reach out to them. Now. This second.

Too many times, we turn these huge issues into theological head-games and we forget that real people actually wrestle with self-condemnation every single day.  I don’t ever want to talk about suicide with a cold doctrinal point of view without making a call of action first.  I don’t want to be one more blogger who loses sight of actual breathing human beings: so please, please, please go do something about this and participate in the divine work of restoration.

So then, a few things to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

 

1) The church in general makes sweeping dogmatic statements as a safeguard for bad behavior: but this removes any nuance in the conversation.

I see a larger problem within our church culture that tends to simplify the discussion into 100-or-zero type reductionism.

When someone says, “Suicide will send you to Hell,” most likely what they’re saying is, "You have to say that suicide will send you to Hell or else you risk allowing people to think it’s okay."

In other words: Our church culture tends to run towards extreme theologies because we don’t want to endorse a slippery slope, which is why we purport these strangling fundamentalist views on Creation, Scripture, sexuality, and Hell.  Very often, Christians are so afraid of the dreaded “stumbling block” that we take a very hardline position for or against something, just to be 1000% clear that we’re not promoting any opposing view.  

The danger, of course, is that we begin to trump issues over people without rational conversations, and we do not reach people where they are.  We end up saying, “You come to us,” which is the very opposite of what God did by coming to us first.

 

2) An entire Christian subculture of fear therefore produces toxic overreactions and backlash.

Pastors freak out when it comes to the issue of sex and dating, so we create an exaggerated church subculture of weird dating ideas that’s actually saying, “I’m going to scare the sex right out of you.”  This leads to neurotic harmful ideas about dating and unhealthy views of sex and purity.

It’s why so many people freaked out when the band Gungor said they no longer believe in a literal 7-day Creation or an historical Noah, because Christians suddenly thought “Well now everyone will throw out the entire Bible!”  While I mostly disagree with Gungor (and they were a bit condescending in their blog about it), I think most Christians brutally demonized them into a bloody pulp: when mostly they just wanted a discussion.

The church subculture says things like like “suicide equals Hell” because

1) we’re afraid to be bullied by other Christians who will yell “heresy,”

2) we want to beat our chests with King Kong theology in total confident bravado, and

3) we find it safer to go against what “the world” believes because it feels like we’re holding ground in victory against some common enemy. 

It’s why the church goes nuts over cussing, tattoos, midriffs, Mark Driscoll, the “enemy,” and “persecution,” but we’re not going nuts helping the poor and oppressed and depressed.

[Because of these reasons, I also no longer self-identify as a Reformed Calvinist.  It’s just too much arrogant chest-beating and no subtlety.  I’m with Bill Cosby on this one.]

 

3) God is bigger than my limited, narrow, short-sighted judgment call.

I absolutely believe that God regards each life on an individual case-by-case basis so that no two spiritual journeys can be evaluated by the same blanket theology. God has more grace and wisdom and clarity than my tiny two-foot doctrine.

Maybe all this is too soft or too easy of a view on things.  But I actually think black-and-white categories are too soft and easy.  It requires zero thoughtfulness to say “Yeah he’s going to Hell,” especially when the Bible doesn’t have such black-and-white-ness either.

It’s plausible that someone’s suicide could be a total rebellion against God’s gift of life or some kind of pagan death-worship.  In that case, maybe that person risks the fate of Hell.  But on the other hand, it’s also plausible that God does not judge this person based on one action at the very end of his or her life, but sees the person as a holistic whole.

Let’s look at it this way.  Let’s say today for the very first time, you cheated on your spouse or you cheated your taxes or you cussed out your parents or you did black tar heroin.  And Jesus decided to come back right now to judge the earth.  Should God judge you based on your singular previous action today?  Should God see your first time slipping up with this particular sin and say, “I will judge you only for this” …?  I mean really, that would suck: going to Hell for the one thing you happened to mess up today.

Let’s ask: At what point should God judge you or me?  In the middle of cheating on a spouse?  In the middle of a tantrum or that nasty blog comment or the thousandth time crawling back to porn?  In the middle of any one of our billions of horrible angry detestable thoughts about others?  Or should God judge us on the basis of His Son’s sacrifice on that cross two-thousand years ago?

The thing about suicide is that it happens once.  I know a lot of other events lead up to it: but in a frenzied moment of self-loathing or depression or numbness, which unless you’ve been through it, is nearly impossible to articulate or understand, sometimes a person feels there is no other option but to take their own life. 

It’s an entirely isolated action made within an impenetrable vacuum of desperation.  As a limited human being with a 3 lb. brain, I can’t simply declare that God will send this person to Hell based on one action within the constraints of human time. 

God does not exist within our view of time and does not judge us based on a singular point in history, but sees an individual across an entire history of life: and God is so much more gracious and nuanced and loving than our blanket-bomb theologies. 

Jesus transcends our black-and-white categories by seeing each situation on their own, by seeing each prostitute and prodigal and tax collector and adulterer as a story sculpted over a life-time. 

I believe so long as our lives passionately rest in faith in the grace of God by His Son, however imperfectly, then God will see our hearts of faith rather our hands of failure, and we will be shown mercy.

To add: By all accounts, Robin Williams met Jesus at some point during rehab.  Either way, it’s not for me to judge his fate, nor millions of others.  I’m banking on God’s grace to be sufficient and enough. 

 

4) I would never, ever endorse suicide as an option: but I would also never, ever declare that suicide is a trapdoor to Hell.  I’m not God.  I don’t get to say those things. 

So do I believe that suicide will automatically land you into Hell?

My unpopular opinion within Christian culture is no

I know we’re supposed to say an emphatic yes because some kid with shaky faith might think that suicide is acceptable. 

But I believe that we’re way too overly confident in our bold opinions about suicide and Scripture and sex.  I think that neo-fundamentalism is a chokehold on thoughtful conversations about life and faith and God. 

So my God-given duty is to see those around me who are hurting and to serve them.  I know what it’s like to want to drive into a tree, to cut myself to dull the pain, to want to end it all.  And fortunately, I know what it’s like to have friends move towards me despite me, to love on me even when I refused their love, and to endure me and show me grace.  That’s the only theology I care about: the kind that doesn’t debate this stuff, but leans in to people.

In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul says, “The Lord knows those who are his.”  It’s not a human right to judge.  It’s only my right to serve those I see now, by the grace of God, and to pull others away from the edge of death to the best of my own limited strength.

— J.S.

Of Stars, Of Dust.

Life is short.  Time goes fast.  Our youth is once.  We fly, we crawl, of stars and dust.
We look back: and we wish to be back there.
But dreams are made to be chased.  
We define who we are today.
I cherish all that has gone before me: the good, the bad, the stumbling.
And I look forward to future memories.
I trust God for the better story, for the huge scary audacious proposition of following Him into eternity.
And we are fellow travelers over dust, under stars.
We are never too far.
We are the chasers of dreams.
We will fight this good fight.
I will miss you, but love closes the distance.
We will finish this race: together.  
Us. Together.

— J

Where the grace of God is most important is the moment you mess it up: because you tell yourself you might as well fall back to your old self. But in that moment of defeat, you need Him more than ever to move you forward. He will NOT hold back His grace to restore you to who you really are: a person capable of reckless love, anchored joy, pure wisdom, and enduring strength.
— J.S.
wakingdeadheartalive:

Wisdom. #jspark #wordsofwisdom #afterlight #edit @afterlightapp #beautiful #flowers #blossoms #cherryblossoms #wise #God

Where the grace of God is most important is the moment you mess it up: because you tell yourself you might as well fall back to your old self. But in that moment of defeat, you need Him more than ever to move you forward. He will NOT hold back His grace to restore you to who you really are: a person capable of reckless love, anchored joy, pure wisdom, and enduring strength.

— J.S.

wakingdeadheartalive:

Wisdom. #jspark #wordsofwisdom #afterlight #edit @afterlightapp #beautiful #flowers #blossoms #cherryblossoms #wise #God

ok so how do you find time to learn about Jesus and be buff? Aren't you also engaged or something? How?

WOW this is way too kind!

To be truthful, I consider myself a bit lazy.  But I also really enjoy reading and exercising as my leisure.  As Christianese as it sounds, I love reading long boring stuffy books about Jesus.  I read about 3 books per month and hit the gym about 3 times per week.  If I didn’t do the reading and exercise, I might actually go crazy doing everything else.  And of course, some weeks I just totally slack on that.  But I think we always find the time to do the things we love.  In fact, the things we do most are really what we love already.

— J.S.