J.S. Park


Posts tagged with "Joy"

The Art of Preaching To Yourself: Fighting Your Pride and Your Pain
J.S. Park


Hello beloved friends!

This is a message I preached for the lovely people of Refuge Full Gospel.  It’s called The Art of Preaching To Yourself: Fighting Your Pride and Your Pain.

Stream above or download directly here!

The Scripture is Psalm 42:1-15.  Some things I talk about are: My ultimate social fantasy daydream when I run for political office, growing up in the same town with the same labels, imagining that back room of rumors about you, the epidemic called Main Character Syndrome, when you crush someone with a false hologram version of them, and when God replaces your lungs.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

When you live solely for anything on this earth and fail it, it will punish you.  Whether it’s relationships or grades or beauty or career or success: they have a way of demanding your entire attention and enslaving you.  One misstep at maintenance can lead to rejection, abandonment, embarrassment, or heartache.  When you let them down, they can be unforgivably cruel. 

Jesus is the only gracious, kind, compassionate master.  When you fail him, he’s forgiven you.  When you let him down, he gives you more grace to stand and to move forward.  When you pursue him, he satisfies.  Everything else is a slave master.  Only following Jesus is truly free and truly good.

— J

I’m about to preach in a couple hours and an old friend calls me up.  We talk about life for thirty minutes and laugh about some good times together, ask about our future, what’s been going on, what’s bugging us, our ups and downs, what we’re looking forward to.  It was a great conversation.

As I’m about to pray, I realize this is what I want with God too.  Intimacy.  Joy.  Remembering good times.  Saying what bugs us and where we’ve failed. Talking about life and stuff.  Looking forward to more. 

God is a real person.  He really hears.  The best joy is there.

— J


No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

— 1 John 4:12

And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.

- G.K. Chesterton

Strugglers, Sinners, Saints

Strugglers: There really is a struggle and we really are broken, but sin is also ugly and we can’t water that down.  Don’t let “struggling” become a permission slip for lukewarm living.

Sinners: It is not about avoiding sin.  There is so much more that God has for you than overcoming all the time.  Jesus set you free for your purpose, His people, His presence, His power, so that you’d be a countercultural force for good in the world.  Pursuing His Kingdom despite yourself can be enough to repent and run to Him.

Saints: The church is a holy place, but it is also a hospital.  Keep others accountable, but tend to the wounded and weary.  And when others speak well of your deeds, resist the glory, because it is all His in the end.  Keeping glory is ruinous vanity; giving glory is joyous freedom. 

— J

Matthew Levi left table of self-indulgence, laziness, and luxury. But the Pharisees had a different kind of table. Their table was self-righteousness. All of us will drift to one of those two things. We drift towards rebellion, like I did, to live for self-gain and pleasure and to never consider God or other people. Or we drift towards religion, where we condescend and look down on others and criticize a very small part of something to think we’re above it all.

Jesus is calling us to leave the enslavement of our tables, to stand up and step away. God is offering you the freedom to move towards His joy and His life. We have so many reasons we can’t do that — “I’m so guilty, I’m so ashamed, I can’t follow God” — but Jesus came to die for that very sin we feel is too big to forgive. Jesus had to die for that sin and he was glad to die, because he loves you.

- J.S. from this message

Sep 5

i think it's awesome that you admit to keeping up with a few fandoms. tumblr and the world kind of sometimes make me feel like everything must be separate and distinct, like jesus HERE and fandoms HERE and work HERE and never the twain shall meet, kind of a thing, so your admittance was a good reminder that god is in each and every silly little facet of our lives, not something detached and separate.


Thank you.  I’m glad you brought this up. 

Sometimes as a pastor, or even just a Christian, it’s easy to be seen as sparkly clean with tons of restrictive expectations.  I try to randomly post goofy stuff on Facebook or even pictures of me having fun doing normal human things, because I don’t think those things are separate from me as a follower of Christ.  Not that I’m trying to be cool for the sake of announcing myself, but Christians really do need to relax about enjoying certain art and entertainment and leisure without being accused of paganism. I just point them to Romans 14 and 1 Timothy 4:3-5. 

We need to quit apologizing for “endorsing the values” of what we watch or read, because I trust most people are smart enough to know that I can watch Harry Potter without becoming a baby-eating warlock.  I know we need to be cautious not to buy into worldly ideas, but NOT at the expense of a constant self-examining paranoia. 

I’ve written something on that here:

- Question: Does Everything Have To Glorify God? — A Mega-Post On When Idolatry Is Not Idolatry

Thanks again, friend.  Enjoy your fandoms. :)

— J

Sep 4

Stress is often caused by seeing what needs to be done and seeing what is not done. So to close this gap, some of us become perfectionists. We become high-stress because of a need to make things perfect, even when we know it’s killing us.

Then stress becomes a means to conform reality to our desire, as if stress will somehow bend things into shape. While there is such a thing as “good stress” (called eustress in psychology), most likely we feel distress. There might be a death-grip for control that you’ll need to let go of each day.

Let’s accept some imperfection. It’s absolutely right to strive for your best, but we’re called to trust God with the results. When I let go of expecting perfect results, that actually cuts most of my anxiety immediately. It also allows me to love people for who they are instead of how I’m trying to mold them.

I can stop trying to squeeze everything into my will. I can let go of stressing myself into a twitchy neurotic mess. I can repent from the hostility of being so controlling. If God is in control – and He is – then I don’t have to be. Since He’s good and all-knowing and He loves me, then when things go bad, He’s still good, and He will work it out for my good. It does not mean I won’t be stressed, but it does mean that no matter how stressed I am, He’s still in control.

- J.S. from this post

Sep 4

A Brutally Honest Surgical Self-Confrontation
J.S. Park

Here are all the sermons from Seattle on the podcast!


Part 1 - A Faith That Breathes God (John 15:9-17)

Part 2 - Trading Up What You Never Needed For What You Always Wanted (Hosea 6:1-3)

Part 3 - The Fiery Grace That Fuels Our Fight (Titus 2:11-14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Part 4 - Writing Yourself Into God’s Story (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Part 5 - The Raw Core Essential Bottom-Line Truth of Our Being (John 4)

Part 6 - A Brutally Honest Surgical Self-Confrontation (2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51:1-12)

Bonus: The Snake Story (that time I fought a two-foot snake)

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Hi Pastor Park, I have a question with regards to helping others in their struggles. It seems that whenever I encourage people, it comes out as optimism. I know there's a difference between encouragement and optimism (one has the gospel), but to what extent?

Hey dear friend, this is a cool question and I definitely appreciate the thought that went into it. 

I believe that optimism gets a bad reputation because it instantly brings up images of sugarcoating, watered-down, cliched-inspiration from the corny Christian guy.  While some of this is true, ultimately the message of Christ is very optimistic.

What’s painful is when people are overly optimistic during someone’s tragedy.  Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”  That means if someone tells you about their dying relative, you don’t bring up your new job.  For that matter, you wouldn’t complain about your stubbed toe either.

The true Christian perspective is that believers are both the most joyful and most sorrowful people of all.  We can experience maximum joy without external crutches because we are connected all the way to the Creator of all things, but we can fully experience pain without external crutches because we are connected all the way to the Creator of all things. 

The most nuanced Christians I have met can fully embrace their happiness and their hurts at the same time.  They don’t stay in denial when life gets hard.  They are blessed and thankful when life is great.  They do not deflect blame for their own misery onto others, instead moving forward with responsible choices and still clinging to grace when they make mistakes.  They do not squeeze happiness from other people because they know only total fulfillment can come from the Maker Himself.

Most of the New Testament was written during a time when Christians were persecuted and suffering greatly for their faith.  But even during such hard times, they wrote these beautiful glorious truths full of hope and optimism: specifically because they had a hope that far outweighed their pessimism and kept them from complete cynicism. 

When you encourage someone else, do as Scripture does.  You meet them exactly where they are without condescending, but you offer a glimpse of hope moving forward.  We acknowledge death, but we recognize life.  That does mean bringing up Jesus, but it also means just being there.

Please lastly allow me to point you to an awesome sermon by Timothy Keller about some of the same ideas, called “Born Into Hope.”

— J.S.

is sadness a sin? Ive heard both answers but i'd like some biblical truth on the matter.


Hey friend, good question.  In general, I don’t believe it is.  After all, God is completely okay with our emotions (Psalm 34:18).   I believe self-pity and entitlement and playing the victim-card can enter selfish sin-territory, but usually sadness points to a legitimate issue. 

I’ve written something on that here:

- Question: Is Depression and Anxiety a Choice?

— J

Jul 3

There are friendships I’ve mourned over where too much history got in the way. There were too many harsh words and broken promises and silent disagreements, and it rotted to an impatient grave. But there are others where we traveled the jagged road of reconciliation, mending wounds and untying knots and covering with grace: and on the other end of this is an ocean-deep intimacy of perseverance that couldn’t be reached any other way. We had to wrestle with the ugly parts of our nature. Demons were exposed. Secrets were spilled. Yet there is a joy in this sort of enduring friendship that goes the long distance; there’s a crazy sort of laughter with a lifelong friend that is colored by the weight of heels digging into the ground, a love that says, ‘I’m staying.’ We see it in the cross, and we can have it now, even in a world such as this.

- J.S.

Question: Does Everything Have To Glorify God? — A Mega-Post On When Idolatry Is Not Idolatry

imageThree anons (edited for length):

- My friends always say that everything we do should glorify the Lord. Because of that, we don’t go to the movies or read different books. If they see me watching Hunger Games or something, they tell me it’s all the Devil’s work. I feel ashamed because they say they are closer to God. What do I do? It’s hard to stay away from sin…

- Should all hobbies and interests SOLELY be for the Kingdom, or is it fine to sit down and write a horror story …? Even if you felt it was fun and maybe even cathartic to do so? I mean to say if we only wrote Theology 24/7/365/a lifetime, that Sherlock Holmes and Guy Montag might never have existed in our imaginations and that would be selling God-given gifts short. Is this right to think this?

- Hello! My mother tends to collect Asian statues from a junk store for me, my favorite things being Foo Dogs and the Mankei Nekos. However when some of the more strict Christians come to my apartment I can see them side-eyeing the animals and the smiling Budai as though they’re sources of evil. Is there any particular reason for this? My mother raised me to believe you can appreciate another culture’s lore and art without falling into the idolatry but the side-eye makes me a little nervous.


Well dang.  Please allow me the grace to write an open letter for the people who want to “glorify God” in dang near everything.

Dear serious brothers and sisters:

I know that some of you are very, very serious about your faith.  It kills you when an unbaptized heathen slips a bad word, you cringe at those “worldly” TV commercials, you scoff at pool halls and karaoke bars, and you think that old hymns and unleavened bread will save the American church. 

I understand.  You are sincere.  It’s great that you take this seriously — but if you’re squeezing undue pressure on rules about rules over other people’s external behavior, you will inadvertently turn a relationship with God into a moral-boundary-pushing competition.  This is just straight unhealthy.

You’ll forget the original reason why you had these rules, and perhaps ironically, your good intention of glorifying God will turn into idolizing these moral fences, and you’ll be so far removed from Jesus that you’ll make fundamentalists look like easygoing liberals.

I really do sympathize with all this: because maybe you had a friend who started off enjoying a slice of cheesecake after each meal and then he went up to black tar heroin.  You had another friend who listened to an Eminem album and now he’s racing cops and punching babies.  You knew a church that started singing contemporary praise and now they’re playing Highway To Hell on Sundays.


I’m poking a little fun, but I get it.  You’re afraid of the slippery slope into idolatry.  You’re worried for your children and your church and this world.  I bet that this is very real concern, and I do love you for that.

But can I just make a simple gracious suggestion? 

Please, please, please hear me in all humility on this, but maybe we could just relax about some stuff.  Perhaps many of these boundaries, which began with a noble heart, are actually causing some brothers and sisters to imprison themselves with a paranoia about being able to enjoy anything. This desperate race to “glorify God” can easily become a masochistic slavery that focuses on arbitrary self-imposed standards which do not bring us any closer to Jesus, but only breeds superiority or despair. 

This is simply legalism, and it kills us slowly.  The second you begin to idolize anti-idolatry, you enter into a very clenched, restrictive, airtight faith that sucks the life out of our joy. 

Certainly there are many things with which we should exercise discernment and caution — but shopping does not instantly mean materialism, and secular music doesn’t mean satan-worship, and enjoying the arts doesn’t mean we are witches and warlocks. 


I know this will make some of you cringe.  You are already yelling 1 John 4.  But can we balance this?  Apostle Paul writes to Timothy

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons … They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

And also to to the church in Colossae —

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


According to Romans 14, if something causes you or someone else to stumble: then don’t do it.  It’s that simple.  But please don’t hold those secondary rules over other fellow Christians.  Some can handle certain things, some cannot, and while we must graciously rebuke one another when we have a blind spot, we cannot legislate someone’s behavior to claim someone is “not glorifying God.” 

So yes, you can enjoy the cheesecake.  You can buy the dress and the video game and the brand name jeans. Go write your fanfic and draw your anime.  You can cry when the fictional wizard kills the other fake wizard.  You can feel good when you get a ton of likes and reblogs.  You can enjoy Mumford & Sons, even when they sing the f-word.  These are not sins unless you force them into sins, which is still pretty tough to do.  I trust you will be reasonable about these things and you will not wave them like a banner.  I trust you will keep Jesus at the center.  God is not a cosmic parole officer, and He wants you to have fun too.

Let’s also please be considerate towards other cultures, upbringings, and backgrounds.  What you think is sin is actually a preference, and your traditions are not written in stone.  None of us have the power to turn our claims into “Thus saith the Lord,” unless he really did saith that, and even then, do not lord it over others.

We can only exemplify Christ and pray that others will be convicted by the Spirit.  We pursue Christ first in all these things, and he alone will change hearts and grow our faith and keep our eyes focused on the essentials.

Keep the main thing the main thing, and go have fun please. 


When I was growing up, I was not allowed to go to the local pool halls. As I look back, I’m sure my parents did not want me to come under the influence of the unsavory characters who frequented those halls. So they built a fence to keep that from happening: “Don’t go into those pool halls.” The problem was I didn’t understand why, so I grew up thinking it was a sin to play pool (don’t laugh, I really did). Imagine my consternation when I moved to a Christian conference center and saw a beautiful antique pool table in the recreation room and godly men playing pool.

That is the way a lot of manmade “dos and don’ts” originate. They begin as a sincere effort to deal with real sin issues. But very often we begin to focus on the fence we’ve built instead of the sin it was designed to guard against. We fight our battles in the wrong places; we deal with externals instead of the heart.

— Jerry Bridges


"You can always see who’s a legalist because he can’t laugh at himself. He’s the one going around saying, "That’s not funny."

— Timothy Keller

- Here’s a sermon I gave recently about how to glorify God and what that actually means, preached at a wonderful lively church that knows how to have fun and get serious too.

— J.S.

Question: Struggling With Depression and Faith

image Anonymous asked:

I’ve struggled with depression for a long time, but this year it got really bad—to the point that I went on medication and have been seeing a counselor for a couple of months. Those two things have been extremely helpful and I have been feeling a lot better. However, it’s been super hard to pick things back up with God. Do you have any advice? I’m trying not to overwhelm myself, but even just going to church has been hard. What are some things I can do that will help?


Hey my friend, depression has been a lifelong struggle for me and it’s absolutely awesome that you sought help for your issue.  Very few Christians are willing to do this because of the strange stigma of “Only God should heal you,” which as you know, is only said by people who don’t get it.

Please allow me the grace to first share a few posts with you:

- Getting Back The Fire For God

- Is Depression and Anxiety A Choice?

- Why Did God Make Emotions?


I know there are no magic words to make everything instantly better, but I’ll share a few things that have helped.  Please know I love you and God loves you and I’ll be praying.

- The Christian life is a journey, not a light-switch.  Please have grace for yourself on that.

- Do NOT pressure yourself into a rockstar faith by setting an impossible standard for yourself.  Jesus had some things to say about people who did this to others, and certainly we shouldn’t do it to ourselves.  Don’t rush it.

- I totally understand that going to worship service can be uncomfortable and sometimes even harmful to recovering people — but also remember there is so much more to church than Sundays, and that Sundays are really the fulcrum starting point for deeper fellowship.  Find a mentor, talk to your pastor, an older mature person, a group of friends, get involved in a team, and keep trying.  Persevere with them.  God tells us that one of the ways to overcome deep valleys of the soul is to rejoice with our fellow brothers and sisters.

- As simple as this sounds, simply get to know God.  Be encouraged by His heart for you. Sometimes the simple act of intimate time with God (for even a car ride or a few moments in the morning) totally recalibrates my orbit back into His mission, and I’m empowered to know that the God of the universe loves me and has my back all the way.

- I have a habit of defining myself by my struggle instead of defining myself as part of God’s story.  I’m not saying this is what you’re doing, but your struggle does have a direction and an end goal.  Many of us just forget.  There’s a time and place to rant, but also a time to regain perspective on what’s next.

- Go have fun.  Seriously.  When I get depressed, I don’t always need theology and discipleship and long lectures and inspirational speeches.  Those are nice, but usually I just want a good burger and ice cream and a walk on the beach and a Netflix marathon and loud laughter about dumb things and cooking a Pinterest recipe for the first time.  Don’t ever think this is shallow: this is life too.

- Find a need and serve the need.  You are specifically wired by God to do something awesome as His force for good in the universe.  You are created to speak something into the world that no one else can.  I don’t mean you do anything to earn God, but that God is excited to work through you and is already orchestrating His purposes in you.  I don’t mean that being “busy” is some cure for our condition, but that the victory over our struggles must also have a direction towards something better.  Find a need, serve the need.

— J.S.

I have often looked at the huge cables, the monstrous wires, of a suspension bridge, and thought, ‘If somebody was strong enough to pluck it, I wonder what it would sound like?’ To a termite looking at the great strings on a bass fiddle, it would say, ‘Boy, I wonder what that sounds like?’ But you see there are people who can pluck it. And the Bible says there’s a chord in your life which is as thick and huge as a suspension cable, and nobody, nothing, no message but the gospel message is strong enough to pluck it. But once it’s plucked, once it starts to reverberate, the entire heart reverberates with the sounds of joy.

- Timothy Keller

(Source: lindduh)