J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "Joy"

I think about my life before Christ, how I used to live for myself and I would do good to look good and get good back.

I think about how something was always missing then, like I would find a particular interest and it would almost click but the edges wouldn’t catch and they’d just slide off the inside of my heart.

I think of how I objectified humans as blunt weapons for my secret dirty desires and planned out my next crime scene like an elaborate diorama: and all this to avoid the God who would speak to me at 3 am in the darkness when I couldn’t lie to myself about the futility of my deceit. I remember how the ceiling fan would accuse me of guilt with its every cut into the sides of my lying mouth.

I think of those moments when the veil of shallow shadow-living was lifted for a blinding second, and my reality was torn open to the idea of a Creator and how there must be more than just collecting toys to build an empire until I die. It was only a glimpse, but everything else around it would be sterile and insignificant in comparison. I remember the drawstrings of my cold protective fortress being tugged by gentle hands that plunged through my lungs, never too sharp, but just enough to know there was something else about this life that life was not telling me, that a cosmic problem existed with a solution that would click as easily as a key in butter.

I think of how even though I ran from Him — God still literally loved me to death and afflicted my selfish emptiness with a love that cost the blood of His only son.

I asked myself then, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew about?” Because before I knew Him, I knew Him, and I dearly missed Him, if only in dreams and whispers and longings I could hardly stand to utter. I was terrified to discover that life wasn’t about me. I was scared to find my Maker — but He found me, and now I cannot go back. I don’t ever want to. I cannot imagine any other way without Him, and He does not imagine His story without me.

- J.S.

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.

How Do I Know If It’s God Or The Devil? A Mega-Post On Pain, Evil, and Suffering

jspark3000:

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Anonymous asked:

Would God purposely put His children in a situation where they would be hurt in any way (rape, kidnapped, something like that)?  Or is this the work of the devil? I don’t think He would, but I don’t know.

 

My dear friend: There’s probably a huge list of questions I’d like to ask God the second I see Him (right after I collect my eyeballs back into my head).  So right upfront: I’m not sure why the devil is given a long leash.  I’m going to ask about that one, probably with my arms crossed.

The Question of Evil has not been adequately answered by the greatest philosophers of history, and I probably won’t be the one to crack the code on that today either.  It’s the kind of stuff that makes me doubt God everyday.  Even if I did have some solid theology on why certain atrocities happen, I still doubt it would satisfy the victim of rape and abuse and slavery and oppression, no matter how much “logical sense” it makes to the brain.  Even if I concluded, “All the bad stuff is really Satan,” then a suffering person could only reply, “So now what?”

I can only offer a few thoughts that might help you on your journey here: because this tension of why bad things happen will never be resolved by any single answer.  Anything we say on pain will always be inadequate for the actual suffering person.  No such all-encompassing answer from any belief system really exists.  I can only say that I believe the Christian perspective best accommodates the problems we see today.  I’m also aware that some of us will never meet eye-to-eye on this and it’s easy to “deconstructively reduce” anything I’m saying with our current artistic cynicism.  And that’s okay.  We are free to disagree and wrestle and think for ourselves.

And please know: I would never, ever enumerate these reasons out loud the moment after a person has been seriously harmed.  Really none of this theology matters as much as you being there in the trenches with a heart of listening and love. 

As always, please feel free to skip around.

 

1) Our current world is not the way it ought to be.

The Bible tells us our world is fractured by sin.  Sin is not just disobedience against God and how we’re made, but also a disconnection from the all-fulfilling love of God.  So we try to find God in things that are not God, and that’s how our internal disconnection manifests into external disobedience.  In other words: a legitimate need to seek comfort can lead to alcohol addiction or codependency or a string of shallow one-night stands.  

We end up abusing people as “obstacles” and using people as “vehicles.”  We build a kingdom of self because we’re apart from our true king.  We try to find fulfillment through stuff and people and experiences — and none of this is very wrong, but we go about this in illegitimate harmful ways.  We try to squeeze from people and things what only God can give us.  These expectations crush others and crush ourselves, and in a way, it crushes the heart of God.  The elevation of self-fulfillment leads to an authoritarian tyranny of self that no one could possibly bear, including ourselves.

Sin not only causes problems with other people, but also personal issues (like vanity and insecurity and greed) and planet issues (which is why our earth doesn’t function liked it was supposed to).  At every level, our whole world is shriveled by the disease we call sin.  It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s nowhere near where it should be.

From God’s point of view, He’s working with a world that is in every way completely disarrayed.  It’s like walking into a room where someone flung paint and glass all over the place.  Where do you start cleaning up a mess like that?  And beyond that, the Bible tells us there is a devil who exacerbates our struggle, so that we’re getting mixed signals thrown into our already turbulent mess.

Before we even talk about why God lets this or that happen, I hope we first confess that a major part of the problem is me.  It’s you.  It’s us.  The devil only comes in to poke at our pre-existing selfishness.  We are the ones who marred the world with dirty paint; we chucked the shards of glass at God’s creation.  If you think, “That’s not fair, Adam and Eve did that!” — well, let’s imagine you and me in that perfect Garden.  How long before each of us would’ve done exactly what they did?  Even if it took a million more years, we would’ve done the same thing.  

 

2) If this world is not how it was meant to be, then not every pain is meant to be God teaching us a “lesson.”

Since our world is broken apart from its original design, this also means that God suffers with us when we suffer.  He doesn’t stand by waiting for us to “get” some kind of epiphany. Which leads me to believe that pain is pain, that pain sucks, that it doesn’t need to be spiritualized, and that God doesn’t so much lead us towards it but leads us through it.

To more fully answer your question, I’m not sure if God purposefully leads us into harmful situations.  I don’t know if “yes” or “no” would suffice for that.  But I do know we’re all walking through a world of jagged glass, and at every turn we are wading through an innumerable number of consequences that began in the Garden.  And God is working through this infinite number of misaligned imperfections in our universe to write (and re-write) His story the best He knows how — and from His throne, I can’t imagine how difficult His job must be to guide the best possible options for the human story while never infringing upon our free will. 

When Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” — this implies that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  However blasphemous that might sound to you, this world can’t possibly be how God wants it to be.  Which means God is just as angry as you are when injustice happens.  He’s looking at the human story with all the anguish of a single mother who lost her only child, with all the betrayal of a church with a lying pastor, with all the hurt of a father who prays for his prodigal son. 

When Job’s friends try to tell him, “You got wrecked because you sinned bro,” at the end God drops by in a storm and says all of Job’s friends are wrong.  God is pretty angry that they would connect “hurt” with some kind of unconfessed sin.  At the same time, God doesn’t give some simple answer about life and pain and lessons.  Probably because no human words could accurately resolve this tension between what is and what ought to be. 

 

3) If God were to intervene every single time, there would be nothing left.

It seems like God could step in at any time and stop evil.  But I just wonder at what point God should do this.  At the level of action?  At the level of thought?  Of atoms?  Of free will?  If God were to electrocute us every time we were about to do something bad, we would all be fried chicken.

Much of the evil in the world is a direct result of our choices.  The irony is that the very gift of Free Will that God gave us to make us human is also the same gift that could make this world a better place — but by and large, we still continue to destroy each other throughout history.  To blame God for all this is a serious lack of responsibility for our choices, and it only exposes the Western over-privileged entitlement that is killing us postmoderns today.  Even the non-religious person will blame their parents or environment or government or city, and while all these are partially responsible, it’s really just me.  We are each accountable.  I can yell, “God why do you let this happen?” — but God could just as easily ask me, “Why do you?

God allows our cycle of consequences to unroll, mostly because this is what makes us human and accountable.  And even then, God does often relieve us by His grace over and over.  That brings us to the next point.

 

4) God has probably saved us by an innumerable amount of close calls.

Whenever someone asks, “Why couldn’t God have prevented this one?” — I always want to counter that God probably has prevented a lot of stuff, and that the world is not as bad as it possibly could be or should be. 

I don’t think I can count all the times I almost got into a car accident or was steered out of an explosive situation or found random help at the exact right time: and from God’s point of view, we never thank Him for this stuff.  We just explain it away as “coincidence” or “serendipity” or “good luck.”  An earthquake happens in the ocean and it’s a “weather pattern.”  When it happens on land, we call it an atrocious oversight by God.  But maybe this says more about us than God.

In the Book of Acts, the account of the early church, we find out that Peter and James are both arrested for their faith (Acts 12).  James is immediately beheaded but Peter is kept alive.  Try to imagine this happening in your church.  “Did you hear?  Pastor Bob and Deacon Bill were arrested for being Christians.  Bob was killed and we don’t know about Bill.”  Imagine Bob’s family.  They would be going crazy, asking God why He let Bob die, and perhaps secretly wondering why God let Bill live. 

We never find out why.  It feels cruel when you read the passage.  God prevented Peter’s death, but in some sense did not intervene for James.  Yet both actually could’ve died, because evil men were killing Christians by their own free will.  And when Peter and James were arrested, their church thought they were both pretty much dead.  It’s only a miracle that Peter actually lives, and I hope we can celebrate that.  I hope we can see that God’s gracious hand is still at work.  It’s definitely awful that James died and I never want to diminish that.  But I also imagine the families of both Peter and James comforting each other throughout the whole ordeal, because really, this is what matters.

 

5) God did send an ultimate provision to upturn evil.

Here’s why I believe in Jesus.

Because at some point in human history, God became one of us and reversed the human condition.  Just one place, at one time, in the dirtiest sand-swept stain of a city, He healed our entropy: and He invites us into that better story.

Many things happened in the cross and resurrection.  Jesus absorbed the cycle of human violence.  He showed there was a better way than self-centered tyranny and retaliation.  He paid the cost of sin on our behalf.  He reversed the ultimate consequence of death from the first Garden by turning death backwards in a new Garden.  He bestowed that same death-defeating power into those who believed his story.  He identified with us by taking on all the harm of sin though he never sinned himself.  He promised us a union with Him by being united with the Spirit (or the “mind”) of God.  He inaugurated a new kind of kingdom where the weak can win, the poor can succeed, and all our survival values are flipped into sacrifice.  Jesus redefined what it meant to be human by creating an upside-down kingdom where the humble will be elevated and the prideful would be melted by love. 

Jesus essentially stepped into the glass and re-did the paint.  He went into the mess and re-created the pieces.  He doesn’t answer why bad things happen, but he gives us a love stronger than all that does happen.

Which reminds me of our brother C.S. Lewis, who said —

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

 

All this means that a victim doesn’t have to let their circumstances define who they are.  We don’t have to let what happens here on earth to say who we are forever.  While I don’t know why God might “allow” these things to happen, I believe that God doesn’t want these things to be the final word about us.  I want to believe Genesis 50:20 is true, and that the devil has limitations, and that even the worldwide permeation of sin is no match for the healing work of Christ.

A last note.  If your friend is going through some horrible pain right now at the hands of another person, it’s not our job to explain this within the box of our theology.  That’s a cold thing to do.  Jesus never did this: he only wept when he heard of Lazarus, he wept over Jerusalem, he stayed at the homes of lepers and demoniacs, he fed the hungry multitudes.  More than our persuasion, our friends need presence.  This is what God did when He became one of us, and this is how we embody love — by mourning when others mourn, by giving space to grieve, and by allowing joy to find its place when the time is right.

— J.S.

Gideon The Unworthy: God Has Given You Worth Apart From What You Think About You
J.S. Park

Hello lovely wonderful friends!

This is the fifth part of a sermon series called "Snapshots: The Men & Women of the Bible.”  It explores how the people in the Bible were just as fallen as you and me, and how God worked through them.

This message is titled: Gideon The Unworthy: God Has Given You Worth Apart From What You Think About You.

It’s about finding the gifts and greatness in you by the grace of God, and liberating ourselves from all the discouragement we’ve ever faced.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: Outlandish auction bids for celebrity-owned items including Justin Bieber’s hair, my brother the totally unsuspecting MMA jujitsu fighter, the anxious fear of small-town gossip when you try to step it up, tough advice for my future daughter, how the church ought to be like a bunch of cheerleaders, my first pre-marriage counseling, and the words that you’ve secretly wanted to hear your whole life.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

(Source: thewayeverlasting.libsyn.com)

It can be easy to romanticize a passion or a social cause or a marriage or raising kids with tons of posed pictures and flowery words — but all such things are gritty, raw, rough, and painstakingly sculpted from our fully invested hearts.  There is a lot of standing around and sweating through our shirts and seasons of self-doubt and all the frustrated parts that no one else can see.  We fall in love with highlights but these were formed in the valley.  Please don’t be seduced by soundbites and filtered photos and bowtie daydreams.  Real joy actually hurts, but that’s why it’s real.  It was carved from the best of us.

— J.S.

May 7

I think there’s a double-guilt in the Christian community when we feel emotions. When we feel “bad,” we end up feeling bad about feeling bad. It’s because we falsely believe that we can’t feel bad if we have Jesus — so suddenly when we’re depressed or anxious or stressed, we think that we’re “betraying God” somehow. So there’s guilt, and then the guilt about the guilt.

But I want you to know, these are the everyday throes of being a human in a fallen world. We are broken by one or two or a dozen sin-tendencies while we live on this earth. Yours might be anger and mine might be lust: but we’re all saddled with a thorn (2 Corinthians 12). When you’re simply prepared for the thorn to poke you, you won’t be so shocked when it happens: and that’s half the battle. The other half is knowing how to handle it.

- J.S. from this post

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

jspark3000:

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.

Anonymous

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