J.S. Park

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Graciously Entering The Mess of Another

imagebeingdaisy asked:

How do I relate to people who are tempted in ways I do not feel tempted by? How can I show Christ’s love in that situation? Also, what is the difference between judgement and discernment? Sometimes, it feels from the Christian community to be one and the same with different connotations.


Hey my dear friend, I really appreciate you asking about this because I almost never hear this question. I’m thankful for your sincere heart in this.

There are many Christians I meet today who try really hard to act like they’ve been through it all so they can relate to everyone — and I’m guilty of this too. It seems there’s a new fear in church where if you haven’t been through a ridiculously prodigal phase of debauchery, then you’re somehow not qualified to counsel anyone else either.

I remembering being in a crowd of Christians once where they were comparing their former lives — how many shots they could do, all the drugs they sold, cars they wrecked, even abortions they had — and while I understand it was painful for them, I also felt like they were glamorizing some of these things to gain street cred. I noticed some of the ones who grew up in church their whole lives were either jealous or discouraged, because they felt sheltered from all these “real” experiences.

But let’s balance this out.

1) I’m jealous of sheltered people too. If you grew up in church your whole life and you’ve loved Jesus as long as you can remember, please consider yourself blessed. Those of us who are free from toxic lifestyles are always in recovery, and it’s not as glamorous as our storytelling appears to be.

2) A broken person like me needs those who have never been through what I’ve been through. I understand that recovering alcoholics and addicts need other recovering friends to know how to fight. But if we only have these kinds of friends, then we can easily enable each other or get tempted through our weakness.

When I quit porn, I went to a friend who had never struggled with porn (and those kinds of dudes are almost impossible to find). His innocence with the whole thing was exactly the perspective I needed: because his utter lack of struggle in that area showed me the true size of the temptation. It really took the fangs off. There’s also a different sort of strength from the purity of a person who has been relatively clean their entire lives.

3) No one is “more saved” than someone else. The former heroin dealer who used to beat up kittens and race cops has a cool story, sure. But when he was changed by Jesus, he’s just as much a miracle as the pastor’s daughter who heard the Gospel her whole life and accepted Jesus at youth camp. Neither has more “social capital” than the other. They might relate to different groups of people, but they don’t need a badge of baggage to help anyone.


Having said all that, I think we need some humility on both sides.

- When we hear someone else’s addiction or affliction, we can’t cringe or flinch or turn up our nose. Resist it. All of us are just as broken and ill and damaged as one another before the sight of God, and He loved us anyway.

- A serious addict also shouldn’t get spiritually snobby with a squeaky clean person. Everyone can learn from anyone. I can learn from a five year old and an eighty-five year old, from the rich and poor, from men and women, from simply watching. It just depends how much I’m willing to be teachable. I don’t ever want to cut off a person just because they’re not “cool enough” to hang with my bad side. That would be condescending and arrogant and horribly shortsighted.

- Relating to someone’s life experience is no guarantee that you can automatically help them. None. It’s not like I instantly relate to every single Asian with divorced parents and depression and a former porn addiction. Friendship and discipleship and fellowship are all built on so much more than mutual struggles.

- The best way we can relate to one another is by listening. I know this sounds super-obvious. But my fiancé, who is almost the complete opposite of me in every way, is one heck of a listener. She listens so well that she makes me a better listener. And even though we’re so different, she’s my best friend because she cares about everything I’m going through, whether she can grasp it or not.

I can appreciate even the effort of another person really trying to understand. Please know that there is an ocean-deep power in simply sitting with someone, making eye contact, keeping your phone away, asking questions, offering truth with grace, and encouraging them the whole time. There’s no right formula or correct mix of words. This power of presence means way more than you could know: and it might not feel like you’re helping, but being there already means you are.


To answer your other question about judgement versus discernment:

- Judging someone always rips them apart. It’s spiritually murdering a person through self-righteousness by concluding, “I would never do that” — when of course, any one of us is capable of the genocide in Rawanda and looting in a hurricane.

But discernment is always looking out for the best of everyone. I think when the church says “discernment,” we seem to mean, “Turn on a spiritual X-ray and approach with extreme caution.” Maybe it’s supposed to mean that a little bit. But when discernment is just looking out for negatives, that’s a stalemate with no purpose or direction. So-called discernment without an eye to healing is just prejudice.

When I discern someone has an issue, I want to see them as God does: with compassion and a vision and with good will. Sometimes this means backing up because you’re likely to enable that person. Other times it will mean intervening, even harshly, because love means much more than being nice.


If your friend is struggling hard, please consider:

- Asking the why question.

- Not interrupting, but letting them paint their whole story.

- RTP: Rock The Prayer. You can say, “I’ll pray for you,” but it’s also awesome to pray right on the spot.

- Suggesting help outside of you. It’s okay if you’re not equipped to help with some serious issues. You can go with them too.

- Drawing clear boundaries. They can’t see you as a savior, and you can’t be one either.

- Sharing. Bible verses, sermon podcasts, blog posts, good books, funny videos, and your own insight. When you get excited by something you see or read or hear, share it.

- Having a good time. Sometimes your friend just needs a hamburger and Haagen Dazs ice cream and a comedy from Redbox and a bike trail. Not every conversation has to revolve around recovery, and it’s okay to giggle at dumb things and talk crazy and geek out over fandoms.

- Praying on your own. You’ll need strength too. Much love to you, my friend. You’re a kind heart for caring this much.

— J.S.

The Love of God Vs. The Law of God
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the second part of new sermon series called “Why You Christian?”  It explores the question of why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.

This message is titled: The Love of God Vs. The Law of God.

It’s about our natural resistance to rules and laws, and why a loving God would ever make them. 

Stream above or download here!

 

Some things I talk about are: The Eastern Asian Honor Values vs. the Western American Free Spirit and how they play out during tsunamis and hurricanes, those Jackie Chan buddy-cop movies, how we treat God as either a cool grandfather or a Japanese Yakuza gangster, what to do when a child holds up a fork in a thunderstorm trying to be Benjamin Franklin, and what we want God to say about sex, money, and forgiveness.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

The Desperate Difficulty of Knowing God’s Love

image Anonymous asked:

I really enjoyed reading your posts as they taught me a lot about God and His love. Recently I felt depressed as I think even though I’ve been a Christian since young, I’ve never truly experienced His love. I felt worthless as a Christian as I’m not living a victorious life. What should I do?


Hey my dear friend: I can definitely sense that you want to get this whole Christian life right, and I totally commend you for that. Even the fact that you asked a stranger online about this shows a humble step in the right direction, and I’m privileged to be a part of that journey.

Here are just a few things to consider. As always, please feel free to skip around.


1) We’re all hiding a dark terrible secret (that isn’t really a secret).

Please know: Every week I talk with one more nervous anxious Christian who thinks they haven’t
experienced victory in Christ,
or claimed all the promises,
or confessed all known sin,
or been praying and reading Scripture like I should,
or even, I’m not ready to be blasted up in the rapture.

It usually goes: “I’ve read all of Calvin’s Institutes and I saw Jesus in the campfire and I threw out my heroin stash and I feed the homeless every Tuesday — but I still suck at the Christian life.”

If I poke hard enough, even pastors and leaders and those “on-fire Christians” often feel the same way. Every churchgoer has this uncertain insecurity that they’re never good enough with God and that somehow He’s a ninja parole officer who is waiting with the lever to the trap door of hell.

But the Big Christian Secret is, I’ve never really met a single Christian on this planet that feels like they got this whole thing right. And it’s not really a secret. The Bible all over tells us we’re fallen, broken, rebellious, dysfunctional, crazy. I don’t know anyone who has ever experienced the totality of God’s love without some doubts, frustration, confusion, and questions. On this side of life, there will always be a gray foggy filter between us and God, and some days the fog will be thicker than others.

I’m NOT endorsing a loophole faith where “weakness” means permission to do what you want. I’m not okay with hijacking the word “struggle" as an excuse for outright depravity. But I think many of us go too far the other way: we presume that faith means perfectionism, and that Christianity is somehow "up to me." Which is not the point of the Bible or faith or Jesus, at all.


2) Doubting the love of God is the pinnacle battle for all people in all of history: so we’re there with you.

There’s a myth that we’ll all arrive one day to a finished trophy faith, like those hall-of-fame heroes in the Bible, and that we’ll finally “get God’s love” and quit chasing after these vampire-idols. But the hard truth is that every single person in the Bible had the same exact struggle: they all doubted the love of God, they all got it wrong sometimes, and they all fell for cheap imitations of the real thing. It’s why Adam and Eve were tempted by the seduction of a snake. It’s why Jacob conned his brother and his uncle out of land and livestock. It’s why Moses melted down and flipped out at the Israelites. It’s why David pretty much raped a woman and killed her husband. It’s why Judas sold out his friend, brother, and Lord. It’s why we desperately run after approval, validation, and significance by squeezing it from our career or children or romance or image or charity. It’s why we have long midnight bouts of existential panic at our short little lives on earth, wondering if it all means anything. It’s why we steal, kill, cheat, lie, and smoke the world between our fingertips. It’s even why we do good things: as if they will compensate for some deep unknown flaw by scratching the eternal itch of our emptiness.

On a long enough timeline, we’re never totally sure that God’s love is enough. At any given time, we’re never 100% sure of God’s love. This is the bottom line fight of every human being, and all our very human problems stem from this same tension. There is nothing wrong with you here that isn’t wrong with everyone else.

None of this means that we don’t grow or strive or do our best. But all this is why we needed the cross.

When you read Hebrews 11, the famous passage on all these victorious Bible people, they were all living by faith. They trusted that God had them covered. In the end, they were not living to “feel God’s victory” or to remove the unease of their own failures. They didn’t put their hope in their own self-grading or introspection. They stopped looking at themselves. They didn’t measure their progress or make a report card or take a church survey. They simply knew: I am a work in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus.


3) The grace of God covers even our doubt of His love.

I know that none of this is easy. Which is why God’s grace preempted our failure to believe His love, too. Because God’s grace is rest.

Imagine how much just resting in grace would solve. Imagine the sort of life where guilt and shame were not steering your compass. Envision a day free of self-shaming and beating your behaviors, where you’re not trying to get it all together in a single day. See how grace would dissolve your every effort to impress or flex or prove your own worth.

Can you imagine what it would really look like if you trusted that God the creator of your soul really loves you — if even just a tiny fraction of your broken heart could beat with this terribly disarming truth?

The hang-up is we think we need to get all this today, and some people do. Thank God when it happens overnight. But the rest of us get it one day at a time, in process, and God is okay with just a tiny fraction forward that embraces Him.

Putting your faith in God’s grace means the burdens are off. You don’t have to prove yourself anymore. You don’t have to pressure yourself into getting all-of-God’s-love in a single face-melting service. All this is adding burdens on. The Gospel is the only truth in the universe that could ever break our morbid desire to remain in these chains.


4) Be okay with the up-and-down instability some days — because you’re only human, and God knows that.

I struggle with this so badly. I would say it’s my hugest struggle of all, doubled up with my skepticism. I often gauge my self-worth on my last sermon, how much everyone laughed or nodded, how big my ministry is, how many likes and reblogs I get, how many site views or podcast downloads, the affirming words of others.

A typical preacher might say, “Don’t seek attention, just stop it!” Or I should believe harder, or I need more faith, or something. But saying all that by itself doesn’t work. The very fact that I am insecure points to a real need that I have — and this need points to my very need for Jesus.

I need to know that only Jesus is okay with all my instability. He receives even a tiny faith the size of a mustard seed. Only his unconditional love gives me the confidence to finish strong. When I’m vulnerable enough to admit that I don’t think God is enough, then somehow He begins to become enough.

When I know that God loves me despite my inability to fully grasp His love, then actually: I can begin to receive applause by its true size. I can rightly estimate human approval and even enjoy it. I even have room to hurt when I’m discouraged, because I don’t have to worry that I’m not “secure enough” in God. He’s covered me there too.

At some point, we need to be okay with this back-and-forth flippancy. We need to be aware of our humanness, our rhythms, our tempo, our seasons. There will be false starts and silent breakthroughs. We need to see that God has already responded to our failures in His Son. We need to be okay with this gap between who we are and what God has done (1 John 3:2). We can settle into the tension of an invisible God and putting faith in His unseen love. We can acknowledge that the squishy fleshy part of us will always nag at our pursuit of Him. We know that some days will be Romans 7, and others will be Romans 8. We are thankful for both, and God will love us through both.

Sometimes victory just means that you’ve quit measuring your own victory, and before you know it: you will get better without hardly trying. We get better when we stop trying to get better and simply look to the one who is best.

He loves you, dear friend. Let that sink into even the barest molecule of your being, and please see yourself as He sees you. It’s hard to go back on that.


I’ll leave you with an old quote here:

I think the devil’s biggest lie is to make you think that how you feel right now is how you will always feel forever.

Please do not allow your mood to determine your entire value as a person. We get tired. We get cranky. We have doubts, frustrations, questions. And Jesus welcomes you graciously, the exhausted cranky doubtful you, and he will give you rest for your weary bones.

You might think there’s some kind of “awesome version” of you hidden inside your skin, and maybe you feel like you’re always two steps behind trying to catch up to some experienced mature mold of you — but Jesus loves you, right now, unconditionally. It’s only this kind of pure love that will ever penetrate deep enough to actually bring about change in your heart, and even then, we must not be so hard on ourselves in this journey.

Believe me: the seasons change. Feelings fade. Life goes on. Endure the late-night twitch and don’t beat yourself up. Let go of harsh self-evaluation. No matter how you feel, be kind and pray anyway. The same grace that you show others: have some grace for yourself too. And before you know it, you will be further along down this path without even hardly trying. The moment you quit trying to improve and simply rest in Christ, you’ll move forward.

— J.S.

Because It Happened

jspark3000:

image

Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened, then

1) there’s a heaven, and a hell.

2) we do have victory over sin, now.

3) what we do matters in eternity.

4) we have forgiveness before an all-holy, fearsome, awesome, all-consuming God.

5) we will also be resurrected.

6) every word in the Bible is true.

7) Jesus is everything he said he was, and is.

8 ) everyone else who isn’t following Christ has it wrong.

9) death is not the end. Love awaits.

10) we have to get the good news out.

11) Jesus is coming back for us.

12) the actual Spirit of God lives in those who follow Him.

13) one day all evil will end.

14) a lot of stuff we think that matters doesn’t really matter.

15) miracles can happen.

16) he died for you and for that neighbor you can’t stand.

17) pride, self-esteem, and earning approval doesn’t work.

18) despair, self-loathing, and discouragement also don’t work.

19) you will be called accountable to God.

20) you can be co-heirs with Jesus Christ, and you get his eternal inheritance.

21) you are friends with the Most High.

22) you have a king in another country, and your citizenship is there.

23) you can trade in your self-pity for endless joy.

24) even when it feels like Friday, Sunday is coming.

25) nothing can ever take away your joy, ever.

— J.S.

Why Do You Believe In Jesus?

jspark3000:

image

Anonymous asked:

Why do you believe in Jesus? I get believing in a creator, but as much as I want to, I can’t always convince myself that there’s evidence for Jesus doing all that stuff, and it breaks my heart because i used to believe it without a problem. I don’t know what to do.

 

Hey dear friend. If you didn’t know, I’m mostly a skeptical Christian, so you might be asking the wrong person.

There are times when I’m really into apologetics, and other times when I just don’t care about apologetics at all. As a wise pastor once said, knowledge is essential but it is not sufficient.

So as much as I can muster with my weak faith, I believe in Jesus for historical, emotional, existential, and intellectual reasons that far outweigh any other system of belief. There is just enough evidence for Christ that each day, I must conclusively doubt my doubts. It’s tough most days, but it’s often enough.

Let’s consider a few things together, and ultimately you can decide to clamp down upon the meat.

 

- Something in the first century made the Jews just go nuts.

The Jewish-Israelite people were dead-set on never ever worshiping another god, ever. It was their first law from God: and even when Caesar claimed divinity or these other “messiahs” came around claiming to be the savior, the Jews never budged. The Romans had constrained the Jewish people by outlawing most religious places unless they were called “schools,” and the Romans threw down all their gods and cultural excess on the Jews, but still: the Jews remained slavishly devoted to Yahweh and never bowing down to any idols, to much social derision and lowered status.

But an event happened where suddenly, the Jewish people had changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. They were claiming the Christ had come and risen. In the eyes of many Jews, this would’ve been downright blasphemous: but whole hordes of Jews were now convinced that Jesus was God. It was such an intense explosive shift that Rome never recovered, and only decades later Christianity became the mainstream faith of the nation.

Something happened two-thousand years ego that history must account for. I know this by itself is not incontrovertible evidence that Jesus did what he did. But scholars are still confounded by this rapid series of events that essentially upturned both the Jewish people and the Roman nation. Once-devout Jews were being lit up and impaled by Nero, being mauled by lions and torn limb-from-limb, families killed and stoned, all to stand for Christ.

What the heck happened then? Did the Jews just lose their dang minds? Maybe. But every historical account that tries to explain all this away ends up piling on more doubt to their own theories. Really the simplest explanation here by way of Occam’s Razor is that Jesus is who he said he was and he did what he said he would.

So Christianity is uniquely alone in that it does NOT claim to be built primarily on teachings, but on a historical event that ripped through a nation. No one wanted Christianity to be true, most in particular the disciples, who all fled. But they turned back because they simply couldn’t deny Jesus had risen. They had seen him. It was the key event that validated all of Jesus’s ministry: not his miracles or teachings or death, but walking out of that grave. Ultimately, over and over, despite my incredulity, I find this to be the most rational explanation for the Jews going nuts. You’d have to make a very convoluted difficult case to explain it any other way.

 

- Jesus’s death and resurrection built an iconoclastic world-upheaving truth that is upheld by the counterintuitive element of grace.

Jesus is existentially satisfying because he accurately describes the human condition and provides the solution. Every other system of belief is built on performance, maintenance, reward/punishment, dichotomous banner-waving division, moralism, superiority, self-improvement, and self-isolated relativism. Jesus destroys all these categories and provides a way above all ways that I have absolutely NOT found in any other system of thinking.

He speaks to my desperate need for self-justification. All day long, I’m justifying myself to prove I’m worthy. I am making myself better than others and comparing my weakness to someone who is weaker than me. I am in a moral race that causes me to laugh at a celebrity’s downfall or to help the poor to look righteous. Jesus destroyed this in the cross by calling us all equally guilty and all equally loved. It was never in us to justify ourselves, but only Jesus can do this.

He speaks equally to my lack of humility and my lack of confidence. Jesus had to die for my sin so I can’t be prideful: but he was glad to die for my sin so I can’t be in despair. Both are somehow true at the same time, and it’s this paradoxical union of tensions that keeps me oriented to a self-forgetting love for others and a right estimation of myself.

He speaks to my need for approval, validation, and significance. Because Jesus loved me enough to die for me: he is the foundation for all the love I need. He knows me and still loves me, and this is the relational intimacy I’ve always been looking for.

He speaks to my need to serve myself and make life about me. I’m set free because my life is not about me. Life is about the story of God and we’re all bit players. Imagine this sort of freedom: when you can quit living selfishly for yourself. You’re no longer enslaved under the tyrannical dictatorship of self. Imagine this sort of Gospel-shaped person who loved you but didn’t need you, because they’re not using you as a vehicle to serve themselves. They’re not killing you as an obstacle who is in the way of their desires. They’re instead seeking to love you simply because they love you and not because of what you can or won’t do for them, and this is because they are loved the same way.

You see: Every other kind of motivation is inherently selfish. It is all seeking a means to an end, one method using another for self-gain. We’re motivated by fear, by conformity, by trophies, by pleasure, by social standing: and while they might benefit a few, they really just benefit me. The love of God is entirely intrinsic unto itself, in a single direction initiated by its own essence, with nothing to gain and no reason to exist except that it does. When we understand such a love: we’re motivated by a purely one-way love to love in the same way, motivated by the reason of no-reason, because it has inherently punctured through our souls. There is no stronger force than this in the entire universe.

I could keep going. The Gospel of Grace is scary as hell, because it means we can no longer work for our own salvation. It means we’re no longer in control of validating our own lives. But when applied rightly, the Gospel of Grace destroys the gap between who we are and who we want to be. It fills in my existential itch to be both loved and known. It usurps my selfish need to justify and hold myself superior. It ruins everything so perfectly.

 

- Even if you don’t believe Jesus is God, we would still be studying the things he said.

Jesus was intellectually subversive and superlative in every single area of thought. The stuff he said was crazy, revolutionary, mindblowing.

To be truthful, most of his teaching is common sense. But the way in which he broke xenophobia and did away with dichotomous dogmatic thinking was nothing short of astonishing.

You can’t pin him down. He was both merciful and full of justice. He was at times liberal and at times conservative. He loved Roman officials as much as he loved prostitutes, swindlers, and murderers. If he were alive today, he would piss off both Fox News and The New Yorker.

There are not many people like this. Almost everyone in history fell to one side of the spectrum or the other. Their thoughts would fall into one pigeonhole or another. We are not a balanced people who can consistently hold two tensions at once: but Jesus did.

I can almost guarantee that G.K. Chesterton was right: if you repackaged Jesus as a Chinese mythology and re-told it to a non-Christian, they would absolutely love it. But because it’s Jesus and Christianity, people hate it.

The more you read about Jesus, the more you get a sense you’re dealing with the divine. You’re not dealing with human words here. He’s not some comfortable therapeutic guru nor a rebel for rebellion’s sake. He’s something altogether in his own category that transcends our comprehensible reality.

I pray you find him, my friend.

 

“My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore. Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and there are some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”

— Donald Miller

 

"To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek Him, the greatest adventure;
to find Him, the greatest achievement.”
— St. Augustine

 

— J.S.

Around The Corner: A Second Wind

jspark3000:

image


You’ve been in meltdown before, when the world felt unusually cruel and your insides collapsed and there weren’t enough tears to cry through your heaving convulsing sobs. Like the wind was uppercut out of your soul.

It’s not pretty. Not like the movies. It’s not dramatic or cathartic or ironic or Oscar-worthy — it’s ugly, snot all over, face puckered in fifty places, bowled over with all kinds of noises spewing from your guts.

I was reading John 20, and Mary Magdalene was there too.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

I read this and grew horribly sad, imagining her hunched over and hopeless. Her world was punched through. I knew how she felt.

The man they called Savior, who had rebuked seven demons out of Mary and had been bathed by her family’s precious perfume, was now just a cold lifeless body in an airtight tomb. Along with his body were the dreams of a different future.


Mary was demon-possessed: so she wasn’t allowed to shop, marry, have friends, go to the Temple, or travel freely. She was one of those fringe losers on the edge of everyone’s radar. Maybe Jesus would’ve changed all that: but they killed him on a dirty wooden cross.

Only — around the corner — something was happening.

The dream was not dead.

She turns to see two angels. They ask why she’s crying. She laments over her Lord, whose body she thinks has been stolen. She doesn’t understand yet.

She turns again and there is a gardener. He asks why she’s crying. She thinks he knows where the body went. She doesn’t understand yet.

Some of us live in this space — we don’t know yet. We are sitting outside a broken dream weeping into our hands and watching the sand fall through tired fingers. It’s gone. We can’t possibly know how it will get better.


God understands this. It’s partly why He sent His Son — to turn back the clock on every fallen grain of sand.

Jesus, in a miraculous meta-cosmic reversal, finished the sentence of humanity with his resurrection. Entropy died. Tragedies no longer defined the end. On the grandest scale, hope weaved itself into broken human hearts and we were revoked every reason to fear.

Then on the smaller scale: for Mary Magdalene, and for you and for me — we await the miracle around the corner.

We lost our dream in a garden once. But the gardener is here.

He is alive: and so now, are we.


It could be that nothing around you gets better. But He is there, extending grace within the swirling mess of a hostile world.

It could be that people around you don’t change. But He is there, growing you to change when others do not.

It could be that you get stuck at that obstacle once more. But He is there, having already removed every obstacle between you and Him at the cross, empowering you for so much better than you think.

In your crushed swollen chest where the hurt pulls in: Christ comes to fill the broken places like so much water in cracked earth, new breath stretching your lungs, so we may thrive and bloom and stand on our shaking feet again.

Turn. He is there.


Because I live, you also will live.

— John 14:19

— J.S.

We live inside Saturday /
Where everything you thought you knew about the Savior
Doesn’t make sense today
Sometimes it feels like it’ll always feel this way
Like the bad guy wins and then he gets away


So I run from the numbness of Saturday
I fall into that space between my sin and my escape –
That cycle of when I do my secret sin in my secret hideaway
I try to break away and make change but I get pulled back into the
empty hurricane of my selfish affliction / directionless
There’s a terrible whisper telling me “This is as good as it gets.”
Running from Saturday’s disappointment
In limbo / regrets on a stretch of narrow highway
Where my dreams, they died on Friday


Jesus / you truly were glorious /
we miss you when you were with us
I think about my life before Christ,
how I used to live for me, myself, and I
and I would do good to look good and get good back in reply


But Jesus, you were so different and unlike the mob /
You seemed so unaffected by human praise and applause
You said you were God / I wasn’t sure but you did roll like a boss


I think of what you taught / about how to treat one another
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
I remember how the ceiling fan would accuse me of guilt / with its every cut into the sides of my lying mouth, from blade to hilt
But you never allowed this shame to overtake me /
You embraced me /
You loved even all the ingredients in me that made me crazy

Jesus / when I met you
I asked myself, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew?”
Because before I knew You, I knew You, and I missed You
You invoked in me dreams and reflections and longings I could hardly stand to whisper
Now … we just miss you.

-

"Friday / Saturday / Sunday"

Spoken Word sermon by J.S. 

From the perspective of a modern day disciple who was with Jesus in his death and resurrection

(via jspark3000)

Friday / Saturday / Sunday
J.S. Park

jspark3000:

Hello beloved friends!

This is a Spoken Word performance, aka that one time the pastor rapped his sermon. It’s from the perspective of a modern day disciple of Jesus, about the three fateful days after Jesus’s crucifixion and how the chaos of the cross turned into beautiful death-defying glory.

To download directly, click here.

Love y’all and be blessed!

— J

Everything Is Very Wrong With Everything, And We Know It
J.S. Park

jspark3000:

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the first part of a new sermon series called “Why You Christian?”  It explores the question of why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.

This first message is titled: Everything Is Very Wrong With Everything, And We Know It.

It’s about that Christianese church-word “sin,” and how we all secretly know something is very wrong and all the ways we try to make it right.

Stream above or download here!

 

Some things I talk about are: That moment when you wonder why you ever need to learn calculus or the quadratic equation, the very goofy Christianese words ‘sin’ and ‘wrath,’ that weird dark secret thing we do that no one wants to talk about, how the world tries to save itself through try-more moralism and top-my-feelings therapy, slapping someone in the pulpit, and that time I almost cheated on my fiancé with a Starbucks barista.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Jesus’s death and resurrection built an iconoclastic world-upheaving truth that is upheld by the counterintuitive element of grace.

Jesus is existentially satisfying because he accurately describes the human condition and provides the solution. Every other system of belief is built on performance, maintenance, reward/punishment, dichotomous banner-waving division, moralism, superiority, self-improvement, and self-isolated relativism. Jesus destroys all these categories and provides a way above all ways that I have absolutely NOT found in any other system of thinking.

He speaks to my desperate need for self-justification. All day long, I’m justifying myself to prove I’m worthy. I am making myself better than others and comparing my weakness to someone who is weaker than me. I am in a moral race that causes me to laugh at a celebrity’s downfall or to help the poor to look righteous. Jesus destroyed this in the cross by calling us all equally guilty and all equally loved. It was never in us to justify ourselves, but only Jesus can do this.

He speaks equally to my lack of humility and my lack of confidence. Jesus had to die for my sin so I can’t be prideful: but he was glad to die for my sin so I can’t be in despair. Both are somehow true at the same time, and it’s this paradoxical union of tensions that keeps me oriented to a self-forgetting love for others and a right estimation of myself.

He speaks to my need to serve myself and make life about me. I’m set free because my life is not about me. Life is about the story of God and we’re all bit players. Imagine this sort of freedom: when you can quit living selfishly for yourself. You’re no longer enslaved under the tyrannical dictatorship of self. Imagine this sort of Gospel-shaped person who loved you but didn’t need you, because they’re not using you as a vehicle to serve themselves. They’re not killing you as an obstacle who is in the way of their desires. They’re instead seeking to love you simply because they love you and not because of what you can or won’t do for them, and this is because they are loved the same way.

You see: Every other kind of motivation is inherently selfish. It is all seeking a means to an end, one method using another for self-gain. We’re motivated by fear, by conformity, by trophies, by pleasure, by social standing: and while they might benefit a few, they really just benefit me. The love of God is entirely intrinsic unto itself, in a single direction initiated by its own essence, with nothing to gain and no reason to exist except that it does. When we understand such a love: we’re motivated by a purely one-way love to love in the same way, motivated by the reason of no-reason, because it has inherently punctured through our souls. There is no stronger force than this in the entire universe.

- J.S. from this post

(Source: jspark3000)

Only a love the size of God could ever win over our sin.

- J.S. from this message

In line with your most recent post (or answered question), what would you recommend for those who do their devotions but couldn't understand the metaphors used by Jesus? I usually look up the interpretations online and go from there but I was wondering if there's a better way to go about it. Thank you for your help!

Hey there dear friend, I believe you’re referring to this post.

One book I highly recommend is Henrietta Mears’ What The Bible Is All About.  It’s a very simple commentary with pictures (woo!) and practical explanations of every book in the Bible.  It’s not too specific on any one book, but gives just enough context to help us think through Scripture for ourselves. 

The wider we read, the more we’ll start fitting the pieces too.  I’ve probably read tons of Timothy Keller and C.S. Lewis, and they’ve helped formed my theology just enough to get a foothold in Jesus’s words.  While I don’t mean to make it only a matter of intellect, it does help to read broadly.  That means both diving into Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem or something light like Max Lucado.

I would also recommend a good huge Study Bible.  My personal favorite is the very classic Zondervan 1984 NIV Study Bible.  The best thing is to browse a few Study Bibles at a bookstore and see which you like.  I’ve seen some friends also like the Life Application and Quest Study Bibles.

May I add: Jesus did say some pretty tough things to figure out.  Scholars still dissect the particulars to this day.  If these really smart people are struggling with them, then a simple-minded person like me will too, and that’s okay.  I think there are probably very simple meanings to all of Jesus’s metaphors, and it would be best to receive the most obvious meaning, then apply it.  I’m sure there’s an infinite amount of wisdom we can receive from every parable, but they can also be easy enough for the five-year-old to understand.  So we want to look into them and always remain curious, but also don’t worry too much if you wrestle with them a bit too.  We can enjoy that process of lifelong discovery.

— J

How Do I Recognize False Prophets?

imageAnonymous asked:

I am really confused, the Bible talks about false prophets and false teachers but I don’t quite understand how to recognize them.

 

Hey my dear friend, I believe there are probably two extremes when it comes to “false prophets” —

1) Anyone who says anything weird is a false lying antichrist scumbag, or

2) As long as you’re positive and you name-drop Jesus, you’re a legit preacher.

But I’ve noticed that —

1) When someone yells false prophet, usually they’re saying, “I disagree with him, therefore he’s the devil,” or

2) We only like preachers who tolerate exactly what I already want to do.

 

Mostly I think we’re both too quick or too slow to say “false prophet.”

We’re too quick to say false prophet because most of us enjoy the surge of self-righteousness in our bowels when we find a point of disagreement, and we feel a divine-messenger-high when we can go after a pastor who does something slightly different than us.

We’re too slow to say false prophet because most of us enjoy watered down preaching that emotionally tickles us and goes down like cotton candy and entertains for a while, as long as we’re not challenged or convicted or have to change anything in our over-privileged comfort zone.

I also think there are some “misinformed” teachers who just don’t have all the information, and they end up misleading others. Other times it’s a tolerance of a certain idea or practice because they’re guilty of it too, and people flock there even when the Bible is expressly against it.  They’ll twist just the one part of Scripture and people will go “Oooh aah” and gravitate to a loophole, because you know, flesh attracts flesh.

Yet here’s what I think in general.  There are very, very few false teachers out there who are purposefully trying to deceive you — but there are ways we latch onto a false idea and get misled, even when it’s not the teacher’s original intention. 

 

I’m not saying it’s always our own fault.  Certainly we need to have very high discernment in all we read and hear.  Obviously there are some false teachers who are sneaking into your wallet and they’re only in it for themselves.  But many people hear what they want to hear.  They’ll say “Yeah false prophet” if they want to dismiss someone, or they’ll say “Oh right on amen” if it fits their own choices. 

Let’s take for example, our dear brother Joshua Harris.  He wrote some books on dating that had really good intentions — purity, intimacy, courtship — but some Christian subcultures latched onto these and drove them to an intolerable extreme. Other subcultures started calling Harris a false prophet.  And while I don’t agree with everything Harris says, it’s unfair to call him “the antichrist” just because his books have spawned some bad ideas.  All good ideas are at the mercy of sinful people.

There is NOT a false prophet lurking in every corner.  The worst false prophet is the sin that deceives us inside our own head.  And to flip that, some of the best prophets can be those who are NOT Christians, but simply extend love like God does.  I wouldn’t endorse all they believe, but what they do is so Christlike that it’s hard to argue. 

So ultimately everyone can be a “false prophet” because we all live in our sin-broken condition, but there is a degree of truth in all of us by the grace of God.  We just need wisdom and discernment to see what really comes from Him. 

 

I’ve been accused of being a false teacher before — but in the end I always find that there are some people who don’t like my idea of grace or that I sometimes use the Bible as allegory (because so did Jesus) and that my God happens to love everyone, including the people they don’t like.  And also, we throw around “false teacher” way too casually, when it’s a huge serious accusation that needs patience and prayer — and maybe we need more grace than that within our Christian circles.

So when a preacher uses tons of Scripture, it doesn’t mean they’re biblical.  If a preacher is super smart and flashy, it doesn’t mean they’re all correct.  If a preacher says a few things you disagree with, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth hearing at all.  And all that is okay.  We can show grace for when people mishandle truth, and we can seek the truth together in grace.

I would very much question everything but land on something.  God wants us to be critical thinkers AND gracious listeners.  It’s unwise to dismiss a whole person based on a single sentence.  There might be a time to do that, but it’s not gracious to constantly grade others on an impossible scale.  It’s also unwise to believe everything a person says, even if you really like that person.  There might be a time to do that too, but God does want us to think for ourselves.

And a last thing. If you conclude that someone really is a false prophet, then instead of demonizing them with a nasty blog post, maybe we could get on our knees and pray for them like crazy. The very few people who are false teachers are also dynamic engaging speakers, so imagine if they repented and decided to get on God’s glory instead of their own. His grace can reach even the worst of us and uppercut us back to truth. And Jesus says you’re the evidence of that.

 

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

— Matthew 10:16

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

— Aristotle

— J.S.

Furiously Investing In Nothing To Make Noisy Platforms: And Forgetting The Real Fight

image

 

At Starbucks, it’s interesting to eavesdrop the conversations.  “My teacher don’t teach right.” “My husband can’t do it.” “What we gonna do later.”

There’s an intense interest in the doing of things –

But underneath a bored, suffocated detachment from the actual thing itself.

We are furiously invested in our earthly engagements – but very quick to disengage when we lose interest. Which happens quickly.

We are choked out by a massively soul-demanding schedule pulled in all directions.  We live in a swirling mass of deadlines, phone calls, papers, drama, bills, health, family, good news, bad news. 

We have to react to these things, press buttons, return calls, mediate, never hesitate.

None of this intense detachment is our fault — because making a lot of passionate noise is often all that makes sense to us.

 

There’s no time to reflect, meditate, to ask why. Can’t slow down this train. 

We are constantly “dabbling” with great fervor.

Most of us never see how flaccid and futile this dabbling really is. 

 

We get easily caught up in non-essential freedoms.

We contend for “rights” to free internet, free checking accounts, contraceptives, same-sex unions, better labor conditions, religious properties and space, medical care, or fair market.

These are important, even critical issues.  But I have to wonder: in what direction are they going? By what authority do we have these “rights”?  And how do they have a louder voice than attention to poverty, genocide, suicide, misogyny, and actual human dignity?

We sign petitions as if this is movement, but often fail to lift a finger or give a penny for the physically disabled and dying. 

Then we do, but it’s for show, to boost our reputation and put in the good work for a day, to appease our troubled conscience.

 

It’s not that this generation does not fight for the right things.  More than ever, there’s a lot of motion. It’s that we make sure it costs us as little as possible with the least amount of sacrifice.

We keep a foot out the door for easy escape. 

This is the least committed generation to the most critical of matters.  And we have gone to the well of entitlement over a mountain of bruised people, raised flags that we’ve stabbed into bodies, used broken necks as our podiums platforms. 

We’ve made great importance out of issues while destroying the people we clamored for.

It’s a cultural symptom that points to the larger epidemic.   It’s because the Lesser is made Greater.  The passing is made permanent.  The temporal is made ultimate.  The parts of life are made into life itself.

 

C.S. Lewis said: All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. … If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.

 

We do not do much that outlasts itself and lives beyond us.  And the few things that last — justice, charity, creative freedom, equality, and grounded authority — only last because they are intrinsic to God’s Nature and the Kingdom of Christ.

We see for some moments at a time, like an intuitive reflex of remembering a different time, a paradise.  For a moment, maybe, there is an existential panic that there may be more than this rented country. 

But we have so slyly learned to train our ignorance and denial.

 

There are other moments, like a puncture wound in your heart –

When you truly feel a weird thing called joy.  Not happiness, but real joy.

Maybe you helped someone without expecting anything back.

Or five minutes of conversation with actual human eye-to-eye contact changed the course of someone’s day from driving off a cliff.

You volunteered time or money to some charity work.

You appreciated someone for who they are and not what they do.

You got to have five minutes of solitude to think for yourself.

 

I believe these things lit us on fire because –

They’re intrinsic to God’s nature and the Kingdom of Christ. 

Once in a while, God breaks in, intrudes and intervenes, hands us His weapons of supernatural goodness – and we see for a moment the truth to our existential desires.

We see that the true fabric of reality is a tapestry where we’re called to engage with fellow living breathing human beings.  We are not meant to be pro-this or anti-that.  The dichotomous binary squabbling of all our dogmatic squabbling cannot even begin to accommodate for the real people inside those issues.

 

Unfortunately, the world will beat it out of us: any notion that there is more than this very short life.  Comedians, satirical commentary, cynical writers, reality shows, tragic news stories. — they all serve to make light of heaviness.

The robotic-cog-of-society routine will rip out every last part of you.  The very American ideals of Neurotically More-Productive-Bigger-Efficient-Image only hollow us out into enslaved lever-pullers.  The temptation of sex outside of God’s intentions – turns us into zombies.

All these one by one rip out every last part of you – squeeze hope out of us.  A lot of us will run to self-selected imprisonment, to idolatry, to numb ourselves. 

But a few, just a few – will pursue the essential truth and what is real.

A few will remember how it was meant to be, before entropy.

A few of us will fight for the permanence of eternity.

A few of us will see eye to eye, not on issues, but on humanity.

No one is meant to be far from the truth for too long.  I happen to believe truth has a name.  And whether you believe that, I will not furiously invest in my ideology.  I will fight for you instead.

— J

Everything Is Very Wrong With Everything, And We Know It
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the first part of a new sermon series called “Why You Christian?”  It explores the question of why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.

This first message is titled: Everything Is Very Wrong With Everything, And We Know It.

It’s about that Christianese church-word “sin,” and how we all secretly know something is very wrong and all the ways we try to make it right.

Stream above or download here!

 

Some things I talk about are: That moment when you wonder why you ever need to learn calculus or the quadratic equation, the very goofy Christianese words ‘sin’ and ‘wrath,’ that weird dark secret thing we do that no one wants to talk about, how the world tries to save itself through try-more moralism and top-my-feelings therapy, slapping someone in the pulpit, and that time I almost cheated on my fiancé with a Starbucks barista.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J