J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "christianity"

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

You’re going to have a mountaintop experience where you see God and you finally know Him for who He is. But what I think church tends to do is make you feel like you’re supposed to be on fire all the time and you should always feel that. It’s not true. When you suddenly get into that valley, that really dark discouraging place, God is saying, ‘In the valley, remember the mountains. Remember when you were there with me. Remember that time you experienced Me and I was so real to you.’

If just that little bit of your mountaintop experience can come into your valley period, that’s what’s going to help you to hold on. That’s what will get you through your very shakeable faith. No one ever told me this in church: but when I read the Bible, I know it’s not supposed to be an everyday rocked-out Christian life. There are days that will be rough, but just those few times in your life: remember how God spoke to you.

- J.S. from this message 

I'm curious about your view that reformed Calvinists overemphasize predestination. How have you seen this happen and what do you mean by it?

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

I think any kind of of overemphasis on a single doctrine creates an unintended lopsided thinking, which is really no one’s fault except human nature.  Reformed Calvinists (of which I am one) tend to pump up so many specific doctrines that they look like those guys at the gym who only work out their upper body, like if you put the Hulk’s chest on top of Hawkeye’s legs.  It’s ugly.

See: the idea of young Christians being careful about dating is a wise plan — but taking that to an extreme leads to all kinds of weird neurotic Christian dating bubble-cultures.  The same is true if you beat the hobbyhorse of tithing, spiritual gifts, politics, or the Christian version of things.

Of course, many of these doctrines begin with noble intentions and pure motives.  Most Christians don’t twirl their evil hipster mustaches in a basement hoping to bank off their nervous paranoid church people.  But like anything, the escalation of an idea creates offshoot branches that are far removed from their original intent. 

So when Joshua Harris (who is a pretty good guy) writes a few books on dating, some extremists will take that to a really goofy level and sort of massacre Harris’s work, and then you have liberal Christians pointing fingers at Harris like it was his fault.  He set out to do a good thing, but bad subcultures always spring up from good ideas like a cyst.

 

But in the case of Reformed Calvinists, it seems like almost the entire camp is deadset on being a bunch of gatekeeping watchdog bullies.  I wrote an angry rant a while ago about why I don’t ever want to be labeled a Reformed Calvinist again (though in theology, I remain one).  I’ve just never met a single decent Calvinist, and when I did, I couldn’t even tell they were Calvinist. 

Predestination is one of those tricky doctrines that can lead to total arrogance or total anxiety or strange readings of Scripture.  It’s either 1) I’m the chosen one, 2) I don’t know if I’m chosen, or 3) God hates some people and loves others.  But we forget that predestination AND free will are given nearly equal treatment throughout the Bible, sometimes even within the same exact verse (2 Thessalonians 2:13 and the entire book of Ephesians).  They’re both completely reconciled somehow, and if you ask me to explain it, then my head would have to be the size of the universe.  My brain is allergic to paradoxes, so I won’t even try.

Once again, If your faith is making you a jerk, then throw that out the window and start over.  There are certain Christian doctrines that will inevitably be offensive to some people, but I see Christians go out of their way to be offensive.  I’m guilty of it too.  So I hope we can keep all these doctrines in proper perspective, and maybe even look to how Jesus managed to hold them all together: which was Love the Lord and love your neighbor.

— J

The Fear of Being A Bigot (Can Lead To Bigotry)

Anonymous asked:

What do you do when you’re on the fence? When you have friends who are either atheist/christian-atheist or full on passionate believers, yet you don’t fit or belong on either side? I’m struggling to believe and I fear that if I go too far, I’ll turn into a really religious/bigoted person who becomes preachy and forceful, and I don’t like that.


Hey there my friend, I apologize if I miss something here and I take it that you’re trusting me to be as straightforward as possible. I say all these things out of grace and love and honesty.

I think there are many believers who feel exactly like you do, much more than you think. It’s easy to feel like “I’m the only one who feels like I’m the only one,” and it’s romantic to think so. But I can almost guarantee that if you spend enough time with people in the trenches, there are almost no black-and-white one-dimensional people who fulfill our mental pictures of them.

Most of those who appear extreme in their beliefs (or lack of beliefs) are often just as human as we are. Those believers who look passionate tend to be dishonest about their doubts, and those who are militant atheists sometime get struck with existential doubts about their doubts. I think it would be unfair for us to paint anyone in a clearly defined categorical box, and Jesus managed to meet all these kinds of people right in the middle of their uncertainty.

May I also press you a bit here? It sounds like you’ve determined that there are “sides in conflict" and that people only fit belief/non-belief categories. You mentioned you’re afraid to be "bigoted like those bigots" or "preachy like those fundies," so it sort of sounds like you’re being bigoted against bigots. Which means you’re still on a side, and that’s still judging.

You’re not doing this on purpose, I know. I just hear way too many people who yell “bigotry” that are pretending to be champions of tolerance, when really what they’re saying is, “I’m too much of a coward to have any strong convictions and I don’t want to offend anyone.” I’ve done that too, and I can tell you that standing against those who stand against something is still standing for nothing. So I’ve had to lower my weapons on this one and simply approach people for who they are instead of how I expect them to be.

If you don’t want to be a bigot: then simple enough, don’t be one. Don’t be a bigot to bigots either. I’m not trying to be cheeky or mean when I say that. Just start from scratch with people and please don’t be too quick to box them inside a preconceived category.

You’d be surprised how layered and conflicted and thoughtful that others can be when you approach them with honesty and grace. Jesus marched right through peoples’ defenses because he wasn’t afraid to look like he was on a “side” — he was always for the real person, and I think we’re called to be there too.

— J.S.

The bible says faith is the assurance of things not seen. Is it then bad to try to justify my faith through rational reasoning?

Hey my dear friend, it’s definitely not bad at all — and I would in fact highly urge you to dig deeply into your faith until your teeth sink into conviction.  There is plenty of historical evidence and plausible explanations when it comes to Scripture and the God of the Bible.

My major concern is that most people think only intellect can answer the claims of Christianity, when people themselves are not merely intellectual beings.  We’re all a complex mix of emotional, psychological, and spiritual factors that need a well-rounded foundation to satisfy us. 

This is why academic answers hardly ever convince an atheist into faith. No one has ever said, “You totally proved my atheism wrong, now tell me about Jesus.”  We still need to answer the existential reasons of why we’re alive.  When I was an atheist, I didn’t care about the factual stuff — it was all garbage to me anyway.  I had to get past my own personal bias to God before I could even look at the evidence.

Someone who only believes through intellect can also become an arrogant egotistical doctrine-head (1 Corinthians 8:1), and then bam, you become one of those mean Reformed Calvinists.  I had to stop calling myself one because most of us were jerks and bullies, and the movement pretty much killed itself from ego.  I’m all for learning as much as you possibly can, but if you’re waiting around with arms crossed until you’re convinced all the time, you’ll entangle yourself into all kinds of silly theological conflicts that no one actually cares about.  God help us on that.

Please allow me to point you to two posts here that explain how I moved out of atheism, which simply became too untenable, and why unlike anything else, the journey of faith is a lifelong discovery that will never quite finish to the very end — and that’s okay.

- Why Do You Believe In Jesus?

- You’re a “Skeptical Christian”?

 

There are also quite a few verses that tell us to investigate the claims of truth.  In other words, God does want you to think for yourself.

And please remember: Have fun getting to know Him.  He’s awesome.  He’s satisfying.  He is knowable.  He will love you through the questions.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

— Acts 17:11

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith …

— 2 Corinthians 13:5

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

— Proverbs 15:14

Desire without knowledge is not good— how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

— Proverbs 19:2

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

— 1 John 4:1

— J.S.

Hello, and peace be with you! I am a Christian but lately I have been struggling with some aspects of my faith. I am particularly confused and have been troubled by the concept of the trinity. I feel like I shouldn't be so caught up in minute technicalities such as this, but I feel nagging doubts about the validity of this concept. Can you help me understand or point me in the right direction?

Hey there my friend, please be encouraged that God graciously receives all our questions and confusion and frustration, and all that means you’re wrestling for a deeper foundation with Him.  This is a good thing.

Please allow me the grace to point you to some previous posts on this:

- How Does The Trinity Work?

- Is The Trinity Like A Family?

- So About The Darn Trinity

You’ll notice that there’s a ton of mystery when it comes to the Trinity, and I think on this side of things, we’ll probably never fully grasp God in His trinitarian glory with our tiny eight lb. brain.  I won’t pretend to know more than anyone else does on it.  I hope we’re okay with a little mystery and that our Pavlovian Westernized reflex to plug everything into a Post-Enlightenment formula doesn’t kill us with over-complexity.  And it’s not wise to simplify it either.  To explain “three in one” with all those metaphors like ice-water-vapor or egg-embryo-yolk hardly ever goes far enough, and any analogy will fall apart pretty fast.

But I can tell you that God minus any part of the Trinity wouldn’t be a knowable God.

- Father and Son make a good team, but there would be no Spirit to continue God’s work on the earth.

- Spirit and Son make a cool cop show, but then there’s no Father to deal justice on sin.

- Father and Spirit make a cool sitcom, but then there’s no Son to break into our world as one of us to identify with our pain and jumpstart our healing.

One thing to remember is to please enjoy the process of discovering God.  I know it feels like there’s a brick wall whenever we come across a difficult doctrine, and that Western urge to “know all the facts” gets us into a twisted up neurotic mess in our faith.  While I totally believe that Christianity is intellectually satisfying in every way, there are just some truths way bigger than our heads can handle, and I’m okay with the lifelong process of getting to know God in all His wild infinite nature.

I’ll leave you with C.S. Lewis, who said it better than I can.

"All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God.’ They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love.’ They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else. And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christian and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing - not even a person - but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance."

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

— J.S.

As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture
J.S. Park

jspark3000:

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message titled: As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture.

I go over a repeated phrase we see in the Old Testament, "As for me."  It’s about becoming a countercultural force for the common good without judging others and without compromising ourselves.

Stream above or download here!

 Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Cognitive Dissonance: Lining Up Our Beliefs and Actions

image  shatterrealm asked you:

At your convenience, could you talk about cognitive dissonance and why it isn’t ideal? Specifically, why our actions and our beliefs should line up?

 

Hey my dear friend, I totally love this question.  And I have to give a shout-out to your other blog too, you’re one of my favorites.

As always, please feel free to skip around on this one.

In case we need an easy definition, cognitive dissonance is basically the tension between what we say and what we do.  The wider the gap and the longer we let it exist, the more tension we experience and the more we justify it with crazy half-baked rationalizations. 

A classic case of cognitive dissonance is smoking cigarettes.  By now, we all know that smoking is bad for your health — so either 1) a smoker has to quit, or 2) a smoker has to reinforce why they need to keep smoking. 

Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theories (1957) showed that “we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid disharmony.”  Research even shows that smokers who quit and then relapse back to smoking are even less likely to ever quit again, because they had to increase their excuses to go back to their smoking habit.

 

All this to say: Cognitive dissonance can actually be a very powerful motivator to quit certain things and start new ones, and it points to a deeper spiritual reality about how things ought to work.  People are not meant to live within the tension of dishonesty for too long. 

Integrity is inherently important to people, and those who fail to be accountable are often torn apart in the media or beat themselves up too.  No matter what people are saying about morality today, everyone still wants to keep it real.  Everyone can hear the obvious anvil-thud of rationalizations and we’re all sick of political double-talk. 

I actually believe this anger towards hypocrisy points to a very simple human truth: that every single human being, regardless of their beliefs, is measured by the common scale of authenticity.  Somehow an ideal exists that dishonesty is the corruption of something very good, and that even the authentic failure is better than a covered up conspiracy. 

We could say this ideal exists because of evolutionary development or social pressure or a morally rewarding culture or careful parenting or a biological directive — but then we’d have to explain why that exists too. 

Here’s my guess.  I believe we all remember a time when what you see is what you got, when we could see each other at face value without the fear of betrayal, without the constant modification of our voices in a crowd, when we would rather hear the truth that hurts than a lie that soothes.  I believe we each have a timeless memory of naked honesty and that it was good.  We knew what was good before we drowned ourselves in cowardly blame-shifting and going for a sneaky angle with an agenda.  We have a trace of what it was meant to be, when every word was as strong as oak and every action came from the furnace of our truest feeling. 

We know Judas was wrong.  Not just because he said one thing and did another: but because hypocrisy kills us.  Cognitive dissonance is never a personal private matter.  It eventually bleeds into our relationships and destroys the human tapestry.  You can act a hundred ways with a hundred people and even get away with it for a while: but eventually those fragments will collapse inward into shrapnel and lacerate thousands more.  When our actions and beliefs don’t match up, it’s not simply  “feeling disharmony,” but it brings chaos into the world. 

 

More than that: This is also about having the right kind of action and belief.  We can believe some pretty terrible things and act on them with accuracy, but that’s even worse.  I can believe that punching cops and kicking animals is right, but even sincerely doing those things makes me a jerk.

I remembering hearing a message about how Christians can either be 1) radically generous or 2) radically pure, but it’s hardly ever both. 

So for 1) Jim Jones, the infamous religious leader of the Peoples Temple suicide cult, ended up responsible for nearly a thousand deaths in 1978.  He was notoriously an adulterer and drug addict.  Yet he donated tons of money for police widows, the NAACP, newspaper publishers, and gave food and clothing to the poor.  Most of Jones’ followers donated their entire life savings away.  So Jim Jones, while radically generous, was definitely not much else.

And for 2) There were the ascetic monks of the early church in the third century and on.  They lived apart from society in routine-driven communes, fasted like crazy, memorized the Book of Psalms (that’s 150 chapters y’all), never had sex, and prayed around the clock.  They were certainly pure: but they were so far removed from society that no one in the real world ever saw them, and we could certainly say they were self-absorbed hermits who looked down upon the mainstream.  They were the worst sort of hipsters in history.

So yes, Christians are called to be both radically pure and radically generous.  But when we read this, it’s easy to say “Those religious hypocrites, serves them right.”  We expect those who uphold a moral standard to be more accountable, or we say “I could never be as bad as them,” or we want to throw out all standards and say we’re each responsible to ourselves. 

But why does this even bother us?  If everyone is expected to be accountable to their “own standard,” then Jim Jones and the ascetic monks have no one to answer to.  They did fine of their own accord, even if no one else thinks so. 

I think this bothers us because all of us are hypocrites too, and it’s easy to point at other hypocrites to ease our own hypocrisy. It’s why we love celebrity meltdowns, because we each feel this surge of self-righteous vindication and think, “If I had all that money, I wouldn’t be acting that stupid.”  But comparing ourselves to Jim Jones or Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen is to compare poop to diarrhea.  I think all of us are actually called to be both pure and generous, as much as we hate to admit it: and we all fall woefully short.

 

We’re all hypocrites because we’re all falling short of both our own standards and a higher universal standard that exists apart from us.  I know not all of us will see eye-to-eye on that one.  I happen to think that standard is divine.

Here’s what I know.  At three in the morning when we’re watching our ceiling fan spin, all of us experience an existential panic about why we’re alive at all.  We hear the heartbeat of a universe that threatens to crush us into insignificance in that tiny molecule of a bed in an atom of a house of a street that no one will know in a million years. We examine our own lives and feel the dissatisfaction between what we say and what do, the lies we told and the sex we regret and the death we spoke and the lives we dishonored: and more than that, we feel there is a terrifying standard even above our own.  As much as we try, there’s a panicked desperation that we will never make up for where we failed ourselves and others, and that life will pay us back somehow, and that our existence will end with an ellipsis into dust.  We have that anxious late-night twitch of remorse over broken promises and dead relationships and irreversible choices.  And secretly we wish for someone that would know our dishonest double lives and still root for us, cheer for us, still love us in the icky awkward gap of our charade.  We wish for a grace that covers what we’ve done and empowers us for what there’s yet to do.  We wish for a love that won’t leave, even when this time on earth is over.

I believe this sort of grace has a name.  I believe there was only one kind of love that went backwards through our gap and met us where we are, in that space of our hopeless hypocrisy, and still loved us.  We’re offered forgiveness, which is what we need not only for yesterday, but tomorrow.  I believe we don’t need to desperately compensate for our shortcomings with reactionary righteousness — because this was already done for us, and we can act out of freedom instead of trying to prove ourselves.  I believe I can quit beating myself up because this grace already took my blame, and self-punishment doesn’t work anyway.  I believe there is rest for us.  I believe his name is Jesus, and he loves hypocrites like you and me.  At three in the morning, we all know his name, whether we say it or not.

— J.S.

Apr 9

I know how hard it is to talk about Jesus. It’s the most awkward conversation you’ll ever have. If you even say the whole Gospel out loud right now, it sounds like the craziest thing you’ve ever heard. But the Gospel isn’t some ‘speech’ you unload on people and then ‘leave it in God’s hands.’ Blasting people with theology is like serving icing for dessert. Evangelism is your whole life, it’s sharing your home, it’s enduring patiently, it’s being a human being, it’s availability, it’s sharing Jesus through who you are; not perfectly, but passionately. Yes, invite them to church and to that revival and talk about your faith and your testimony, but once you dare to go there, just know you might be rejected immediately, a lot, and aggressively. Except secretly they can’t deny there must be something to it, because you’re not just a billboard: you’re an overflow of a barely containable supernatural miracle.

-

what I’d like to hear the preacher say about evangelism instead of all that guilt tripping

(from this post)

Apr 9

hello sir. Uh I'm just curious heehee I would like to know how your first speaking or testimony about Christ went? I mean with the nonbelievers. With God's grace of course what important points do you remember you shared? How were you able to answer friends and people asking why are you a christian and how? what happened?

Hey my dear friend, please allow me the grace to point you to some previous posts here.  Please feel free to skip around.

- You’re a “Skeptical Christian”?

- Why Do You Believe In Jesus?

- Why Christianity?

- How Do I Give My Testimony?

- What’s Your Testimony?

- Why Is Evangelizing So Awkward?

- How Are You An “Atheist Christian”?

- Come On, Were You Really An Atheist?

 

I’ll add that “sharing your testimony” is definitely not a formula or a sales package that can simply happen in a single sit-down.  It takes a lot of that life-on-life everyday grind with another human being so they can see God’s grace in you.  I know we expect fast results from sharing a testimony or getting out all the bullet points, but real living people with real problems don’t receive truth this way.  And whether or not they get it, we love them anyway.

You also don’t need all the right answers today.  I do believe Christianity is intellectually satisfying in every way possible, but simply checking off all the defenses to faith is a cheap tactic to arm-wrestle someone into concession.  What we need, whether we think so or not, is to see Christ instead of hearing about him.  That’s true for both those who believe and those who don’t.  Jesus doesn’t need a defense.  He comes to our defense; we either get in the way or we let him speak.

— J

Apr 8

Stepping Up: Afraid To Ask Out Really Good Women

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Anonymous asked:

Hey man, I’ve currently been struggling with feeling that I am unworthy of the time and love of Godly girls. I don’t feel like I’m good enough to even ask them out. Do you think that’s a valid thing to be feeling or is it more of a copout?


Hey my dear brother, may I first please say: The very fact that you even care about this and cared to ask me shows a huge step of maturity and humility. It’s not easy to confess this sort of thing to another brother, so you’re already making the right moves.

But please allow me to break down some motives here.

When a dude says they’re not good enough for a God-centered woman, they’re either saying

1) I really want to step it up in my faith to find a good woman, or

2) I’m not really a leader-type, so I’ll allow the woman to lead me in our relationship.

So a question. Are you #1 or #2?

And of course, it’s a trick question. Neither options are good, at all.


1) If you only focus on trying to be a good Christian man for a woman — you already know where this will go. You’ll be enslaved to making your life about a woman. You’ll try to squeeze the benefits of “better behavior” from God rather than just getting God for God. You’ll also be pretty dang neurotic and twitchy every time a girl walks in the room.

2) If you think that some dudes are meant to be “led” by a woman in the relationship — what you’re saying is that you want less responsibility in a relationship, which is a loophole to keep yourself stagnant and lazy. It means you don’t want to work or grow or lead or be responsible. I hear so many Christian dudes use this particular excuse that it’s no wonder the Christian women are finding it impossible to meet a good man. Please know that I’m not saying anything about gender roles (on which I’ve said plenty here). I’m saying that anyone, man or woman, who doesn’t want to take up responsibility for their life and their relationships, is really just opting for laziness and self-entertainment.

But I don’t think you’re operating out of these motives. You’re probably being really hard on yourself, or maybe there’s an insecurity or inadequacy you haven’t confronted, or there’s some kind of history or baggage or secret double life that you’re still struggling with. And maybe no one has told you how to handle you before you try to handle a relationship.


You see: Somewhere along the way of our faith, most men hear two very different messages. The first is, “God says you’re good enough!” But the second is, “Most men are deadbeat dads and jobless losers and feminine nobodies, so don’t become like them.” And neither message actually helps anything. The emphasis on both sides just disorients us into confusion.

The truth is that no one is good enough on their own. That’s why we need God’s grace. And even with God’s grace, it’s hard to be a dad and find a job and to “be a man.” So we need the humility to know “I’m not good enough,” but also the confidence to say, “My God is good enough.” And it’s within this tension that you’ll find the confidence to do everything else, with a reduced anxiety and less fear of rejection and a more teachable spirit.

A woman isn’t looking for a guy who thinks he’s perfect. She’s looking for an honest dude who’s working aware of his limitations but who’s also aware of God’s limitless goodness. I can lead when I’m led by God, because on my own, I can’t lead anything. Any man who claims to lead on his own is not even qualified to be the boss of himself.


If you really think you’re not “good enough” to find a good woman, you’re right. Just back that way up and start from scratch. Navigate the depth of your own shortcomings in the light of God’s grace found in Jesus, and you’ll become better without even hardly knowing it. No Christian ever needs to “try” to become a Christian: you’re His the second you believe. The sooner you embrace your adoption in Him, the more you will embrace both equal humility and confidence, because Christ died for your very real sin, but he died out of his very real love for you. Don’t waste another second on self-pity or shame. Jump into what Jesus did for you.

A last word. Any time someone pursues God with the secondary intent of finding a date, they get really bitter when no one comes along. I can understand that, because loneliness can certainly be painful. But if we turn to God even with the good intent of trying to “upgrade” ourselves, then God becomes a bank. Then our faith is just a transaction, and we’ll either push God in our debt or we’ll wallow in our own. So please focus on you and God before you throw a second person into the equation. Discover God on your own. Any secondary motives will have to be set aside for now. Pursue Christ first and you will grow in confidence and character. Or as Jesus said,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Run after Christ and you’ll find someone running alongside you. And if you don’t, keep running.

— J.S.


Also read:

- The Weird Subculture of “Christian Dating

- 6 Ways To Be Ready To Pursue A Relationship

- Four Simple Ways To Prepare For Married Life

- To Love Without Idolizing A Relationship — A Mega-Post on Dating & Very Bad Advice