J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "jesus"

Sep 1

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

alotoflittlecandles asked:

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

h-hopkins said:

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

My unpopular opinion within Christian culture is no

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

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

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

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

— J.S.

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

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

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

— J.S.

wakingdeadheartalive:

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

When You Meet God Actually
J.S. Park

jspark3000:

Hello beloved friends!

This is a message titled: When You Meet God Actually.

It’s about how the weirdness of church culture and religious activity can keep you from meeting God actually.

Stream above or download directly here!

Some things I talk about are: When the preacher says ‘don’t be like’ that one evil terrible guy Bill, how to know for sure you’ve instantly encountered the face-melting presence of God, how I found Jesus at a homeless ministry, and the icky moment after you confess all your weird stuff to your friend.

Love y’all and be blessed!

— J

"One Wrong Word and It’s Over" — Or Why We Leave Too Fast

jspark3000:

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I think at times we tend to hold people in a constantly precarious position, so that if they fall even slightly in any direction, we crush them with a label and rush for the exit and burn every bridge and ramp and highway.  It’s like we deliberately keep everyone off-balance so that they’re never really in and good with us, unless they do exactly as I want.  

It’s sort of a desperate anxiety in relationships, where if the guy or girl says one stupid thing: it’s over. 

It’s the fear of trying to say all the right things or you’ll die.

It’s waiting for someone to fail so you can confirm your preconceived presumption.

It’s instantly dividing over a single disagreement, even over a simple sentence or opinion.

 

It happens everywhere, especially in the “church community.”  We tend to analyze the particulars of everyone’s faith.  Any wrong theology will get you killed.  Secondary doctrines become primary battlefronts.  The preacher is graded by his rightness of speech instead of his character (when both are needed).  Even “not being gracious” is sort of a new legalism, where if you don’t tolerate everything, you’re a bigot.  And if you’re neither a cool hipster liberally progressive Jesus-follower or a conservative button-up soapbox picketer, then you’re apparently not a Christian either

I would think that knowing Jesus would make us more gracious, and not less.  But even “faith” has a way of making us jerks, because we so anxiously cling to any dividing line and stab our flags into each others’ sides.

This sort of thin ice will

1) rotate a new set of friends every season,

2) make everyone nervous and uncertain and neurotic,

3) shoot a convulsive ripple of self-righteousness in your bowels all the time, and

4) enslave others with a never-ending internal exam, which we all eventually fail.

 

The truth is that not everyone thinks the way I think, so my conflict with someone’s thinking is my conflict, and not theirs.  It’s downright tyrannical to bend everyone else to my will.  A world full of my mentally implanted opinions would be a horrible, diminished, dehumanized world.  And we do this to people everyday.  We cut them off at a singular point of difference and pretend it’s a “stand,” when really it’s an ivory tower. 

When we scrutinize every person’s word to wait for a mistake, we are then idolizing our ego into an impossible chokehold that will strangle others under the weight of our narcissism.  

You know what I mean.  We just wait for failure and we kick the wounded.  I think we like to join in backlash because it looks smart.  It’s like we’re hunting for an angle to attack because we like to be on the right side of things.  There is no shortage of theology-watchdogs and church-gatekeepers and political pundits and picketing fundamentalists that are simply looking to pick a fight — and their blogs get the most views.  And I include me in this bickering.  I’m no better than “them,” and them is all of us, who are all just as guilty of imprisoning others with unfair expectations that were already set up to lose. 

Jesus wrecked all these expectations by calling us all equally guilty and all equally in need of grace. It means that we don’t get it right most of the time, or even half the time.  We get it wrong like all the time.  And when we do get it right, it’s purely by grace: and that’s worth celebrating.  Instead of waiting for us to fail, Jesus cheered us on to succeed.  Not a success by human standards, but a success that embraces humility and understanding and the ability to laugh at ourselves.  Jesus saw how we are: but he gave us grace for who we could be.  It’s a reversal of expectations. 

I think maybe we could show this kind of vision-casting grace for others when they say something really dumb.  Because we all say dumb things that we look back on later with a stomach full of regret.  And still, Jesus keeps showing grace when our lips move, and we’re called to do the same. 

— J

Prioritizing Your Outrage - Overcoming Anger
J.S. Park

If you’re wrestling with anger or you’re just plain emotional, this one’s for you.  Love y’all and be blessed. — J

jspark3000:

Hello Planet Tumblr!

This is a sermon I preached recently at one of my favorite churches.  It’s about overcoming our anger and relocating our emotions to a healthier place.  The text is Ephesians 4 and Philippians 2.

Some things I talk about are: Yelling at old people in traffic, Jesus flipping tables at a megachurch, the only difference between a superhero and supervillain, airlifting spoiled kids to Somalia, and how to instantly stop lust.

You can also download directly here or check it out on iTunes

Love y’all! — J

The Pressure of Do’s and Don’ts: The Secret Language of Policing Behavior

jspark3000:

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Whenever I see a post titled “7 Ways to Know How” or “What You Should Obviously Know” or “Don’t Do This or You’re A D-Bag” — I get a little knot in my guts and I’m compelled to tattoo all the info in my brainfolds.  It’s an overwhelming shock of adrenaline and endorphins.  I feel both a mini-panic-attack and a bursting well of satisfaction that I suddenly know more than the helpless masses, because I got the secret sauce from Cracked and Relevant and Christianity Today, so I’m ready to flex my newfound skills to impress my witless friends.

Many of these practical tips are useful, and maybe even life-saving.  There are experts who have done it better than us, and we need to hear from them.

But all this anxiety-driven pragmatism either 1) paralyzes me into a deep fear of failure, or 2) gets me in an uppity self-righteous superiority over others who don’t know nothing.

I also get the sneaking suspicion that I’m just copying some programmatic method to earn the approval of my culture-bubble, and if I don’t know the 20 Facts on What To Do When I’m 20, then I’m totally losing at life.

I can see the slithery snake of a needle underlying all these “Do’s and Don’ts.”  We have suspected a secret insider-language suffocating every must-know list —

You should.  You’re supposed to.  You have to.  You better — or else.  If you miss this — you’re out.  Get on my program, or you’re dead.

I’m not sure this is any better than religion.  It sounds like we’re adding burdens rather than setting people free.  And a list of “How To Set People Free” is still dripping with the poison of arrogance.

It’s just adding rules about how to follow rules.  This is legalism, and it’s not okay. 

 

Bloody Puppets in Control of Control

If a preacher gives three points every Sunday, he’s smacking down over 150 points per year.  Throw in Fridays and that’s 300.  Throw in Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday evening service, and that’s over 600 things to remember.

Who else added over 600 need-to-know things on their list?

Oh, right.  These guys.  The original schoolyard bullies.

I understand why we do this.  I understand the need for it. Three-point-sermons can bring the fire, and a self-help bestseller can clean you up for a while.  But inside every book, blog post, sermon, TV host, and street-corner therapist is a desperate manic need for control.  We want to wrestle every scenario into an ideal shrinkwrapped cube of carbonite. 

So we pile on a perfectionist manifesto, and end up with a twitchy, neurotic, hardly functional clone regurgitating the 19 Steps to Keeping It Real In Ministry, and he doesn’t even know why.

We find eventually: this doesn’t work.  People are not designed to live under fear or the threat of conformity.  We are not created for slightly sarcastic non-formula formulas written by a bitter blogger in his basement.  But many of us fall into it — and we’re drowning in marginally better technique.

Most of us are marionettes hung by a thousand bloody strings attached to pragmatic fragments, without a script or direction or destination, dancing madly at the latest loudest cue. 

This is an untenable burden that will steal the God-given pneuma out of your veins.

 

Bricks, Dirt, Gut, Sun

Perhaps more importantly —

You might know all the how-to, but you’ll never know what for.  You’ll never know the why.  

Something has to compel us into an internally motivated, lifetime sustainable, inside-out life.  Otherwise, all these “do’s and don’ts” are just parole officers waiting for you to fail.  They are bricks, all shape and no soul.  We are plants, waiting for light and water to break in.

Life starts from the roots, from the pit, from the gut.  It starts from a seed of unconditional acceptance, pushing through the dirt into the sun.  Seeds have a law, but they are nourished by love.

You’ve met people who have truly been rocked by inside-out motivation.  That person who is passionate about his work, but not attached to results.  The one who loves everyone, but she really needs no one.  The guy who isn’t so hard on you when you make a mistake, and guides you into a better version of yourself without you even knowing it.  She is not moved by self-promotion, image maintenance, or Darwin-esque survival.  She appears to have a reason of No-Reason without expecting anything back.

Some of us say this comes from having children, from a social cause, from discipline, from a lover.  But all these are in danger of enslaving me once they make demands, and none of them can save me.  They cannot set me free. 

 

A Rest for Peace, a Resolve to Fight

As a follower of Christ, I take this up all the way to the highest place.  However you might be struggling with God or the Bible or the church: I believe even in my darkest doubt that we are compelled by a love who loves us before we did a single thing to prove our worth, and I’m free to walk into that love, with my gritty imperfections and messed up motives and my rough raw edges.

Where everyone else and every other system demands I prove my smarts, my resume, my sexual prowess, my outgoing-ness, my ability to follow the three-points — there is a sacred space where I can quit selling myself.  I am pre-approved here, qualified before I walk in the door.  There is even acceptance here for legalists, for Pharisees, for those who burdened others with the rules they failed to keep themselves.

In this place, the rules are helpful, but they are not the ultimate measuring stick for my worth.  They are not the be-all, end-all.  They cannot tell me if I’m good enough or not enough.  They help my behavior, but not who I am becoming.  They only remind me that I fail, and they point to the one who doesn’t.

If the story of Jesus is true, that means:

I can rest.  I can relax.  My motivation is NOT in gaining acceptance: but it starts in the acceptance He has already given.  I can find resolve by knowing He resolved to find me first.  I can fight, because He fought for me.

We can quit getting antsy over do’s and don’ts.  We have room to fail, and in this we can succeed.

I pray we move into this rest.  I pray we drink of His grace.

 

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

— C.S. Lewis

— J.S.

Why Do We Even Go To Church? - That Crazy, Messy, Weird Thing We Call The Body of Christ
J.S. Park

jspark3000:

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This message is titled: Why Do We Even Go To Church? - That Crazy, Messy, Weird Thing We Call The Body of Christ.

It’s about why I still love the church despite it all, and how she is still God’s idea to be a force for good in the universe.  Being part of a church is messy and difficult, but it can be incredible.

Stream above or download directly here!

 

Some things I talk about are: That very nervous moment when you bring a friend to church and you see the weirdness of Sunday service,  how I reply when someone tells me that the church is full of hypocrites, how the friction of colliding with our disagreements can turn us into fully polished people, that time a church lady hit my car in the parking lot and ran, and my very first pastor loving me from hateful atheism to unexpected faith.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Many of us put absurd spiritual parameters on our “progress” so we expect to sustain how we first felt.

A true long-term sustainable faith will never feel like it first did, and it’s not supposed to. How could it? Coming to faith in Christ is always exciting at first — but keeping up that level of emotionalism is impossible.

Think of a hit TV show in its first season. New characters, plot lines, scenarios, dialogue: it’s all so fresh and thrilling. But even a TV show that maintains high quality will be a little stale by the third season, because we become very familiar with the tropes and twists and writing.

Think of a marriage: the honeymoon phase. This doesn’t last forever, but many people expect the “butterflies” and “electricity” to keep going. When it doesn’t, disillusionment leads to adultery or divorce or both. Because it doesn’t “feel like it used to” or the very lame “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

Please don’t do that to yourself. We are done with arbitrary shackles and false goal lines.

If you can push past the initial barrier of fireworks and fog machines, around the bend is a breakthrough in faith that might not “feel” like it did, but was never meant to: because up ahead is an ocean-deep realness that feels more real than feelings ever could.

- J.S. from this post 

A Faith Crisis: Crushed By Doubt, Questions, and Disconnection (And Some Good News)

Two anonymous questions:

Hi pastor, i’m a 21 year old girl from philippines. i messaged you before about my doubts about God’s existence and my faith in Him. that was almost a year ago. Praise God that I was able to recover my faith and go back to normal living with God and i believe it became even better. but i feel so sad again right now because my doubts came back just a week ago. the desire to know God is still here but questions are bothering me. i still have lots of things to share. please help me. thank you!

Hi:), i write to you because i think of you as an understanding and matured faith person so i thought maybe i could share with u my problem.. So, i have a big faith crisis now, like somehow i found myself drowning among doubts … I just started a biblestudy on God’s personality but somehow i found myself on a worst place. As i do the biblestudy something says these “cool things” should make an impact in me, but they dont, like my inner radar would be broken … i wanna thank u that you share things so openly!:)

 

Hey my dear friends: Please first know that I love you both dearly in Christ, and I know how hard it is to fall into this fog of doubt.  I appreciate you both being so honest and real about this, and I’m also grateful for your encouragement even in the midst of this harder time.

You see, the Big Christian Secret is that every Christian in the world runs into doubts, question, confusion, and frustration, because there isn’t anything wrong with you that isn’t already wrong with everyone else.  This doesn’t make you a bad Christian, but an honest one.

In fact, I would say that every human being who ever existed runs into doubts about their own worldviews, a sort of existential panic about what they truly believe, and it can be downright disorienting. 

Here are three simple things we must know.  I have said them many times before and they could sound familiar, so please feel free to skip around.

 

1) Sometimes doubts are just seasonal valleys, because we’re fragile squishy human beings who occasionally get moody.

No one is expected to maintain an emotional high about their faith all the time.  Not everyday is a rocked out laser show singing to Jesus on full blast.  Maybe at that Sunday service or the retreat or revival, you felt a spine-tingling surge of divine ecstasy with God, and it could’ve been a legitimate experience: but not everyday of your marriage is supposed to look like your wedding.  That sort of hype is impossible to sustain.  We’re not in Heaven yet, and we don’t need to force it either.

Moses didn’t split a Red Sea every Thursday.  David didn’t kill a Goliath at every revival.  And Jesus didn’t transfigure — that scene in Mark 9 when Jesus shoots laser beams and lightning out his face — every time they ate breakfast.  We’re not supposed to re-create our highs, but to remember the Most High in our lows.

And you know, some days you just get tired, cranky, jaded, or gassy.  Sometimes you’re just not in the mood.  Sometimes this means for very long seasons, you might not “feel God.”  And when you feel far from Him, maybe that doesn’t get to determine your overall faith, or maybe we’ve measured our entire progress on absurd spiritual parameters.

When you think God isn’t near, you can tell Him, “I feel so far.”  God is not mad about your doubts, your venting, your shaking of the first, or your inability to get excited about Him.  He receives us in every condition, so that His grace might fill the dryness of our desert seasons.

Your feelings are very real, but they can’t be everything.  If we always waited to feel right with God to be good Christians, no one would ever get right or get good.  So it’s really not about “how to get this right,” but simply pressing into God with even the tiny little bit of faith that we have today, for Jesus said even a mustard seed of faith is enough to move mountains.

Also check out:

- Five Ways To Kickstart Your Faith Today

- See Him: If You’re Not Sure About God Right Now

 

2) Sometimes doubts are gentle promptings to investigate your deepest beliefs, especially when life hits hard.

The truth is: Doubt is not a “sin.”  It’s great to have a vibrant, robust, thriving sort of faith, and God wants that for you.  But our deepest roots are born out of the winter nights when we’ve had to dig into the shallow dirt of our infant beliefs and reach into the soil of our most core foundations.

Contrary to pop culture option, Christianity will challenge you to think for yourself. As a pastor, I never want to teach you what to think as much as how.  True faith, the kind that perseveres through pain and trials and urgency, takes a surgical navigation through all the very difficult questions of life.  Only doubts will ever get you to ask them.

When pain hits home and you’re walking through that cancer or car accident or earthquake, you want the kind of faith that can face death.  In the end, I want a faith that doesn’t just tickle my inspiration or gives me cute slogans, but a faith that can get beat up by suffering and scholars and satanic evil, and will keep on standing.  And that only comes when you’re able to hold up those doubts to the light, rotate them over and over, and take a second look at every intellectual and existential answer that Christianity has to offer.

There are too many Christians who don’t really dig to the bottom of what they believe, so that when tragedy comes, they wonder how their concept of God could ever allow such misery.  This quickly turns into a toxic disillusionment because their faith was never nuanced enough to deal with the gray-space struggle of real life.  It’s not that their God was not big enough, but rather much too small.

It’s one thing to say that “Jesus died for my sins and got up from the dead.”  Any church attender could say they believe this, and maybe they do in some esoteric symbolic way.  But what really gets you through the grinding jaws of suffering is to know that Jesus actually conquered a nameless grave, that he threw a right hook at Satan and an uppercut at sin, that the Resurrection offers a sweeping victory against entropy and aging and disease and atrocity, and that Jesus uppercut death in the face.  Jesus destroyed all our greatest enemies by entering through them himself, and then invites us into such power and grace.

The Resurrection, if it really happened, has to be both existentially satisfying and intellectually complete.  It’s totally wise to doubt that such a thing happened: but such doubt drives you to seek the truth, and when you even entertain the possibility that it happened, it’s downright electrifying.

 

3) Some of us are simply wired to be more doubtful than others. 

Though I believe Jesus is the ultimate answer and accommodation for our reality, I also doubt him every single day

When Moses split the Red Sea, there were probably 1) victorious triumphant warriors saying “This is our God!” and 2) doubtful panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton.  I’m a Screamer.  I’m a cynic.  I’m a critic.  I’m Peter, who fell into the water after he got off the boat.

I’m not giving you an excuse to have a halfway lukewarm faith.  I would never wish that upon anyone.  But I’m okay with my slow-burning, smoldering, sit-in-the-backseat sort of faith most of the time.  Just because I don’t sing like the front row of worship service doesn’t mean I don’t love Jesus.  It just means I’m wired to love him when I write, when I see the sun break through the stitching in the clouds, when I serve the homeless and see the face of Jesus there. 

Please don’t beat yourself up about a slowly sizzling faith.  Each day, no matter how you feel or what’s happening, pray anyway.  Read the Bible anyway.  Sing anyway.  Serve anyway.  Your life keeps going, so talk with God anyway.  And just sometimes: the Sea will split again.  Those giants fall with great aplomb.  And Jesus will be there on the mountaintop, full of light and glory and weight, unleashing his furious love poured out for us destitute, despondent sinners. It’s those rare moments which I call to mind as I descend back into the valley, and no one can ever talk me out them.  Even with my tiny little bit of seed-sized faith, I can say, "So there I saw him on that mountain, and he is true.  He is good.  He is down here, too, as He always was, and will be."

— J.S.

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

- J.S.

Where everyone else and every other system demands I prove my smarts, my resume, my sexual prowess, my outgoing-ness, my ability to follow the three-points — there is a sacred space where I can quit selling myself. I am pre-approved here, qualified before I walk in the door. There is even acceptance here for legalists, for Pharisees, for those who burdened others with the rules they failed to keep themselves.

In this place, the rules are helpful, but they are not the ultimate measuring stick for my worth. They are not the be-all, end-all. They cannot tell me if I’m good enough or not enough. They help my behavior, but not who I am becoming. They only remind me that I fail, and they point to the one who doesn’t.

If the story of Jesus is true, that means:

I can rest. I can relax. My motivation is NOT in gaining acceptance: but it starts in the acceptance He has already given. I can find resolve by knowing He resolved to find me first. I can fight, because He fought for me.

- J.S. from this post 

Why Do We Even Go To Church? - That Crazy, Messy, Weird Thing We Call The Body of Christ
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This message is titled: Why Do We Even Go To Church? - That Crazy, Messy, Weird Thing We Call The Body of Christ.

It’s about why I still love the church despite it all, and how she is still God’s idea to be a force for good in the universe.  Being part of a church is messy and difficult, but it can be incredible.

Stream above or download directly here!

 

Some things I talk about are: That very nervous moment when you bring a friend to church and you see the weirdness of Sunday service,  how I reply when someone tells me that the church is full of hypocrites, how the friction of colliding with our disagreements can turn us into fully polished people, that time a church lady hit my car in the parking lot and ran, and my very first pastor loving me from hateful atheism to unexpected faith.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

God is a spiritual being and so are we as humans, but how do we engage in meeting Him spiritually and developing our relationship with Him when the physical, intellectual, and emotional seem so much more real? Am I missing something when I read the word, pray, and worship, possibly the Spiritual encounters those things should provide?

Hey there my dear friend, the thing is: We will always feel something missing when it comes to relating to God, because this is the mystery of faith and the invisible things of eternity. 

I’m not endorsing a sort of halfway faith; I do believe God calls us to a vibrant, robust, passionate intimacy with Him.  Yet when we measure ourselves on ever more escalating parameters, it becomes this secret competition of topping our spirituality all the time. 

I mean let’s think of what you just said here.  You essentially said, “I feel like I’m missing something when I read the Bible, pray, and worship to connect to God.”  Can I just double high-five you right here?  Because dude, you’re doing a lot right there. I applaud you.  Please don’t take it so hard on yourself.  You’re living out your faith even when you don’t feel like it, and God is absolutely cheering you on.

Also, each of us are wired to learn in different ways, so that two people hearing the same sermon will receive it in wildly varying ways.  Some of us are more intellectual, or more emotional, or more behavioral: and when we think we hear a bad sermon, we’re actually listening to a preacher who teaches in a different way than we learn.  It’s like a teacher who only talks when you’re more visually oriented.  Maybe he’s a great teacher, but it’s hard to tell if you don’t learn the way he teaches.  While it’s good to stretch yourself to be a well-rounded person, it doesn’t work to instantly force yourself into a brand new wiring.

God also encourages us to experience His love by experiencing the love of real tangible people.  That’s why 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."  No one is meant to walk this faith alone, but we can more fully experience God by face-to-face side-by-side intimacy with one another.  So it’s actually okay to meet God when you meet people.  It wouldn’t be our primary way of connecting with Him, but it only makes sense that God designed us this way too.

You’re doing this well, my friend.  Keep fighting that good fight, and much love to you.

— J.S.

Suddenly Wanting His Return

jspark3000:

Was driving today in a panic to take care of a million things, looking up at the spotty Florida sky that looked like God had painted with a clogged spray paint can.  Tired, frustrated, irritated, jealous of everyone else who wasn’t me.

Suddenly imagined Jesus with his one-hundred million angels, separating the spray painted clouds and his trumpets blasting and the entire earth lit up by his lightning-and-thunder presence.  If one angel has a twelve foot wing span, then that’s 11 miles of wings per one mile of sky.  Imagine the sound.

It was a rush.  To think at any moment the show could be over, the whole lid ripped off history and the director yelling cut.  Justice finally unrolling itself in completion.  Jesus here, in full glory, no more charades — his head on fire, a sword sticking out his face, stars in his hand, riding a war horse.  How awesome.

Hurry, Lord.  Can’t wait for the day. Until then: we fight.

— J.S.

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

jspark3000:

Hello beloved friends!

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

Stream above or download directly here!

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

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J