J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "scripture"

How do you discern God's voice? How do you know when God is speaking to you, or pushing you to go in one direction or another?

Hey my dear friend, please allow me to share some previous posts:

- Four Thoughts About Finding God’s Will

- How Do I Even Hear The Voice of God?

- Was That God Or Me?

- Trying To Figure Out My Life

There are obvious things, like how God’s voice will line up with Scripture and the advice of mature friends.  Some other thoughts to consider:

 

- We often learn in hindsight.  God doesn’t always work in neon lights and flashing signs.  Sometimes looking over the course of your own life — where you shined, failed, flourished, grew — can be helpful.

- God speaks with simplicity.  Like Ecclesiastes 6:11 says, “The more the words, the less the meaning.”  If we start to rationalize a decision with a lot of words, you can almost guarantee that’s not from God.  His voice is pure, simple, to the point, and often a whisper.

- His voice will contradict you.  Prayer will humble you.  I don’t mean despair or self-pity, but you’ll sense God is turning your head the right way to a better direction, and it won’t always be the easy one.  Loving people, being patient, sacrifice, and finding a meaningful purpose are not easy things.  Prayer won’t always lead to positive affirmation, but often loving rebuke.

- You’ll relent and repent.  I can be sure I’m hearing God’s voice when it brings me to a place of repentance.  I know I’m not right every time.  God wants to make sure I do something about that, because it’s how He can love me best.

— J.S.

Hi! I would like to ask you a question about the old covenant and the new covenant. Although I already know the answer to this, I would still like it if you explained this to me: Why is it that we no longer follow and do old traditions, rituals, sacrifices, and rules that the people did in the old testament?

Hey there my friend, please allow me to point you to some posts here:

- The Down-Low on The Old Testament Commands

- God Seems A Little Crazy In The Old Testament — A Mega-Post on the OT

The easiest way I can say this is: The Bible is an unfolding narrative of God’s activity with certain people, at specific times, with unique interactions throughout history.  God is the same, but people are not. God is outside of time, but we are not.  So God has given us a beginning, middle, and end of His revealing, and we’re somewhere near the end.  In this specific phase of God’s activity with us, the OT Law is like a foundational event for His people, just as Jews and Gentiles were a foundational people to flex His glory.

The OT Law was not a way to get “saved.”  It was a standard for the community of God’s people.  And it was put in place for the Israelites after they were rescued through the Red Sea; not the other way around.  God was trying to 1) guide His people, and 2) show other nations what that looked like.  It was a temporary system for the Israelites until the Messiah.

Many of the principles behind OT Law still stand today.  In other words, the spirit in which the law was written can still be applicable.  So when God says “Don’t put two strands of different fibers together” or “Don’t eat seafood from the ocean floor,” I’m guessing that He means we’re to steer clear of contaminating our spiritual lives.  I don’t mean to say that the Bible itself is only metaphors and allegories, but that God’s unfolding story needs to be read in its proper context.

My guess is that some of the OT Law looks silly because God was essentially saying, “Righteousness is pretty tough, even in the weird stuff.”  God is showing that we will constantly fail to achieve moral accomplishments on our own, and that when we stand before Him one day, our only response would be to burst into flames at the sight of His perfection.

When Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4), this doesn’t just mean “Okay you can eat lobsters and bacon now.”  It means Jesus did what we could never do: he satisfied the righteous standard of God on our behalf, so that our sin could be removed without destroying the sinner.  The Old Covenant was only a precursor or foreshadow for the New Covenant.  Jesus would uphold the Law in himself by both perfectly obeying the rules and completely paying off our sin.  The OT points to this all the time, with images of a Suffering Servant and Saving Messiah and someone who would be “crushed” as a “sin offering.” 

Our New Covenant today is that we’re a universal body of believers who have received grace and love Jesus and love people.  This is until Jesus comes back, and behold, that’ll be a whole new story.

— J.S.

Faith Mosaic.

Your faith won’t look like the faith of your neighbor. We love Jesus and we love people: but beyond that, God has wired us with a colorful diversity of connections to Him. All the people in the Bible experienced God in different ways through their varying personalities.

Moses saw the back of God’s glorious rear, while Elijah heard the still small voice of God after a mountain exploded. Gideon was so doubtful he kept asking God to do weird things like burn up meat or throw water on a sheep rug; Jonathan was so confident that he provoked the Philistines to war without really consulting God. King David was a pensive, ferocious poet with an ear for music and lyrics; Jeremiah and Habbakuk wept loudly for their people with tons of uncertainty. Jonah hated ministry but went anyway; Isaiah said “Here am I, send me.” Ruth bravely proposed marriage in hopes that God would provide; Leah desperately begged Jacob to provide her offspring. Noah was a drunken slob after all his trouble; Joseph re-affirmed God’s sovereignty though he had been left for dead by his brothers. Peter was a brash thick-headed emotional hot-head who was ready for Jesus to unleash the Kingdom; Timothy was a sickly scared baby Christian who needed a lot of reassurance from Paul. Martha was practical and efficient; Mary was relational and affective. The Samaritan woman at the well needed a face-to-face encounter with Jesus; the Roman centurion trusted that Jesus had healed his sick servant from afar. Nicodemus the Pharisee went to Jesus late at night to avoid peering eyes; all the blind beggars went to Jesus in front of everyone to have their eyes opened. James & John expected Jesus to rain down fire on the enemy; Thomas doubted Jesus was ever the Messiah. James the half-brother of Jesus was all about God’s commands and obedience; Paul spoke of grace abounding all the more. Paul was the better writer but a weaker preacher; Peter was a fiery preacher for an ordinary fisherman. John was a loving patient sensitive man; Simon the Zealot was a political terrorist. Matthew Levi had been a greedy tax collector who followed Jesus on the spot; Mark was there when Jesus was arrested and fled the scene naked. In the end, Matthew and Mark wrote very different accounts of Jesus’s life and death, and so did Luke and John. Yet each one fills out the other, just as so many different hues in a mosaic.

— J.S.

Jul 8

In classic Greek and Roman mythology, it was always the strongest and smartest who reached God and the divine. Bellephron and Achilles and Odysseus and Perseus: they were rippling with muscles or huge brains or special powers.

But Scripture, in a complete reversal of human values and stereotypical strength, shows that God pursues maybe the weakest individual in the entire town of that day: Mary Magdalene, a mentally unstable woman. The one who others were writing off as a nobody, an outsider, an outcast.

If this story were told in another Epic Myth – The two-ton stone would still be rolled over the grave, and God would say: “Move the stone and you will have access to me. Show me your strength.” And maybe a special “Chosen One” could roll the stone from the grave.

Yet Mary Magdalene shows up and the stone is already removed. Which means, in a literal and metaphorical sense, that grace rolled the stone away. God had already done the work to reach His people, to reach the weakest person.

We don’t need to move the stone to find God, but God moved the stone to find us. This is the Essential Heart of God and the Gospel.

- J.S. from this message

Jul 2

The Error of Narrow-Gate Theology: Jesus Is Bigger Than A Single Bible Verse

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Whenever a fellow Christian brings up the “broad road of destruction” — that is, the single verse that implies most people are going to hell — I have to question this with, you know, the whole Bible.

Because Matthew 25 tells us a story about these ten bridesmaids preparing for the wedding, and half of them are ready.  Which implies that probably half of us are going to make it.

Or in Matthew 3, we learn about the wheat getting separated from the chaff: which actually implies that the majority of us are going to make it.

So which one are we cherry-picking for our agenda?

Do we only use the narrow gate to scare the hell out of people?  What about the bridesmaids, and the wheat, and the entire list of others issues besides sexuality, and the stuff about helping the orphans and the foreigners, and how about the criminal next to Jesus who made it in the last ten seconds of his life?  What’s the theology that makes the church hate poor people?

Like my seminary professors used to say, There’s no content without context.

 

Maybe we could actually balance our faith with the same nuance that the Bible offers, because no single verse is meant to support a monopoly-theology.  Probably we use these verses for power-plays and self-interest and political platforms, when really the Bible is not a polemical grenade but a story of a God who leaps every distance and breaks every obstacle to love His people.  It’s why Jesus spoke in stories and not bullet points.  It’s why Jesus didn’t draw charts, but he drew people. 

There is plenty of hard straightforward truth in the Bible, but without the weaving silver thread of grace, then all our doctrine is a barrel of excuses to dominate each other — and this is exactly what Jesus came to kill and was killed for. 

I don’t think Jesus wanted a narrow gate.  He just knew we’re always tempted for the easiest path of least resistance, that broad road of incremental choices to nowhere.  So he calls himself the Door.  He is also a Shepherd, a Mother Hen, a Rock, the Greater Abraham, a Friend, a Fountain, and the King.  Each of these pictures give weight and clues and glimpses to who he is: but by themselves, are incomplete.  Together, they are just a blink of his glory and beauty.  And I’m okay with breathing in the mystery of such infinite truth. 

— J

Grace: Love That Hurts

 

Mostly in the Bible, I see that God’s law is black and white.  “Don’t be like this guy” or “The angel of death will slay you” or “Don’t do that or things will mushroom cloud real fast.”  There are clear-cut lines, sharp boundaries, no wiggle room.  The law is oak and iron and all closed fists.

But then everyone in the Bible keeps making these enormous ridiculous mistakes, not even brushing up against the law but leaping over it full speed, and there’s a candid sort of rawness with how each story tells the unabashed account of total failure.  They purposefully screw up their lives in a near-parody of a reality show.  I just wouldn’t include any of these guys if I was making up a religion.  Your favorite Bible heroes make really good celebrity mugshots. 

And this is where God comes in, every time, certainly with an arm of discipline and a face-melting intervention — but also with a gentle scooping hand of compassion and a heart of constant mercy.  God never lets up on the law, but He often pays for it Himself by absorbing the cost of what we did.  It’s this sort of grace that eventually re-shapes these men and women into thankful people, who almost can’t believe the second chance they’ve been given: and when the grace kicks in, they never stop getting overwhelmed by Him.  They would follow Him anywhere, with zero limits, which is exactly how much grace God shows us.

It would’ve hurt if God had just slapped us around with His divine law.  But it hurts even more that God steps in with kindness.  It’s the type of hurt that tenderizes a heart and revokes our selfishness: because we know God ultimately paid the law with the life of His Son.  Where we stood guilty and embarrassed and downright wrong, Jesus loved us up to a cross.  There he took upon the consequences of the very law which was meant for our good.  To receive grace, it only costs our pride; for God to give grace, the cost was His Son.

His grace is the kind of love that hurts, and so then, it is real love.

It’s hard to see Jesus there and then go back to who I was.  He died to set us wretched ones free.  He rose for my new life, that I would see the law as the vision of who I’m to become: not as a measure for how I’ve failed, but as a future memory of the man I’m meant to be.  Only grace will get me there.  Only grace can bring me to follow the law with joy, with gratitude, with peace.  Only grace can tell me I am fully flawed and wholly beloved.

— J

Question: How Do You Defend Your Faith?

jspark3000:

image Anonymous asked:

I am doubting my faith more than ever, from the legitimacy of ancient texts, to the authenticity of the roots of stories found in the Old Testament (as well of those even found in the Gospels) … So, I guess, my big question is, how would you address some of the biggest “logical fallacies” or “errors” found in Scriptures, from texts not aligning, to things being taken from other cultures, to a good deal of scholarly work done by some to prove that Jesus was never a real man?

 

Please allow me to be really upfront — but I’m about the most skeptical Christian you’ll meet out here. I struggle with doubt daily, and it’s about as annoying as the popcorn flake in your teeth or that little bit of chunky phlegm down your throat.

I feel you 100% on this one, so it’s you and me both.  If you came to me for reassurance, I wish I had more to give.

Hear me loud and clear: I doubt God exists at least twice a day, and that’s on a good day. Let’s breathe out, because I bet any other Christian will tell you the same thing.

Some days, as bad as it sounds, I just want to throw the Bible in the trash and be done with it. I get on some atheist blog and those familiar doubts come creeping back in. They just have a way of twisting my guts around.

The thing is: I’ve pretty much heard every single argument there is to hear on both sides, and there is nothing new under the sun. I’ve watched theological debates between all the best. I don’t think I’ve learned any new apologetics in the last three years, and having been an atheist, those guys are not really saying anything new either.

 

There was a day when I fought valiantly for one side against the other. I’ve probably hated on Christians just as much as atheists.

Now I’m just a little bored and jaded on the whole thing.

Both sides fanwank and retcon their arguments like crazy. Both sides are full of biases, agendas, misinformed views, and wrong ideas about each other. Both sides are eloquent, sharp, articulate, witty. Both sides can present compelling cases. Both sides even get along often. Watch the debate between Wilson and Hitchens, and you can see they’re nearly best friends.

It turns out, I like Christians and atheists just about evenly, and if you want to, you can intellectually keep them at checkmate forever. But at the end of the day, Jesus is real enough for me. He wins my heart. He fills me up. He saved my wretched soul. I became tired of explaining myself to people that needed some kind of justified, propped-up, pre-defended faith. I was exhausted of prepackaged arguments that make sense until some other argument arrives. I had tough questions, and still do, but everyday it feels more and more like the answer is becoming Jesus, and each day that’s becoming enough. I don’t care that it makes me an academic cop-out — I care that it makes me whole.

 

See: I know nearly all the evidence both for and against Christianity, but it’s not about the evidence anymore. Was it ever really? If you must know, atheists also have their doubts when they’re honest with themselves — but the Christian is the one who simply doubts their doubts.

Somewhere in that stupid raging mess of debates, I had to grow up and discover faith for myself. So will you.

Oh, I know some atheist like my former self will come along and say, “That’s dangerous to turn off your brain, you’re not being rational, you’re tossing reason out the window …!” But I don’t know. I feel pretty reasonable right now. I feel damn fine, actually. My lungs are filled with Christ and no one can really talk me out of it.

I suppose you wanted a much more straightforward answer with biblical proofs and historical accuracy (and I’ve written posts on that, too many I think) — but my friend, there are tons of resources out there you can look into for yourself. Those resources are also written by frail human hands wired by 3 lb. brains with their own darling schemes that will turn into dust like the rest of us.

Wrestle with this for as long as you must, but at some point, please know that doubts will never stop: and you’ll come to trust something amidst the doubts you have. I make the choice every morning to push aside the voices, forget both screaming sides, and follow Jesus. I pray you’d choose him, too.

I love God and I love people, and nothing will knock that out of me.

That’s your purpose, dear friend. In your struggle to believe, keep serving.

 

“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

I believe that nobody goes to Hell, that a loving God would be understanding and compassionate. I think that He would understand the circumstances that lead people to reject Him. So does that mean that I cannot be Christian?

Hey my friend, I wrote quite a long response on hell recently here.

Please hear me being as gracious as possible when I say this: but the idea that a “loving God would never send anybody to hell” is a Westernized Post-Enlightenment paradigm that has been Pavlovian-conditioned into our overly entitled, PC sensitive culture.  It feels right because you’re a product of your current time, which C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”  But to be sure, a light view of God who is an abstract congenial grandfather is nothing new either, and it’s always been just one more branch of millions of different theologies that disagree on God’s nature.

The Easternized, collective, authority-centered, top-down paradigm would say that a “loving God” is an offensive illogical idea that diminishes God to a doting uncle.  The Eastern mind has always viewed God as unknowable, or wrathful, or “all-encompassing,” or filling all things, but never in a personal relationship with any human.  No one on this side would possibly say “He would understand the circumstances that lead people to reject Him.”  So both a Western and Eastern view of God are way too small to contain Him.

But let’s break this down further.  It just seems today that every time a part of doctrine in Scripture bothers someone, they find some way to adjust it to their own sensibilities.  So if a part of the Bible sounds offensive, we water it down by allegorizing or spiritualizing or sugarcoating, until it fits.  We like to skip the hard stuff that Jesus said.  And for a while, this works.  You can grow a huge church and fill tons of seats by cutting out chunks of the Bible.

The problem is: What happens when you cut out large chunks of your friend or your spouse?  Are you truly getting to know them?  Or do you only want to know an “easy version” of this person?  If they disagree with you, will you ever allow them to contradict you?  In that case, you don’t have a real relationship with that person or with the living God.  It means we essentially tune out the parts we dislike, and we turn them into a dolled up decoration. 

If you don’t ever allow the Bible to contradict you on your own culturally restrained beliefs, then you’ll never be challenged to think outside what you know.  I did this too, and I still do.  Parts of the Old Testament continue to bug me.  Certain doctrines, like absolute authority and the wrath of God, feel unfair.  Yet if Scripture never actually pressed into what I believe, then I would have less reason to believe it, and not more.  Certainly I would never blindly follow something until I investigate it, but I also don’t want to believe something that will blindly follow me. 

In the end, when I know what Jesus did on the cross and in the tomb for me, I can retroactively trust that everything God does is for my good.  When I see how even a senseless crucifixion was reversed into life-giving glory, I can trust that God sometimes uses what He hates to achieve what He loves.  We will struggle with this until we see Him.  Until then, even with a tiny grain of faith, I will wrestle out that truth.  I will keep asking questions.  But I will do that with the bias that He loves me, and not with the bias that He doesn’t: because of the cross.

— J

May 1

One of my goals is to read the bible all the way through but I am not sure what bible to get, there are so many variations! Which do you recommend?

Hey my friend, I wrote a pretty technical answer here.

For me, my default mode is the NIV 1984 translation.  I didn’t like the NIV 2011 as much, but it’s still very readable.  A recently popular one is the ESV, though personally I find it hard to read.  The most accurate is the NASB, and the easiest to read is the NLT.  Some also like the NKJV.

When I write my sermons, I often read five different translations plus my Interlinear Bible (which has the original Hebrew and Greek).  My five translations for sermon-writing are the NIV 1984, NLT, AMP, NASB, and NKJV.  This helps to get my thought process flowing from different angles.

But with translations: It’s hard to go wrong on most of them.  I would ask about which one your church likes, because reading the same translation as your pastor can be helpful.  But try a few at a bookstore by reading the first chapter of John.  When you feel comfortable with one, go for it. 

— J

May 1

There seems to be a marked difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. How do we reconcile as Christians the Old Testament God with the New Testament God?

Hey my friend, please allow me to point to some old posts here:

- God Seems A Little Crazy In The Old Testament — A Mega-Post on the OT

- The Down-Low on The Old Testament Commands

- God Loves Everyone, Except Esau

 

It definitely feels like the God of the OT is different than the NT, and like everyone, I’m still learning about that.  Here are a few things to consider.

 

- It seems like God struck people dead all the time in the OT, while only three times in the NT (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, and King Herod in Acts 12).  But the NT covers a much shorter period than the OT (a hundred years versus thousands/millions).  So without even going over the whole “struck-dead” thing (which is a different topic for another day), I think it works out proportionately.

 

- The OT is full of God’s grace, but the OT is a bit harder to read between the lines because there is less “theologizing” and more narrative.  Where as the NT pauses a lot to explain the theology, especially in the gospel of John and all of Paul’s letters, the OT was an oral retelling that would express its theology in facial expressions and well-known cultural norms. 

So any time God’s grace would show up in the OT, the storyteller would rarely say, “And there was our great God of grace!”  Everyone would just nod, knowing that grace had happened.  All of God’s grace in the OT is conveyed by God’s initiative hand that worked first for His people.  Cases in point: God’s covenant with Abraham, Noah being saved with his family, God rescuing the Israelites through the Red Sea, all the coincidences in Esther, all the coincidences in Ruth, God slaying Goliath, Solomon’s temple, Elijah blowing up Mount Carmel, Hosea marrying a whore, and so on.  None of these Bible characters were particularly awesome: God worked through them first, by His grace.

 

- The easiest way to read the OT is to see it as The Coming of the King.  All the OT people were imperfect under God’s law, and every mediator — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets, etc. — all pointed to the great mediator Jesus. 

So when God punished the mediators and Israelites for their disobedience, He was displaying the perfection of His law.  Sure, it seems extreme.  But the ultimate consequences of our disobedience were laid upon Jesus.  The most extreme punishment fell upon him, for our behalf.  The OT and NT meet at the Servant King.  The OT God was still displaying His perfect law, and the NT married this with His costly grace — and so despite the often graphic nature of the OT, we see it even more so in the cross of Christ, not less.  We see it in the cost he paid to redeem us.

We reconcile the OT and NT by the work of Jesus.  There we see both the law and love of God in perfect union.

— J

Hey, I really appreciate your blog. Your honesty is convicting, and it has prompted a lot of growth in my life. I'm just wondering, and maybe you've already written about this, but how did you come to terms with the reality of hell? I've known a lot of people who have dismissed Christianity because they couldn't accept the thought of the majority of mankind enduring eternal torment, especially when God claims to be good. How do you navigate through all of that?

Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very kind words and thank you for asking. I know this is a tough question that divides many people. 

Please allow me the grace to point you to some posts.  The first one here is a little snarky because I was sort of irritated that day, but here you go —

- Do Christians Have To Believe In Hell?

- Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post

Here are just a few thoughts on this to consider.

 

1) I believe most people already believe the concept of Hell, whether they admit it or not.

Those who don’t believe in Hell are also saying, “I don’t believe in justice for evil.”  You can’t say one without the other.

I don’t think just anyone goes to Hell.  But certainly there is justice for those who continually choose destruction, tyranny, manipulation, and oppression.  When someone says “There is no Hell,” it means they’ve never faced rape in Rawanda or a murdered child or a national genocide like the Khmer Rouge.  It means they never had to watch their relatives shot in the head right in front of them (my Cambodian friend’s mom watched all five of her brothers executed).  It means they never had to watch their parents get exterminated in an oven. Instead the naysayer’s suffering has only consisted of credit card debt or an egged car at Halloween.

Only over-privileged Westernized Post-Enlightenment thinkers who have been Pavlovian-conditioned with so-called “logic” could ever say that there’s no Hell, because they’ve never been ravaged by evil. [C.S. Lewis calls this “chronological snobbery.”]  And the only motivation for the victims of injustice to stop declaring war is to trust that there is a Hell which ultimately deals justice, so we don’t have to.  [This idea is from Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian who is a pacifist and well understands human indignities.]

 

2) Those in Hell will have tried very hard to get there.

A life apart from God gets us a life apart from God.  They will have ended up exactly where they wanted to go.  As Timothy Keller says, Hell is merely an eternal extension of self-absorption and inner-deterioration that came from a life of selfishness.  To live for only oneself is simply hell.

This also means that there must be some kind of grace for people who had no chance to believe, or perhaps threw a prayer on their deathbed, or who are special needs, or who are very young children.  While I can’t answer all those questions, I believe God’s grace covers them in a way that we can’t humanly comprehend.  We may be surprised in Heaven to see the many multitudes there covered by grace.

 

3) Jesus paid the price of Hell already.

Here’s what I don’t hear often enough.  God did create Hell for injustice, but He already paid the price Himself so that we wouldn’t have to.

Most people are saying, “It’s not fair that a loving God would make a place called Hell!”  But no one ever says, “It’s not fair that Jesus had to pay Hell for us!”  It’s only unfair when it comes to me.  No one sees the cross for how unfair that was to God.

Imagine the implications of this grace.  It’s like if an architect made a prison, then you commit a crime, and the architect says, “Don’t worry, I’ll carry out the sentence for you.”  No other religion or philosophy or humanism even comes close to this radical kind of grace.  Which brings us finally to —

 

4) Without justice, then grace doesn’t mean very much. 

I know that some Christians would disagree here.  But without a theology of justice, then grace is just not very electrifying. 

If it cost nothing for God to love us, then His love is just sentimentality.  It’s a general warm feeling that gives us fuzzies when we look to the clouds. 

This is true for relationships.  If you only love people who are lovable, then that love is cheap.  But if you can love people through the worst of their mess — that love is true, strong, real.  It came with a price.

The love of God is a costly love.  It cost Him everything.  God took on flesh and His whole life was one long crucifixion.  The life and death of Jesus was essentially his descension into Hell. He was tempted with us, suffered with us, grew hungry and tired and thirsty like us, was rejected and abandoned and betrayed and beat up and stripped naked and killed in the worst way possible.  He did this, for us, to endure the penalty of our sin on our behalf. 

So knowing this, there is no possible way that His love can be an abstract doctrine.  When people say, “God forgives me, so the Christian can do whatever they want!” — then they have no idea what it costs God to love us.  Grace is free, but it was not cheap.  Grace cost Him everything.  

 

I say all this to say: Christianity does not hinge on whether Hell exists.  That’s not the point, at all.  But rather God rescues us unconditionally out of His costly love and invites us into an eternal journey of joy, and when you can know this: then these other doctrines are the very least of our worries.

I hope we can share these things with sensitivity too.  I’ve had relatives and friends pass away without a knowledge of Christ.  It’s not okay to simply trump this around.  I hope we can navigate these things with a loving heart, full of grace and truth.  Much love to you in caring for your friends about this.

— J

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

jspark3000:

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 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

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

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