redeemer presbyterian

lovedbythesavior  asked:

hi pastor JS! :D I hope your winter has been going well! I was listening to your podcasts and I really enjoy them :) so I was wondering if you could recommend me some podcasts :) thanks a bunch!!

Hey dear friend, thank you for your encouragement! As always, I’m much more comfortable with writing than speaking, so I really do appreciate your kind words. My podcast is here and tagged here on my Tumblr. I’m also on iTunes.

I’m a self-professed sermon junkie and I listen to about ten to twelve hours of sermons per week.  There are good things and bad things about this, and nothing can replace having a steady home-church.  Podcasts for Christians are like protein shakes and not full meals, so it must be supplementary and not primary.  Please also consider that these pastors are preaching in a certain context which might not work with your upbringing or background, and we need a healthy understanding of where they’re preaching and why.  Here are some good ones.


Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York. Always nuanced, theologically powerful, and highly relatable. I recommend starting with his “Reason For God” series or anything about the Gospel.

Andy Stanley of Northpoint in Atlanta, Georgia. The most practical preacher, and great for the new or returning Christian. I would recommend his “Starting Point” series or “Love, Sex, and Dating.”

Francis Chan.  One of the first preachers I ever heard as a young baby Christian in college, always convicting, passionate, and quite hilarious.  He’s often a kick in the butt, and he will absolutely ruin your shrink-wrapped faith.

Matt Chandler of Village Church in Texas.  Pastor Matt is known for his booming voice, quick wit, and uncompromising theology.  Tough to listen to sometimes, but always sound.

James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, IL. I first heard of Pastor James in my seminary and have been hooked ever since.  He will sort of melt your face off.  Another kick-in-the-butt preacher.

Ravi Zacharias. Both artful and intelligent, with one of the most recognizable preaching voices in the world.  An amazing storyteller and he’s sort of the international Billy Graham. 

– J.S.

After living here for 8 years, I definitely have a long and thorough list of “The Best Things About Athens.” The short list would just be one line that reads “Everything." 

Two of the things that grace that list occurred this weekend and I’m always captivated, year after year, by how much I love them.

First, the lights downtown. Years ago, while still magical and whimsical in their own right, the lights only lined the downtown street of Clayton. Recently, all of downtown is decked. The large, real Christmas tree on display out in front of City Hall is now flanked by thousands of the twinkling tree lights, a luminescent homage to the beautiful season of Good Tidings and Great Joy. 

The second thing is Lessons and Carols at Redeemer. A traditional Christmas service that’s been performed since the 1800s, the nine lessons and carols detailing the birth of Christ is truly an experience that words can’t do justice. Since it happened last night… mark your calendars for next year. For reals. 

“Whenever you’re selfish, the system that is most natural to us, you put a little mark on your soul. And that little mark makes it a little easier to be selfish the next time. You’re becoming smaller. Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others, but you’re still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you can stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no "you” left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, you will have gone down to diminution. There will just be a grumble, going on and on forever, just like a machine. In each of us there is something growing, which will be hell unless it is nipped in the bud. If we have souls that live forever, what really matters is the little marks and twists on the central inner soul of a human being, that will eventually either turn you into a hellish or heavenly creature. That’s the struggle. That’s the fight. It happens every single day. Unless you are struggling, you’ll find that as you get older you’re going to grow harder, become indifferent, more cynical, love less and less, more self absorbed, self centered, always justifying yourself; it’s all about you. The Christian life is a struggle against smallness of soul, a struggle to escape the soul into love.“

-Timothy Keller, "Finishing Well”

Lately I have felt so loved by my community here in Athens.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a grown-up in a city so far away from family. Holidays amplify this feeling. Funerals amplify this feeling. Confusion and anxiety about the future amplify this feeling.

But I’ve been blessed with great friends and a church that cares about its people. I live in a city where there’s never a shortage of good food to be eaten or people to catch-up with or sunny days to enjoy.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not simply enjoying every second… for trying to micromanage my days and categorize my every thought. For trying to do too much and actually succeeding too little. At times for being too emotional. Other times for being a robot.

At Easter time, I’m reminded that family will always be family, no matter how far they are. But the concept of family is changing for me, also.  Family is not just blood, but it’s those people that you experience life with, cry with, get silly with, worship beside, and create stories with.

I am thankful for you, Family, in all the various forms you manifest yourself.

I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody, over my lifetime say, “people don’t really change.” I’d be rich. But, I would be ten times richer if I also got a dollar for ever time I quietly assumed that towards other people, and especially towards myself.
—  Timothy Keller // Our Power: Spirit Filled Living // 2 Peter 1:3-11

I started this blog (six years ago) out of boredom and the need for a creative outlet. Then I shared my stories about the perils of dating and gained a (very) small following. I enjoyed writing about my countless bad dates and then all of a sudden EmInNYC unexpectedly shifted toward heavier topics (uhhhh…my mom died…but I think you’re aware). Now I find myself struggling to find the words and motivation to share what’s been going on with me. So, I have no idea if any of the below sentences make any sense but I think it’s a step in the right direction…(which is to get me back to blogging one some kind of regular basis).

I’m hungry…

Pretty much always on the literal front but right now? Mostly just ravenous for answers. I have this insatiable hunger to understand things that can’t be explained. The why’s, how’s, and what if’s of my life are running rampant. Most of the hard questions revolve around the obvious: my mom’s death and terminal illnesses in general. Other queries linger around more joyful topics…like how I could love another human being so much that I almost forget what life felt like before he was in it. I realize that everyone goes through these phases so it’s not like I’m the pioneer of some new thing…but this is just where I am so go with it, okay?

I don’t think that being hungry for knowledge and control is necessarily a bad thing. That said, when it gets to a place of total consumption and you’re unable to operate because the unknowns are creating a proverbial roadblock, that’s when things get dicey. The only time I feel like I’m functioning at a steady and grounded place is when I actually get myself together enough to remember that I don’t need to know everything and sometimes trusting is far more powerful than understanding. I’m pretty sure that’s called a leap of faith and that reminds me of something Tim Keller (Founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC) once said: “If we knew what God knows, we would ask for exactly what he gives”.  I struggle with that…but I’m choosing to trust with my whole heart, despite  my lingering doubts, fears and frustrations.

And now I’ll share a little side story to tie things up and drive this post home…

I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t love to play board games. Being a naturally competitive person, it’s actually really odd that I didn’t inherit any interest in that particular hobby. Despite knowing that I would decline the invitation, my mom would always ask me to participate. She wanted me to be involved in something so simple and I denied her the satisfaction of that for years. I regret being so selfish and dismissing her pleas with such carelessness. When we brought my mom home from the hospital so she could pass away in the comfort of family and familiarity, she was still pretty lucid. Her wit and humor had reached an all-time high (thank you, morphine) and she asked to play a board game. We laughed and played for just a few minutes before she decided it was time for her to rest. I will treasure that memory for the rest of my life.  

The game was Hungry Hungry Hippos. 

(image via)