Lovers of God

loveAs long as I can remember, and I’m told well before that, “Why are we here?” has been a familiar refrain in sermons. I’m not sure if other churches ask this question so religiously, but in mine it’s trundled out every Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and at least once more on other Holy Days and/or Sabbaths throughout the year.

The answers are equally familiar by now: “Because God called us,” “Because today is a commanded assembly,” “Because you’ve been given understanding the rest of the world doesn’t have.” Last time I heard this question was a few weeks ago, and that time I tried to think beyond why I was sitting in an uncomfortable blue-upholstered chair on a Saturday afternoon. When we really boil it all down to the question of why God called us in the first place, why are we really here? What is our purpose as followers of God?

A Great Mystery

From the very beginning God’s focus has been on relationships. Looking back to Genesis 1, we see God speaking the world into existence, and proclaiming that it was good. Finally we come to the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26)

This is the first time in the Bible where we see both The Word/Jesus Christ and God The Father talking about something together. I’m sure they collaborated on the rest of creation as well (Eph. 3:9), but mankind is the one creative act where They made sure we knew They acted together. “Let Us make man” is a collaborative, relational statement, announcing Their intent to make people “in Our Image,” and therefore capable of relationship.

The specific way humans were created also points out the importance of relationships. With other creatures, both male and female were apparently created at the same time. With humans, however, man was created first. This gave God a chance to point out, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). As Paul explains much later in the scriptures, the marriage relationship created here is a picture of the relationship God wants with His church.”

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Here, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to teach us a great mystery about the relationship between Jesus Christ and the New Testament church. At its core, the goal of “Let Us make man” was to build familial relationships. We are made children of God and co-inheritors with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15-17), and betrothed to our adopted Brother (2 Cor. 11:2). We are designed to be in relationship with our Creator.

Lovers of God

In 2 Timothy, Paul describes “the last days,” warning that bad things are going to happen because men will turn away from loving God.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:4-5)

Note that these people have a “form of godliness.” As bad as they sound, they aren’t just people outside the churches — there are some inside our groups as well trying to pass themselves off as godly. But because they are not truly “lovers of God,” they are denying His true power and refusing to walk in His ways.

What does a “lover of God” look like? We’ve quoted John 14:15 several times over the past few weeks, where Christ says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He expands on this idea through chapter 15 as well.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

Obedience is key to being in a relationship with God. If we ignore His commands, we’re telling Him we don’t care about a relationship with Him. But if we keep His commandments, we’re saying how much we love Him and want to be close to Him.

Dearly Beloved

When was the last time you heard Song of Solomon quoted in a sermon? For that matter, how many Christians do you think would have included it in the Bible if canonization had been up to them? No one seems quite sure what to do with it. My KeyWord study Bible says that portions of the Song were sung at Passover, though, so with that coming up next week maybe today is the perfect time to take another look at the Song of Songs.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and Lamentations all use this metaphor; the rabbis merely amplified what they had already found in the Bible. The Song of Songs, to the rabbis, was the completion of the metaphor. The prophets may have denounced infidelity but the Song of Songs spoke of reunion and love, the kind of love that the believing rabbinic Jew felt for God. Even the Psalms do not talk about God as the lover or bridegroom of Israel. The Song of Songs is seen as a dialogue between God and Israel, and this provides the book with a unique religious intensity.” (Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?”, page 4)

Lovers of God | marissabaker.wordpress.comScholars can’t agree on who wrote the Song of Songs or when, much less how to interpret it. Some claim that it’s nothing more than a secular love song, others say it only has allegorical applications. The more balanced view is that it operates on two levels — as an account of human love, and as a picture of Christ’s love for the church and/or God’s love for Israel. That’s the one I like, and there is much to learn when we read this book looking for insight into our relationship with God.

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Song 7:10)

Do you feel like this about your relationship with Jesus? We should, for we do belong to Him since He desired us so much that he redeemed us by giving His own life. The only time we see God’s name in the Song of Songs, it is not translated into English. It’s in chapter 8:6, and “Thus at the end of the Song the woman describes her love for her man as being like ‘YHWH’s Flame,’ the love between them will not only be as strong as death; it will be as strong as YHWH’s love for His people” (Andrew Greele, quoted by Scolnic, page 6). With a love so strong offered to us, we should offer all our love to God in return. What’s why we are here — to be lovers of God.

Fictional MBTI – Cinderella (ISFJ)

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.comI had two Myers-Briggs-related thoughts while watching Disney’s new live-action Cinderella last Sunday. 1) she’s a perfect example of an ISFJ, and 2) she’s a perfect example of why people mistake ISFJs for INFJs and vice versa.

Usually when we talk about fictional ISFJs we talk about men — Samwise Gamgee, John Watson, Steve Rodgers … and they are all very good examples of ISFJs in fiction. But in real life, ISFJ women outnumber ISFJ men, so it seems odd not to have a woman on the list of famous fictional ISFJs. I think Cinderella is a great example of an ISFJ, and here’s why.

Why ISFJ?

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.comCinderella, like other ISFJs, leads with a process called Introverted Sensing (Si). Dr. A.J. Drenth considers it one of the “least understood of the eight Myers-Briggs functions,” and David Keirsey chategorized them with the Guardian types (SJs). All Guardians use Si as their their first or second function.

They are more concerned with ensuring their beliefs and behaviors are consistent with an existing standard than they are in formulating their own set of standards. In many ways, they are dependent on what has already been already been tried and established, systems of thought that grant them a sense of consistency and security. -Dr. Drenth

Because ISFJs pair Si with Extroverted Feeling (Fe), which is a deeply relational function, they are largely motivated by a desire to help other people. They need to be needed, and they are more willing than other types to serve without looking for a reward. This doesn’t mean they don’t crave appreciation, or that they won’t resent being treated like a doormat, but they are unlikely to upset the status quo by telling those in authority that they deserve better.

My sister (an INTJ) has always described Cinderella as her least favorite Disney princess because she’s such a “spineless push-over” and she’s “too nice.” No one would actually put up with being treated like that, right? Actually, yes. An ISFJ would given the right circumstances, but it’s not because she’s “spineless.” It’s because she feels like she has a duty to stay. In this new version of Cinderella, Ella tells a friend in the market that she stays with her stepmother because the house was important to her parents. She will not leave because the grief she has to put-up with from her step-family is not too high a price to pay for fulfilling her duty to her parent’s legacy. For an ISFJ, it is more important to maintain peace, help others, and preserve important locations and institutions than it is to be independent. An INFJ, for example, would stay for different reasons.

INFJ vs. ISFJ

Before I even left the theater, I knew I wanted to write about the difference between ISFJs and INFJs if I mentioned Cinderella in a blog post. When I got home and checked my e-mail, I saw I had a comment on a post I wrote several months ago about Myers-Briggs types among the Disney princesses. I’d typed Cinderella as an ISFJ, but this commenter argued, “she’s an INFJ. She thinks and dreams about the future (Ni) way too much to have Si rather than Ni.” This is a perfectly understandable argument. I’m an INFJ, and while I was watching Cinderella I realized that I would have acted almost exactly the same way Ella did in these circumstances. At least, it would have looked the same to an outside observer.

Fictional MBTI - Cinderella (ISFJ) marissabaker.wordpress.com

INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition (Ni) instead of Introverted Sensing (Si), but they both interact with the outer world using Extroverted Feeling (Fe). Personality Hackers calls Fe Harmony, because every type who uses Harmony as their first or second function are interested in maintaining peaceful relationships with others. They will do, or put up with, almost anything to avoid confrontation. That would be a chief motive for an INFJ who stayed in a situation like Cinderella’s. In that, they are like ISFJs. Duty, however, would not play much of a role in an INFJ’s decision-making. They would be more likely to feel trapped because they weren’t sure how to turn their dreams into reality, not because they thought they shouldn’t leave.

This brings us to the idea of dreaming. Cinderella’s imaginative side is more visible in the 1950 version, with the song “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” But I don’t really get the impression that Cinderella’s dreams function the same as the way as an INFJ’s dreams about the future. For an INFJs, the inner world is real, often more real than the outer world. For Cinderella, I think her dreams serve a more self-encouraging role as she insists on framing things in a positive light. You see that more clearly in the 2015 version, when Ella convinces herself that being banished to the attic is actually a positive experience. An INFJ dreams about the future because that’s what INFJs do. Cinderella dreams about the future because she needs to believe things will get better.

Both Si and Ni are perceiving functions, meaning they take in and process information on an almost unconscious level. Dr. Drenth says, “Si more or less preserves and relays information in its original form. Ni acts more synthetically, weaving together disparate information to construct novel theories, visions, and insights.” Intuitive are more creative, and Sensing types are more detail-oriented. INFJs are concerned with possibility, ISFJs with reality. Ella didn’t go to the ball for the abstract possibility of meeting the prince, falling in love, and being rescued from her mundane life. She went to the ball with the more realistic expectation of attending an enjoyable party and seeing a man named Kit again.

Please feel free to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments. What did you think of the film? Do you think I’ve typed Cinderella correctly?

The Lord Will Fight

The Lord Will Fight | marissabaker.wordpress.com

background image by Dimitry B., CC BY, via Flickr

I recently read Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. In chapter 2, titled “The Wild One Whose Image We bear,” he talks about God as a warrior. We often like to think of God as safe, loving, and gentle — and He is all those things. But He is also more than that, which is one of the most interesting points I took away from reading this book.

Christ draws the enemy out, exposes him for what he is, and shames him in front of everyone. The Lord is a gentleman??? Not if you’re in the service of His enemy. God has a battle to fight, and the battle is for our freedom. As Temper Longman says, ‘Virtually every book of the Bible — Old and New Testaments — and almost every page tells us about God’s warring activity.’ I wonder if the Egyptians who kept Israel under the whip would describe Yahweh as a Really Nice Guy?” – John Eldgredge

God isn’t distant, uninterested, or emotionless in His dealings with people. Often, His interest in us means going to battle on our behalf. He is fiercely committed to fighting for us against the enemy, and fighting to win our hearts.

Fighting For Us

We often teach that God saving Israel from slavery and leading them out of Egypt is a picture of our redemption from sin. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Israel was told as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea, apparently trapped with the Egyptian armies closing in.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Ex. 14:13-14)

When you feel trapped and threatened, do you believe the Lord will actually fight for you? It’s so tempting to try to take things into our own hands instead of “holding our peace,” especially if we can’t picture God actually going into battle for us. The image of a long-haired Jesus cradling a lamb in His arms has saturated our culture. That gentleness is an aspect of God’s nature, but if that’s all we think of then we have a very narrow view of Him. He is also “the Lord of hosts,” the God of angel armies.

Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. (Is. 63:1-4)

This isn’t how most of us picture God. It’s not how I usually picture God. But this image is just as valid as “the Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). In both cases, He is acting for our good. He gently leads and guides us, and He will fight as hard as necessary to redeem us.

Fighting With Us

We find verses that promise God’s protection, strength and aid comforting, but perhaps we don’t often realize those promises involve Him actively fighting on our behalf. There is a very real battle going on for us. In this battle, or God not only fights for us — He also equips us to defend ourselves with His strength.The Lord Will Fight  | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-13)

Reading this description of our enemy, I have no delusions that I could fight them alone. Rulers of darkness? Wicked spirits in high places? I’m running the other direction! Even with the armor of God — described in detail in verses 14-17 — I don’t want to face this by myself. In Deuteronomy, the nation of Israel was given how-to instructions for waging war. Since the church today is spiritual Israel, I think it’s safe to say these directions are applicable for us on a spiritual level.

When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ (Deut. 20:1-4)

We are called to do battle against overwhelming odds in a fight we have no hope of winning on our own. But because we are not alone, we have no reason to be timid. God Himself is giving us His armor, fighting at our side, and carrying us through with His strength.

Fighting To Win Us

God is love. Now, that word agape can refer to an active benevolence that doesn’t necessarily involve emotion, but not when talking about God. God’s love is passionate, consuming, relentless.

For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is. 62:1-5)

This is the end God is working toward. We are affianced to Jesus now (2 Cor. 11:2) and will become “the Lamb’s wife” in the future (Rev. 19:7-9). This doesn’t just happen, though. First there is a battle. One of the reasons Jesus came as a human being to live and die was so “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus’s sacrifice was part of a battle plan, and since He accomplished that, victory is assured.

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55-57)

The outcome of the this fight is already decided — God wins. What the Father and Son are fighting for now is to save as many of Their people as possible. The Captain of our salvation wants to bring many children into glory (Heb. 2:10). When He is victorious, our Leader wants His family to be there with Him. He will fight to accomplish His goals, including the goal of winning your heart.

Why Write Fiction?

“Why would you write fiction? Isn’t it just a bunch of lies?”

It’s been a while since someone asked me that question, but I can re-play the scene clearly. They look smug, like they’d just discovered a great argument against writing and reading fiction. Fiction is not true, and so therefore it is not good. Why make-up stories when there are plenty of good, wholesome things, people, and events that already exist? In fact, why tell stories at all, especially fantasy stories? They just give children unrealistic expectations of the world, and adults an excuse to ignore reality.

Obviously, since I’m still writing and reading fiction, I don’t buy into these arguments. But why?

Escape

Probably the simplest reason for writing fiction is to escape. Much of fiction — both good and bad — falls into this category. Sometimes life isn’t any fun, and reading and writing fiction gives us a way to escape for a while without actually leaving our location or situation. This can be as simple as diving into Middle Earth while waiting for the clothes to finish drying at the laundromat. Would you rather stare at your t-shirts spin, or canoe down the Rauros with the Fellowship of the Ring?

Connect

In a New York Times article, ‘Why Write Novels at All?’ Garth Risk Halberg talks about the idea that “the deepest purpose of reading and writing fiction is to sustain a sense of connectedness, to resist existential loneliness.” Now we’re getting closer to the reason I write fiction. Escape is all well and good, but what are you escaping to? It’s not enough to just take off for Narnia — we have to find Aslan there or the journey means nothing.

We write to share who we are and what we think, and we read to connect with something outside us. Usually this is a new world or characters, but if we’re very lucky we’ll also sense the author as they bleed through the pages of their work. This connectedness is one of the chief arguments for reading and writing, since it carries over into “real” life: people who read fiction are more emphatic than non-readers.

Think

Let’s say you have something you want to say about a controversial topic. We’ll use abortion as an example, and say you’re on the pro-life side. If you write an article telling people that abortion is bad, only the people who already agree with you are going to like it. If you tell a true story about a baby who survived an abortion or a mother whose life was ruined by an abortion, it will affect more people but you’ll still lose a large number of your readers.

Now suppose you write a story where you climb inside the head of a character and show what they are struggling with as she decides whether or not to have an abortion. You don’t just put your words in the character’s mouth – you imagine yourself in her shoes, and realize that she has real reasons to consider both options. You sympathize with her, and whatever your readers believe they sympathize with her too. Your ideas will filter through in decisions you make about how see feels when she sees the baby on an ultrasound, or whether or not she keeps the child at the end of the story. You can let readers know what you think, but you don’t shove your ideas down their throat. You give them a chance to feel with you, and let them think for themselves.

Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent. In my view, a fiction writer whose adherence is to literature is, necessarily, someone who thinks about moral problems: about what is just and unjust, what is better or worse, what is repulsive and admirable, what is lamentable and what inspires joy and approbation. This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense.

Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate—and, therefore, improve—our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment. ” – Susan Sontag, from a speech at the Los Angeles Public Library

This sort of literature may or may not be an escape for your readers, but should definitely let them connect with something or someone. It should make them think. It should give them a chance to “meet” types of people thy might never come in contact with in their real lives, to question ideas that they take for granted, to consider what is and is not moral. Fiction lets us talk about things that are uncomfortable to discuss in real life, or give a new perspective on issue too charged in reality to have a dialogue about. It lets us ask “what if?” and run with the potential answers before actually changing the world. Yet.

Good and Bad Fruits

As Christians, we’re asked to find a balance between being too judgmental and an “anything goes” mentality. We must not condemn others, but neither should we ignore sin. We have to exercise discernment, “judge righteous judgement” (John 7:24), and make decisions about right and wrong in our own lives, and in the lives of people we choose to associate with.

When we’re deciding that teachers to listen to, which groups to fellowship with, and who to count as our closest friends, God gives us guidelines for making decisions.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matt. 7:15-20)

A parallel scripture in Luke 6:43-45 shows this principle applies to people in general, not just leaders. It also applies to us. Before we can recognize good and bad fruits in other people, we have examine ourselves. We must remove the plank from our own eye before we can clearly see the speck in our brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). This is especially important as we approach the Passover season, traditionally a time of reflection and self-examination (1 Cor. 11:28-31).

Bad Fruits

When we’re trying to discern good and bad fruits, what should we be looking for? The Bible outlines many good and bad traits that individuals may have, but today let’s focus on a list given in Galatians. We’re very familiar with the fruits of the spirit, but leading up to that there is also a list of undesirable traits and actions.

 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Credit:  oatsy40, CC BY, via Flickr

Credit: oatsy40, CC BY, via Flickr

This is serious stuff. Those who have these “bad fruits” in their lives will not be welcomed in God’s kingdom. It’s easy to just read over lists like these, pick out a few traits that seem particularly bad, then pat ourselves on the back because we’re not practicing witchcraft or murdering people. But let’s take a closer look. We need to be able to recognize these sort of bad fruits in church congregations, in leaders, and in ourselves.

Does a church congregation overlook sexual sins among its members or ignore them in society? Is that teacher impure in his deeds? Am I allowing an absence of restraint to characterize my life? Does this church group put anything before God on their priority list? Do they teach that it’s okay to dabble in the occult?

Is a minister acting out of hostility or hatred? Am I stirring up debates and contentions? Are we jealous of others, or easily made indignant? Are the people in that congregation known for their anger? Does their leader encourage strife and divisions, or teach things contrary to sound doctrine? Do we envy each other, or hate someone so much that we’ve wished them dead? Am I lacking self-control and moderation, or engaging in riotous conduct?

Christ made it clear in His sermon on the mount that the laws of God are still in effect, and operating on a spiritual plane. Even a longing to sin is a sin (Matt. 5:17-30). We need to be on guard against bad fruits showing up in our lives, as well as being wary of associating with a church or following a minister who is producing bad fruit. God expects better from us than that.

Good Fruits

God expects us to bear good fruits for His glory, and to associate with other Christians who are also bearing good fruits. We do this by developing a strong relationship with Him and with Jesus Christ.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. … By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:4-5, 8)

If an individual or church group has a strong relationship with Jesus and the Father, it is made visible in the kind of fruits that show up in their lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Let’s ask ourselves the same kinds of questions about this list. Is that church congregation characterized by active goodwill and godly love towards all? Is this minister filled with joy and gladness, and encouraging that in his brethren? Do I “live peaceably with all men”? (Rom. 12:18).

Do the people of our church congregation show self-restraint before acting, and choose to suffer long rather than taking vengeance? Does this teacher have a “grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere”? (Zodhiates, G5544). Can God look at me and say that I am actively practicing goodness?

Is this church group defined by their faithfulness to the Word of Truth? Is that minister a humble man who calmly accepts God’s will in His life? Do I have self-control that lets me moderate my desires? If we can answer these questions with a “yes,” then we can be assured that our churches, our leaders, and we ourselves are bearing “good fruit.”

Examine Yourself

We’re less than three weeks away from Passover, and whether or not you observe it as part of your Christian walk this is a good season to take a close look at ourselves and what kinds of fruits we’re producing. When John the Baptist was preaching, he warned the Pharisees about how important it was to produce good instead of bad fruits

Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matt. 3:8-10)

A sense of complacency will not get you in to the kingdom of God. Jesus told the Jews near the end of His ministry, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43) We don’t want that to happen us us as individuals. We must abide in Christ and bring forth good fruits while getting rid of bad fruits in our lives.

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal. 5:24-26)

That’s the concluding thought at the end of the “works of the flesh” and “fruits of the spirit” lists. We belong to Jesus – there should be no room in our lives for evil fruits. We have to battle against that fleshly, rotten side and truly walk in the spirit as we follow Jesus

What Is A “Shadow” In Myers-Briggs Theory?

When you’re browsing the internet reading about Myers-Briggs types, you’ll probably see people talking about “shadow functions.” This is a confusing concept, because people use the term “shadow” to refer to several different things related to personality types.

What Is A "Shadow" In Myers-Briggs Theory? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

background photo credit: Georgie Pauwels, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Inferior Function

Every type in the Myers-Briggs system has what we call a “function stack,” which describes how they interact with the outer world, process information, and make judgements. There are 8 possible functions (extroverted and introverted versions of Sensing, Intuition, Feeling, and Thinking), and each types uses four functions:

  1. Primary Function
  2. Auxiliary Function
  3. Tertiary Function
  4. Inferior Function

The primary and auxiliary functions are the ones we use most comfortably, the tertiary function develops as we mature, and the inferior function is largely outside our conscious control. Much of what makes one type distinct from another has to do with how we use our particular combination of four functions. I have a blog post explaining exactly how the four-letter type relates to function stacks. I won’t take the time to repeat that information here, but here are a couple examples:

  • INFJ function stack: 1) Introverted Intuition, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Sensing.
  • ESFP function stack: 1) Extroverted Sensing, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Intuition.

Often when you’re reading about functions, the “shadow” is treated as just another name for the “inferior function.” I’ve done that myself in several posts. This is also what Isabel Briggs Meyers implies in her book Gifts Differing. She describes the shadow as “the product of the least-developed part, which a person rejects and disowns. The shadow uses relatively childish and primitive kinds of judgements and perceptions, not intentionally in the service of conscious aims” (Meyers, 1995, p.84). She doesn’t spend much time talking about the shadow, but I get the sense reading her description that she thinks it can include both the tertiary and the inferior function if they are not well developed.

The Jungian Shadow

The best resource I’ve found for explaining the role of inferior functions is the book Was That Really Me? by Naomi L. Quenk. In her introductory chapters, she addresses the concept of the inferior function and the shadow.

Many people confuse the inferior function with the concept of the shadow and use the terms interchangeably (Quenk, 1982). In Jung’s system, the shadow is an archetype, one of our innate modes of responding to important universal psychological realities. The shadow includes those things people are unable or unwilling to acknowledge about themselves, such as undesirable character traits, weaknesses, fears, and lapses in morality, or desirable qualities such as intelligence, attractiveness, and leadership skills. The shadow is a key component of a person’s personal unconscious, a layer of the psyche that is more accessible than its much larger counterpart, the collective unconscious. (Quenk, 2002, Was That Really Me? p.49)

Quenk draws a distinction between the inferior function as a sort of “doorway” to our unconscious, and the shadow. Our shadow informs our inferior functions, but is not the inferior function itself. Together, our inferior function and the shadow make up our personal unconscious (Jung, 1970, Mysterium coniunctionis).  This is made more confusing by the fact that Jung himself referred to the shadow as an “‘inferior’ personality.” He still draws a distinction between the fourth function and the shadow, though.

The individuation process is invariably started off by the patient’s becoming conscious of the shadow, a personality component usually with a negative sign. This ‘inferior’ personality is made up of everything that will not fit in with, and adapt to, the laws and regulations of conscious life. … Closer investigation shows that there is at least one function in it which ought to collaborate in orienting consciousness. Or rather, this function does collaborate, not for the benefit of conscious, purposive intentions, but in the interests of unconscious tendencies pursuing a different goal. It is this fourth, ‘inferior’ function which acts autonomously towards consciousness and cannot be harnessed to the latter’s intentions. (Jung, 1969, Psychology and Religion: West and East)

So, in Jungian psychology the shadow isn’t composed of any of our four functions. It is outside our conscious control, and shows up through our inferior function, which most of us don’t understand well or use effectively. It’s not necessarily bad but it often shows up as our “dark side,” the part of us that appears when we’re under stress. The shadow and inferior function are very much connected, but they are still different (even though we may use them interchangeably).

Four “Shadows”

One other explanation of shadow functions that you’ll occasionally see is a claim that each type uses all 8 functions. This theory describes the four functions that we just discussed as the “dominant processes” and the other 4 as the “shadow processes.” Using the same examples from before, it looks like this:

  • INFJ
    • dominant processes: 1) Introverted Intuition, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Sensing.
    • Shadow processes: 1) Extroverted Intuition, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Sensing.
  • ESFP
    • dominant processes: 1) Extroverted Sensing, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Intuition.
    • shadow processes: 1) Introverted Sensing, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Intuition.

It’s basically a way to quantify our unconscious and describe how it manifests through our inferior function. However, I don’t think Jung assigned “functions” within the shadow or thought the unconscious could be understood in that way, and I haven’t read support for this theory of 8 functions from psychologists discussing the MBTI.

Probably the best way to understand the idea of a “shadow” is to say that it is the part of our personal unconscious that we have the most limited access to. We experience our shadow through our inferior function, which is a part of the unconscious that we can access more easily because it is still on our function stack. Usually it shows up in a negative way under stress, but there’s also a good side to explore as well.

But the shadow is merely somewhat inferior, primitive, unadapted, and awkward; not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence, but — convention forbids! (Jung, 1969, Psychology and Religion: West and East)

Can We Lose Our Salvation?

The notion that we could lose our salvation is not a popular one among Christians. It is far more comfortable to believe that God will welcome us back with open arms no matter what we do. And yes, we do see that God rejoices over repentant sinners (Luke 15:4-7) and welcomes back prodigal children (Luke 15:11-32). We have all sinned and we’ve all been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom. 5:20-6:2)

Though we are not suddenly incapable of sin once we receive grace, the direction of our lives must be moving away from sin. God’s love covers a multitude of slips and stumbles on our walk with Him, but our hearts must change so we can learn to practice righteousness instead of sinfulness. We could talk about this in theory indefinitely, but let’s go to an example instead.

A Lost Kingdom

We all know about King David, the “man after God’s own heart” who was so faithful that God promised to establish his kingdom forever (1 Kings 9:5), even including him in the genealogy of Messiah (Matt. 1:1). David is an example to a man who sinned, sincerely repented, and received grace so he could continue to walk with God. He was even forgiven for what we think of as Really Big Sins, like committing adultery and then murdering the woman’s husband.

But before David, there was a king who did not measure up. Saul was offered the same promise made to David — that his kingdom would be established forever. He could have been in the line of Messiah. He could have been David, but he lost that opportunity.

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Sam. 13:13-14)

This happened after Saul’s first sin at Gilgal, when he stepped out of line by offering a sacrifice that could only be offered by a priest. On the surface, that doesn’t look as serious as David’s sins, but at it’s core there was a much bigger issue. Saul’s heart was no obedient, and he didn’t change. In fact, he just kept getting worse.

Can We Lose Our Salvation? | marissabaker.wordpress.comSaul’s second sin at Gilgal was also one of direct disobedience. He was ordered to “utterly destroy” Amalek, but he thought it would be a good idea to spare the king of Amalek’s life and save some of the best livestock. Compounding sin upon sin, Saul insisted that he had “performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13). When he was confronted about his disobedience, he kept back-peddling and blaming everyone but himself, insisting he was actually doing what was right because he intended to sacrifice the livestock to God. This is in stark contrast with David’s attitude after being confronted with his sins (2 Sam. 12:7-14; Ps. 51:1-19).

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:17-23)

Saul was rejected because he thought he had a better idea for how to conduct himself than God did. He rejected the leadership of God, and so God said, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Sam. 15:11).

Could that happen to us? could we do something that would make God “regret” choosing us? Are there things we read about in the Bible and rebel against, thinking we could come up with something better than what God commands? How about some of these (just as an example to give us something to think about):

“I Never Knew You”

Jesus told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). The love comes first — what God is chiefly concerned with is having a relationship with us, like He had with David. But obedience is also essential, and that is something Saul lacked.

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:23-25)

This is one reason why fellowship and friendship with other believers is so important. We help keep each other on-track and encourage each other to never give up. God gives us these people to help save us.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29)

Brethren, these are scary scriptures. It’s talking about turning our backs on and actually despising what God has offered us. This is doubly scary when we read Matthew 7:21-23, where Christ says that there will be people who thought they were being faithful but were really “practicing lawlessness.” To them, He will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”

Never Let Go

The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen. God is committed to pursuing a real, life-giving relationship with each one of us. He doesn’t just sit around twiddling His thumbs waiting for people to wander towards Him. He is constantly working to develop real relationships that save lives.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)

God gives us every opportunity to come to Him. We are precious in His sight, and He is pursuing our hearts in the greatest romance ever told (Is. 43:1-7). If we do lose our salvation, it will be because we turned away from Him and walked away, not because He gave up on us.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:35-39)

Can We Lose Our Salvation? | marissabaker.wordpress.comThese are the verses which follow the warning in Hebrews about rejecting Christ’s sacrifice. It’s like the writer is telling us, “Look, you need to know how serious it is to turn away from God. Let that scare you — it should. Now that you know how bad it is to reject the Lord, don’t do it! We’re not that kind of people. We are the ones who can and will continue in the faith with God. Take courage, because the Creator of the whole universe is on your side and He wants you to succeed.”

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

very-inspiring-blogger-award1I was nominated by PearlGirl of INFJ Ramblings. Thank you so much! I wish I could nominate you back — you’re one of the bloggers whose posts I actually read on a regular basis :) I’m so glad we connected through our blogging about INFJ things.

The Rules

  • Post the award on your blog
  • Thank your nominator because they’re awesome
  • List 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other blogs for their awesomeness
  • Post the rules so people know them

Seven Facts About Me:

  1. I can’t decide whether my favorite color is rose-pink or grass-green. Or possibly plum-purple.
  2. Even though my “to-read” list is humongous, there are a few books I take the time to re-read every year or so. Mara: Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is at the top of that list. Seriously, drop everything and go read that book. There’s danger, love, intrigue, sacrifice and the only romantic attempted murder I’ve ever seen in fiction.
  3. Much as I love Jane Austen, my favorite classic is actually Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
  4. I’d be happy if I could wear Ren Faire Costumes all the time.
  5. I love kayaking. It’s the only “sport” type of activity that I truly enjoy, even though it has been life-threatening twice (caught in bad weather on Lake George and knocked up-side-down in shallow, fast-moving water on the Mohican River).
  6. I’m considered a “Garden Specialist” on eHow, and publish quite a few articles on that site.
  7. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert, and since I started coming up with my own cheesecake recipes I’ve become something of a cheesecake snob.

My Nominees:

Yes, you’re supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers and I’ve only nominated 7. I’ll try and make up for that by telling you why I like each one.

2HelpfulGuys — I only recently started following them, but I like what I’ve read so far.

Baptism For Life — this is my dad’s blog, and while I know he won’t take the time to accept the nomination you really should check out his posts if you’re looking for inspiring bloggers.

Idle Wanderings — I always enjoy Charity’s posts and if you’re watching Grimm, I highly recommend her recent articles.

Introvert, Dear — a blog and Facebook group that is great to follow if you’re an introvert and/or HSP

Science and Faith — he’s a new blogger, and the first two posts are great. Looking forward to more!

See, there’s this thing called biology… — occasionally I disagree with this blogger. Usually, though, I’m bouncing up and down in my seat pointing at the screen and saying “That’s exactly what I think!”

SmileSupport313 — her posts are always encouraging. And she’s one of my very best friends, so of course her blog is worth reading.

 

All I Ask Of You

I’ve been reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (or rather, re-reading, though it’s been 6 or 7 years and I only realized I read it once before when I recognized passages that spoke to my heart the first time). One of the main themes, and the one that left an impression on me from my first reading, is how much God wants me. He truly longs for a relationship with each of us, and it goes far beyond what we often mean when we say “God loves me.” God loves everyone. He has to, right? But when God tells us He loves us, He doesn’t mean an automatic benevolence that happens just because “God is love.” He means a real, passionate desire to be in relationship with you.

To be spiritual is to be in Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.” – from Captivating

This is speaking directly to women, so perhaps it won’t resonate so much with my guy readers. But God’s longing to be in relationship with us applies to both men and women in His church. Perhaps a glimpse of how being romanced by God looks to a woman will give you gentlemen some insight into what it means when Christ calls the Church His bride.

Almost 10 years ago, I started collecting favorite quotes in a notebook. One of the very first things I wrote down were the lyrics to “All I Ask Of You” from The Phantom of the Opera. On the opposite page, I lined it up with scriptures that spoke about the love between us and Jesus. Years later, I turned that into a video I never shared. For today’s post, I went back and updated that video with a few new scriptures. I think perhaps this is the best way to share what I’m trying to say today. Enjoy :)

 

Unchanging Laws

Tallitot (prayer shawls) by  Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY via Flickr

Tallitot (prayer shawls) by Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY via Flickr

Last week we started a study about whether or not the commands and instructions given to Biblical Israel apply to us as Christians today. I answered with a qualified “yes” — we are spiritual Israel, which is not so much separate from physical Israel as it was the next step in God’s plan for His chosen nation. Now, the question becomes, “How many of the laws given to Israel apply under the New Covenant?”

I’ve grown up believing that the Ten Commandments, including Sabbath keeping, carry over into the New Covenant, along with the Lev. 23 Holy Days and the clean and unclean meats laws. I still believe that, but now I’m starting to wonder why we keep those things and not others like the command to put tassels on our garments (Num. 15:37-41) or blow shofars on Holy Days (Ps. 81:3-4). When I ask this question, I’m usually told that not everything from the Old Covenant applies, and when I ask how they know which ones to keep they say, “It’s our tradition.” In my mind, that’s not a good enough answer, so it’s time for some Bible Study.

A New Priesthood

If you read through the laws of the Old Testament, you find quite a lot about the Levitical priesthood. Some of these are described as “a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel” (Ex. 27:21), yet it is evident that Christ’s priesthood supersedes that system. If the switch to the New Covenant changed that, how much else was changed?

 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. (Heb. 7:12)

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)

When it talks about a change of the law, I think we often imagine quite a disconnect between the Old and New Testament. We think of change as in something old being replaced by something completely new, but I think perhaps the change is more in how God’s laws apply.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Heb. 8:10)

The Old Covenant was replaced with the New (Heb. 8:13), but God’s laws were not done away with. Even before the Old Covenant was instituted at Mount Sianai, God had laws in place. We can see this in Genesis 26:5, where God says, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Since God is unchanging, His standards for what He expects from us do not change either.

Jesus said, “till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18) In the Greek, this means “filled to the fullest extent.” The laws were brought to a spiritual plane, much as physical Israel became spiritual Israel. You still keep the physical laws, but there is a spiritual aspect as well, and we are held accountable for what goes on inside us as much as for what we actually do (Matt. 5:17-30).

Updating The Law

The laws governing the Levitical priesthood are examples of parts of the Old Covenant that have already been filled to the fullest extent by Jesus Christ. We don’t have a physical priesthood any more because He is our High Priest forever. We don’t sacrifice animals any more because Christ’s sacrifice completely fulfilled all the Old Testament commands for blood sacrifices.

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:24-26)

Without a physical priesthood or temple, many of the ceremonial laws no longer apply to spiritual Israel. Though we as the New Testament church can examine and learn from them and how they foreshadowed Christ’s role as priest and sacrifice, people in the church no longer serve as priests and we no longer sacrifice animals.

Similarly, there were civil laws given to govern the nation of Israel that are not in effect now because the church is scattered through other physical nations with their own laws. Many of the civil laws had a moral aspect, though, and this is updated for us to follow under the New Covenant. Take, for example, the law that said a man and woman who commit adultery must both be put to death (Lev. 20:10). The Pharisees brought Jesus just such a case, and Jesus told them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). When all her accusers left, Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Jesus didn’t say that she hadn’t committed a sin. He said that there was room for mercy and forgiveness even of sins that had formerly incurred a physical death penalty. For judicial matters, Christians are now under the laws of the countries we live in. For moral matters, God’s laws are applied to spirit and in truth with an emphasis on mercy. Is there a guy in your church shaking up with his step-mother? We don’t stone them as was the case in ancient Israel (Lev. 20:11), but we do make it clear that behavior like this is morally wrong and won’t be tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:1-13). If he repents, you have to welcome him back just like God welcomes us back into relationship with Him when we repent of our sins (2 Cor. 2:3-11).

There are also aspects of the Old Testament laws that we are specifically commanded to continue observing. This includes the weekly Sabbath (Heb. 4:9) and Passover (Luke 22:19-20). We infer from these specific commands, and from the fact that Jesus and His disciples observed the other Holy Days, that all those days are still commanded observances. Even more obvious is the fact that we should be keeping the Ten Commandments, which are succinctly comprehended in the two greatest commandments.

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

God’s focus is on our hearts, and whether or not we choose to keep His commandments tells Him what our hearts are like. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The implication is that if we don’t keep His commandments, we are telling Jesus we don’t love Him. If our hearts are right, obedience to God naturally follows.

My feelings on the question, “What is applicable under the New Testament?” is that everything God didn’t specifically replace/update to a spiritual level (the priest hood, physical temples, civil laws) are probably still in effect. It’s up to us to seek out the spiritual reasons for these commands and find a way to physically keep them. There are still some I’m not sure about — like those tassels on the borders of our garments or what we’re supposed to do on New Moons — but I want to keep searching and learning. I want to worship God the way He tells me to, not the way I think sounds like a good idea.