The Lord of Hosts

Our study last week reminded me of something else that caught my eye while writing the minor prophets series last year. When I was copying verses over into my handwritten notes, I realized I was writing “the Lord of hosts” quite a lot — sometimes more than once in a single verse.

You’ll often see this name of God written as “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Yahweh Sebaot/Tsebaoth are other ways to transliterate the name, and Elohim Sebaot is used as well. The variations of this name occur some 285 times, mostly in the books of prophecy. In the New Testament, it’s transliterated as “Lord of Sabaoth” (Rom. 9:29; James 5:4).

Seeing the name “Lord of hosts” again and again in the prophets made me wonder about the significance of this name. Each name of God tells us something important about His character. What does “the Lord of Hosts” teach us? Continue reading

Men in The Church: It’s OK to Grow Some Balls

A thought-provoking post written by my brother. I’ve been thinking lately about a trend in some churches to place women in leadership roles. Women do have a significant role in the church (which can even involve teaching), but I think the Bible is clear that the ordained, public leadership of the church has been given to men. Instead of usurping those roles when they go vacant, perhaps we need to ask why men are leaving the church and what we can do to encourage them to stay and lead.

Science & Faith

“There are no real men in the church.”

“None of the men I know actually care about God.”

I’ve heard these statements hundreds — maybe thousands — of times, mostly from women but also from older men. There’s this general realization that men in the church today just don’t really care about their faith. It’s not an imagined problem. Statistically, men just aren’t on fire for Christianity. But why? Why are so many guys lacking zeal for their religion? Why aren’t they fired up?

Men really don’t understand that Christianity has room for masculinity. We’re told to be passive, that we’re too headstrong, that men are dangerous. Then in the same breath, we’re told we have to “do more” for the church. It’s confusing and discouraging. Well, gird up your loins like a man, cause we’re about to see why we should get fired up as Christians.

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INFJ Overthinking -­ When Our Beautiful Mind Turns Against Us

This is a guest post by John Lindholm, a writer for the Introvert Spring INFJ forum.

INFJs like to look in. Sometimes this habit works against us. Our mind is a busy freeway of thoughts that steer our car off the happy highway. Certain circumstances are particularly disorienting. Our mind twists, turns, and reverses these situations so much that they no longer match up to reality. Here are a few you might recognize:

Small Talk, Big Mistake

It is no secret that introverts would rather eat a brick sideways than engage in small talk. But I’ve only been offered that choice twice in my life, so the chit chat is unavoidable even to the ghosty­ist INFJ.

It’s even worse when we think our conversation partner is more successful, better looking, or more interesting than we are. When this happens, the chatter milk can sour in an instant.

It starts with rotten self-­talk like, “why am I such a loser compared to him?” Or, “why can’t I just relax and talk like she can?” Or even, “why do I suck at life?” Then the pulverized mind of the INFJ has to throw a few words together to continue the conversation. Not good.

One time, I ran into somebody I hadn’t seen for well over a year. He started with, “I haven’t seen you for a while, so I just wanted to say hi.”

I volleyed, “Yeah, so how have you been?” Not a bad start, but the meter on my coherence tank plummeted as the palaver continued.

When he tried to end things with, “Ok so, I just wanted to say hi,” I again replied, “Yeah, so how have you been?”

Realizing I had repeated myself, I answered my own question. “Good, good, yes right?” It was ridiculous, so I excused myself and retreated to the restroom.

It Will Be All Better When…

For the INFJ, successes that should be celebrated and lead to happiness and further growth can actually lead to frustration, sadness, and even depression. This has a lot to do with “I’ll start my diet on Monday” self­-promising. We tell ourselves,

“Once I get through this social-­event­-stuffed weekend, everything will be perfect.”

“As soon as school ends, I’ll get back to writing my book.”

“I’ll be so happy after I lose these ten pounds.”

This kind of thinking ensures that we’re never where we are. We’re not here, we’re in our head. We’re so busy thinking about what would make us happy that we miss out on the present moment. Since no amount of achievement will evict us from our brain, we’re better off focusing on how to make our head a happier place.

There’s Only One Side: Mine

We INFJs will brood, contemplate, deliberate and ruminate the DNA right out of an idea. Other folks might have an opinion, a passing notion, or even a half­-baked solution. But if they don’t agree with us, they’re wrong.

Or so we think.

We’re awesome at dissecting an issue, but have a hard time accepting opposing points of view. It’s hard for us to trust that others have as much going on between the ears as we do (they probably don’t, but that’s beside the point).

And heaven forbid that people want to speak about a problem without also brainstorming for a solution. I mean, what’s the point in highlighting a fault if we don’t want to fix it, right?

Your Turn…

I’d like to hear from the rest of you INFJs, and from those who love them. What other ways do INFJs overthink or misunderstand social situations? Please share below.

Author Bio: John Lindholm is a middle school math teacher and a writer for the Introvert Spring INFJ Forum (which you are welcome to join). He enjoys writing fiction as well as articles and other pieces about introversion. Check him out at InwardFacingWriters.com.

The Sun of Righteousness

There’s been a phrase stuck in my head since our study of the minor prophets last year. It came to mind over and over — in prayer, randomly while thinking about something else, and after hearing someone had died (which happened quite a lot last year). The phrase comes from Malachi 4:

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 4:1-3)

Obviously a prophetic context, but what might it mean for us today? What can we learn from, and about, “the Sun of Righteousness” and the “healing in His wings”? Continue reading

Befriending Your Inferior Function

Ah, the infamous inferior function — the way Myers-Briggs theory explains why you don’t always act like “yourself.” If we’re using Personality Hacker’s car model to illustrate Myers-Briggs types, the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. It’s the least-developed function in a person’s stack, but it plays a significant role, especially when we’re stressed. Since we don’t use this mental process effectively, we often try to ignore it or bury it deep and dismiss times when it shows up as being “out of character.”

That side of our personality is not, however, easy to ignore. Continuing with the car analogy, if you’ve ever driven with a 3-year-old you know they’re only quiet when they fall asleep for a little while. Even when they’re happy and chatting they can be distracting. When they’re upset, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything else.

When the 3-year-old mental process in the backseat of your mind is throwing a temper tantrum, it’s hard to see the inferior function as anything useful. Often, I feel more like I’m “dealing with” my inferior Extroverted Sensing than learning from it or profiting by it. But as annoying at it can seem at times, it’s still one of the four mental processes that you have most access too. Even if it’s only 3-years-old, it’s still better developed then one of the four mental processes that’s completely outside your function stack. Instead of treating it as the enemy, maybe it’s time to embrace it as an immature, but lovable, friend.

Meeting Your 3-year-old

First, introductions. You’ve been ignoring this side of yourself most of your life, so if you’re going to make friends with it you have to first learn more about how your mind works. If you don’t know your personality type yet, I recommend Personality Hackers’ test as the most reliable I’ve found online. If you already know your type, you can learn more about your inferior function here:

You can also look up your inferior function by Googling “Extroverted Thinking” or “Introverted Sensing” or whichever function is lowest on your type’s function stack. Most articles you find that way will be talking about a healthy, mature form of that function as seen in types that use it as their primary or secondary mental process. Remember when reading these articles that it will show up differently for your type, since it’s not well developed.

For example, ENTPs and ENFPs use Extroverted Intuition as their primary, or driver, process. It’s an innovative, idea-generating mental function that’s constantly looking for new possibilities and patterns. They’re not only comfortable with exploring new ideas — they crave and thrive on it. When this function is sitting in the inferior position, it’s still exploring possibilities, but in a less-mature way. For ISFJs and ISTJs, their Extroverted Intuition shows up in generating worst-case-scenarios when stressed, and a near-constant worry about “what if?”

Making Friends

You might be frustrated that your inferior function can’t work as effectively in your mind as it does for people who use that mental process more readily. I’m an INFJ, which means Extroverted Sensing is my inferior function. People who use Extroverted Sensing effectively have “real-time kinetic” skills and respond quickly to things happening in the outer world. I’m so oblivious to the outer world that I run into doors on an almost daily basis. Even keeping track of my own hands and feet can be hard — once I wondered why my ankle hurt, and looked down to discover blood dripping from a cut I couldn’t remember happening.

Things like that can be really frustrating. But if we’re trying to befriend and cultivate our less-developed mental process, it’s better to start out accepting it how it is than hating how our minds naturally work. In fact, many of us could already be using our inferior function and not realizing it. An ENFJ who works with computers is using their inferior Thinking side at work. An ISTP with who cultivates close friendships in their local church is tapping into their inferior Feeling side.

You might start out exploring your inferior function through hobbies. When you’re reading about your inferior function, take note of what sort of skills and hobbies are usually enjoyed by types who use that function effectively . In my case, I’ve always enjoyed gardening and cooking, which are two endeavors that use Sensing skills. I’ve also started consciously cultivating awareness of the world around me through my yoga practice.

Growing and Learning

I’ve found that just knowing about your inferior function is a personal growth step. You finally have an explanation for why you react to stress the way you do, and why sometimes you have a “Was that really me?” moment (which is the title of an excellent book by Naomi Quenk on inferior functions). Once you start understanding why your mind works the way it does, you can start learning how to use your natural stills more effectively.

Naomi Quenk’s book includes a section on how each of the types changes as they learn to use their inferior function.  I also touch on this at the end of each post in my “Learning From Your Stress Function” series. Here are those links again:

Type theorists often call becoming comfortable with your 3-year-old mental process ‘incorporating your inferior function.” This should make you a more well-rounded, balanced individual who’s comfortable in their own skin and it better able to exercise forgiveness/acceptance toward self (and others) in areas where we’re naturally not as strong. As an added bonus, you’ll also start to strengthen that under-used part of your mind, making it less likely to trip-you up (at least in theory).

Your turn: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy, or skills do you have, that are not typical of your personality type? do you consciously use your inferior function?

What Is The Church?

The church is a family, not a business. Most people won’t argue with that, or at the very least they’ll make a case that it’s both. But that’s not always the impression you get when listening to church leaders talk.

When I go to church and hear a sermon, I expect to hear a teaching on God’s word, not an up-date on that church organization’s media outreach, how many associate pastors have been hired, or how much money their latest donation campaign brought in. Sermons like that just don’t make it seem like the church group is modeling themselves after the New Testament church established by Jesus Christ. Sometimes (in my more cynical moments) I wonder if we’re even trying.

The Church’s Commission

In John 13-17, Jesus delivers the longest uninterrupted discourse we have record of near the end of His life. Usually we look at “the Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20 for Christ’s take-away message to His church, but a good case can be made for viewing this section of scripture in that way as well.

Jesus starts out by demonstrating servant leadership in washing His disciples’ feet. That’s how He wants them to lead after He’s gone — by humbling self and serving others (John 13:12-17). Then He connects their walk as His followers with what He’d previously identified as the Great Commandments: love God, and love your neighbor.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

What Is The Church? | marissabaker.wordpress.comIt might not sell as well as “preaching the gospel,” but love is the succinct mission statement of Christ’s church. It’s not something you tack on as an afterthought — “we’ll do this, this, and this with love.” Love is the essential character of God. If we want to be like God, we have to embody His love.

As we move into John chapter 15, the focus stays on individuals. There are multiple branches abiding in the True Vine, but the message is to each one individually (“every branch in Me,” “a man, “you abide in me”). There’s no diffusion of responsibility for bearing fruit; it’s something every person is told to do.

Sometimes in church, we’re told it’s enough to tithe to an organization that’s bearing fruit. This makes me think of the parable of the talents, when the Master tells the servant who buried his talent, “you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest” (Matt. 25:24-27). Supporting an organization that’s doing good things is better than nothing, but it doesn’t exempt us from personal action.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. … By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:6, 8-9)

The first time in this section of scripture that Jesus mentions selecting and sending people to go and do something, it’s to “bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). That’s shortly followed by telling the disciples they will “bear witness” of Him (15:27). Fruiting and witnessing will involve preaching, but that’s not the foundation.

When we read Jesus’ final prayer, He mentions several more things His followers should and will do. They will “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). They will keep His word (17:6). They will believe in Christ and His mission as the One Sent (17:7-8). They will not be like the world, though they are sent into the world (17:14, 16, 18). They will become one with God in His love (17:21-23, 26).

What we’re doing as Christ’s followers involves so much more than systematizing preaching of the word. Individually, our responsibility is to love God, attach ourselves to Him, and keep his commandments. Our connection to the Vine will result in bearing fruit for His glory. If our church’s mission by-passes that and goes straight to “we need to preach the gospel,” then we’re missing the mark.

Works Powered By God

I try not to directly engage with the speakers I hear in my local church on this blog, unless I can be in agreement with or say my writings were “inspired by” what I heard. To introduce this next point, though, I have to reference a message I heard last week where a church leader talked about their vision “to fulfill God’s purpose for humanity by bringing many children to glory.”

This phrase is lifted out of Hebrew 2:10. Whenever anyone quotes an isolated phrase of Biblical text, it’s a good idea to check it out in-context to get a fuller idea of the meaning.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb 2:9-11)

Do you see anything in this passage about our role in bringing God’s children to glory? No — that’s the sole province of God our Father and the Captain of our salvation. We are “those who are being sanctified;” Christ’s brethren who He is bringing to glory. That’s where we show up in this passage of scripture.

What Is The Church? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

It is the height of arrogance to assume we can do “the work of God.” God does God’s work. This does involve equipping His people for certain tasks and giving them what they need to bear good fruit. We can do work that He gives us, as explained here:

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29)

Belief is a key foundation of our faith. Here, it’s also defined as “the work of God” that we’re given to do. Considering the context — people asking about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes (John 6:5-15, 25-27) — you can also read that belief is a prerequisite for doing works powered by God. This agrees with a later verse in Christ’s last Passover discourse.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

When we’re in relationship with Jesus Christ and our foundation is strong in Him, we will do works like He did and for the same reasons He did. Christ’s every action on this earth — works of healing, inspired preaching, miracles — all pointed people toward the One True God. That is our mission also.

But this is done through individuals, not organizations. If an organization is doing good works, it’s because there are true Christians within it whom God is working through. The true church is the body of believers that Christ is building — the collection of individuals He is working with. Within the church, God works with each person to help them bear fruit. The fruit won’t look the same for everyone. Some will preach, some will support preaching, some will heal, some will serve within the body, some will have great wisdom, some will model exemplary faith (1 Cor. 12).

Preaching will result whether you treat the church as a business or as a family, but what fuels preaching in each situation is very different. In one case, you have an organization focused on spreading God’s word as much as they can. The emphasis is on what we’re doing, who we’re training, how many we’re reaching. In the other, you have a group of people so in love with God that they have to share His message. The focus is on loving God, rooting yourself in Him, and then bearing fruit for His glory, which involves pursuing the same things He values. Which church would you rather be a part of?

A Little Princess

A Little Princess #ccwomenclassics | marissabaker.wordpress.comLast week, I compared A Secret Garden to my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. The subject of this week’s Classics Club post, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, has fairy tale elements which are even more obvious.

It’s pretty much the exact same story as Cinderella — an only child whose sweet disposition is unaffected by being spoiled is left in the care of an unkind woman after her father’s unexpected death. The austere and jealous guardian transforms the girl into a servant who lives in an attic and makes friends with rodents and birds. Eventually, a wealthy man swoops in and rescues her (Tweet about it).

There are even jealous “step-sister” figures in the form of some of the girls at the school (we’re looking at you, Lavinia). And you could call Ram Dass a “fairy godmother” of sorts, since he transforms Sara’s dingy attic into a princess room simply because he notices she’s so kind and wants to do something nice for her. It’s a key fairy-tale trope — eventually Magic (or it’s human equivalent) will step in and set things right if only you’re a good person.

Continue reading

God’s Message Through the Aaronic Blessing

At a conference this past December, I attended an excellent seminar by a gentleman named Hal exploring the depth of the Hebrew words used in the Aaronic blessing (I want to credit him, but not sure if he’d want his full name used here, so we’ll just stick with first names). You know the passage we’re talking about: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

God's Message Through the Aaronic Blessing | marissabaker.wordpress.com

It’s lovely in English, but I was awed by how much more incredible these words are when you start digging deep into what they mean. At the end of Hal’s seminar, he paraphrased the blessing into more accessible language for modern English readers, and I’ll share both his and my take on that at the end. First, though, let’s dive into some word-study. Continue reading

The Secret Garden

I suppose there might be better ways to spend a Sunday than baking scones, reading and blogging about books and watching Star Trek, but I really can’t think of any right now. They’re cinnamon apple oatmeal scones, and the books are by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it’s classic Trek with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Does it get any better?

The Secret Garden #ccwomenclassics | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are re-reads on my Classics Club book list. They were some of my favorite books as a child, and my sister and I watched the film adaptations over and over when we were younger. Since they also qualify for the Women’s Classic Literature event, I decided to make them my first classics reads for the new year.

I can’t tell you how much I wanted a secret garden. Actually, I never really outgrew that — I’m sure gardens surrounded by high stone walls covered with ivy are more alluring than ones just sitting out in the front yard where anyone can see them. That garden with its hidden door is probably why The Secret Garden was always my favorite of the two books. That and the fact that there were boy characters — books with just girls in them are nice, but books with boys and girls are better even when there isn’t a hint of romance. Continue reading

Consider the High Priest

In Hebrews 3:1, the writer tells his “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” The word “consider” invites us to “observe fully” (Strong’s G2657) and “fix one’s eyes or mind upon” Jesus (Thayers). That’s what we did in last week’s post for His role as Apostle, and what I hope to do this week for His role as High Priest.

Consider the High Priest | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Changed Priesthood

Christ’s priesthood is “after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s a key point in Hebrews’ discussion of Christ as our High Priest, even though we know very little about Melchizedek from his 3-verse appearance in the Torah. Continue reading