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.

Nice Guys and Bad Boys

Killian Jones, from Once Upon A Time

Captain Hook, from Once Upon A Time

“Nice guys finish last” and “Girls like bad boys.” You hear it all the time. It’s common knowledge, so it must be true, right? I’ve even said or thought similar things my self — “He’s a nice guy, but I just don’t find him attractive” or “I know he’s a bad guy, but there’s good in him.”

There are several psychological reasons why girls are attracted to “bad boys.” They might be looking for someone who reminds them of their father, or someone who is his complete opposite. They might enjoy the thrill of being around someone who takes risks and seeks out adventure and excitement. They might want to redeem him or enjoy the idea of being the one person he actually cares about.

I think one of the main attractions, though, — and a reason that stereotypical “nice guys” fall short — is confidence. Bad boys project an image of “I know who I am, I like who I am, and I know what I want.” That’s incredibly attractive. Even if it’s covering a vulnerable core, that self-assurance tells girls that you aren’t looking for them to complete you or mother you. You don’t have to be good to be confident, or for that confidence to be attractive.

King Arthur, from Merlin

King Arthur, from Merlin

The problem with the stereotypical “nice guy” isn’t so much the fact that they are nice, but rather that they are self-effacing and lack confidence. They project an image of “I don’t expect you to like me,  but it would be nice if you did anyway.” Most girls would like to be treated well, but it’s not exciting to be treated well by a guy who doesn’t like himself and doesn’t give you much reason to see him as a romantic option.

But what happens if you pair being nice and gentlemanly with confidence? suddenly you’re the most attractive man in the room. You’re King Arthur or Thor. Even if you’re not confident romantically, simply having confidence in other areas and knowing who you are, why you have value, and what you want is still very attractive. Think Captain America and Mr. Darcy.

Are We Israel?

You know that feeling when you’re having a conversation with someone and can’t think of a reply, then the perfect words come to you three days later in the shower? Something similar happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was talking with someone who doesn’t think shofars are necessary in church services, and asked what he thought of Psalm 81 that tells us to blow the shofar “for this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob” (Ps. 81:3-4). His response was, “We’re not Israel. We’re spiritual Israel, but we’re not Israel.”

The subject rolled around in my mind for a week before I decided to write about it. Whether or not the Old Testament commands given to physical Israel apply under the New Covenant is a much broader issue than shofars. I think its an important question to answer, because if the answer is “yes” then there are quite a few things most of us Christians have been wrongly ignoring, and that’s a dangerous thing to do.

Welcomed Into Israel

In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s chosen people — the small group He decided to work with and make His own.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. (Ex. 19:5-6)

In much the same way, the New Testament church is a fairly small group of chosen people, called into a special relationship with God.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Pet. 2:9-10)

At this point in the history of the church, God wasn’t exclusively working with the physical nations of Israel any more. He was calling Gentiles as well. It’s very interesting to see how this calling is described.

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:11-13)

The process by which Jesus Christ welcomes us into His church also makes us part of Israel. In Jesus Christ, we are no longer “aliens from Israel” and “strangers from the covenants” because He “has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” between physical Israel and the Gentile nations (Eph. 2:14).

Spiritual Israel

It is evident that there are differences between spiritual Israel and physical Israel. Paul addresses this in several epistles. The Old Covenant contained in it the promise of Messiah, and the ones in Israel who recognized Jesus as that Messiah became spiritual Israel as they transitioned to the New Covenant. At that point, God opened up salvation to the non-Israelitish people as well.

that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.” “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.” (Rom. 9:23-27)

This “remnant” is a small part of the physical nation of Israel, and now includes Gentiles as well “according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). It is what God intended all of Israel to be, and that’s what we are grafted into (Rom. 11:13-24). The rest of Israel is still “beloved for the sake of the fathers” because of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Rom. 11:28). Now, though, “God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). That indicates He will treat those who’ve ignored Him as if they are outside of Israel so they can eventually be welcomed in as former strangers rather than punished as children who should have known better.

So the question, “Are we Israel?” seems to have answered itself. Paul even tells us quite plainly in Galatians that we are “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). We’re also told that we are under the New Covenant which was promised to Israel.

Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 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. 8:8-10)

When Jesus Christ came, He didn’t bring a new religion — He came as the next step in God’s plan. “Christianity” is the name that was given because the rest of the world thought it was just a new sect of Judaism. In reality, though, this is what God intended Israel to become all along. Instead of starting with the idea, “I’m Christian, so how much of this Old Testament stuff do I have to keep?” we should start at the beginning and see how the Old Covenant relates to the New Covenant. Some things did change, and some things did not change. That sounds like a good topic for next week’s blog post.

Looking For Love With The MBTI

Looking For Love With The MBTI | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Dennis Skley, CC BY-ND via Flickr

People have been trying to use personality types to find their perfect romantic match since typology first became popular. In a previous posts about Myers-Briggs types and love languages, I talked about how falling in love — and staying in love — with someone is so much more complex than simply matching personality types. Sometimes when browsing personality type forums, I’ll come across posts from people asking how to find and attract a someone of a specific personality type (often it’s an ENTP asking for step-by-step instructions to win an INFJ, which I find hilarious). It’s like some of us think that if we can just find someone who is our ideal type-match, then we’ll be happy because we caught the mythical “compatibility” creature.

Now, I do have some personality types I find more attractive romantically than others, but it’s not always the types I’m “supposed” to like according to Myers-Briggs or Keirsey theories. Even Isabel Myers was happily married to a man who her theory said should have been incompatible. An understanding of love languages and a mutual willingness to understand and work with each other is one piece of the puzzle. Another is something I just learned this week from Personality Hacker.

The “Genius System”

Personality Hacker was founded by Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt, who use what they call the “Genius system” to divide Myers-Briggs types into four groups based on the last two letters in a person’s type. In terms of function stacks, this means they group types based on whether the type introverts or extroverts their Judging function. The groupings end up looking like this:

  • “Harmony” — Extroverted Feelers (ESFJ, ISFJ, ENFJ, INFJ)
  • “Authenticity” — Introverted Feelers (ESFP, ISFP, ENFP, INFP)
  • “Effectiveness” — Extroverted Thinkers (ESTJ, ISTJ, ENTJ, INTJ)
  • “Accuracy” — Introverted Thinkers  (ESTP, ISTP, ENTP, INTP)

According to a new article on Personality Hacker, each of these groups look for and expressed love in a unique way. Most people would tell an INFJ to look for a relationship with an ENFP or an ENTP and avoid their opposite type, ESTP. This system stays that an ENFP and and ENTP express love in completely different ways, but ENTPs and ESTPs are actually very similar in how they love. That would explain why some INFJs find ENFPs really attractive, while others prefer ESTPs or ENTPs. It’s not so much about matching two specific types, as it is about finding types who express love in a way you relate to and understand. This Genius style take on the MBTI adds an intriguing aspect to the subject of personality types in relationships. You can check out the original Personality Hacker article for a full explanation, but here’s my brief take on what this means:

Types of Love

Harmony” types, who use Extroverted Feeling as their first or second function, feel loved when they are connected, safe, cared for, and accepted as their authentic selves. They express love in a similar way, by encouraging the people they love and keeping in touch with them. They are primarily concerned with harmonious relationships and emotional connection.

The types who use Introverted Feeling, “Authenticity” in the Genius System, highly value honesty in relationships. They feel loved when they know someone is being real with them and is supportive of their own authentic expressions. Authenticity types express love by giving people space to be themselves and being willing to work through problems in the relationship.

Effectiveness” types, those who use Extroverted Thinking, value independence in relationship. They want to know that the person who loves them is supportive of their goals and can be trusted to function on their own. They are loyal and protective towards those they love, and give them room to be themselves.

Those who use Introverted Thinking, “Accuracy” types, feel loved when they are respected. They want to know that the person who is in love with them thinks they are impressive and that the relationship makes sense. In return, they are protective, non-judgmental, and strive to bring the best version of themselves to the relationship.

Matching Types

Ultimately, typology is simply a tool we can use to understand each other. When we understand ourselves and the people around us, we have a better idea of what we’re looking for in a romantic relationship. I think that’s really the best way to apply Myers-Briggs theory to romance. We can’t just say that all INFJs’ ideal match is an ENTP — people are far more nuanced than that, even within a type. But the better we understand how we’re wired and what makes us feel loved, the more likely we’ll be able to recognize whether a potential romantic partner would be a good or a bad match for us.

This is one of the things Debra Fileta talks about in her book and blog True Love Dates. You have to know yourself before you try to get to know other people in a romantic context, otherwise you have no idea what you’re looking for in a relationship. So maybe the first thing we should do when looking at the Genius System types is find which group we fit into. If we know who we are, we’re one step closer to knowing what we want.



Words of Life

I’m a writer. I spend most of my day with words. I put them together, move them around, edit them out and put new ones in — all trying to find just the right combination to deliver information, move you to tears, make you laugh, or give you something to think about. So when the Bible describes Jesus Christ as “the Word,” I see that from a the perspective of someone who loves words and realizes how powerful they can be. I express myself best through written words, and that is also the main way God has chosen to express Himself to us.

Have you ever wondered why that is? Why did God make sure we had a written record of Him? in theory, He could have taught everything by speaking directly through prophets right up into the present day, much like He did for a good part of Biblical history. Even through there was a written record in the Torah, then the complete Old Testament and finally the canonized Bible, throughout most of history people simply didn’t have access to a written copy of God’s word. For the past couple thousand years or so, though, God has communicated to His people primarily through His written words.

I suspect part of this is because the church is now scattered over the entire world rather than concentrated in a single nation — God was expanding His family, and in the new church that Jesus Christ is building it simply isn’t practical or necessary to have His people going to a rabbi or prophet to find out what God wants. Now, every individual who has been called is given the opportunity to have a relationship directly with the Father and with the Word, and that relationship largely depends on us picking up God’s written word and asking Him to teach us.

Re-creating Us

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col. 3:16-17)

This is the same Greek word, logos (G3056), used to describe Jesus as the Word. Logos means an articulate expression of intelligence. When Christ is named the Word, it is in reference to His role as the One who reveals the intelligent thoughts of the God family. Here in Colossians, what we’re talking about is the words He spoke in His role as the Word.

These verses are telling us to look at every word that Jesus shared with us, and let those words dwell inside us along with the wisdom we need to understand His words. It’s telling us to share those words with others, and let them work a change inside you that alters your own words and deeds. When the word of Christ is in you, then the “intelligent expression” coming out of your mind and mouth will be a reflection of His intelligence.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt. 12:35-37)

This is another Greek word, rema (G4487), which refers to spoken words or commands. Instead of referencing the intelligence behind the words, it refers to the subject matter being discussed. It’s telling us that we will be judged, not just for the motivation behind our words, but also for the subjects we choose to speak about. Christ’s words in us are good treasures of our hearts, and with Him inside us the words we speak will become good, and glorify God.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:7-8)

Our relationship with the Word and the presence of His words in us makes it possible for us to glorify God with the fruits of our life. “The worlds were framed by the word of God” — so just imagine what an amazing work those powerful words can do inside of us! (Heb. 11:3).

Spirit and Life

It is vitally important that Jesus Christ, “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1), and the words that He taught become a part of us. Without a good relationship with the words of God, we will not be saved.

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:21-25)

The words of God speak to our hearts and spirits. They show us who and what we are and give us tools to change and grow. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Do we treat the word of God like that? Do we hold on to it and treasure it as a source of life and of the Spirit? as a key to intimacy with God?

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deut. 30:11-14)

Paul quotes directly from this in Romans 10:5-10, leaving no doubt that this passage is relevant under the New Covenant as well as the Old. It’s like we talked about last week — God “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28).

As we become more and more like the Father and Jesus, our thoughts should be more like Their thoughts, our words more like Their words. We’ve been given a written record of how They think and speak, and we’ve been given His Spirit so we can comprehend what They are telling us (1 Cor. 2:10-12). The Word dwelling in us is an incredible opportunity to know and understand our creator.

Why I Sponsor Children

“I’d like to help, but …”

photo from Unbound.org

We fill-in-the-blank with a wide variety of things for a whole host of reasons, but today I want to talk about giving to charities. I saw a discussion on an INFJ Facebook group several months ago asking which charities other INFJs support. INFJs are considered one of the “save the world” personality types, as evidenced by the fact that two of the most famous INFJs were Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Many of the INFJ profiles you’ll read online talk about how INFJs often find work in non-profits and support charities. But even among a group of INFJs, there were plenty of people talking about the fact that they never donate to anything.

Now, there are perfectly understandable reasons for not giving money and I would never suggest you donate money that you don’t have. But if you have the means and desire to help, excuses like “I don’t trust charities” or “I don’t have the time” don’t hold up well in my mind. You can donate your time and money within your own community so you can see exactly what effects your efforts are having. There are also charities with good reputations who use their money wisely — you just have to look for them. And after that initial time-outlay of finding a charity you like, getting online to send money takes about a minute.

Personally, I like to sponsor children. I use Unbound, but as far as I know Compassion International is a great option as well. This is the perfect fit for me for several reasons:

  • I’m making a difference now, on an individual level for this child and their family
  • I’m affecting the future, because children become the adults that shape their countries
  • I get to build a relationship with the people I’m helping, through letter-writing

I guess the main thing I want to do today is encourage you to think about the impact you’re having on this world for good. It can be in any number of ways — serving in our church groups, going out of your way to make someone smile, donating money or food stuffs, volunteering your time, sponsoring a child … the list just goes on and on. I want to leave you with a quote from C.S. Lewis that convicted me to start finding more ways to give, though I still think I fall short by these standards.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Feeling After The Lord

Feeling After The Lord | marissabaker.wordpress.comIt seems that Christians are often suspicious of feelings. And why shouldn’t we be? After all, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). We can’t understand our own hearts, so how can we trust anything they tell us?

I’ve suspected for some time that our feelings may be more important to our relationship with God than some people like to admit, but I wondered if my own tendency to favor intuition and feelings in decision-making was coloring my thinking. Then I noticed a verse in my King James study Bible that talked about people seeking the Lord “if haply they might feel after Him” (Acts. 17:27). When you look at the Greek this doesn’t really havemuch to do with emotions, but it did prompt a more in-depth study about how much we can trust our hearts and feelings.

New Hearts

When we talk about our “hearts” in the Bible, the Hebrew word is lebab (H3824). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Gleason, and Waltke describes this word as “the richest Biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature.” It refers to someone’s personality, and primarily includes their emotions, thoughts, and will. Any sort of feeling — positive and negative — can be attributed to the heart.

The passage in Jeremiah 17 which tells us our hearts are deceitful and wicked also tells us that the Lord is able to know, search, and try our hearts (Jer. 17:9-10). As the only one Who can really understand what’s going on in our innermost self, God is also able to effect changes inside us at a heart-level.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezk. 36:26-27)

Our hearts can be changed. They don’t have to stay wicked and untrustworthy. That doesn’t, however, mean we can follow our hearts all the time once we’re in a relationship with God. David walked “in integrity of heart” and God called him “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (1 Kings 9:4; Acts 13:22), yet he still sinned by acting on his feelings for Bathsheba.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)

Even when God is working with our hearts, we still have an obligation to keep and guard our inner selves. We have the Holy Spirit in us, but we’re also still human. While our gut instincts and feelings are more likely to be right when we’re in covenant with God, we could still be deceived by our hearts.

Reach Out

Let’s go back to that verse I mentioned in Acts. It’s part of Paul’s sermon in Athens.

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)

In the Greek, the phrase “grope for” (NKJV) or “feel after” (KJV) is translated from the word pselaphao (G5584). This word is derived from a root that means “to touch lightly,” and here in Acts if means to feel or touch and object. The picture it paints is of us reaching out, searching for God like someone feeling around in the dark to find another person.

By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him. “I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him.” (Song 3:1-2)

Since we’re not going to find God by waving our hands around and reaching for something physically tangible, I imagine this “feeling after” God takes place in our hearts. This brings us right back to the idea of emotions, thoughts, and the immaterial parts of us.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a friend some years ago about what role emotions have in our faith. One of the questions that came up was, “What does the Holy Spirit in us feel like, if it’s not a feeling?” It’s an appeal to probability fallacy to , but it illustrates a point — we instinctively sense that the immaterial part of us will be involved in noticing the immaterial Spirit of God.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

In Acts 17, Paul told those who were “feeling after” God that “He is not far from each one of us.” Here in John, Christ tells us that both He and His Father will dwell with an inside of Their people via the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18). Talk about being close to someone! We “live and move and have our being” in Them, and They live inside us. That’s the most intimate relationship you’ll ever have with anyone.

For in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:9-10)

Being in relationship with God makes us complete. He strengthens our weaknesses, makes wise our foolishness, and quiets our anxieties. When we go looking for God and cling tightly to Him, the change He can and will work inside us on a spiritual, emotional, and mental level is astonishing. It transforms us to the core of our being, including our feelings.

Femnista: Jan / Feb 2015 – Swashbucklers


The latest issue of Femnista is now online — and I have an article in it! The theme is Swashbucklers. My article’s about Robin Hood, and there are others for Blackbeard, The Princess Bride, The Three Musketeers, Zorro, Shipwrecked, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Jack Sparrow. Do us a favor and check them out :)

Originally posted on Idle Wanderings:


Batten down the hatches for a swashbuckling adventure. Includes… Blackbeard, Robin Hood, The Princess Bride, The Three Musketeers, Zorro, Shipwrecked, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and our favorite “why is the rum gone?” daring doer, Jack Sparrow .

Read it online or download it.

Want to contribute to future issues? Click here.

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Ficitonal MBTI – Sherlock Holmes (INTP)

Sidney Paget illustration

In the world of fictional typology, Sherlock Holmes is either cited as the perfect example of an INTP or as a notoriously difficult charter to type. Some writers say this difficulty is because the character displays aspects of several different types (including INTJ and ISTP), due to the writers’ ignorance of Myers-Briggs theory. While this may be partly true, I think we can pin-down a single type for most portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. Rather than showing several different personality types, the different portrayals of Sherlock Holmes show how much variation there can be within a single personality type.

INTP Traits

Benedict Cumbebatch as BBC’s Sherlock

The personality type that fits most portrayals of Sherlock best is INTP. The function stack for this type is this:

  1. Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  2. Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
  3. Introverted Sensing (Si)
  4. Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

This means that Sherlock first approaches the world with a judging attitude that is focused inward and relies on impersonal analysis. Ti prefers to internalize observations and work with abstract ideas. It “values facts chiefly as illustrative proofs of the idea,” and rejects things that seem irrelevant (Myers, Gifts Differing, p.78). This would explain why BBC’s Sherlock didn’t bother to remember that the earth goes around the sun.

What does that matter? So we go ’round the sun. If we went ’round the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear it wouldn’t make any difference. All that matters to me is the work. Without that my brain rots.” — Episode 3, The Great Game

With his secondary function, Sherlock interacts with the outer world using an extroverted perceiving function, in this case intuition. For a good analysis of why Sherlock is an INTP instead of an ISTP (which would use Se instead of Ne), check out MBTI: Sherlock Holmes- INTP. One quote I really like from this post connects Sherlock’s perceiving function with his signature “Holmesian deduction.”

In fact, abductive reasoning seems to be almost describing Extraverted Intuition- seeing the possibilities and coming to a single result at the time. Ni handles the long-range stuff, but Ne gives you what you want at the moment. And Holmes doesn’t seem to be taking in his surroundings as much as he is observing his surroundings and making well educated guesses as to what happened.”

Having Introverted Sensing as third in his function stack means that Sherlock still has access to sensing. It’s not the easiest function for him to use, but it explains why he notices sensing details that might escape other intuitive types. This is one reason I don’t think he is an INTJ — like INFJs they use sensing as their inferior function, and rarely have conscious access to it. An INTJ would have feeling as their third function, while an INTP’s feeling is the hardest for them to access and understand.

Type Variation – Stereotypical

Basil of Bakerstreet

Let’s talk about Basil of Bakerstreet from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective for a moment (I used this post as an excuse to re-watch the movie) On Disney typing charts, I often see him listed as an INTJ. He’s no more INTJ than any other Sherlock, though. That honor belongs to Professor Moriarty, one of the greatest examples of INTJ villain in fiction.

Basis is probably the most straight-forward portrayal of Sherlock that I’ll talk about today, and he’s a great example of how Ti and Ne work together. In scenes where Basil is working on a problem, he verbalizes his intuitive leaps while most of his thinking takes place inside his head. That’s why it’s hard for Dawson to follow his line of thinking, just as it has been for different Watsons (who are typically ISFJs) throughout Sherlock’s history. It’s “elementary” to Sherlock, but he doesn’t explain his thinking out-loud so it doesn’t seem obvious or easy to anyone else. What we see is the intuitive side, which isn’t conventionally logical.

The scene where he escapes from Rattigan’s trap is typical of a defeated, deflated INTP. His Fe takes over, and he verbalizes his emotions while losing hope. What pulls him out is the intuitive leap, prompted by Dawson’s comment that they set the trap off now, which gives him an idea for how to escape. He doesn’t explain this idea, though — the bulk of the planning is introverted. We get glimpses of his Ti working as he mumbles calculation, but the only thing he purposefully shares are the instructions that Dawson needs to follow.

Type Variation – More Extroverted

Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock is more comfortable with his extroverted function than other Sherlocks, possibly because the actor is an extrovert (maybe an ENTP?). Even this portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is not an extrovert, though. It’s the rare extrovert who will go two weeks without leaving his apartment, even when depressed and on drugs (as Sherlock apparently is early in the first film). What makes me certain that he’s an INTP rather than an ENTP, though, are the scenes where he appears in a public place.

In this scene, waiting in the restaurant for John to arrive with Mary, Sherlock is overwhelmed by the number of people and external sensory input. Instead of being comfortable in the outer world, he is stressed by it. He can pretend to be comfortable in a social setting, which he does for a while in the restaurant, but eventually his stress reaction comes out and he’s even more rude than usual while trying to show off his skills of deduction and drive a wedge between Mary and Watson.

As inferior Extroverted Feeling becomes more prominent in the demeanor of the Introverted Thinking type, it comes out in the form of logic being emphasized to an extreme, hypersensitivity to relationships, and emotionalism.” — Naomi Quenk, Was That Really Me? p. 128

He acts similarly overwhelmed and distracted by the crowd when he is boxing. Later in the film, when he’s in a prison yard, Holmes entertains the other inmates to protect himself but can’t wait to escape their company. He is more comfortable with extroverting than other versions of Sherlock Holmes, but it is not his preferred state.

Type Variation – Not A Sociopath

The main reason BBC’s Sherlock doesn’t look exactly like an INTP is because he displays traits of several different conditions including autism spectrum, “schizoid personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc.” I got this quote from an article written by four psychiatrists analyzing BBC’s Sherlock. Sherlock describes himself as a “high functioning sociopath,” but that’s not the most accurate description. Personally, I find arguments that he has Asperger’s Syndrome highly compelling, especially since that’s how Watson diagnoses him in this clip:

However, the four psychiatrists I mentioned think “autism would not be the most appropriate diagnosis – schizoid personality disorder would be more fitting to the behaviour he displays.” Whichever diagnosis you go with, though, it is clear the Sherlock portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch is not simply an INTP. This type is, however, still the core of his personality. As these psychiatrists say, he “displays a whole host of uniquely memorable behaviours that are not autistic or even psychiatric in origin. These behaviours are a result of Sherlock being Sherlock.”

That’s probably the best way to put it — the most defining characteristic of Sherlock Holmes is that he is Sherlock Holmes. INTPs are so rare that Sherlock seems unique, especially since he is a sort of super-human INTP who has mastered such a wide range of skills that you’d be hard pressed to find the equivalent in real-life. David Keirsey says that INTPs number close to 1% of the population, and considers them even rarer than INFJs (though I haven’t found anyone else who agrees with him). Either way, Sherlock is a very famous example of a very misunderstood type.

What Is A Minister?

So many people, across every Christian denomination, are becoming fed-up with church. Last week, we talked about how part of the reason people say they leave the church is how badly they were treated by fellow believers. Another reason people give for leaving, or at least rejecting “organized religion,” is how they’ve been treated by the ministry.

What is a Minister? | marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve been blessed in that I’ve had both good and bad experiences with people in ministry roles. I know others who have only seen exploitative, authoritarian, or otherwise bad examples of the ministry. To keep hold of our faith, sometimes we have to be able to look past men like this and cling fast to God. We can’t fall into the trap of blaming Him for what people do. In fact, He’s probably upset even more upset than we are. How would you feel if someone started mis-treating your children while saying that they served you?

Seeing so many examples of what the ministry shouldn’t be leads some to think perhaps there shouldn’t be a ministry or human leadership roles in the church at all. There are too many scriptures that talk about the proper role of ministers, though, for me to agree. Rather, it make me ask, “Ideally, what does God want the ministry to do?” and “How can we recognize a true minister?” If we can answer those questions, perhaps we can encourage the people who do have leadership and teaching abilities towards being the kind of ministers God wants so see. Perhaps some of us can even fill those roles.

Puts Christ First

Jesus Christ is the Head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22) and the Head of each individual (1 Cor. 11:3). A true minister will acknowledge Christ as his Head, and also respect Christ’s role as your Head.

Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. (2 Cor. 1:24)

Good ministers also recognize that any authority they do have comes from Jesus. He is the One who appoints ministry roles in order that His people might grow towards perfection and be edified in unity (Eph. 4:11-16).

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry (1 Tim. 1:12)

I dare say no one has had an experience quite like Paul’s conversion and calling, but everyone in a ministry role owes their appointment to Jesus Christ. If their allegiance lies anywhere else, then they are not a true minister. As believers we cannot build on any foundation other than Jesus Christ, and as teachers we cannot lay any other foundation and expect to prosper (1 Cor. 3:11-13).

Not A “Hireling”

I’m of two minds regarding the paid ministry. One the one hand, it is clear in scripture that the people who serve God’s people are supposed to be supported by the brethren. On the other hand, it seems that (in the church as well as in the world) the more money involved the more likely people are to become corrupt.

If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:11-14)

Paul did not choose to live off the churches’ money and generosity, but he would have had every right to do so. Similarly, when Jesus sent the 70 out to preach He told them to dwell as guests in one house “eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). Paul uses the same phrase in 1 Timothy when explaining why elders deserve respect (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

What is a Minister? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

( Paul Woods, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA)

The problems are more likely to arise, I think, when ministers are hired and paid by a corporation rather than supported by their local churches. To be fair, I have seen good and bad ministers in both independent and corporate churches, but I do think the corporate ministry is more likely to attract more of the sort of people who are in it for the prestige, politics, and paycheck.

But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. (John 10:12-13)

Again, I want to stress that not all paid ministers have this attitude. I do think, however, that a system in which ministers are dependent on a corporate group for money and assignments rather than being connected to a local congregation is more likely to produce “hirelings” who are not invested in truly caring for Christ’s sheep.

Helpers of Your Joy

We already quoted 1 Corinthians 1:24, which describes the ministry’s role as “fellow workers for your joy.” The King James Version renders this “helpers of your joy.” There are times for correcting those who teach other doctrines and rejecting heretics “after the first and second admonition,” as Paul told Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 1:3-8; Tit. 3:10-11). Discipline and rule is not a minister’s main role, though. A minister’s influence in a congregation should bring joy and peace. If someone needs corrected, it should be done with the respect due a family member (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

When Paul gives instructions to Timothy and Titus, he tells them to remind the brethren of our foundation in Christ, to teach and encourage, to exercise godliness, to shun profanity and nonsense, and to live peaceably (1 Tim. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 2:14-16; Tit. 2:1-15). Basically, they were to do what Paul himself did — teach the brethren and equip them with the tools needed so they could draw closer to God and not “be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)

Notice that Paul wanted this church group to be able to work toward salvation without his help or presence, recognizing that it was God who worked in them. This didn’t eliminate the need for Paul’s role, but it meant they weren’t supposed to be dependent on any human minister. Other believers, including the ministry, can help us on the road to salvation, but they are not the One “who works in you” (1 Cor. 3:4-11).

That is the key to what make a true minister — they seek God first, and do everything they can to make sure the people they serve also seek God first and develop a relationship with Him. Really, it just means they are doing the same thing that every believer should be doing. They are showing love and helping their brethren in the best way they can using their specific gifts. There is much more to a minister’s role than this, but this is where everything has to start.