God’s “Real Children”

So, which ones are your kids? I mean, your real children.”

The parent with adopted kids fights to stay civil. “They’re all my children.”

I’m not adopted nor am I an adoptive parent, but it’s a topic near my heart. Partly because I care deeply about helping children and partly because adoption is how God describes His process of making us His children.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post addressing a booklet I’d read a couple years before that which claimed adoption wasn’t really how God puts us in His family. They said it was a misunderstanding to say Christians are adopted children of God “rather than His actual begotten sons.” And that thought is still around. Just a few weeks ago, I heard a message where the speaker read Romans 8:14-17 and said, “It’s not adoption it is sonship.”

As you might imagine, I’ve got a couple issues with the idea that teaching we’re adopted by God is the same as saying we’re not His “real children.” For one thing, it implies in way that’s not at all subtle that if you’re adopted you’re not really part of the family. And it’s not okay to say things like that to an audience that very likely includes adopted children (and if it doesn’t, it should. The Bible defines true religion as caring for orphans and there are 3 times as many churches as orphans in the U.S.). But as vital as it is to make sure our words don’t injure others, it’s also important to properly represent God’s teachings through scripture.

Placing As Sons

The word translated “adoption” in New Covenant writings is huiothesia (G5206). It’s a compound formed from the words huios (“son” G5207) and tithemi (“to place” G5087). Paul’s the only Biblical writer to use it and it’s not found in classical Greek either (though the phrase thetos huios is used for “adopted son”). Rather, it’s a technical term referring to a legal and social custom in Greek and Roman society.

This sort of “adoption, when thus legally performed, put a man in every respect in the position of a son by birth to him who had adopted him, so that he possessed the same rights and owed the same obligations” (Spiros Zodhiates The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, entry on G5206). While it can be translated “sonship,” it’s a sonship obtained through an adoption process (not sonship instead of adoption). Continue reading

Instructions To Teachers

In June, I’ll be giving my first seminar at a church-sponsored young adult retreat. The last time I spoke in front of an audience was in a college class five years ago, so I’m a bit nervous. On top of that, teaching the Lord’s people is a serious responsibility. But it’s also one I’m grateful to have an opportunity for here on this blog and soon in-person as well.

While the Bible does talk about female prophets, it’s a bit fuzzy on the subject of women teaching. On the one hand, we have examples of prophetesses advising and instructing and women like Priscilla going out and teaching God’s truth. On the other, we have Paul’s admonitions for women to keep silent in the churches. So if I am going to teach in writing or speech, I want to be particularly careful I go about it in the way God intends.

The New Testament contains several instructions, as well as warnings, for teachers. Many are aimed at people in ministry, but I think in most cases we can apply them to anyone teaching God’s way of life. And to a certain extent, that includes every one of us in the church. Even if we’re not a “teacher,” we’re still serving as examples of God’s way and have a responsibility to faithfully represent Him to others.Instructions To Teachers | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Teach Only Truth

The bulk of the instructions to teachers concerns what they teach. They’re given the responsibility to faithfully share God’s words without straying from His truth. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that their worship was “in vain” because they taught human traditions instead of sound doctrine (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7). That’s a trap we mustn’t fall into.

Jesus’ parting command to His disciples, which we now call the Great Commission, tells them to teach the nations “to observe all things that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20, WEB). The early disciples followed that command by teaching in Jesus’ name the same things He taught (Acts 4:18; 5:42; 15:35; 28:31).

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he spends quite a bit of time warning him not to get distracted from sound doctrine. There will be people people who teach other doctrines, who get distracted from God’s message, who pollute Christ’s teachings with their own ideas. But that’s not what a teacher of God does. They stick to the scriptures, use the law lawfully, and faithfully practice righteousness (1 Tim. 1:3-11; 4:1-12; 6:3-6). Continue reading

Music of the Spirit

Every once in a while, I’ll get into a discussion with someone about what sort of music is and is not appropriate as part of a church service. One of the groups I regularly attend with plays contemporary Christian and Messianic music, the other only sings songs out of their custom hymnal. And there’s quite a bit of variety in other groups as well, from a capella psalm singing to rocking worship bands.

I’m not going to say any of these musical traditions is “wrong” or “more right,” but I did notice something interesting about music when I was studying prophecy last week. One criticism that I’ve heard hymn singers level against those who sing more up-beat songs is that it’s too focused on emotion. You can’t “welcome the spirit of God” through music, they say. The music should be respectful and instructive. Worship’s not about making you feel God’s presence. Or is it?

Musical Prophecy

Early in Elisha’s ministry as a prophet, three kings came to ask him a question. They were planning to attack Moab, but ran out of water and wondered if their venture was doomed. King Jehoshaphat of Judah suggested inquiring of a prophet of the Lord. Once Elisha agreed to help, he makes what might seem like an odd request.

But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Kings 3:15, KJV)

Continue reading

The Gift of Prophecy

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses a variety of spiritual gifts. But there’s one in particular that he specifically tells them to “earnestly desire.” That gift is prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1, 39, WEB).

A basic definition for this word is to “speak forth by divine inspiration” (Thayer, G4395). Usually when we think of people prophesying, we think about the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. We think of men God used to foretell future events, confront sinful Israel, and write books of the Bible. We probably don’t think about prophets in the modern age.Why did Paul tell the New Covenant church that they should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

And yet, Paul wrote that the New Covenant church should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy. He said you should want it and if God gives it to you you should use it. But how do we recognize a gift of prophecy (in ourselves or others), and how should it be used? Continue reading

All Your Heart, Mind, and Soul: ENFP Christians

This is the second post in a series talking with Christians of different personality types. When you start discussing faith with different personality types, you notice not all the personalities feel equally valued and understood in Christian churches. If Christianity is a faith meant for all people why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types?

Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of ENFP Christians.

ENFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comIdentifying With The Bible

While some ENFPs have a favorite Bible character, others couldn’t pick just one. Charity said, “I don’t really ‘identify’ with any of them, since we’re different people who have had different experiences, but my inner feminist always liked Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, and Jesus telling Martha that she was where she should be (instead of preparing food in the kitchen!).” Dorien said he couldn’t choose just one and identified more with some during different seasons, “But I love the characters who experience the Love of God very deep: The woman trapped in idolatry. John – with his intimate relationship with Jesus. David – which name means The Beloved and was still chosen, even when He made mistakes.”

Personally, I’ve always found Peter very relatable and wonder if he might have been an ExFP type. I was glad to see two ENFPs list him as one of the characters they relate. Rielle elaborated on Peter the most, saying, “I can relate to him often not thinking (or seeming like it at least) before he speaks.” She also likes the way he “gets so involved in everything and is just so interested in what Jesus says.”

Other characters mentioned included Moses (because he did so much for the people and they still betrayed him by worshiping idols), John (because he writes in metaphor), Joseph (for his clever tricks and forgiving nature), David (because he was impulsive in action like Peter), the other psalmists (who, as Dani wrote, “are not afraid to enter those dark places of despair, grief, and shame”), and, more humorously, Noah who an anonymous ENFP said they liked because after the flood “He landed in what is now northern Italy and started a vineyard, THAT I can relate to highly!”

Finding Their Niche

I’ve been asking people of every type whether they have gifts or talents that are particularly encouraged or discouraged in the church and so far, ENFPs have given me the most varied answers. One said none of of their gifts or talents are appreciated. Others could point to specific gifts that the church supports, including Dorien (who currently serves as a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa).

ENFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comTwo ENFPs wanted to talk about how we define the church before answering the question. Charity wrote, “I consider ‘the Church’ to be the collective Body of Christ, which is the Believers on the whole; so simply by being alive, and pursuing that which interests me and glorifies God, I’m participating in the Church on a daily basis.” My anonymous respondent said, “The Church is used I think WAY to much for ‘Look at me’ ‘Look at what I can do’ mentality. Our gifts are to be harnessed in our own lives and if it is needed at a certain time in the Church community then God will present the opportunity and how ones strength can help someone and how we can learn to be humble more.”

Specific gifts that ENFPs mentioned include connecting the dots to arrive at unique insights, ministering to people who are “different,” evangelism, the gift of mercy, hospitality, lifting people up in prayer, working with children, and teaching. They seem to gravitate towards interpersonal gifts and think outside traditional “church boxes” to find ways to serve.

Two ENFPs mentioned that their artistic gifts are not appreciated in the church, but neither seemed upset by that. Charity wrote that she sometimes feels “‘stifled’ by what is ‘expected’ from a Christian novelist,” but doesn’t let that hold her back. Anonymous said she knows her gifts for art and design aren’t really supported by the church, but doesn’t see that as an issue because “that is not the focus we need now in the Church.”

Interacting With Others

Though intensely people-oriented, ENFPs aren’t always social in the  way your average Christian church group expects. Most seem to ascribe this to their questioning nature. They’re not the type of people willing to just accept something because “that’s how it’s always been done.” And in Christian churches, asking questions is often seen as a rejection of sound doctrine or a threat to authority. Charity mentioned that although she might seem like “your average Christian woman,” she “can’t seem to help questioning EVERYTHING.” Rielle said, “I can see many sides to something, and then get very attached to them” only to be told her views “aren’t exactly in line with how most people interpret the Bible.” She also mentioned that on controversial topics, “I’ll actually contradict myself for hours.” Like many intuitive types, ENFPs want the freedom to discuss different sides to important questions and get a back-and-forth idea exchange.

When asked, “Are there expectations from other Christians that you have a hard time meeting because of how your mind naturally works?” responses ranged from “That depends” to “Oh, yes.” Dani said, “I have definitely seen how Christians can be more judgmental or misunderstanding about my seemingly contradictory personality. … People presume I am shallow, flirtatious, an attention-seeker, and flighty. And I always feel like I have to go the extra mile to prove that my convictions are real, deep, and near and dear to me. I love to be fun-loving, I love small talk, but I also know how to take seriously what really matters and I enjoy deep, meaningful, intellectual conversations maybe more than the superficial small talk.”

ENFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is an unfair, but common, representation of an ENFP personality type that they can’t be taken seriously. One friend told me that people he’s known for years are still surprised by his commitment to living out his faith even if they’ve had conversations about it several times before. That response can come from people outside the church, but it also happens inside the church. Especially if you’re not fitting in with gender stereotypes. Anonymous writes, “I am always loud and outgoing looking for adventure and always know a lot of people. I remember also being told I was too loud for a woman and I knew too many guys (when really the guys had more adventures and had less drama following them).” Charity touched on this as well when she said, “I’m not the person who will show up on your porch with a casserole when you’ve lost someone and hold your hand and cry with you; I’m the person who will sneak over the back fence a few days later with a “cheer up box” full of stuff, and will want to just be with you.”

Another thing several ENFPs mentioned was that they’re drawn to people the church as a whole would often rather not deal with. Dorian moved from Holland to South Africa as a missionary and now walks “with girls who are on their way to their drugsdealer. Or I sit with the sexual broken. Or in prison.” One of my ENFP friends has talked with me about having quite a few friends who are gay, lesbian, Wiccan, or atheist. Anonymous went into more detail, saying,

“I have many friends who are Buddhists, Gay, Bi, Atheists, you name it, and I learned so much MORE Christian behavior than I learned in the Church as well have been more openly supported by. As they have a gift that we as Christians of today fall short of….open mindedness. They don’t care of ones past or anything that are issues in the Church, if you are true to friends and yourself that is all that is needed. I have an example for those that might read this and argue my point but one of my friends boyfriend at the time were sitting together and I was texting her (we where having an argument) and he looked to me (he was an Atheist at the time now Buddhist) and said ‘I thought you where Christian, are you not supposed to be peacekeepers, why are you continuing this?’ He didn’t say it in a mean or egotistical way but rather supportive. It hit me hard as he was right…what was I doing? And this moment solidified as well for the people that shut me out or other people in the Church for being too Worldly…and banning all relationships with people out of the Church. How are they perceived? If we are to help and teach these people in the world tomorrow…they are going to remember those ‘Christians’ and how they treated them and ask them ‘I thought you are a Christian?’ And it hurts as the more people go about this train of thought the more they have to go through that moment in the worst of time possible.”

Connecting With ENFPs

Though it’s hard to generalize what sort of teaching style works best for people within a personality type, there were a few commonalities I noticed among the ENFPs who shared their perspectives with me. They want to go deeper, they want to be challenged, and they don’t want their faith confined to a church service.

Charity wrote, “the most powerful spiritual moments I’ve had, or the things that hit me most, weren’t said in church on a Sunday morning, but bled from a writer or filmmaker’s pen and slapped me across the face with sheer truth, beauty, or holiness. (And some of those writers weren’t even Christians.).” Also stepping outside the box, Dorien writes, “I am more into being, than into doing. My times with Jesus are being. I am not working by having beautiful prayers or that I have to read a chapter from the bible. I just be. That is not always appreciated. I feel from religion I have ‘to do more’.”

Several ENFPs mentioned they enjoy interactive groups. Dorien, Rielle, and Anonymous all said they would like the chance to talk about the Bible and learn from more than one person. The only concern one had was that “with so many people pushing their one and only views it might turn more into a debate now a days rather then an open minded discussion.” It’s very important to ENFPs that what’s being said, either in groups or from the pulpit, is rooted in scripture. They don’t mind discussing alternative interpretations of the Bible, but they don’t want people pushing something on them that’s not a sound Biblical teaching.

ENFPs don’t fit the stereotype that Feeling personalities aren’t intellectual. In fact, Dani wrote, “I actually prefer more intellectual preaching styles. Expository exegesis is probably my favorite format of preaching, the sermons that preach directly from the Bible and expound on the context, meaning, and application of a specific passage, chapter, or book of the Bible.” She’s not alone. Anonymous has been enjoying a book/study series by a minister that “goes paragraph by paragraph and explains in minute detail of all the chapters in the Bible.” Holly prefers preachers who present “Well researched information that is fundamentally rooted in human relationships.”

Another thing ENFPs are seeking is connections within the Bible and between their own lives and scripture. Dani said, “I am a big-idea thinker and I love to see connections between pretty much everything.” Rielle adds, “I love drawing links between things, and I love stepping back to look at the big picture of the Bible.” Dorien asks teachers to “Go a little deeper! Deep a topic out. Make it personal: what does it mean for you as preacher? Where can I connect with you?  … And maybe: listen to me and people like me.”

If you’re trying to reach ENFPs in your congregation or outside, it’s vital to focus on faithful preaching in a way that engages both intellect and emotion. And for ENFPs to feel safe and thoroughly welcomed in a group, we need to give them a chance to share their ideas without condemnation. Intuitive types are always asking “What if?” questions, which some churches see as threatening. Before assuming an ENFP is veering off into heresy, approach their questions and thoughts as discussion starters and see where the conversation goes.

“The church could probably connect with me better by allowing me to fully express my thoughts without thinking I’m being judged (although that’s mostly on me, articulating things in a confusing way and always wanting to please people and take things personally). Also I wish we had more time to just talk about anything and everything, and I wish I could connect with more people. Also, I think the church should cater for every type too, especially intuitive types as I think it is fairly sj-dominated as a whole, and np’s and others exist as well and everyone as desperately needs God as anyone else. Maybe bible study groups by type every now and then? That could be interesting.” – Rielle

Biggest Challenges

There weren’t many strong commonalities between how ENFPs responded to the question, “What’s one of the biggest challenges you face as a Christian?” However, it does seem that many struggle with how other people both inside and outside the church see them and respond to their faith.

Charity told me that her biggest challenge is “Not being ashamed. To be honest, Christianity on the whole has a lot to be ashamed about, over centuries of misbehavior. I’ve read enough history to flinch thinking about it. … I often don’t want to call myself Christian, because to a lot of people, that brings a preconception to mind that isn’t me, that I don’t want to be me, that I hate. So yes, I am, but no, I’m not. I hate that I feel intimidated and tempted to hide.”

Inside the church, ENFPs struggle with judgement from other people and with trying to connect in meaningful relationships. Dorien find that “few people can really listen, so many go so quickly in their safe box and want to preach truth and are afraid for heart issues/feelings.” As “a liberal divorcee” and “single mother of 4,” one of Holly’s biggest challenging is being herself and showing other Christians that she “is nice and doesn’t want to judge them.” Anonymous shared that they have trouble finding true relationships because their church is so scattered.

For Rielle and Dani, two big challenges are focusing on God without distraction and not falling into the trap of people-pleasing. Rielle writes, “The biggest challenge I face as a Christian is probably focusing on God and God alone.” Dani says she’s often overly optimistic about how much time she’ll have in a day and that saying “no” to requests for help is difficult, “so finding space in life to cultivate my own spiritual well-being can be a big challenge.” She goes on to say, “I am a people-pleaser, so it is also a challenge for me to not constantly try and conform to the ideals of what everyone else thinks a good Christian should look like. I have to remember to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ, to be transformed by His truth and not conform to the opinions and standards of others.” ENFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Though ENFP Christians face challenges in their walks of faith, as we all do, they are intensely passionate about the things they care about. This is why I chose “All Your Heart, Mind, and Soul” as the title for this post.When Christianity is one of the things closest to their hearts, ENFPs can be fantastic models for enthusiastically living out Jesus’ commands, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

Reason For Your Faith

When I wrote my post about INFJ Christians, I decided not to try and fit the answers to “Why are you a Christian?” into a few neat paragraphs. Rather, I quoted from each of the people who’d responded to my post. That’s what I’m going to do here as well. Most of the ENFPs I spoke with focused on their faith being real at a personal soul-level, but I’ll let them tell you about that in their own words:

I know in my soul the things my mind denies. I’m in a constant flux between soul-knowing, and mind-doubting. I believe in God, I don’t think things happened by chance, and I believe Jesus’ teachings are worth following — so that makes me, by definition, a Christian.” – Charity

“I have to admit I left the Church for awhile … A year went on and events happened in my life that the ONLY person that could give me strength and guide me through was God, and it accrued that it is NOT the people and not being part of congregations that are important but your strength in God and the relationship you have with him. … That is why I am a Christian. That is why I know he is God. I only follow HIM, not a congregation not man preaching away. Only God.” — Anonymous [edited to keep specific events private]

“The gospel was made VERY personal for me. (also a long story what I wouldn’t share too open in the church.) By experience I know Jesus came to my level in my sin to bring me to his level. I love Jesus intense and I am sure in His love for me and see Him working powerful. What He did in my life is a big testimony! (what I am slowly processing to put in words…)” — Dorien

“Hebrews 11:1-3 summarizes well why I believe what I believe, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” The entirety of Hebrews 11 explains the heritage of faith from the beginning of time and why I have such a strong assurance in what I believe and why I believe it.
Ultimately it comes down to the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit in my life. I did not come to an understanding of the truth through any wisdom of my own, but by the grace of God and His providence and faithfulness in my life. I can look back on so many instances in my life where God was planting seeds, working in my heart – through my family, my church, and in my circumstances – to bring me to Him.” — Dani

“I’m a Christian because God wanted a relationship with me, and he went to some pretty extreme extents to get it. And honestly, personally knowing the one who is in charge of everything is just amazing! He weaves everything together so perfectly and it’s like I’m a character in a story who can talk to and trust the author, knowing they’re doing a much better job than I ever could.” — Rielle

“Things I’ve seen in life like unexplained miracles, the feelings of comfort I’ve inexplicably received within my body, and the person of Jesus regarding the model of self-sacrifice get that he was.” — Holly


Your turn! If you want to share your Christian ENFP story or talk about ENFPs in the churches, comment here! And if you’re a different personality type looking to contribute an upcoming blog post in this series contact me or head over to the original post. I’d love to feature you!Send Me Your Stories: Christianity and MBTI Types | marissabaker.wordpress.com

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Fasting

Fasting is one of the things Christians are supposed to do. And it’s something I’ve never done except on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when it’s strictly commanded. I’ve never even studied it because I didn’t want to be convicted on the subject (a rather embarrassing admission, but an honest one). But faithful followers of God fasted in the past, it’s counted right alongside prayer as a way of drawing nearer to God, and I suspect I should take it more seriously.

One of the churches I attend with recently called a church-wide fast, which had me thinking on the subject again. In this church, it’s generally accepted that “fast” means abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours (unless you have a medical reason you can’t do a full fast). In my Messianic group, though, I’ve heard people talking about different kinds of fasts using phrases like “full fast” and “Daniel fasts.” Having avoided studying the subject in the past, I had no ready answers for the questions this brought to mind about whether or not there really are different types of fasts and what sort of fasting God expects. Hence, this Bible study.Fasting: exploring the what, why, and how of the Christian fast | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Types of Fasting

The Hebrew words for “fast” are tsum (H6684) and its derivative tsome (H6655). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines it as “depriving the body of nourishment.” In Greek, the basic word for “fast” comes from a compound of ne (not) and estho (to eat). Spiros Zodhiates says nestis (G3523) means “not having eaten” and its derivatives nesteuo (G3522) and nesteia (G3521) mean “to fast or abstain from eating.”

There are three main types of fasting that Christian groups as a whole typically recognize. They all involve not eating food for a set period of time. Some churches/writers also add a fourth kind of fast for abstaining from certain activities (such as watching TV or having sex, which they get from 1 Cor. 7:3-5).

  • A “full,” “absolute,” or “dry” fast means no food or drink.
  • A “normal,” “regular,”  or “liquid” fast means no food, but you can drink water or sometimes juice (some incorrectly refer to this as a “full fast”).
  • A “partial” or “Daniel” fast involves abstaining from a specific meal or certain types of food.

These are also the types of fasts that secular resources discuss when they talk about fasting for health reasons. But does the Bible support these distinctions in fast types? Continue reading