Be The “Anyone”

There are 3,310 pairs of socks in the men’s homeless shelter.

This past weekend, I attended a young adult service and enrichment weekend. After a Friday evening and Saturday of discussion questions, seminars, Shabbat services, and good fellowship we spent Sunday on a service project. Nearly 100 of us descended on a homeless shelter to help tackle some of their needs, including wall painting, deep cleaning, window washing, and sorting the donations room.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what my gifts are and how to use them effectively. That interest in personal growth and development is, in part, why this blog exists. But somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), this weekend’s focus on filling your role in the body of Christ barely touched on spiritual gifts and individual talents. Rather, the take-away was finding your identity as a servant of Christ and then following His example no matter what.

Photo: “Helping Hands” by Valerie Everett, CC BY-SA via Flickr

While I’m a staunch advocate for finding, developing, and using your gifts (that’s why you have them, after all), it doesn’t really take any particular gift to count socks. Perhaps someone with a gift for math could have worked more quickly, or a person with a gift for organization sorted them more efficiently. But really the only thing absolutely essential was showing up and doing the work.

In focusing on where we fit best, perhaps we sometimes close ourselves off to areas where anyone could serve. Maybe we think, “Anyone could do that, so I’ll focus on what I do best.” But that doesn’t mean “anyone” will actually step-up and do it.

During your quest to find the best way to use your gifts, don’t overlook the importance of being the “anyone” who will step in and fill needs. Move from theory to practice. Whether it’s in your family, your church, or your community, let’s look for opportunities to help and then actually take them.

Crash Course In Romans

We’re going to talk about all of Romans in one blog post. That looks like a crazy idea as I type it, but I think sometimes when we zero-in on just one section of Paul’s letters we miss the bigger picture of what he’s trying to say. Perhaps there’s merit in studying overall messages as well as minute details.

Romans is a confusing letter, especially when you read pieces out of context. To really get a sense of what Paul is trying to say in any given chapter or verse, we have to read the entire letter. That’s true of any book in the Bible, but I think it’s more true for Romans since Paul connects his arguments so closely. Especially in the first half of the letter, he frequently makes a statement that could lead readers to make an incorrect assumption, then he asks that assumption as a rhetorical question and refutes it.click to read article, "Crash Course In Romans" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Also, even though we’ll stay mostly in Romans, it’s important to remember Paul wasn’t writing in a void. Reading Romans (or any other book of the Bible) by itself can lead to misinterpretation. We must frame our understanding of this letter in light of the Old Testament (the only scriptures around for Paul to reference) and the teachings of Jesus (for Paul would never contradict our Lord’s words). Doing that well would take a book instead of a blog post, but last week’s post serves as an good introduction to this one.

Doing The Law

Romans opens with a discussion of “ungodliness and unrighteousness” which brings people under the judgment of God (Rom. 1:16-32). Paul then takes his readers to task not, as some assume, for keeping the Law but rather for teaching it and then acting in a way that dishonors God (Rom. 2:1-29).

After saying, “not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified,” Paul shifts to explaining that even if you do keep the Law you’re still “under sin” because we’re not perfect. He also says it is righteous with God to judge the world, which is guilty before Him because the Law gives knowledge of sin and cannot justify us in God’s sight (Rom. 3:1-20).

Continue reading

Perseverance In Spiritual Growth

Hebrews 11 shows that it’s possible to live a life of faith by reminding us of people who’ve done just that. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Rahab, and scores of people there’s no time to name all walked by faith. They compass us about as a great “cloud of witnesses” inspiring us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).

I didn’t realize until attending church last Shabbat how well my post that week fit in with the season we find ourselves in now. We’re in the month leading up to God’s fall holy days. Traditionally, as the Rabbi in my Mesisanic group pointed out, this is a season of reflection, self-examination, and teshuva (repentance). We need a determination to pursue godliness if we’re to move forward in our walk with God. Along with that goes a perseverance to use our time on this earth wisely, as the minister in my afternoon church spoke on.

The gift of salvation is freely offered to those who take it. Accepting the gift bring us into a covenant relationship with God. One of the things we’re expected to do as “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jam. 2:5) is grow toward spiritual maturity.

Leaving Sin Behind

We’re not meant to stagnate nor to continue in sin after receiving God’s grace. After opening his letter to the Romans with a discussion on the wickedness of man, Paul shifts his focus from those who’ve rejected God to those readers who think they’re right with God but aren’t. Continue reading

Where Do We Go From Here?

We just wrapped up a series of posts on foundational doctrines of Christianity (click here to start from the beginning). In Hebrews 6, the writer lists “repentance from dead works,” “faith toward God,” “the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” as elementary principles of the doctrines of Christ.

Where Do We Go From Here? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The writer of Hebrews led-in to this list by telling his readers it was time to move forward, so it seems fitting that we now ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” First, though, let’s take a look at the warning that comes right after the list of doctrines. Continue reading

Turning Offense Into Something Useful

It seems like everyone is offended about something today. Wherever someone voices a decided opinion, there’s someone else reacting to it defensively. In an effort not to offend anyone, we’re turning into a society where we talk around issues rather than addressing them directly. We couch our opinions in careful language like, “From my own personal view …” and “I don’t want to force an opinion on you, it’s just my thoughts that …”.

Why are we so quick to see offense as a bad thing in today’s culture? If it’s just because we don’t like to be made uncomfortable, then we’re missing valuable opportunities for personal growth. Being offended offers a challenge to how we think. For people who are open to questioning, growth, and refinement, being challenged is a good thing. For people who just want to float through life without wondering “why?”, offense is scary.

Turning Offense Into Something Useful | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit for portrait: “Angy Face” by Ryan Hyde, CC BY-SA

The next time you feel offended, don’t look at it as a bad thing. See it as an opportunity for self-examination. It’s a chance to look inside yourself and find out why you’re having such a strong, defensive emotional reaction to what you just saw or heard. Ask yourself things like,

  • Is this important enough to be offended about?
    • If no, why am I so defensive?
    • If yes, how do I turn my offense into something more productive?
  • Am I offended by this because it makes me feel guilty about something I’m doing wrong? (plank in your own eye, speck in your brother’s …)
  • Does anyone else care that I care about this?
  • Would sharing my thoughts on this just stir up unproductive strife? (If yes, don’t do it!)
  • Is the thing I feel offended about something that’s hurting other people?
    • If yes, what can I do to stop it? (For example, being offended that human trafficking exists doesn’t help; you’d need to fight against it or support those who do.)
  • Is the idea/statement that offends me actually true, regardless of how I feel?

Offense is unproductive by itself, but when we feel offended we have a chance to transcend knee-jerk reactions and use it as a tool for self-examination, growth and motivation. We can look inside ourselves and see if our offended reaction points to something we need to change, and we can look outside ourselves for opportunities to actively make the world a better place.

Dancing the Night Away

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me and my sister

This post will be a bit random. I’m writing on Sunday, after a few hours sleep following a dance we got back from just before 3:00 in the morning. And that was after staying up past midnight the evening before talking about Myers-Briggs with someone who just learned he’s an INFJ. Dancing and typology being two of my favorite things, I’m happy. Add the fact that many of my good friends were at the dance, and I’m delighted.

On the topic to typing people, sometimes people online ask me, “How do you find out the personality types of so many people?” It’s really not all that difficult to bring up in conversation. When people ask what are your hobbies/interests or how you spend your time, I often bring up this blog and/or mention psychology. Then I just ask people if they’re taken a Myers-Briggs test. People love to talk about themselves, so it’s not usually all that hard from there. If they’re a good enough friend and haven’t taken the test yet, just point them to Personality Hacker. If you’re really ambitious, guess their personality once they have the result but before they tell you (the reaction is great if you’re right).

Taking this in a different direction, I think I’ve hit a personal growth milestone. My shyness/social anxiety really only showed up once last night. Once! And a week ago I raised my hand and said something in church (this is accepted/encouraged at my Messianic congregation, but I haven’t done anything like that in the 3 years since I graduated college and there wasn’t mandatory class participation). I think I’m actually starting to conquer a fear that’s been a part of me for so long. For INFJs, this sort of personal growth usually involves tapping into your secondary function, Extroverted Feeling, and I feel like I’m doing that with more consistency and confidence. The dance was a a great place to realize this, since it’s a setting which could have made me intensely uncomfortable a few years ago.

What about you? have you attended any events or had any experiences lately that highlighted some area where you’ve grown as a person?