In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91

Last week we talked about claiming promises from God. But we didn’t talk about the verses that got me started on that study. Psalm 91 is packed full of promises that are clearly meant to include the reader. There isn’t even a writer credited, so there’s no clear historical context, and the psalm is addressed to all who make the Lord their God. There’s nothing to distract from the fact that this psalm was written for everyone who’s in a relationship with God, including you as a Christian today.In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91 | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming Relationship With God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2, WEB)

The psalm begins with a promise to those who remain, inhabit, and abide (H3427, yashab) in the hiding place or shelter (H5643 sether) of the Most High God. They will “stay permanently” (Strong’s H3885 lun) in the shadowing protection (H6738 tsel) of El Shaddai.

Because of that promise, we get the only “I” statement from this psalm’s writer. They claim the Lord as “my God” and say they will have confidence in Him (H982 baach). And they demonstrate that trust by making Him their refuge, shelter (H4268 machaseh) and defensive stronghold (H4684 matsud). That’s something we can do as well.

Stripping Fear of Power

This psalm contains truly incredible promises of protection in the midst of trials. We’d probably prefer it if God’s protection meant we didn’t have to go through trials. But to be delivered “from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” there must be someone trying to trap you or a pestilence threatening your life (Ps. 91:3, WEB). And if “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,” then you must be in a location where people are perishing right and left (Ps. 91:7, KJV). Continue reading

Claiming God’s Promises

Not every single word in the Bible applies directly to each person reading it. It’s all inspired by God and we can learn from it, of course, but not everything applies to everyone directly. For example, some cleanliness laws in the Old Testament were gender specific and some prophecies were delivered to a specific person or group (like the dream warning Nebuchadnezzar he would become like an animal for 7 years).

But we can take this observation too far. We might make the mistake of thinking that because warnings to follow God alone were delivered to ancient Israel they don’t apply to us today. Yet the New Testament confirms we still need to make a choice between darkness and light (Deut. 30:15-20; 1 John 1:5-2:6). This type of thinking can also block us from accepting encouraging promises as well.

Have you ever read one of God’s promises and thought, “That sounds wonderful, but it can’t really apply to me?” I’m sure many of us have. For me personally, I struggle with believing God will answer my prayers the way He promises too (mostly I feel like my prayers for other people aren’t effective). But does that mean God’s promise to hear when we call doesn’t apply to me? Of course not. And I’ve even seen some examples of His direct responses to my prayers. My doubts and anxieties don’t cancel His promises. But they can block me from recognizing or accepting His work with, in, and for me.Claiming God's Promises | marissabaker.wordpress.com

God’s Presence In You

The Holy Spirit is one thing God promises to new believers. Jesus told His disciples the Father would give them the Holy Spirit after He left and we see that promise fulfilled quite spectacularly in Acts 2. As the narrative continues, a pattern emerges where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they covenant with God at baptism. And it’s made clear that this promise isn’t just for the people of that time. Continue reading

Letting God Define You

How do you define yourself? We all finish our “I am __” statements in different ways. We can go with something fairly basic, such as “I am a writer/sister/Christian.” That’s often how we introduce ourselves to people. But there are also less flattering “I am” statements that we tell ourselves. “I am anxious; I am too fat/skinny/unhealthy; I am a sinner not good enough for God.” Or sometimes we go with more positive self-affirmations: “I am a good friend; I am confident in using my gifts; I am a redeemed and forgiven child of God.”

How does God define you? Scripture reminds us in several passages that our “I am” is not as reliable as God’s “you are” (see 1 Sam. 16:7, Is. 55:8-9 and Jer. 17:9-10). He knows us better than we know ourselves and He can give us insight into His perspective. If we ask, He’ll reveal things about ourselves to us directly as well as through His word.

Some of the “you are” statements God makes about people are critical, such as when He describes all humans as sinner under a death penalty or rebukes Israel for their rebellion (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Is. 1:18-25). But while part of God’s perspective on us involves seeing our faults, that’s not all He sees. For those in relationship with Him, His “you are” statements are overwhelmingly positive. There’s certainly a place for acknowledging our sins, abhorring ourselves, and repenting as Job did (Job 42:5-6). But we’re not to stay downcast. God wants us to have a realistic view of ourselves, and He values us far too highly for this view to not involve some incredibly positive things.Letting God Define You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

You Are Of Value

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7, WEB)

Our God cares even when a sparrow dies. But we’re not just another animal crawling around the earth that gets a moment of attention from Him. We’re valued highly — so highly that the Father and Son think you’re worth the price of Jesus’ life. And They thought that even before you were saved (Rom. 5:6-8). Continue reading

That Which Every Joint Supplies: INFP Christians

This is my third post in a series about Christians of different Myers-Briggs types. When you start talking with people in the churches, it quickly becomes clear that while we share a common faith there is quite a variety among us as well. Some of that has to do with background, some with the denomination we’re part (or not part) of, and some with personality. And if we want our churches to be a welcoming place for all people who seek to know Jesus, it’s a good idea for us to understand how different personality types relate to their faith.

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 INFP Christians.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I heard from five INFPs who responded to most of the questions I asked. In general, INFPs are private people and I’m not surprised that the response rate was lower than what I saw for the INFJ post and the ENFP post I wrote earlier. One INFP who I talked with in-person said she wouldn’t feel comfortable submitting even an anonymous response. Still, I hope any INFP Christians reading this post will feel safe commenting and adding their thoughts to the conversation. I’d love to hear from more of you!

Bible Favorites

The first question I asked people was which Bible stories and characters they identified with most. There was very little overlap in specific characters INFPs chose as their favorites, though several of the chosen characters were prophets.

  • Patricia identifies most “with Jesus’ disciples Paul and John in the New Testament because they show both the values-driven determination and authenticity of my INFP personality.”
  • Boniface writes, “I suppose Isaiah, or Mary? perhaps Luke.”
  • Heather says, “I gravitate to Isaiah, Elijah and David because their styles resonate with some aspect of me. I find their deep convictions, poetry and symbolism moving and very applicable. I have always identified with the story of the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair.”
  • Dara chose a rather unexpected character: “As weird as it sounds, the character I totally relate to the most is Gomer in the book of Hosea. She never realized what she had, messed it up multiple times, and still received unconditional love.”
  • Brian writes, “I love Enoch and Elijah because I am always baffled by the fact that they were taken up and allowing them to avoid death. I always ask myself. What did they do that God just wanted them. I know we an read more on Elijah than Enoch but these two are very interesting to me. I can’t say I really have a favorite. I find interest in a few that aren’t really talked about. Lazarus being one of them. How deep was his relationship with Jesus. Jeremiah. How did he endure all those years telling Israel to turn from their ways.
    I think though. From very little. The prophets have grabbed my attention the most.”

Brian is also the first person I’ve heard from who had an easier time picking out favorite books than favorite characters. He writes, “My all time favorite books for sure are Proverbs and Revelations. Definitely the wisdom books and the books of prophecy. But those two are my favorite. Proverbs cause I can just find so much to apply to my life to grow inside as a person, mentally, spiritually, intellectually. … Revelations for its lively metaphorical (or real) descriptions of whats to come, celestial, and spiritual beings. It paints such wonderful pictures for me that really differ from reality (our reality) and it fascinates me. My friends are personally scared of this book in particular and I can see why but its such a mysterious frighting window that I love to peak through.”

Gifts and Talents

On the whole, INFPs don’t seem quite as worried about finding their particular niche in the church as other types I’ve talked with do. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that Introverted Feeling is their “driver” process. Also called “Authenticity,” this mental process is more concerned with staying true to one’s own convictions than meeting outside expectations. Perhaps if INFPs believe they understand how they best fit into Christ’s body they don’t feel so much pressure to discover how others think they’re “supposed” to fit in.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comHeather writes, “No, I do not feel under appreciated. I feel that I am needed in the body in the same way that my neighbor is.” She also talked about each of us having “different functions” in the body and didn’t seem worried that her particular gifts would be overlooked. Similarly, Boniface, a Benedictine monk, wrote that he didn’t really feel like he was missing opportunities to use his gifts and talents because “God finds a way.”

Dara and Brian both talked about using creative talents in their churches. Dara sings and Brian is an artist. Brian’s main frustration in the area of gifts and talents is feeling that “the arts and creativity isn’t very, not accepted but looked at as an essential gift in my church.” He wishes more people would realize that all the arts require “a lot of thought, set up, and practice.”

Patricia and Boniface both mentioned teaching and prayer as talents they have an opportunity to use in the church. And though Patricia is reluctant “to get involved in the planning or carrying out of church activities because of past negative experiences with church politics,” she feels that being an introvert and an intuitive “helps with evangelism. I feel like I can predict how a non-believer would respond to God, and how God would move in his or her life if given the chance.”

Connecting With The Church

Two INFPs mentioned that the expectation to be “outgoing and socially active” is draining for introverts. But by and large, the INFPs I talked with didn’t have complains about the church not being a good fit for them. In fact, Heather wrote, “I think the church, is about being members of the body each intentionally having different functions. …  I don’t think the church needs to conform to my personality preferences.” This is a common theme among INFPs. They don’t feel that it’s the church’s responsibility to “make room” for them. That’s why I chose Ephesians 4:16 as the title scripture for this post. INFPs truly believe that the church needs every member and they seek to find their authentic role as one member of Christ’s body.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhen asked how the church could better connect with someone like you when preaching the gospel, Boniface wrote, “Not sure. I think it does a pretty good job already.” Patricia elaborated, saying, “I don’t think that the church needs to make an effort to connect with me, but that is my personal responsibility as a Christian to make an effort to connect with the church, imperfect and diverse as it is.” Wow. If more of us had that attitude, I doubt we’d have so many people feeling alone in their churches.

As for connecting with non-believers, Patricia writes, “I think that this is the strength of having diverse church members who can, in their own way, share God’s love with others.” I’ll whole-heartedly second that opinion. It’s one of the reasons I started this series — to help draw attention to how good it can be to have a personality-diverse church where everyone’s unique gifts are appreciated.

Giving INFPs Space

Just because INFPs feel it’s their responsibility to connect with the church doesn’t mean the church shouldn’t also work on making itself a welcoming place for INFPs. God has created great variety in people and encourages a diversity of gifts and talents in the church, so we should as well.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comLike most introverts, INFPs feel most comfortable at churches that give them space for reflection and time to learn on their own. Patricia and Brian both mentioned that they learn about God’s word best when they’re reading alone. When they do come together with other believers, INFPs tend to prefer quiet settings. Two INFPs who wrote to me talked about enjoying quiet prayer time and the music service best. Another said he would prefer to have “more strict rules on the respect the house of the Lord needs. No phones, and no talking.”

Boniface specifically mentioned that “aggressive, in-your-face preaching” is not a good way to reach INFPs. Brian also said, “I love a preacher that isn’t screaming the word into my ears,” but added “I think as long as the preacher is anointed by the spirit, the spirit will call my spirit.” INFPs tend to have preferences for a certain type of church service, but they’re also open to learning from any teacher who seems to be sincerely following God.

Fighting For The Faith

Everyone who’s a Christian faces challenges as they try to follow Jesus. Only four INFPs responded to this question so I hesitate to make any broad generalizations for the whole personality type. However, three of those four mentioned some kind of disconnect from God as a struggle (the fourth mentioned socialization with people in their age group, a fairly common challenge for introverts like us).

Boniface writes that “being faithful” is his biggest challenge as a Christian. Patricia says, “When I go through bouts of depression in response to stress in my life, I lose sight of who God is (God’s continual provision for me, and the hope that He gives me simply from being present). I do not become angry at Him, or unaware of His presence, but I become distracted and confused in my own negative feelings.” And Brian mentioned that he deeply identifies with Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:15-20.

Brian also added another challenge, saying he has difficulty spontaneously talking with someone about the gospel. He writes, “I would love to tell everyone but don’t want to seem like I’m forcing anything down. I respect people and their current beliefs, but I feel like the times we are in today don’t allow for much growing in what is correct. It’s more of a ‘live, and let live’ sort of moto for the world now and no one really wants to be told they’re wrong.” That’s something I’ve struggled with, too — finding the confidence to stand up for your belief in God’s truth in a way that connects with people rather than driving them away.INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Why They’re Christian

For all the posts in this series, I’m not going to try and fit the answers to “Why are you a Christian?” into a few neat paragraphs. Rather, I’m quoting from each of the people who responded to my original post so they can tell you about their faith in their own words:

  • Patricia: I think that there are many factors affecting my growth as a Christian (supportive parents, Christian friends, living in a country with freedom of religious expression), but as for why I am one in the first place – it is hard for me to say. I can relive the events almost a decade ago that lead to me praying for God to be a part of my life, and the resolve I felt afterwards to commit myself to him, but that circumstance then was not the reason why I am a Christian today (in a similar way in which simply being born into a culturally Christian family does not make an individual child a Christian). A Christian is someone who has the Holy Spirit living inside of them and working in their lives. I know that I am one (perhaps intuitively), and maybe a sensor or thinker could point how it plays out in my life tangibly, but I don’t pay attention to that. I just trust in God’s sovereignty, and carry on with my life, with hope that He knows best for me, and thankfulness that He is a part of my life.INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com
  • Dara: Science. Everything points to creation, despite what the world says. Furthermore, I’ve met God, and he’s met me in my darkest moments.
  • Brian: I was just listening to a teaching on this today actually. I agreed with all of it. I cannot NOT believe after what I have been taught and read myself. After questioning and doubting God and God revealing himself to me in many ways. I love him because he first chose me, and if he first chose me then what “choice” do I have against that.
    Simply, I believe, because he has called me to believe.
  • Boniface: History of the Church and its survival and growth in every century. Despite every human weakness and sin. My own experience of encountering good Christians, and through them coming to know the Lord.

Your turn! If you want to share your Christian INFP story or talk about INFPs 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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Knowing The Truth and Loving The Truth

In John 8:32, Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (WEB). Truth from God is a powerful thing. And it’s something God wants to share with everyone, because He “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, WEB). Knowing God’s truth is connected with the salvation offered in Jesus Christ and is a key component of the Christian faith.

according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (Tit. 1:1-2, KJV)

But head knowledge isn’t enough. It’s absolutely essential that you study and know about the One you believe in, but knowledge doesn’t get you into the kingdom. Paul says you could even “understand all mysteries, and all knowledge” but without love it would mean nothing (1 Cor. 13:2, KJV). We’re meant to go beyond knowing about God’s truth to doing something with that knowledge. If you don’t care about the truth enough to put it into action, then it’s not making the difference in your life that God intends.Knowing The Truth and Loving The Truth | marissabaker.wordpress.com

We Lose What We Don’t Love

Paul writes in second Thessalonians about a wicked one “whose coming is after the working of Satan” (2:9, KJV). He warns this one will come

with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes. 2:10-12, KJV)

Paul doesn’t say these people didn’t know the truth. They weren’t ignorant about God’s message. But they did not believe the truth and they did not love it. Matthew Henry writes, “They could not bear sound doctrine and therefore easily imbibed false doctrines … Had they loved the truth, they would have persevered in it and been preserved by it; but no wonder if they easily parted with what they never had any love to (commentary on 2 Thes. 2:4-12, point #5). Continue reading

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