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Archive for July, 2010

I was reading a parable to Fred, a 95 year old member of our congregation. I asked him if he understood what it was about. In his gentle farmer burr he said “It’s about knowing the Lord I should expect.”

Words to live by!

What do you expect when you open the Scriptures?

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Happy Friday

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Part of my ordination training involved doing the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Now I realise that this is not strictly mandated by the Pastoral Epistles, but on the other hand it was a good old giggle. (See mildly amusing prayers for the 16 personality types here.)

I came out quite strongly as ENFP which means I’m an inveterate procrastinator, big-picture, no-detail, scatter-brained, last-minute, wing it with a smile and talk my way out of it later kind of guy.  At this point all the ISTJs (the opposite to me on all four spectrums) are waking up to why my blog really bugs them.  (Myers-Briggs did actually help me understand something of my bible college experience – the majority of Anglican ministers I trained with were ISTJs).

But already you’re probably sensing what everyone should know about these ‘personality types.’  They’re not neutral.  They describe real patterns alright – and extremely hard-wired patterns too.  But a lot of what they describe are patterns of sin.  A good part of each of the 16 ‘personality types’ simply identify chosen, self-protective schemes that enable us to navigate a cursed world along paths of least resistance.  Whether we buy into the ‘loud’ or the ‘shy’ persona, the ‘organized’ or ‘shambolic’, we’re basically doing the same thing – finding a way to make life work apart from Christ.  By some combination of retreating from the thorns and sewing our fig leaves we hit upon a style of relating that minimizes pain and maximizes self.

Now we cluster together in different groups of sinners because there are natural contours to our make-up, and there are unique events shaping our development.  Those internal and external differences are not in themselves sinful.  What’s more God redeems our Adamic personalities (rather than replaces them) and gives us distinct and glorious gifts.  This is all a very good thing.  Differences are not a problem.  Not at all.  The new creation will not be monochrome!  And different gifted-ness is not something to be ironed out in the name of Christian maturity.  We are trinitarian!  Our goal is not the absence of difference but the harmony of God-given distinctives.

The problem is not difference.  The problem in fact is a lack of distinctiveness to our personalities because instead we slide into personas that deny our particular identity in Christ.

How many times have we flinched from serving Jesus by making such claims as…

‘I’m just not an extrovert.’

‘I don’t really do organization.’

‘I’m not a morning person.’

I get energy from withdrawing and being alone’

‘I need order/control.’

‘I’m not good with authority/structure.’

‘I’m not a people-person.’

See more “I am not…” statements here, and their effect.

Even as we think of these deep-seated statements of identity it should be clear that they’re not just descriptive.  They are also very strongly aspirational.  I got that sense even as I took the Myers-Briggs test.  So many of the answers I gave were actually the answers that I thought the artsy, laid-back Glen should give.  In fact it was almost exactly like doing the Star Wars personality test where I tried my hardest to come out as Han Solo (but ended up as Princess Leia.  My wife was the Emporer – but that’s another post).  The point is our reactions to events are partly innate but also strongly determined by the persona we’d like to hide in.

So who’s identity are we hiding in and why?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Col 3:1-4)

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Rest of series:

I am not…

Tearing down the idol of my personality

Conclusions

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We’ve thought about the chief error in guidance – believing that our choices make us who we are.  That’s Pelagian/Erasmian/Enlightenment garbage.  But it infects everything.

One way it plays out is by feeding a familiar false dichotomy: it’s the old boundary keeper versus tight-rope walker dilemma.

The ‘boundary keeper’ believes God has set limits ‘out there’ on our behaviour.  There’s the ten commandments etc.  And if you keep them – if  you keep within the boundaries – then choose whatever you want.  Get on and do your thing.  Don’t bother God and God shouldn’t bother you.

You can see pretty clearly how the chief error feeds this view.  I am my own self-directing godlet (with limits obviously).

But what’s interesting is that the flipside to this error is essentially the same hubris differently applied.

The tight-rope walker looks very different.  They think there’s only one right path in life and at any minute they may put a foot wrong and fall off God’s will for their life.

Guidance then is all about making sure you make the one right decision in every circumstance.

But of course the question must come: Why?  Why must you make the RIGHT decision?  Unfortunately, for the tight-rope walker the answer comes: Because my very selfhood / standing before God depends on it.  You’re still effectively saying “It’s all in my hands.”

Looks humble and fearful before God.  It’s still all about you.

What’s the answer?

Well this sermon from Proverbs has a go at an answer.

Essentially I conclude – we’re not in a wide-open plain, we’re not walking a tightrope – we’re in the House of Wisdom.  From that loving security we grow wise.  And with the resources of the House of Wisdom – the Craftsmanship of Jesus; the Teaching of Jesus and the People of Jesus – wise people start making wise choices.

Audio here.  Text below.

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Luke 10 Reloaded

From my local paper…

.Puts a new spin on the payback He’ll give when He returns from His long journey (Luke 10:35).

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“What assumptions about sex are behind the common opinion that the Song is only an erotic poem, only a celebration of human sexuality and marriage, full stop?

Tremper Longman: “There is absolutely nothing in the Song of Songs itself that hints of a meaning different from the sexual meaning.”

When commentators express such opinions, are they already implicitly assuming a materialist view of sexuality?  Are they coming to the text with a presupposition that sex has no inherent transcendent meaning?  To put it the other way round: Doesn’t sex itself hint at a meaning different from the sexual meaning?”  Peter Leithart

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This righteous

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