It's a sign of the devil, she told me. I nodded solemnly. We were standing outside an old building with graffiti on the side. I didn't really know why a star inside a circle was the sign of the devil, but my 10-year-old self accepted it as true.
It's so easy to hear something, especially from an authoritative-seeming source and trust it without asking whether it's really true. I think of all the Christians who boycotted Harry Potter when it first came out, and maybe there are still those who believe it is evil, though I found the story largely redemptive. That's not to say we shouldn't approach new ideas (especially things kids will consume) with a discerning heart and mind. It's important to be intentional and informed about what we choose to let influence our ideas. But the problem is, it can be easier to just let that 10-year-old self dictate what we believe.
All this preamble to introduce something that may be unfamiliar to many, though I think it may have been gaining popularity in recent years: the Enneagram. Enneagram is a personality typing system with spiritual roots. It's a model for understanding what drives people, and a way of orienting oneself toward growth.
I think this topic also opens up a valuable conversation, that is, what should our approach be to things whose roots are questionable? As an oral tradition, the beginnings of the Enneagram are unclear, but most sources point to origins in the teachings of the Desert Fathers (Christian), but also more mystical Buddhist and Muslim beliefs. Does that mean automatic grounds for dismissal? To what extent does this principle apply? As I said before, our inner 10-year-olds are quick to discount anything that seems unfamiliar. But what about, for example, the Easter bunny? Many are quick to point out that bunnies are pagan fertility symbols. We can choose to reject it outright, dismiss it for ourselves but allow others to use it, or look for the deeper redemptive themes (like seeing bunnies as a symbol of new life instead). Personally, I would choose to look at the results—or to use Biblical terms—the fruit.
Going back to the Enneagram, it's a tool that I personally have found to be transformative. If you talk to me for long enough, chances are I'll probably refer to it because it has produced significant fruit in my life through what I believe is the leading of the Holy Spirit. I've always been interested in temperament and personality tests, but if you're someone who dismisses such things due to lack of scientific evidence the Enneagram may not be for you. While it isn’t magic, its truths are more spiritual and intuitive rather than objective and scientific.
The Enneagram comprises nine different types, each with unique characteristics, challenges, and most importantly; growth paths. Rather than oversimplifying the human consciousness, the Enneagram seems to get more complex as you look at how different types interact and are influenced by each other. The way I best heard it described was by Ian Crohn, co-author of The Road Back to You, which introduces the Enneagram from a Christian perspective: he compares it to colors. For example, there's dark green, sea green, the color of grass, and the green in hazel eyes, but we could still call all of these green. Humans are even more complex, but, according to the Enneagram, there are certain basic motivations that drive us. When we can identify these motivations, we can understand not only why we do what we do, but also have a reason to offer grace to those who think differently from us.
As I mentioned above, one reason I like the Enneagram is that it encourages personal growth. It’s not just a description, or even a list of strengths and weaknesses, but it typifies what you might look like in an unhealthy (or stressed state) and what you can aspire to at your healthiest. It’s been inspiring to me, and given me a lot of insight into my own behavior patterns. It’s not a reason to make excuses, (well I’m a ___, so I’m naturally ______, I just can’t help it) but an invitation to take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. A dear truth that I’m still in the midst of learning is that sometimes our greatest obstacle, weakness or fault can also become our greatest strength or advantage. I tend to think of myself as a people pleaser, for instance, and I can see how that manifests itself in very unhelpful ways in my life. However, the other side of that coin is an adaptability that has allowed me to survive and thrive while living in a cross-cultural context.
As I’ve listened to and learned about the Enneagram, another thing that has struck me is how it has transformed the lives and relationships of people who have told their stories. They’ve suddenly realized that there is a reason why their colleague, partner, or friend always avoids negative topics, needs things to be perfect, or seems ready for a fight. When you understand that others may have a different core motivation from you, or that they see the world through a different lens, and therefore might uniquely struggle with something that you could do in your sleep, it is so much easier to offer them grace and room to grow. We don’t need the Enneagram to begin this practice, but it certainly seems to help.
Once I started learning about the Enneagram, I started seeing it in Scripture. It is in the Beatitudes and the seven deadly sins, and also in the way that God chose such different people to accomplish his purposes throughout history with scribes and soldiers, Pharisees and prostitutes. I think about how the apostle Paul talks about becoming “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:19-23) and how Jesus modeled this so well in each distinctive miracle, conversation, and encounter he had. Each of us was created to bring a unique contribution to the world. Just like with the spiritual gifts: not everyone is the teacher or prophet, and not everyone is the helper or healer. But we are all given these things to build up those around us.
If you’re open to taking a deep dive into who you are and could be, I invite you to prayerfully journey with me into this model of seeing the world that could change everything for you. Embrace the Enneagram. Or don’t. But before dismissing it, recognize that it has helped countless people on their journey with God.
Some places where you can learn more about the Enneagram:
And, to be fair, here’s a criticism of the Enneagram:
Beatitudes and the Enneagram:
Here's my reflection on the Enneagram and the Beatitudes (for those already familiar with the 9 types):
Charlotte is on the Editorial team at boldcupofcoffee.com and currently works with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where she teaches, leads English Bible studies, writes educational materials, trains teachers, poses for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. She is originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces and the idea of home has become quite fluid. She has learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure.
I have titled these lessons “Unraveling” for the fact that there are certain major topics concerning the Christian faith that don’t only themselves need “unraveling” but more importantly, you most likely need to be “unraveled”. As we begin to dive into the content of this lesson it is important that you hold your beliefs about God with an unclenched fist and an open heart so that if you need to be “unraveled” you can be. If you can allow yourself to be undone then this is where God can begin to rebuild things rightly in His house. I do not ask you to needlessly throw away the things that will stand up against scripture and the Holy Spirit which we both share, but I do ask you to be completely torn down and rebuilt apart from those things which should have never stood in the first place.
Have you ever heard people say, or maybe you’ve said it yourself: “I like the worship at our church better than theirs.” or “I just didn’t get into the worship today.” or even “That’s the certain style of worship I like, it fits me”
I’m afraid we have made worship all about “me.”
We have turned worship into a cheap therapy session for our personal thoughts and feelings. Whatever gives us an emotional high, making us feel good, is what we really desire from worship and the faster it can be delivered the better. “Three songs is perfect, four is too many.”… “Less lights, less instruments, that's what I like…” It’s just sad. Worship should be the automatic reflex of our posture changing produced by pressing into the presence of the One who created it all, holds it all together and is the embodiment of all things holy, the Triune God. Worship is not about leeching the life out of the worship service so we can get our emotional high for the week.
The question is, have your feelings, and your thoughts stepped down from His seat of glory and given it back to the One who actually deserves the throne? Or do you hold your own thoughts and feelings as the supreme authority in your life thus needing to feed them as their dutiful slave? Look at your life and notice who or what is sitting in His seat of glory. Whoever or whatever sits on the throne produces in us a reflex which leaves us in a particular posture as we walk through this life, and the posture in which we find ourselves is called worship.
What commands the posture you take throughout each day? Nothing in this world deserves to influence your posture other than our Creator, God. To give an example of God on His throne producing a correct reflexive posture in us is found in Ezekiel 1:28, notice the different postures Ezekiel takes and how they are in response to God’s commands or movements:
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds after the rain. This was the appearance of the surrounding brilliant light; it looked like the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I threw myself face down, and I heard a voice speaking. He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak with you.’ As He spoke to me, a wind came into me and stood me on my feet, and I heard the one speaking to me.(Ezekiel 1:28)
Have you seen the glory of the Lord causing you to fall face down in worship? Has He also responded to you telling you to stand up, enabling you to do so by giving you His breath? Ezekiel’s postures of first being face down and then God’s breath moving him to his feet are significant in our lesson to follow. Worship is our posture brought about by the reflex to our authority that sits on the seat of power in our temple. Paul tells the Corinthian church "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?... For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (1 Cor 3:16 & 17b). Therefore we need to ensure that only God sits on the throne within us, and this is what reshapes us to live like Jesus. What is the reflex and therefore posture you take to life’s difficult situations? What is your posture when dealing with difficult people? What moves you to posture? People? Money? Circumstances? Do NOT posture out of a reflex to your circumstances or anyone else in your life other than God! Created things do not deserve the temple’s seat of authority. We will learn why as we continue this lesson.
Remember this: Worship is posturing.
Posture is the submissive arrangement, and reconstruction of all our parts to better understand our identity and then more accurately build our image. It is simply, the movement or change we make in our lives to whatever is in the seat of power.
I want you to imagine someone cutting you off on the road and then hitting their brakes while throwing you the finger. Imagine the thoughts that run through your head and the emotions you feel, this is posturing. Now imagine a nice looking man or woman comes over to you and starts to flirt with you at the store. Imagine what your mind is doing and what your emotions are doing, this is posturing.
Worship is a reflex that reconstructs our inner being to align our image with that which we submit to. Whatever it is we worship we end up finding our identity in, and eventually our image is shaped by what we align ourselves to.. We become the image of what we worship.
Today we worship greed and therefore are greedy; we worship lust and therefore are lustful; we worship control and therefore are controlling. Where have you seen this in your own life? But none of these things are where we will find our true image and identity. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.” To worship and therefore be conformed to the image of God was always His plan, we were never supposed to bow down to the images of things created on this earth. We were called to “have dominion over the earth” when made in His image! He is the only place we will find our true identity.
Take a moment and consider this, what would happen if you put some time and energy into recognizing the things in life that we worship without realizing it? Is there something (or maybe someone) that you worship and direct yourself toward? As you think about these things, I hope you’ll start to see how what we worship affects our identity and how we see ourselves.
Then comes the challenging part: How can we reshape our identity to have a solid foundation in Jesus Christ, instead of finding it in the earthly things we worship?
Where does this journey of discovery take you? I hope you’ll share your thoughts and what you’ve learned in the comments below.
I was raised southern baptist and redeemed at 5 years old as angels walked me to the alter. "Strong willed” was an understatement to my disposition and therefore life was solely up to me to figure out. Curiosity mixed with extremism was a powerful cocktail that led me to live 20 full lives. I called the Triune God "daddy" only to leave Him due to the above mentioned case for curiosity. I've studied Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Witchcraft which ultimately led to me calling Satan "lord". I've seen things that some people will never even believe exist. Contemplating suicide or an insane asylum broke me to only have me "re-awaken” to eternity in our Daddy’s arms. Hallelujah! Married to one beautiful woman, father to 3 awesome children, and overseer to 10 plus Kingdom men.
As I was going through my news feed, I came across this article. Though I do appreciate a lot of what is being said here, as I read it I felt it needed some engagement. Because I couldn't find a comment section—and the length of this post—it seemed more appropriate to do an official response.
Let me first say this was a thought provoking article. The line that really stands out to me and I feel is the core of the message is: "Even Apple, the innovative leader of personal technologies, is successful because of their tenacious fidelity to their core principles. If Apple ever deviates from those principles they will cease to be Apple and risk losing their leadership in the personal technology market." (emphases added).
What I appreciate most of this article is the idea of being tenacious to the fidelity of one's core principles. I would wholeheartedly agree that innovation for the sake of innovation can be misguided at best, and dangerous at worst. And I say this as a leadership coach/consultant and a pastor.
Here is where I feel that the article breaks down a bit. As I read this piece, I get the sense that the author feels that the tension of 'innovation' and 'core principles' needs to be resolved. As though these ideas are pitted against each other and that our two choices are either being innovative or being faithful to our mission. Some tensions do need to be resolved, for sure, but I would argue that this is not one of them.
Take some of the examples given. Each one of these companies stay true to their core principles, but to paint a picture that assumes they did not innovate is a bit of a stretch. Apple is a perfect example: at the core, their "tenacious fidelity to their core principles" is what grounds them, but the package in how they deliver that idea changes constantly.
Or what about Southwest Airline? Are we to assume the technology of the planes they use have not changed in the years they have been flying? Even In-and-Out Burger has kept the simplicity of their core menu, but are we to assume that the way they do business underneath the surface has never changed? Or should we assume when they decided to expand and franchise this did not cause them to innovate?
I may be missing something here and I would be happy to be corrected. Though, this by no means is a new idea. I have seen this back and forth argument between innovation and faithfulness quite a bit over the years. I suspect you have as well.
Let me be clear, the warning of the extreme ideas of 'innovate and die' laid out by this article is deeply appreciated, and the author’s use of the business world to drive this point home is genius. But my question would still be this: does it need to be an either/or? Is this a tension that needs to be resolved?.
What do you think? Can we hold these two ideas in tension or are they in conflict with each other?
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor.
The most profound moments of my life tend not to be all that grand. For me, what God in his goodness seems to generally see fit to do is shift my thinking. Shift my focus. This poem was birthed out of a time of God shifting my thoughts. It dawned on me that I was thinking, as I think many do, that hope is weak, it is fragile, it is a breakable thing to be handled with great care. And maybe in our current culture, so over informed on the mass sorrow and injustice of this world, a world where we bear witness to the hopelessness of the millions of impoverished and persecuted people, there is some merit to those thoughts. But hope’s strength is founded upon what we hope in. As Christians we do not hope in money, not in things, not in people, or 'leaders,’ not in comfort, or life, or even ourselves. No. “Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!” Our hope is built on God the Creator King and Redeemer of the world, a hope built on him is a very mighty hope indeed!
Hope is not just a rope to which we cling;
Not merely a beating tiny wing;
Not at all a weak, and fragile thing;
Or a single timid voice that sings.
I know hope is strong, for if scarcely lost,
Our wounded souls will count the cost!
We’ll hold no warmth, be chilled by frost!
Great hope must be, for severe its loss!
Hope is partnered well with faith;
Love may be, more surpassing great.
Still do not hope underestimate.
Hope is a conquering, not feeble state!
Hope it rises from the dark!
Bearing no stain in whiteness stark!
Angel’s lips herald its hark!
Countless dead rise with its mark!
Hope is advancing, it is not still!
May be oppressed, but can’t be killed!
A harvest ready endless field.
It shall remain. For. So. God. Willed.
Hope is living breathing strong!
A great, mighty wind gusting long!
A loud, and shouting growing throng!
A million voices raised in song!
I am a stay at home mother of 5, wife of 1, who loves writing poetry and writing in general. I basically have no qualifications, but am allowed and blessed to help lead women's ministries in our Drayton Valley Alliance Church. If you want an example of God using the most unlikely of people to further his Glory I'm your girl. I offer nothing except a deep love of God and passion for his word. Which, actually if you think about it, is a lot!
I’ve been thinking a lot about about our need to create and police arbitrary boundaries.
We think we're pretty clever. We analyze, dissect, and compare everything. We compartmentalise things based on the characteristics that we can see. For us, everything must fit into its taxonomy.
But, it’s really not that simple.
The categories we create are blurry and flawed. Nothing perfectly fits into any one category. Sure, we can look at a microbe and clearly see that it isn't an elephant. The differences are easy to see and we use them to define what it means to be either organism.
But, what happens when we are comparing organisms that are more alike?
In Christ There is Neither Bacterium nor Virus
Until 1992 it was generally agreed that we had a rock solid understanding of the differences between a virus and a bacterium. We knew what defined each of them. We knew that both were small, but a virus was quite a bit smaller than a bacterium. Beyond that, viruses were typically a piece of DNA with a protein shell and bacteria were more complex, having more genes and characteristics that we associate more readily with “life”. Scientists argued whether viruses could be considered alive in any meaningful sense. Their different sizes and biology helped classify them into their respective categories.
The differences between the two were easily distinguishable.
Then that all changed. Scientists discovered something new during routine research in a hospital water tower. Among the bacteria they expected to find, they also found a bacterium that couldn't be identified. They named it Bradford (for the region in which it was found) Coccus (because of its round shape).
They quickly realized this new germ was different though. As much as they tried, they could not get it to replicate like “normal” bacteria. It wouldn't eat anything and generally didn’t behave as they expected. It was a very strange bacterium indeed.
Then, it was sent to France for more scientists to look at it, and they confirmed that it was indeed very peculiar. They agreed th at it looked like a virus, except it was massive. This was puzzling because viruses weren’t supposed to be that big. The other scientists also found that this organism contained a large amount of genes, unlike any other virus that they knew about. This organism blurred the lines between the categories. It was very inconvenient.
So, they spent some time getting to know this big strange creature. They eventually found out how it replicated by placing it inside an amoeba. It replicated itself in the amoeba until the amoeba's shell could no longer contain any more and exploded.
It was a virus. They renamed it “mimivirus”.
This virus had escaped detection for as long as we have had microscopes, hiding in plain sight. How did that happen? It was a curious thing for these scientists so, naturally, they went looking for more. Since this big virus was found in that water tower in England they decided to check a water tower in France. What they found there must have shocked them: another more complex virus that looked like a bacterium, this time larger in size and with even more genes than the mimivirus.
Scientists started finding them everywhere. This wasn't an anomaly, this was normal.
So, what now? What do we do when our categories no longer fit?
We draw more lines to make more categories, of course. We use subjective differences to create objective boundaries that will never fully articulate the complexity of life. Try as we might, our divisions will always be blurry.
In Christ There is Neither Red nor Orange
Think of the visible light spectrum. It starts with red, morphs into orange, then yellow, green, blue, and finally, violet. If I were to quiz my 3 year old son on the major colours he would ace it. He knows the difference between blue and yellow because they are far enough apart on the spectrum that the differences are obvious. But, what would happen if I quizzed him on two similar shades on the gradient between red and orange? What if I asked him about every shade between the two? At which shade would he be completely certain that it has stopped being “red” and was now “orange”?
The labels that we use to define things are useful, but ultimately subjective and entirely fictional. Labels like “red” or “orange” are used simply to give us a coarse understanding of what the speaker is trying to say. We then need to be able to explain what we actually mean when we say those words. We need a finer resolution that describes what we mean when we say “red”. Do we mean to say a light, soft red (pink) or a crimson red? “Red” might not be enough.
There aren't enough adjectives in the English language. It is impossible to exactly describe all of the shades that exist between the boundaries that we have built.
In Christ there is Neither Pentecostal nor Presbyterian
What do we mean when we say Presbyterian or Pentecostal? While we are aware that there are certain theological elements understood by the term, it never gives us the full picture. Most church people will be able to tell the difference between a Pentecostal church and a Presbyterian church but things gets trickier when we consider the diversity found within each movement. When we say “Presbyterian” do we mean Presbyterian Church (USA) or do we mean Presbyterian Church in America? The difference between the two organizations is significant enough that a refined definition will always be more helpful. Presbyterian is not a good enough descriptor on its own.
These broad definitions exist everywhere. If you look for it, dualism is ubiquitous: theology, taxonomy, genres, physical traits, personalities, etc. Each of these are large groups that encompass a large spectrum of small differences. How many insignificant differences need to add up before they become significant and we draw another line?
The divisions that we make are imperfect. This is why there will always be debate about where to make those divisions. We should embrace that ambiguity. In the end, ideas like species taxonomy and denominational boundaries are just constructs we have created based on broad differences, and fall apart when scrutinized.
Like the example of the microbe and the elephant, we can easily tell the difference between Christianity and Buddhism but the lines become blurrier when we look at items that are closer together on the spectrum.
How many small differences need to exist for Protestants and Catholics to admit they worship a different God? How many secondary doctrines can be changed before charismatics and cessationists admit that they serve a different God? If there isn't a clear line between different “breeds” of Christians then how can we be certain where the lines exist between conservative/liberal, Protestant/Roman Catholic, or even Christian/Jew?
The implications of dualism affect everything. We need to have a good talk on the boundaries that we have imposed on theist/nontheist, female/male, Christian/Non-Christian, good/evil, sin/virtue, sacred/secular and many others. A case can be made that these distinctions should exist, and clearly they can be helpful but maybe we should be aware that they aren’t absolute in any meaningful sense.
The divisions that I just spent 1,300 words arguing against will always exist. I don’t deny that. In many ways they are the only way that our brains can make sense of the world. My point is that if we are open to the fact that categories, divisions, and borders are just generalizations then we will understand that much of life is lived in the gray areas. If we can realize that almost nothing fits perfectly in our boxes then we will position ourselves to better comprehend complex ideas and, most of all, the lived experiences of other people. Being aware of dualism allows us to find new ways to show empathy to those that are foreign to us.
I write about my story. The story about how I became a pro-life (womb to grave) liberal, confident arminian, reluctant charismatic, cautious progressive creationist, tentative conditionalist, utterly wretched without Christ, corporate complementarian (individually egalitarian), clueless pre-millenialist, and most importantly, a follower of Christ. I am a blue collar tradesman. I am a victim of post-modern society probably due to my secular upbringing.
I serve on the editorial team of boldcupofcoffee.com, I am married to a wonderful woman and have two sons. They are the very best of me.
It’s time Christians start burning their passports. Too many of us have forgotten what this thing is all about. We are not citizens first of Canada, of the United States, of the E.U, or of any other worldly nation. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is not of this earth; THAT is where our primary loyalty must lie. I can't think of a better way to affirm that than collectively burning our passports.
Come to think of it, Ash Wednesday is coming up, why not then? I think that would be tremendously appropriate. Burn Your Passport Day 2017 will be Wednesday March 1st 2017.
If this seems drastic that’s because it is. People seem to think that their Christian duty and their Patriotic duty are the same thing. So let me back up a little and explain how I got to this extreme.
Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a florist was in violation of the State’s antidiscrimination law by refusing to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. An interesting fact of this case is that the gay men in question had been, up until then, fairly regular customers. That's a point that will be important later on.
Before I continue, let me rapid fire a few things about this particular type of case so that you understand where I'm coming from.
I believe that those same guidelines and legal rights ought to apply to everyone in a civil society, regardless of religion or worldview. However, in this case, the florist is a professing Christian. Now it's not about her rights, it's about the Gospel and her witness.
It has long been the position of professing Christian florists, wedding photographers, and bakers that in these cases their rights are being infringed upon when they are forced to provide services for a gay wedding. They insist that if they are forced to provide these services then they are participating and complicit in the sin. This is a ludicrous line of reasoning.
This florist claimed that until the wedding, this man was a regular customer. Wouldn't this florist have been "participating" in the relationship long before the wedding? Not to to be crass but if the objection to homosexuality comes down to sex and plumbing, wouldn't the flowers have contributed to that before? Wouldn't they have, you know, “helped”?
Additionally, why is it that Christians seem to want to park on this particular sin so much? After all, it's not even a commandment! Where's the unmitigated outrage about working on the Sabbath, why is idolatry (that is, ascribing worth to anything more than you ascribe to the God of the Bible) not only legal but downright enshrined in our capitalistic and consumerist culture? Would these same florists refuse to provide flowers for a second marriage after a divorce not stemming from adultery? What about selling flowers if they know a customer to be an adulterer? Christian florists should just close for a week around Valentine’s day in order to avoid “participating” in all of that pre-marital sex.
Hearing of this story, and the ensuing backlash reminded me of Jeremiah 29, no not that verse that we see all over Instagram and living rooms. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t really about you or your life at all. It’s a national promise to the Nation of Israel which was in exile in Babylon at the time. The part of Jeremiah 29 this reminds me of this happens earlier in the chapter:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV
This passage is an instruction, for the people of Israel, to continue with their lives and live them while they are in exile. “Live well!” The prophet says. Plant gardens and raise families! Put down roots because you’re not going anywhere for a while. Live well and pray to the Lord on behalf of your (unbelieving) new home, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare. Basically, “Pray for your adoptive country, when it does well, you will do well, do this until I bring you back to the promised land.” Philippians 3 makes the case again: “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”. Our citizenship in in heaven, we're just (to borrow Canadian immigration language) Permanent Residents here.
The point is clear. Our role as believers is to live our own lives faithfully, preach the good news of Jesus to those around us, and otherwise let them live their lives. It does no service to Christ or the gospel to conform people or a society to godly behaviour without the change that comes from repentance and the Gospel.
Obviously, I don't really want anyone to go around burning their passports. They're good and valuable tools, especially for those of us in the West. We do, however, need to remember that our primary citizenship is not on this earth, and THOSE passports are on order.
Christian brewers aren't participating in alcoholism if their customers drink too much.
Christian chefs aren't participating in gluttony when they feed gluttons.
Christian car designers aren't participating in idolatry when they design a car that people worship.
Christian bakers and florists don't participate in homosexuality by baking cakes and arranging flowers.
So please, bake the cakes, sell the flowers, and stop making Jesus look like a petty kid because you think this sin is somehow worse than idolatry.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
From the time a believer is born again, they are invited to participate in the supernatural side of God. On a daily basis, Jesus demonstrated the supernatural to His disciples. He turned water into wine, multiplied food, walked on water, healed the sick, and produced many miracles. He did this so regularly that John went as far to say that if everything Jesus did had been written down the world would not be able to contain the number of books required to document every miracle. Jesus demonstrated this supernatural lifestyle to his disciples not so they could just be witnesses but that they would be participants. On occasion, Jesus would send them out alone to demonstrate the supernatural side of the Kingdom of God by healing the sick and casting out demons. Jesus instructed his disciples to then teach others the very same things they had been taught which would have included the supernatural works that they had been producing.
Jesus did not limit these experiences to His disciples only, nor did He restrict them to a particular generation within the church. Often He would make inclusionary statements such as: "…he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” Certainly, we see the fulfillment of this verse in the early church. The books of Acts is filled with miracles, angelic visitation, healing, deliverance, signs, and wonders, but it is also well documented that these events continued beyond the generation of the church in the book of Acts. St. Augustine, as well as many others before him, wrote of the sick being healed, blind eyes opening, and the demon possessed being set free. There is a reason that the book of Acts is the only book of the New Testament that does not include a formal ending because the acts that it contains were never meant to end.
The world has a natural hunger for the supernatural. Just look at the most popular movies and television programs. Not only does the world have a hunger for it but there is also great need that often requires supernatural intervention. The church was designed to satisfy that hunger, and meet the need. When Philip traveled to Samaria he demonstrated the supernatural by producing miracles and casting out demons. The Bible records in Acts chapter 8 that the people listened intently to what he had to say because of the miracles. And as a result, the entire city was filled with “great joy”. Prior to this, their spiritual hunger was fed by witchcraft and sorcery. The world will satisfy its own need for the supernatural even if that means settling for a cheap imitation.
These supernatural experiences can be available to every believer. Jesus listed some of the signs that would follow believers in Mark 16:17-18, He said: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” I believe there is a reason why Jesus lists speaking in other tongues in His short list of the signs.
I know that tongues has been a debated issue in many Christian circles and has some baggage attached. Maybe you are reading this and thinking about that very thing. But what if we saw tongues for what it really is? Would you be willing to hear this topic from a differing perspective? Let me share my experience with this gift and all the benefits it has for the believer. Would you take that journey with me?
The Apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to the supernatural. In his letter to the church at Corinth he stated that his desire was that they all would have the gift of tongues (1 Cor 14:5). And later in the chapter, he goes on to say: “I thank my God, I speak in tongues more than ye all.” (1 Corinthians 14:18 KJV).
What is also obvious is the emphasis that Paul is placing on praying in the Spirit. In verse 4 Paul states that when we pray in tongues our spirit is being “edified”. The Greek word here means “to build a house”. That is to say that praying in tongues causes your spirit to expand. Jude writes “But ye, beloved, building up yourself on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” (Jude 1:20). We are spiritual beings living in a human tent. When we pray in tongues the emphasis is placed on the spirit person within us, causing us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit living in us, and the spirit realm around us. Praying in tongues is itself a spiritual act which positions us to respond to the situations around us in the Spirit, and thus do what the Holy Spirit would do through us.
I believe that a consistent prayer life that is centered around praying in tongues is vital to walking in the supernatural. Paul said that when we pray in tongues our spirit prays directly to God’s spirit, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God” (1 Cor. 14:2,14, NKJV), and when the Holy Spirit intercedes through us according to Romans 8:27 we are then praying the will of God. Therefore we are praying the perfect will of God right back to God Himself. Praying in tongues then releases the will of God into us so that we will release His will into the earth. Walking in the supernatural is simply exchanging the realities of Heaven with the realities that exist in the earth. Being sick with cancer is a reality. However, it is also a reality that cancer does not exist in Heaven. When Jesus healed the sick or performed a miracle He was revealing the will of God for that situation.
In order to see the supernatural invade the natural, it is necessary that our minds be renewed. That we don’t think naturally, or even see things through the natural eye, but we think according to the will of God, and see things through God’s perspective. Jesus demonstrated the will of God when: “He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38). Before Jesus was able to produce good works, and heal the sick He was first filled with the Holy Spirit and power. While the bible never states that Jesus spoke in tongues it does indicate that believers would as they are baptized with the Holy Spirit and power just as Jesus was. This baptism of the Spirit enables us to undergo the process of having our minds renewed so that we can see another possibility other than the natural circumstances surrounding us and do just as Jesus did by implanting the “perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2) into impossible situations. I have found that praying in tongues accelerates the process of the renewed mind by allowing us to participate with the Holy Spirit in a prayer language which is itself supernatural and is designed to condition us to think towards the possibilities that exist in the realm of the supernatural.
You and I are seated with Christ Jesus in heavenly places right now, according to Ephesians 2. I’m not waiting to get to heaven I’m already there! And because I exist there I can see, and hear from that place. Tongues are the bridge that connects the language of my spirit to the language of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) with the hope that I will speak on earth what is being spoken in heaven. Our tongue is the most powerful part of our entire being, when I align my speech with His will the result is supernatural!
Ken Boone currently serves as a co-host on The Alliance Podcast at boldcupofcoffee.com and founding pastor at Alabaster House as well as a public speaker, travelling equipper and writer.
Ken and his wife Christa are the proud parents of four children. They have been married for more than 15 years. And have been in the ministry for more than 17 years, They have dedicated their lives to preaching the "Gospel of the Kingdom", and to living a life in partnership with Holy Spirit. Their desire is to see believers equipped to live a lifestyle that brings the realities of Heaven to the world that we live in, to see the culture of the Kingdom of God replace the cultures around us. And to fulfill the mandate from Jesus to: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, freely you have received freely give."
It's been a pretty rough start to the year for my family. About a month ago we found out that one of my nephews had whooping cough, which is bad enough in itself. What made it worse, however, was the fact that we'd all just had a big extended family holiday together. Six families, with lots of kids, toddlers and babies.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be very dangerous for young children, so we went into panic mode. Over the next few weeks someone from each family came down with it, and despite our best efforts at containment, the disease spread beyond our families before we knew what was going on. We've cancelled social engagements, taken antibiotics, called off our church, taken time off work until we're certain we're not contagious, made calls to everyone we saw who we might have passed it on to, and spent most of our time confined to our house.
The worst part is how it affects the kids though. When they have a bad enough coughing fit they can't breathe. One of the dads told me his little girl was coughing for a good two minutes without being able to take any air in. He said, "There was a point there where I thought 'This is it. She's gone.'" It's a terrifying experience.
And that's been our year so far. Worrying about our kids, worrying about friends' and families' kids, waiting and hoping that no one else comes down with it. And in the midst of all this my 10-year-old daughter asked me, "Does God have a reason for whooping cough?"
Does God have a reason for sickness? What would you have said? Moments like these shape the world for our kids. When a child asks a question like this you can't fudge over it, ignore it or offload it to someone else. So you stop,
take a breath.
Then you need to have an honest answer for them. If you don't have it all figured out it's ok to say that. Just be honest.
When I was younger I thought that God did have a reason for everything. Diseases, tsunamis, earthquakes, famines, everything. I believed that God was controlling it all, so therefore sickness must also be part of his plan. "God's got a reason for this," people would say. "Just trust him and you'll see. Maybe this suffering is a test, or a challenge to make you stronger or more humble." Then if ever it felt like a situation was too terrible, we would tell ourselves, "Well obviously I just can't see the big picture." This is a fairly common worldview among religions.
Now that I've experienced a bit more of life, I'm no longer comfortable with that idea. What kind of god causes suffering? What kind of god would give whooping cough to a newborn, or cause a miscarriage, or make millions of third-world people suffer blindness? What kind of good reason could there be to destroy a city with a hurricane? Maybe a god like that is all-powerful, but is he GOOD?
Thankfully, the Bible provides another way to look at this. If you follow the biblical story through you can see that God doesn't control everything, even in the Bible. People are the most obvious example. God isn't making us dance with marionette strings. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, Abraham lied about his wife, Moses killed an Egyptian, King David knocked up Bathsheba and knocked off her husband, Solomon chose way too many wives, Peter denied Jesus even existed and so on. All the way through, humans are free to make choices - a myriad of choices, even bad ones. God gave us creativity, wisdom and passion, and we can use it how we like - for better or worse. This shows a fair amount of respect on God's part.
The natural world is another example. This blue planet of ours is bursting with life and beauty, but it's not entirely safe. Many parts of it seem tailor-made for human life, but there are some challenges for us to face if we want to thrive here. The sun gives life, but it can also cause cancer if we don't respect it. River systems provide water and food, but it can be dangerous living on a river. Bacteria can be beneficial, but it can also be lethal. All of these are morally neutral, and with our intelligence we can use them for good or evil. This is the world God gave us - a stunning, perplexing and wondrous world of energy and colour - and as a whole our Earth is brilliantly set up for human life.
All of that my daughter has heard before in our conversations over the years, so my answer was much simpler. Does God have a reason for whooping cough? No, diseases are just part of this world. But we can work hard and learn how to understand them, contain them, and someday we will cure them. Maybe my daughter will find that cure.
Our Earth is both dangerous and beautiful, and with respect, creativity, wisdom and some divine support we can make it better still. That's a challenge for us all.
Ben is a fully-trained minister, but he's chosen to be the groundsman at a local primary school because it's a great way to bring hope to his local community. He believes everyone can make the world a better place, whoever or wherever you are. Ben also leads a simple alternative-style church in his home in Brisbane, Australia. Online, Ben produces the Facebook page "For Want of a Better World" and works to facilitate safe places for vibrant conversation on faith and life.
A couple of years ago I decided to give journaling another shot. Before that I was the person who loved the idea of journaling, but hated the actual practice. I would buy a really nice notebook and a pen with a good weight and feel to it, make two entries several days apart, and then never crack it open again. This time I did something different; instead of using a notebook, I installed an app on my iPad. Now I could have reminders pop up when I hadn’t written in a while, and soon found that I was writing one to two times a week on average, and sometimes even more when there were events happening in life that needed some extra processing time.
One thing this app does now that I’ve used it for a couple years, is it gives me notifications about previous entries. Several times a week I get a notification on my phone and my iPad to go back and look at an entry that was written on that day in a previous year. It’s been fascinating to look back at what I was dealing with earlier, and often it leads me to think about how that situation was responded and what it led to.
A few days ago there was a certain entry from one year earlier that came up in my notifications. I had written this entry following the district worker’s retreat of my denomination that happens every year at the beginning of February. Usually the district retreat is a highlight of the year, it’s a time where I get to connect with old friends and come back to my church feeling refreshed and ready for the next season. But last year was different. I left the retreat feeling like I had been there searching for God, but God hadn’t met with me. Even though I had talked to people and heard them say how encouraging and exciting that year’s retreat was, I didn’t feel the same way. I drove home feeling discouraged and confused about what to do next.
Then on the Monday morning following the retreat, I was having a meeting with our Board of Elders. During our 5-minute stretch break in the middle a parcel arrived in the mail at the church addressed to me. I opened the parcel and dug through the packing material to find out what had been sent to me. Near the bottom of the box there was the unmistakable packaging of an Apple product, and inside was an Apple Watch. Taped to the box of the Apple Watch was a card, and when I opened it I started to cry as I read this message:
God kept telling me you needed an encouragement boost. Then he told me exactly what I was to do. So may this gift be an encouragement to you from God. Every time you wear it let it be a reminder that God is with you.
When our meeting resumed only a couple minutes later I had planned on talking to my Elders about the discouragement I had been feeling after the retreat. Instead I shared with them what had just happened.
Even as I am writing this post, it’s hard not to get emotional about this gift. I’ve worn this watch for a year now, and there’s still times when I look at it and feel overwhelmed by the generosity of the person who sent it to me, and the encouragement it was to me at the precise moment.
Later that day I wrote in my journal about how I had been wondering where my encouragement was all through the district retreat, and how I had been praying and begging God that I would find some small bit of encouragement and strength from him that would help me to keep going. In the last line of my journal entry, I wrote this: “So maybe God didn't want to encourage me through the district retreat... Or perhaps I was asking the question so loudly I couldn't hear his answer.”
Perhaps I was asking the question so loudly I couldn’t hear his answer.
Let that thought sink in for a moment. I had been screaming a question at God. I was asking him where was the encouragement meant for me, but had never paused to actually wait for an answer. Maybe it was like an old walkie-talkie set and I was holding down my talk button so I could never hear the reply from the other end. Or maybe God had answered and was right there to meet with me, only I wasn’t able to let go of the question long enough to hear an answer.
Have you ever been yearning for an answer to something? Maybe there’s been a nagging question in your soul that just won’t go away. I know that the common advice is to keep pushing forward and to let that question drive you toward an answer. But maybe the common advice isn’t always true. What if the answer is that we’re seeking is already there, but we’ve been shouting the question from the rooftops for so long, we’ve lost the ability to hear the quiet answer.
When we are driven by a question, do we hear and listen when someone provides what could be the answer? Or do we drown out the response for fear of losing the question that gives us meaning by constantly searching for the answer?
Last week I preached through Habakkuk at my church. He’s one of the minor prophets that we tend to skip over, but there’s something unique about Habakkuk that we don’t see in the other minor prophets. The first two chapters are a dialogue between Habakkuk and God, twice he voices his complaints and challenges to God, and both times God responds. But Habakkuk did something I didn’t, he ends his second complaint to God with this:
I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint. (Hab 2:1 NLT)
Habakkuk was willing to wait and see how God would respond. His prayers of complaint weren’t just a rant or venting, he was willing to wait and see how God will answer. That was something I needed to learn how to do.
When you ask a question, either a question for God or someone else, will you make it a practice to wait for an answer for at least twice as long as it took to ask the question? You might be surprised that there is an answer or at least a step towards what you’re looking for.
We would love to hear from you and your experiences. Have you ever had a time where asking the question too loudly was getting in the way of finding the answer? Or maybe you’ve had a time when God spoke to you in an unexpected way while you were waiting for a response?
We would love to hear your story, please share your experience in the comments below.
Brian's whole understanding of faith and Christianity changed when he started to encounter what it means to live life with God instead of for God. One thing that Brian is passionate about is walking with people as they explore their faith in Christ and learning how to honestly seek God in the midst of our doubts and fears. Brian is the Pastor of Grand Valley Community Church in Brandon Manitoba. He is married to Nikki and they have one daughter named Olivia. When Brian isn't working on a sermon at a Starbucks or at home with his family, you can usually find him fly fishing or building model air planes. To read more of Brian's articles, click here.
When we think about influence, it is actually now a buzzword, where, ‘“I'm an influencer" "I am something that influences something else" and well I can't exactly disagree with that fact... how do I use that influence to influence people with what I want to influence them with?
The above quote is from a friend of mine, Jesse Martineau. He is a bit of a social media junky... or is it a guru? I'll let you be the judge of that. But in all seriousness, he recently released a great video on the idea of influence (which will be shared at the end of this article).
What resonated with me in this video isn't so much the idea of influence, as I suspect you have heard this before, but how he divides influence into how we influence and why we influence. In essence, he is answering the question: Is all influence created equal?
We can use influence to be helpful and empower people. "To help inspire people, to help motivate people, to help even create change, even if it is difficult" as Jesse puts it. But it can also be used for less noble purposes, which look to manipulate, control and destroy creativity. "The other kind, which we are seeing spring up all over the place right now. Rioting, looting, burning buildings. Why? Because I am mad, dang it!"
See, it isn't so much if we influence and that we influence, but how and why we influence that is the deeper question we should be asking ourselves. What motivates us at our core? Is our motivation about empowerment and change or control and manipulation?
I want to inspire you to think, not simply tell you what to think - Dr. Martin Trench
With influence, we can see a contrast between inspiration & empowerment vs control & manipulation. Be it dialogue, leadership or relationships, is our goal for the betterment of those we wish to influence, or the furthering of our desires?
Furthermore, if we want to ultimately see the results we are looking for, we need to have tactics that see real change, not simply tactics that give us the satisfaction of being right or getting our way. The latter is shortsighted, while the former looks to a more creative and hope-filled perspective. Which influence do you wish to see perpetuated?
Check out the video, in its entirety, below:
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac as well as an avid speaker, writer and leadership coach/consultant. Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor. You can also connect with him at your personal page at drakedelongfarmer.com. To read more articles by Drake, simply click here.
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