Speaking In Agreement With God

A few days ago, a specific phrase in the book of Hebrews caught my eye. When I think of this verse, I usually picture the King James translation (or one of the many which follow it closely), which says, “let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15). This time though, I read it in the World English Bible, which says, “the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name.”

“Proclaim allegiance” seems like quite a different thing than “give thanks,” so I looked up the Greek word this phrase is translated from. It’s homologeo (G3670), which comes from two root words: homou (G3670), “together with,” and lego (G3004), “to say.” Put together, this word means “to assent, consent, admit,” confess, and/or “be in accord with someone” (Zodhiates’s dictionary). It can also mean “to say the same thing as another” or “declare openly,” often specifically in the sense that you’re proclaiming yourself a worshiper of someone (Thayer’s dictionary). It’s about more than saying “thank you” or even “confessing” (LEB for Heb. 13:15) or “acknowledging” (NET) God’s name. There’s also an element of aligning yourself with God and agreeing with Him.

A Deep, Relational Commitment

How we speak about God–particularly whether or not we align ourselves with Him in our words–matters deeply to Him and affects our relationship with both the Father and Son. Jesus made this very clear early in His ministry.

Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33, NET

There ought to be a “togetherness” in how we speak about God and with God. If we are acknowledging, confessing, and proclaiming allegiance to Christ, then He does the same for us, claiming us before His Father and “before God’s angels” (Luke 12:8-9). It can’t just be words, though. Our acknowledgement has to hit a deeper level than mere lip-service.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that those who just say, “Lord, Lord” without doing God’s will won’t be in the kingdom of heaven. To them, Christ says, “I will declare (homologeo) to them, ‘I never knew you'” (Matt. 7:21-23, NET). Speaking together with God is not about good-sounding words that aren’t backed-up with actions. It’s about a confession that changes your life. It’s a commitment so deep that it can even be dangerous (which is what held some people back from aligning themselves with Christ when He walked on his earth, see John 9:22; 12:42).

Aligning with God for Salvation

Confession of this deep, aligning together sort is something that’s connected to salvation. Homologeo is the word used, for example, in this famous scripture:

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.

Romans 10:9-10, NET

John makes a similar observation in his first epistle. First, he points out that “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, WEB). John goes on to talk about the fact that “Whoever denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also,” and that we can “know the Spirit of God” by this criteria: “every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 2:23; 4:2, WEB).

If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.

1 John 4;15, NET

In a footnote on 1 John 4:15, the NET translators say, “Here μένει (menei, from μένω [menō]) has been translated as ‘resides’ because the confession is constitutive of the relationship, and the resulting state (‘God resides in him’) is in view.” For these translators, homologeo is a key component of relationship with God.

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

The idea that this sort of confession is a life-long process of speaking and living together with God does not just come from a dictionary or a translator’s footnote. Paul connects Timothy’s “good confession” with fighting “the good fight of faith” and taking hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12, WEB). Hebrews links homologeo to the people of faith who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth” and lived accordingly (Heb. 11:13, WEB). When done right, our confession is a life-long, transformative thing that involves the fruit of our lips matching our deeds, unlike the people Paul speaks of in this passage:

They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed.

Titus 1:16, NET

We want to live very differently than this–as people who profess God and also by our deeds “proclaim allegiance to his name.” Throughout his letters, Paul uses homologeo to talk about salvation and the importance of our verbal confession turning into an allegiance manifested in how we live. It’s about relationship, and choosing to use our words and our lives to align with God and let other people know that we walk with Him.

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Will You be A David or A Saul?

After God brought Ancient Israel out of Egypt and gave them the promised land, Moses and Joshua–the guides he’d worked with to lead the people–passed away. In the years following, God worked through the priesthood and judges to lead His people as they struggled to follow Him faithfully. After the priesthood and their current prophet’s sons grew corrupt, the people decided the best solution to the problem of who should lead them was to have a king like all the other nations did.

The Lord said to Samuel, “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king.

1 Samuel 8:7, NET

The people decided they didn’t want God ruling over them directly, so God honored their request and picked a man to lead them. The first man God picked for this task was Saul. His rule didn’t last, though, and he was replaced by David. Anyone familiar with scripture knows about King David; he was the man after God’s own heart who is the most prominent human ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus. But what about Saul? Was he just a stepping stone to David; a disposable king? Or did he get the same opportunity as David and responded differently?

This is an important question for us to answer because it gets to the heart of how God works with people. He chose Saul, and David, and if we’re called to be in His family today He chose us as well. And because the Lord does not change (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8) the way He worked with people thousands of years ago can still teach us about how He works with us today.

To Lead, Rule, and Deliver

Both David and Saul were identified and chosen by God, and anointed as king by Samuel the prophet. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, “the smallest of Israel’s tribes,” and he initially had an ego to match (1 Sam. 9:21, NET). He was “little in his own sight” when God made him “head of the tribes of Israel” (1 Sam. 15: 17, WEB), and he even hid from his coronation (1 Sam. 10:22).

Then Samuel took a small container of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head. Samuel kissed him and said, “The Lord has chosen you to lead his people Israel! You will rule over the Lord’s people and you will deliver them from the power of the enemies who surround them.

1 Samuel 10:1, NET (click for explanation of why this verse is longer in the NET translation than most English versions)

God entrusted Saul with the task of leading, ruling, and delivering his people. Saul did this for years, but after he lost his humility and chose a path of disobedience David was chosen to replace him. This time, the text specifies that God “sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him” (1 Sam. 13:14, NET), who was selected based on the condition of his heart (1 Sam. 16:1-13). Though the “lead, rule, deliver” language isn’t used, David quickly took on that role and showed the commitment of his heart through the actions he took to honor God.

The first example we have of this is the story of David verses Goliath. We think of this as a wonderful underdog story and a demonstration of David’s faith, but it was also a demonstration of Saul’s failure. When Saul was chosen as king, scripture tells us he “stood head and shoulders above all the other Israelites (1 Sam. 10:23). The NET footnote on 1 Sam. 17:4 says that the average height of an Israelite man at this time was about 5′ 3″ (1.6 m), making Saul about 6′ (1.8 m) tall. When Goliath, who was likely between 6′ 7″ and 9′ 5″ (2 to 2.9 m) tall, showed up it should have been the tall warrior-king of Israel who stood up against him in the Lord’s name to deliver the people of God. Instead, it was the ruddy and handsome shepherd boy who stepped into that role (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:33-36).

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Heart and Spirit

The main difference between David and Saul was not that one was given a head start by God or that God wanted one to succeed and the other to fail. After Saul was anointed and chosen, “the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul” (1 Sam. 10:10; 11:6). Also, “God changed his inmost person” (1 Sam. 10:9). Other translations of this line include, “gave him another heart” (NAB; NRSV) and “gave Saul a new nature” (TEV). We don’t know how much of God’s Spirit Saul had or how long the Holy Spirit was with him (only that “the spirit of the Lord had turned away from Saul” by the time of David’s anointing), but we do know that God gave His spirit to this man and worked with him on a heart-level. Though Saul lost God’s spirit, he started out with God’s full backing. Saul was not set up to fail. It was his own choices that led to his removal as king.

Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the Lord your God gave you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom will not continue. The Lord has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him, and the Lord has appointed him to be leader over his people, for you have not obeyed what the Lord commanded you.”

1 Samuel 13:13-14, NET

Later, God told Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned away from me and has not done what I told him to do” (1 Sam. 15:10, NET). He was saddened when Saul disqualified himself, but it was Saul’s decision to make. Saul refused to obey God and he wasn’t humble enough to take responsibility for his actions–even when he acknowledged he’d sinned his concern was with saving face in front of the people–so the Lord tore the kingdom away from him (1 Sam. 15:16-31).

Of course, David also sinned against the Lord, sometimes in spectacularly horrible ways. But instead of defending himself and insisting, “but I have obeyed the Lord!” David admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” and sincerely repents (2 Sam. 12:13-14; Psalm 51). David wasn’t perfect any more than Saul was, but he had a heart that prompted him to continually turn back and seek the Lord. He stayed humble, teachable, and obedient (2 Sam. 7:18-27).

Living to Honor God

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What about us? Have we begun to take the blessings and honors God gives us for granted? Do we go our own way and ignore the Lord’s commandments, thinking we know best and He’ll appreciate whatever we want to give Him? Or do we take the lessons of Saul’s story to heart and instead follow David’s example of humble gratitude for God’s divine favor, commitment to obedience, and sincere repentance when we miss the mark?

God “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth,” as well as to “come to repentance” (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, WEB). That desire manifests itself in Jesus dying for our sins, the offer of salvation, and God’s longsuffering patience toward all of us. He has set us up for success and wants to give us eternal life. Part of whether or not that comes to pass is up to us, though.

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

Philippians 2:12-13, NET

Salvation is something God accomplishes in us through His grace. It is also something we work on with Him for our whole lives. Like David, we need to show our commitment to honor God through the actions we take. We need to stay humble, in awe of the fact that God would choose to work with us, and never devalue His love or His favor.

Preparing Our Hearts for the Word of God

Last week, the church group I usually meet with canceled services, so I tuned into the livestream of the Messianic group I attended before moving for grad school. And I’m glad I did. The rabbi’s message was about preparing our hearts for an uncertain future, and I found it very encouraging. I hope you find today’s blog post, inspired by that message, encouraging as well 🙂

As you may remember from some of my previous posts, I love the book of Hosea. I don’t think I’ve ever studied this particular verse in depth, though:

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap unfailing love.
Break up the unplowed ground for yourselves,
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes and showers deliverance on you.

Hosea 10:12, NET

There is so much agricultural imagery used in the Bible, and I find this particular one especially beautiful. Sowing seeds of righteousness leads to harvests of unfailing love. There’s preparation needed, though. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8) and the harvest is also affected by where we sow. You know this if you’ve ever planted anything. Even a lawn won’t grow well if you sow weedy seed or don’t prepare the soil properly. The same is true in our hearts.

Parable of the Sower

One of Jesus’s best known parables is that Parable of the Sower, which appears in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. In this parable, the seed is the word of God and the type of ground it falls on is connected to the state of the person’s heart and how they respond to the word.

First, you have the hard-packed soil of a “well-worn path” (NET footnote on Matt. 13:3). Seed that lands on earth like that has no chance to grow, and for this analogy the word is immediately snatched away from their hearts by the wicked one, Satan the devil (Matt. 13:9; Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12). Second, you have the rocky ground; a thin layer of soil over “a limestone base” where there was no soil deep enough for roots to grow (NET footnote on Matt. 13:5). This relates to someone who’s happy to hear the word, but their faith isn’t deep and they abandon it when trials come (Matt. 13:20-21; Mark 4:16-17; Luke 8:13).

Third is the seeds that fell among thorns, which in Palestine can refer to weeds “up to 6 feet in height” with “a major root system” (NET footnote on Matt. 13:7). These are the ones who get crowded out by what’s competing for soil space; the people whose hearts are filled with “worldly cares” and “the desire for other things” that “choke the word, and it produces nothing” (Mark 4:19, NET). Finally, there is the seed that lands in good soil–tilled deep and prepared as Hosea talks about–where the word finds a place to grow. These people, “after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart and bear fruit with steadfast endurance” (Luke 8:15, NET).

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Determining the Focus of Your Heart

I think for a long while, it has been easy for many of us (at least in the U.S.) to coast along with shallow faith or faith that’s barely competing with the other things in our lives. We dare not keep that up now. Whether or not you believe we’re living in the last days, things are changing in the world and we will face challenges to our faith. We need to prepare our hearts so we’ll be ready to follow God no matter what, unlike this ancient king:

King Rehoboam … did evil because he was not determined to follow the Lord.

2 Chronicles 12:13-14, NET

In Hebrew, the last part of this verse literally means, “because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (NET footnote). The focus and direction of our hearts is of vital importance! We can’t just coast along thinking “eh, I’m an okay person so I don’t really need to bother with changing anything or preparing myself.” But we are responsible for preparing, establishing, and determining the direction our lives will go and how we respond to God’s word. If we’re not taking action to be “good ground,” it is very easy to slip into living lives that do not glorify God. In contrast to Rehoboam’s example, we have someone like Ezra:

For Ezra had set his heart to seek Yahweh’s law, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ezra 7:10, WEB

We need to be careful and diligent to “break up the unplowed ground” in our lives and hearts; to be sure we never forget God’s word or let it “depart from our hearts” (Hos. 10:12; Deut. 4:9). Determine in your heart to follow God. Seek His ways and do what He tells you in His word. That’s how you grow a “root system” of faith that will keep you steady no matter what comes.

Asking God to Prepare Us

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We get a say in what kind of ground we are. We can “break up the unplowed ground” and “seek the Lord,” cultivating a heart where God’s word can sink in, take root, and grow. We can weed distractions out of our lives to make room for God’s character to flourish in us. We can dig ourselves into His truths and cultivate a relationship with Him that will sustain us through trails. And we can ask God to help us with this.

Yahweh, you have heard the desire of the humble.
You will prepare their heart.
You will cause your ear to hear

Psalm 10:17, WEB

Yahweh, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the heart of your people, and prepare their heart for you

1 Chronicles 29:18, WEB

David, as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), knew the importance of preparing your heart to seek God. He also recognized that preparing our hearts requires a commitment to God and a recognition of our spiritual helplessness without Him. When we ask Him, He will help us prepare our hearts to take in His word, understand Him, and know Him. So long as we do our part to seek Him and cultivate lives where His word can flourish in us, He will make sure that our hearts are safe in Him.

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If Your Myers-Briggs® Type Was a Superhero, What Superpower Would You Have?

Sometimes, I really enjoy writing and reading fun, silly posts like “Here’s the Greek God or Goddess You’d Be, Based On Your Personality Type” or “Your Not-At-All-Confusing Guide To Finding Out If An INFJ Agrees With You.” Today’s post falls into that category. Don’t take it too seriously, but it’s fun to think about (and I don’t know about you, but I could use some not-too-serious things to think about right now).

Last week, I suggested, “Which superpower would you like to have? Which one do you think you’d actually have based on your personality?” as an expressivist journaling prompt. This post is an extension of that. Assuming that if you developed a superpower it would be based off your personality, what sort of power might each of the different Myers-Briggs® types have?

ENFJ – Shapeshifting

Like other FJ types, ENFJs are good at blending into just about any social situation. Once they’ve got a feel for how a group works, they can perfectly mimic the people around them or turn themselves into the sort of person they need to be in order to fit in or lead. Shapeshifting or mimicry seems like the sort of superpower that could grow out of that personality trait.

INFJ – Mind Reading

INFJs already have people half-convinced we can read minds, so this choice shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve always thought that if I were to have super powers, it would be something like mind reading or mood-sensing (though water manipulation and telekinesis are actually on the top of my wish-list). INFJs are usually really good at picking up on patterns in other people’s behaviors and guessing what they’re thinking, and in many ways superpowered mindreading is a natural extension of that talent.

ENFP – Persuasion

ENFPs are already charming people who are great at convincing others to see and do things their way. I decided to call it persuasion instead of mind control because I suspect a superpowered ENFP would tend to manipulate more than outright control other people. I could easily see an ENFP superhero using their ability to deescalate fights and turn final showdowns into dance offs or philosophy discussions.

INFP – Invisibility

INFPs can often feel as if they’re overlooked and misunderstood. Literally fading out of sight with an invisibility superpower would let them turn something that may feel like an annoying feature of their personality into an asset. Like many introverts, INFPs aren’t all that interested in being in the limelight. Being able to help people without drawing too much attention to themselves or having to face supervillains head-on seems like a very INFP way to superhero.

ENTJ – Telekinesis

ENTJs are often efficient, innovative, and forward thinking types who like to control the world around them. They’re also good at holding several different ideas and perspectives at once, and juggling a wide array of responsibilities. The ability to move objects with their minds might not be a direct extension of a personality trait but I suspect ENTJs would find telekinesis very useful.

INTJ – Future Predicting

Like INFJs, INTJs are really good at picking up on patterns. They’re usually more focused on patterns that have to do with facts and data rather than people, though, and that makes them good at planning for the future. A superpowered version of this talent could give them the ability to actually predict the future with an impressive degree of accuracy.

ENTP – Reality Warping

ENTPs are often the sorts of people who come up with new, innovative ideas that change the way the world works. For a superpower, I think this talent could expand into the ability to warp and shape reality itself. It also seems a good fit for the charming side that many ENTPs have, which can persuade you to see things they way they want you to.

INTP – Teleportation

INTPs aren’t a type that likes to waste time (at least by their own definition of wasted time). They often prefer to spend their time thinking rather than doing, and when they do choose to act they don’t enjoy delays like the necessity to travel getting in the way. Teleportation gives them an instant ability to jump wherever they need to be, accelerating their ability to put innovative ideas into action and also ensuring they’re never stuck in a situation they don’t want to be.

ESFJ – Healing

ESFJs are often kind, gentle people who are deeply invested in helping others. Many go into helping professions or spend a good amount of their time helping the people around them find comfort and healing. Though I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first-pick superpower for every ESFJ, I can’t think of an ESFJ who wouldn’t want the ability to touch people and make them well.

ISFJ – Force Shields

ISFJs are the quintessential guardian type. Even without superpowers they’re often out there protecting people or working tirelessly to keep their loved ones safe and happy. Force shields that they can use to defend themselves and others seems a great fit for an ISFJ superpower.

ESFP – Probability Manipulation

I saw a post somewhere (probably Pinterest) pointing out what an under-appreciated superpower this is and I’ve been thinking about that ever since. How powerful would it be to actually be able to change the chances of something happening? ESFPs are a type that responds quickly to changes in the external world, and with this personality type they’d be able to manipulate how likely those changes are to occur.

ISFP – Animal Communication

Many ISFPs describe themselves as comfortable around animals. They’re the kind of introvert who you might find talking to a cat or dog at a party instead of hanging out with people. Turn that into a superpower, and you’ve got someone who can actually understand what the animals are saying when they talk with them.

ESTJ – Super Speed

Like so many other TJ types, ESTJs place a high value on efficiency. They like to get things done right, and to do so as quickly as possible. For ESTJs who don’t like to slow down, super speed seems to me like a perfect superpower.

ISTJ – Time Manipulation

ISTJs are often the sort of people who are extremely skilled at time management. They’re punctual, efficient, and are good at helping improve how others use their time. A superpower that lets them manipulate and control time seems like it could easily grow out of this personality trait.

ESTP — Flight

Like other SP types, ESTPs are often very physical sorts of people who respond quickly to the real-world. I wanted to give someone on this list flight (one of the most classic superpowers ever), and it seemed a good fit for ESTPs to give them a power that adds another dimension to the physical space they can work with.

ISTP – Accelerated Healing

ISTPs are already the type that makes the best action hero, so I think it makes sense to give them a superpower that lets them keep doing what they already do more efficiently. Just think what an ISTP could do if they didn’t have to worry about injuries taking weeks or months to heal.

Your Turn

Which superpower would you like to have? Do you think I picked a good one for your personality type?

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What Happens When God Takes Justice to the Next Level?

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus talks about commands given to ancient Israel and then gives new guidelines for how to obey God from a heart level. He wants us to shine as lights in the world so that all “can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16, NET).

As preface to taking the commands to a spiritual level, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17, NET). In other words, He has come “to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment” (Thayer’s dictionary entry on G4137, pleroo). And lest anyone think that the new covenant Jesus brings will make obedience any less of a priority, he adds, “unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!” (Matt. 5:20, NET).

We must have a righteousness that “goes beyond” the letter of the law. It’s no longer enough to not murder; Jesus expects us not to despise or condemn others as well (Matt. 5:21-22). Not cheating on our spouses isn’t enough; we’re not even to lust after someone who doesn’t belong to us (Matt. 5:27-28). God has always cared more about the state of the human heart than what we do, and now that desire for heart and spirit-level obedience is made even more explicit. We might even say that what Jesus reveals demands a higher degree of commitment to God than what He expected under the Old Covenant.

A Life for a Life

One of the commands Jesus talks about is, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt 5:38, WEB). This alludes to three passages in the Torah (according to the reference list in MySword Bible app): Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.

The rest of the people will hear and become afraid to keep doing such evil among you. You must not show pity; the principle will be a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot.

Deuteronomy 19:2-21, NET

The NET footnote on this verse says, “This kind of justice is commonly called lex talionis or ‘measure for measure’… It is likely that it is the principle that is important and not always a strict application. That is, the punishment should fit the crime and it may do so by the payment of fines or other suitable and equitable compensation.” This interpretation may well be true, and perhaps Jesus had this in mind when He mentioned this law in His sermon. Maybe people had begun applying it too strictly and missed the heart of God for fairness and justice.

Jesus does not, however, tell people they need to keep applying this law but in a slightly different way. For the other “you have heard … but I say to you” passages, Jesus reinforces keeping the law and makes it more broadly applicable while taking it to a heart level. For example, “Do not break an oath” becomes “do not take oaths at all” (Matt. 5:33-37). This time, though, the exact connection to a broader spiritual application isn’t so direct.

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Mercy over Judgement

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your coat also. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 5:38-42, NET, quoting Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20.

In the past, God’s law let you exact equal retribution for a crime. Someone knocks your tooth out, they lose their tooth. God is a God of justice and judgement, and every time there is sin someone has to pay for it. One thing implied by that rule of justice is that when you transgress the law you will also be punished. That’s where we start to realize how much we need God to also be a God of mercy, and indeed He is.

For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:10-13, NET , quoting Exodus 20:13-14

God wants to show us mercy. He delights in seeing it triumph over judgement. But if we want God to show us mercy, we must also show mercy when we have that opportunity. When someone hits you you don’t hit them back; you turn the other cheek, turn vengeance over to God, and live at peace with everyone you can (Rom. 12:17-21).

Mimicking Jesus’s Mercy

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It is worth noting that when Jesus says, “resist not an evil doer,” the Greek word is anthistemi (G436). The only positive case of it being used between people is when Paul stood up to Peter’s hypocrisy in shunning Gentile believers (Gal. 2:11-17). It is also used when we’re told to “resist the devil” (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9) and to “withstand in the evil day” wearing God’s armor (Eph. 6:13). The command in the Sermon on the Mount does not mean we can’t correct someone in the spirit of love when they’ve made an error or that we do not resist the power behind all evil. We are, however, to commit ourselves to showing mercy and letting go of the option to revenge ourselves on someone else.

When God takes justice and fairness to the next level, it turns into mercy, long-suffering, peace, and love. The principle of “a life for a life” finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ dying to free us from all the things we’ve done that deserve death. He gave His life to redirect the “compensation due sin,” which “is death” (Rom. 6:23, LEB), to Himself even though He did not deserve to suffer and die.

Our human nature might rise up against this “turn the other cheek” passage and say that it isn’t fair to let others get away with these sorts of things. But it also was not “fair” that Jesus died instead of us to pay the penalty for our sin. His mercy triumphed over judgement, and if we follow Him in spirit and in truth our mercy should also triumph over judgement.

Featured image by christian schwartz from Pixabay

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling

My first semester in grad school studying for a Master’s in Rhetoric and Writing, I’m taking a class on writing pedagogies. One philosophy of teaching writing is called Expressivism. In one of the first articles we read on the subject, Richard Fulkerson said this: “Expressivists value writing that is about personal subjects, and such journal-keeping is an absolute essential. Another keynote for expressivists is the desire to have writing contain an interesting, credible, honest, and personal voice” (“Four Philosophies of Composition, 1997, p. 344). Expressivist writing is about self-discovery, personal voice, and self-expression.

When I first read about these writing philosophies, Expressivism made me a little uncomfortable. I like this kind of writing, but it feels like something that belongs in a therapy setting more than in a composition classroom. The more I’ve read about this theory, worked in the campus writing center, and talked with professors who teach composition, the more I’ve started rethinking how useful writing for yourself can be when learning to write for others.

For today’s post, though, I want to lean in to the therapy-like aspects of expressivist writing. I’ve often talked about the importance of journaling for INFJs (and other personality types as well) and recommended that regular journaling is good for helping sort-out your feelings and support your mental health. But one thing I haven’t talked about is what to write in your journals. Journaling is such a personal thing that it seemed presumptuous to suggest journaling topics. I’ve used writing prompts myself, though (more often for fiction, but also sometimes for journaling) and find them helpful, so this seemed like a good idea for a blog post.

How to Start Journaling

You don’t need a huge amount of time to try out journaling. Even 5 to 15 minutes is enough to get started. Many people recommend journaling every day, but while that’s a fantastic goal I often find that journaling a couple times a week is more realistic for me. It might take a while to figure out a schedule that works best for you, so don’t give up if you miss a couple days or feel like you’re “falling behind.” There isn’t really a wrong way to do this.

I like journaling by hand in cute notebooks but digital journaling is an option as well. If you do like writing on a phone, laptop, or computer, I recommend 4TheWords as an great platform to gamify the process and keep you motivated. It’s only $4 a month, there’s a 30-day free trial, and we’ll both get free crystals if you use my referral code VDAFM17786. I’m currently on a 819-day writing streak (and it lets you reserve days so you can take a break if you need to).

One more thing to mention: expressivist writing is a great tool for supporting your mental health, but it’s not a substitute for actual therapy. If you’re struggling with something, my advice is go see a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. I can assure you from experience that trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is not a good idea. Please go get proper help. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you

10 Expressivist Prompts

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling | LikeAnAnchor.com
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  1. What makes you feel alive?
  2. Remember a time when you felt at peace within yourself. Write about that feeling, what it meant to you, how you got there, etc.
  3. If you could be any type of animal, what would you choose and why?
  4. What was the last idea you had that you really wanted to share with someone else?
  5. If someone asked you for your favorite tips on coping with stress, what would you say?
  6. Which superpower would you like to have? Which one do you think you’d actually have based on your personality?
  7. If you could go on an adventure, what would it be and where? The sky isn’t the limit for this prompt–our world, the universe, and fiction are all fair game.
  8. What is one thing you wish other people knew about you?
  9. What childhood memories have stayed with you the strongest? How have they influenced who you are today?
  10. If you could meet any person–living or dead, real or fictional–who would it be and what would you talk about?

Some of these might seem more “creative” than “therapeutic” when you’re first reading through them. I think that it’s important, though, for helping ourselves relax and stay mentally healthy to take the time for creativity. We can’t do intense personal growth work all the time; we’d burn ourselves out. So I hope you’ll try out one of the silly ones like “Which animal would you be?” as well as the potentially more intense ones like “What do you wish other people knew about you?”

More Journaling Prompts

If my prompts don’t resonate with you, you’re looking for more prompts, or you’d like another perspective on expressive journaling, here are three more resource where you can find expressivist writing prompts.

PandemicProject

The Pandemic Project from the University of Texas at Austin offers a list of prompts to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. You can use them just for yourself, or anonymously share your writing with the research team. Here’s an example prompt:

For the next 5-10 minutes (or longer if you like), really let go and explore your deepest thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Expressive Wring Prompts

This collection of prompts from Duke University is organized by topic. Choose from categories like “Self-Love, “Introspection,” Creativity, “and “Uncertainty.” Here are a few examples of what you’ll find on this list:

Describe your famous alter ego. What would you be famous for? Where would you live? What would your style be? What would people know you as from a distance? How would you defy their expectations?

What is a mistake or failure you’ve had that you became thankful for?

Reflect on a time when you have overcome an obstacle, small or large.

105 Writing Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

This list comes from mental health advocate, writer and blogger Janine Ripper. Her extensive list of writing prompts could keep you busy writing for months if you fall in love with expressive writing. Here are a few examples:

In what ways have you grown as a person this year? What/who has influenced you? And what have you learned?

If you could relive an experience in your life, what would it be?

What are the 3 biggest distractions in your life at the moment, and how can you go about reducing them?

Have any prompts you’d like to share? Tips for starting and keeping up with a journal? Want to talk about your experience trying out some of these prompts? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Featured image credit: David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay