Great Changes Begin Great Stories

Think about your favorite novel, movie, or TV show. It probably begins with the main characters going about their ordinary lives. Bilbo Baggins lives peacefully in his hobbit hole (The Hobbit). Elizabeth Bennet is socializing with her sisters and putting up with a mother eager to marry her off (Pride and Prejudice). Luke Skywalker is moisture farming on Tatooine (Star Wars). A pastor is sailing with his family to a colony in the South Pacific (The Swiss Family Robinson).

Then Gandalf arrives with a party of dwarves. Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Droids arrive carrying secret plans that must be delivered to the Rebellion. The ship crashes on an uncharted island. Something changes, acting as an inciting incident to push the main character out of their normal life and into the events of the story.

We’re currently living in a time of great change. People are talking about what the “new normal” will look like and speculating about how much things will change now that there’s Covid-19 in the world. There have been many other times of great change throughout history — pandemics, the industrial revolution, natural disasters, colonization by European powers, terrorist attacks, the falls of empires, the birth of Jesus Christ. Some are terrible, some depend on your point of view, and a very few are spectacularly good.

We have very little control over how the world changes. But we do have some control over if and how we change in response to those changes. In many ways, we get to decide whether the effects of this pandemic will be an inciting incident for personal growth, a speed bump as we continue on much the same as before, or something that derails our path.

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Photo credit: RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ via Pixabay

We would not have had a story if Bilbo stayed home, Elizabeth refused to speak with Darcy a second time, Luke didn’t follow R2-D2 into the desert, or the Swiss family had been rescued after only a week on the island. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore social distancing guidelines and go running off on a grand adventure. For us today I’m talking more about an internal adventure and a commitment to positive change.

Some of the greatest journeys we can go on are those of self-discovery, and they’re often prompted by change. The biggest moments that stand-out in my mind as times that sparked personal growth were starting college, beginning a dating relationship with a man I’d been friends with for years, and then the breakup which ended that relationship. Maybe this pandemic will be another one for me, and for many other people.

Whether you’re stuck at home and have some extra time on your hands or not, the changes in the world around us can serve as a reminder to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. We might ask questions like, “What impact am I having on the people around me for good or ill?” or “How can I become a healthier individual mentally, emotionally, and physically?” or “What do I want the next part of my story to look like?”

We can’t control when quarantine restrictions lift, who gets sick, or most other things associate with this pandemic. But we can control how we respond to the changes that are happening in our lives and the world around us. Let’s commit to making sure the great changes we’re going through now spark great next chapters in the stories of our own lives.


If you’re looking for some ideas for where to start working on personal growth, I’ve finally found an Enneagram book that I like. It’s called The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (please note this is an affiliate link, which means if you click and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

I haven’t quite finished it yet, but even just reading the introduction and chapter on my enneatype has given me some additional clarity on a couple issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. You might want to check this book out if you’ve been curious about the Enneagram or want some ideas for personal growth. I borrowed it from a digital library, so that might be an option for those who (like me) prefer to try out a book before buying it.

 

Featured image credit: js j via Pixabay

Do You Let People Change?

Most of us know that we can change. In fact, since you’re reading a blog where I talk about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective, I dare say most of you are actively trying to change for the better. We believe we can grow. We believe we can become better versions of ourselves. We believe in change and new beginnings.

But do we believe the same thing of other people? Do you think everyone you meet is capable of the same level of change that you are? Maybe you can say “yes” to these questions as an abstract idea. But if other people are changing and growing, do you suppose that you would notice?

I’m sure most of us would like to think that we hold space for others to grow. We probably also like to think we’d recognize change when we see it, but research indicates that most of us aren’t very good at this. To quote Psychology Today, “People tend to get attached to their initial impressions of others and find it very difficult to change their opinion, even when presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.” We tend to size people up quickly and then stick with our initial impressions even if we see proof that we were wrong. Read more

Here’s How Each Personality Type Can Change The World

Every personality type has something incredibly valuable to offer the world. Each comes with a slightly different way of learning new information, seeing the world, making decisions, and interacting with others. And that means that we each have the potential to positively impact the world in different ways.

A person’s Myers-Briggs® type doesn’t explain everything about them. But it does describe how our minds work, and that can give us an idea of how each type can use their strengths to make the world a better place.

For this list, I’ve paired the types that use the same primary and co-pilot functions together. For example, both ESFJ and ISFJ use Extroverted Feeling and Introverted Sensing as their preferred functions, just in a different order. If you’re new to Myers-Briggs® theory or want a quick refresher, you can click here for a quick intro to how functions work.

ESFJ and ISFJ

ESFJs and ISFJs change the world by connecting with and supporting other people, as well as preserving and passing on valuable lessons of the past. 

Having Extroverted Feeling as either their primary or co-pilot function gives SFJ types a strong desire to help and support other people. They tend to personalize everything they do and care so deeply about others that they may forget their own needs while selflessly serving those around them. They’re also really good at picking up on what other people are feeling.

With Introverted Sensing as either their primary or co-pilot function, SFJs have a strong desire to learn from the past. It’s the function that helps us make sure we remember what was learned in our personal and collective histories so we don’t keep repeating failures as we go forward.

ENFJ and INFJ

ENFJs and INFJs change the world by bridging gaps between people who have different perspectives and offering a vision for what the future could look like on both personal and societal levels. Read more

ENFJs, the Dead Poet Society, and Ways To Change the World

When I wrote my list of 7 Fictional Characters That You’ll Relate To If You’re An ENFJ, I rewatched the movie Dead Poet Society. I think both John Keating and Neil Perry are ENFJs, but they’re often typed as ENFPs and that got me thinking about some of the main differences between these types. And that led me to pondering the ways that NF types, and ENFJs in particular, work to change the world.

Most people don’t think of ENFJs as a type that would buck the status quo. We see them as harmony creators, best friends, and mentors but not necessarily as someone who swims against the flow of culture. I think that’s the main reason people type Mr. Keating and Neil as ENFPs, who we more often think of as the outspoken champions of causes. But ENFJs do have a rebellious streak. In fact, all NF types are idealists who typically find some way to seek a better world. Though the ways they work toward this change (and what a better world means to them) differ depending on their individual personalities, interests, and experiences most of them do want to change the world in some way.

Just to be clear, NF types aren’t the only ones who care about social change or want to see improvements in the world. Every one of the 16 types does that in their own way, and I’ll be working on a post that covers all of them in the near future. But just for today, I want to focus on ENFJs, ENFPs, and Dead Poet Society.

The Teacher

I’m not a huge fan of giving the Myers-Briggs types nicknames because there’s so much more to each type than can be neatly packaged into a single description. But we can look at the different nicknames as roles that each type fills often enough for it to stick as a label. Teacher, Mentor, Giver, and Charismatic Leader are all descriptions that are used to try and sum-up the key traits of ENFJs. Interestingly, all those labels could be applied to John Keating from Dead Poet Society. Read more

Obstacles To Temple Building (Lessons from Haggai, part three)

Both letters to the Corinthian church remind them, “You are the temple of God.” Each member of Christ’s church is a temple, and we’re being built up into a spiritual house of God. This applies to the body as a whole, as well as to individuals.

We’ve been spending time in the book of Haggai the past couple weeks, talking about God’s challenge to the people who were neglecting His temple and what we can do about building up the temple we have today. Like those of us in the modern churches of God, the people of Haggai’s time faced a number obstacles to temple building. They let these obstacles discourage them for many years, but it turns out they weren’t really anything to worry about. Once the people turned back to God and started working on what He commanded, the obstacles didn’t seem so significant.

Obstacles To Temple Building | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Droughts

This isn’t so much an obstacle as it is a result of neglecting the temple in the first place. God tells the people their lives lacked good things “because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house” (Hag. 1:9).

Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Hag. 1:10-11)

Confronted with these struggles, the people might have said, “We can’t build God’s house while so many bad things are happening.” It would have been an understandable reaction from a human perspective. Nothing we do is bearing fruit, so why bother with the temple? God wouldn’t be happy if that falls apart like everything else. But in reality, all the problems they were seeing came as a result of neglecting the temple.

In our own lives, we often find ourselves discouraged from contributing in our local churches, or distracted by other worries from building-up the people around us. We might think we have very little time or ability to contribute to  God’s temple because there’s so much other stuff going on, and often going wrong. In reality, if we prioritize God’s temple, the other things in our lives will start to fall into place (or at least get easier to deal with because we have God on our side).

Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.” So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God (Hag. 1:13-14)

We need to let God “stir up” our spirits. Focusing only on things that are going wrong in our lives, and then trying to fix them without working on God’s temple, is just going to make things worse.

Comparisons

The previous temple had been the one built by Solomon. Physically speaking, it was the most glorious temple ever built for God. The people working on this new temple knew they couldn’t approach that magnificence, and it was discouraging.

Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ (Hag. 2:3-5)

You’ll hear something similar today in the church – people looking back to a time when the church was larger, or had more money, or seemed more influential, or had more respect in U.S. Culture. But God doesn’t want His people looking backwards except for productive reasons.

We can learn from past mistakes or take encouragement from past examples of God’s goodness, but being paralyzed in the present because you’re living in the past is unacceptable. God is moving us toward a great and glorious future, and that’s where we must look if we want His blessing now as we build the temples of our lives and churches.

Unstable Foundations

Whatever you’re building, it has to start with a firm foundation. The temple of God is no exception.

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:6-9)

These passages are prophetic, reaching beyond the completion of that physical temple to a new house constructed by God Himself. Part of it is being fulfilled today, as we are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), and part will be fulfilled in the future.

but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:26-29)

The author of Hebrews looked back to these verses in Haggai when talking about our future kingdom. To get there, we’re going to have to go through “shakings.” In my Messianic congregation, the Rabbi has given several messages where he reminds us that “everything which can be shaken will be shaken.” In other words, things that are not firmly grounded on Jesus Christ will topple over.

Unclean Hearts

Sometimes, we ourselves can be the obstacles standing in the way of building up a people that glorifies God. Other people can also act as obstacles, of course, but we have to be very careful to make sure we’ve gotten any beams out of our own eyes before trying to pick slivers out of someone else. We must examine our own hearts for uncleanness before we can hope to help others who are engaged in temple building.

And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord – since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord. (Hag. 2:13-17)

This takes us right back to where we started this chapter. If bad things are happening in our lives, it should prompt us to engage in self-examination and turn back to God – not stop building up God’s house.

What sort of things do you see holding the church back from growth? what steps could we take to overcome them?

Obstacles To Temple Building | marissabaker.wordpress.com

credits for photos used in blog images:

  • Roadblock” by Greg Westfall, CC BY via Flickr
  • Roadblock” by Olle Svensson, CC BY via Flickr

Building Up Temples (Lessons from Haggai, part two)

Inspired by Haggai’s message to those rebuilding the temple in 520 B.C., we started a conversation about the state of the church in last week’s post. Via Haggai’s prophecy, God challenged His people about their choice to neglect rebuilding His temple. Sadly, today, there is a similar neglect in building up the individuals in God’s church, who are described as His temple. We talked about that last week, though. This week, we’re going to talk about what to do about it.

Edification

Having challenged the people with their lack of productivity, God again asks them to consider their ways.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. (Hag. 1:7-9)

For us in the spiritual temple, we need to be careful to maintain a balance between individual growth and serving the body. Though our lives depend on developing a close, personal relationship with God, He never intended for us to act in isolation. Rather, the more we become like Christ, the more we should want to serve our brethren. Focusing only on building your own house is selfish, and is not pleasing to God.

In the Greek New Testament, every time we’re told to edify one another, it’s related to the idea of building a house. The Greek word for house is oikos (G3624), and it’s the root word for oikodomeo (G3618). This word literally means “to be a house builder,” and is translated “build,” “edify,” and “embolden.” This connection even exists in English – the word “edify” is related to “edifice.”

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

We know Jesus is ultimately the Builder who is creating His church (Matt. 16:18). He builds the house, has more glory than the house, and rules us “as a son over His own house” (Heb. 3:1-6). He does, however, have people within the house working with Him as He builds us up.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:9-11)

This principle works on an individual as well as a group level. You are a temple of God, and you are part of the House of God. Everything that you build must be founded on Jesus Christ, or it’s not going to last. In contrast, if we commit to building up God’s temple properly, He will be pleased and glorified. As we talked about last week, it’s not just the responsibility of people in leadership positions, either. We’re all to be teaching and building up one another.
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Where to Build?

Any good building has to start with a good foundation. With God’s spirit in us and the Son of God as our foundation, we have all the tools we need to build well in the eyes of God. He’s given us the opportunity to build something glorious, if we’ll take it.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:11-13)

We get out of our walk with God what we put into it. If we give Him the perishable, useless stuff of our lives – the stubble left over after we do what we want – then our house will burn back down to the foundation and we’ll have to start over. But if we give Him our best, we will endure and be rewarded.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:14-16)

God’s glory once filled the tabernacle and the physical temples, and He wants to fill His temple today as well. But He won’t dwell in a defiled, falling-apart temple. It is our responsibility as His temples and as His church to put our best effort into making this building something fit for God’s use.

What Next?

I don’t want to end this post without actually giving some practical steps we can take to help rebuild God’s temple. Principles are good, but what does it really look like to edify other people and to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ?

  • Don’t shy away from talking about spiritual things. There’s often a tendency when we get together for church to chat, gossip, and just share what’s been going on since we saw each other last. But if we’re there with people who love God to honor God, we should be talking about Him at least a little, right?
  • Avoid negativity whenever possible. If you’ve had a terrible week and you need to vent, go ahead and give people the opportunity to comfort and encourage you. But if everything coming out of your mouth is critical, complaining, or pessimistic you’re not helping anyone (including yourself). It takes about 5 positive comments to balance out 1 negative remark. What ratio are you offering God’s temple?
  • Stop thinking small in terms of what the church is. The church isn’t United Church of God, or Living Church of God or whatever your local church calls itself. The church is every individual within the Body of Christ, and that’s where we need to be serving and edifying.
  • Study the Bible, especially Jesus Christ’s example. Corporate growth starts with individual growth, and individual growth starts with developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the foundation we have to build on, and the One who builds us up.

What would you add to this list? please share in the comments below!

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