May 23, 2008

My Myers-Briggs personality type

I took an online version of Myers-Briggs today since it's been a while since I took the actual test in seminary and I wanted to see what I am now. It seems I am an ENTP. I googled this personality type and here's a description I found. I've italicized the parts I resonate with most.

The Visionary

As an ENTP, your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you take things in primarily via your intuition. Your secondary mode is internal, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

With Extraverted Intuition dominating their personality, the ENTP's primary interest in life is understanding the world that they live in. They are constantly absorbing ideas and images about the situations they are presented in their lives. Using their intuition to process this information, they are usually extremely quick and accurate in their ability to size up a situation. With the exception of their ENFP cousin, the ENTP has a deeper understanding of their environment than any of the other types.

This ability to intuitively understand people and situations puts the ENTP at a distinct advantage in their lives. They generally understand things quickly and with great depth. Accordingly, they are quite flexible and adapt well to a wide range of tasks. They are good at most anything that interests them. As they grow and further develop their intuitive abilities and insights, they become very aware of possibilities, and this makes them quite resourceful when solving problems.

ENTPs are idea people. Their perceptive abilities cause them to see possibilities everywhere. They get excited and enthusiastic about their ideas, and are able to spread their enthusiasm to others. In this way, they get the support that they need to fulfill their visions.

ENTPs are less interested in developing plans of actions or making decisions than they are in generating possibilities and ideas. Following through on the implementation of an idea is usually a chore to the ENTP. For some ENTPs, this results in the habit of never finishing what they start. The ENTP who has not developed their Thinking process will have problems with jumping enthusiastically from idea to idea, without following through on their plans. The ENTP needs to take care to think through their ideas fully in order to take advantage of them.

The ENTP's auxiliary process of Introverted Thinking drives their decision making process. Although the ENTP is more interested in absorbing information than in making decisions, they are quite rational and logical in reaching conclusions. When they apply Thinking to their Intuitive perceptions, the outcome can be very powerful indeed. A well-developed ENTP is extremely visionary, inventive, and enterprising.

ENTPs are fluent conversationalists, mentally quick, and enjoy verbal sparring with others. They love to debate issues, and may even switch sides sometimes just for the love of the debate. When they express their underlying principles, however, they may feel awkward and speak abruptly and intensely.

The ENTP personality type is sometimes referred to the "Lawyer" type. The ENTP "lawyer" quickly and accurately understands a situation, and objectively and logically acts upon the situation. Their Thinking side makes their actions and decisions based on an objective list of rules or laws. If the ENTP was defending someone who had actually committed a crime, they are likely to take advantage of quirks in the law that will get their client off the hook. If they were to actually win the case, they would see their actions as completely fair and proper to the situation, because their actions were lawful. The guilt or innocence of their client would not be as relevant. If this type of reasoning goes uncompletely unchecked by the ENTP, it could result in a character that is perceived by others as unethical or even dishonest. The ENTP, who does not naturally consider the more personal or human element in decision making, should take care to notice the subjective, personal side of situations. This is a potential problem are for ENTPs. Although their logical abilities lend strength and purpose to the ENTP, they may also isolate them from their feelings and from other people.

The least developed area for the ENTP is the Sensing-Feeling arena. If the Sensing areas are neglected, the ENTP may tend to not take care of details in their life. If the Feeling part of themself is neglected, the ENTP may not value other people's input enough, or may become overly harsh and aggressive.

Under stress, the ENTP may lose their ability to generate possibilities, and become obsessed with minor details. These details may seem to be extremely important to the ENTP, but in reality are usually not important to the big picture.

In general, ENTPs are upbeat visionaries. They highly value knowledge, and spend much of their lives seeking a higher understanding. They live in the world of possibilities, and become excited about concepts, challenges and difficulties. When presented with a problem, they're good at improvising and quickly come up with a creative solution. Creative, clever, curious, and theoretical, ENTPs have a broad range of possibilities in their lives.

Of course all personality tests are somewhat flawed or over-generalizing, I found a lot of this to be a pretty accurate depiction of what goes on between my ears and in my chest. I'd be interested to hear feedback from those who know me well.

Keep training,

May 20, 2008

the video promos from NUMB3RS for those who may have missed them

Here are the promos we shot for the first 3 messages of this series, in case anyone missed them. I had a lot of fun coming up with these with Chris Macedo (our worship pastor) and Joe Jackson (our director).

Week 1 - "7 Churches"

[DISCLAIMER: I know that Laodicea is not on the coast of Asia Minor; it's farther inland. We drew the coast closer to the cities for illustrative purposes. I just goofed when I said it was near the coast.]

Week 2 - "666"

Week 3 - "0 Raptures"

May 15, 2008

Are you "rapture ready"??

Okay, so this is admittedly a break in the flow of the Revelation study that we've been doing on here. But since this Sunday's message is sure to generate many questions, comments, or concerns, I thought it would be a good time to discuss the topic up front--The Rapture.

As you may know, we as a church reject the idea of an invisible rapture of believers from the earth before the return of Jesus. As you may not know, however, so do the vast majority of apostolic Christians throughout the world and for the entire history of the church until the 1850s. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington gives a synopsis of how this new idea began:

In 1830 in Glasgow, Scotland, a young girl named Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service. She was said to have received a vision on the occasion of a two-stage return of Christ, though it is not clear whether she envisioned a pre-tribulation or a post-tribulation rapture to coordinate with the first of these comings.
The matter might have fallen into obscurity except that a British Evangelical preacher named John Nelson Darby heard the story and spread it far and wide. Darby, who was to become the founder of the Plymouth Brethren denomination, explained more fully and clearly that Christ would definitely come twice, the first in secret to rapture the church out of the world and up to heaven. He would then return after seven years of worldwide tribulation to establish a dominion on earth based in Jerusalem. Darby coordinated this latter event with the discussion of the “glorious appearing” referred to in Titus 2:13 and distinguished it from the discussion of the “parousia” in 1 Thessalonians 4. [Witherington, "The Problem with Evangelical Theology" p.93)

So how did such an obscure idea become so widespread in North America? Witherington recounts:
Darby made numerous evangelistic trips to America between 1859 and 1877 and won many American converts to the rapture theology....Darby concluded that God had divided all of history into seven distinct Dispensations or ages. In each of these Dispensations God dealt with people differently, and according to differing rules.

Dwight L. Moody became enamored with this theology and began promulgating it on both sides of the Atlantic, furthered by the founding of the Moody Bible Institute, and eventually Moody Press and by a radio network. But by far the single most enduring tool for spreading this theology was a reference Bible, put together by one Cyrus I. Scofield and first published in 1909...The readings and notes were woven in with the text itself, which made it appear as if this teaching was self-evident and indeed arose directly from the text.

Lewis Chafer, a Presbyterian, would come along feeling the need to establish a Dispensational training center, in part to shore up the exegetical and theological liabilities of Dispensational theology. The result was Dallas Theological Seminary founded in 1924, which has produced the likes of John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Hal Lindsey, and many names familiar to Evangelicals who have been readers of popular Evangelical theology. These leaders and their writings have impacted Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Timothy and Beverly LaHaye, and a host of Dispensational televangelists who will remain nameless. [pp.93-96]

This is the reason SO many evangelical Christians have come to believe in the idea of the rapture--some of the most successful and dynamic evangelists of the 20th century taught it. And with the rise of Christian radio and television, such teaching spread quickly around the country, and often the world. After all, if as an amazing man of God such as D.L. Moody teaches something from Scripture, it has to be right...right?
Not necessarily. This is something that we want to stress over and over and over again. The degree to which we hold a theological idea as truth should be directly proportional to the degree to which we have ourselves studied it in-depth. (This applies to everything taught by any of us on staff at GSUMC as well!) For instance, if someone hears something taught from the Bible by a Pastor or teacher, it is good for that person to hold whatever teaching they have received with "loose hands" until they have studied it more for themselves and have become convinced that it is in accordance with Scripture. [IMPORTANT NOTE: Such a study does NOT consist of only reading or listening to various others who believe and teach the same position! Rather, it comes from listening humbly to those brothers and sisters in Christ who DISAGREE the most with the idea in question and weighing their arguments equally. ALWAYS listen to different perspectives than the one you are coming from initially. Only after this is done honestly and charitably can we say we have studied an issue.]

So, back to the idea of the Rapture.

Do wonderful Christian men and women believe and teach it? Absolutely! Is it an issue upon which our salvation is based? Absolutely not! Should we let disagreements--even passionate arguments--separate and divide us as members of One Body who walk together with our Lord Jesus? Me Genoito! ["Absolutely Not!", to use a favorite phrase of Paul's]. Is it worth discussing and important to understand what Scripture actually teaches about it? Yes, extremely!

And that is why we as a church reject the doctrine of a rapture of believers before the return of Jesus--because it is not taught anywhere in Scripture! Of course, you may be thinking, "Sure it is! If it weren't, smart commited Christians wouldn't believe in it!"

But is this really true?

Ask yourself this question, honestly: "Do I believe in the rapture because I have studied the passages in Scripture which supposedly teach it in their contexts and have listened to counterarguments by those who reject it and find them unpersuasive? Or do I believe in the rapture because a Christian teacher or author who I really like and respect taught on it passionately with multiple citations of Bible verses, charts, and/or diagrams?"

I would dare say that a good 90-95% of people who believe in the rapture do so because that's the view that their main theological teachers have held. Now, of course there are those who in their theological study have listened to arguments against the rapture presented by rapture proponents. But is this really "in-depth" study? Or is it recycling arguments uncritically? Only the individual can answer this question, of course. And there are, to be fair, a number of rapture proponents who have come to believe in it after honest study of the text of Scripture (though the number of Biblical scholars and theologians who arrive at this conclusion is extremely small and arises almost exclusively among Dispensational settings).

I would like to make a Disclaimer at this point, because I can practically hear the protests of those readers who believe strongly in the rapture right now and I would like to clarify what I'm NOT saying. What I'm NOT saying is that if you have concluded that the rapture is true, as taught by popular Dispensationalist authors and teachers, then you are simply ignorant or haven't studied it hard enough. That attitude would be condescending, prideful, and...well...really annoying! That's what turns so many faithful Christians off to theological discussion and argumentation in the first place. No, that attitude is not allowed in the Dojo! :)

What I AM saying is that it is my firm belief (and the belief of GSUMC's Pastoral leaders) that the Bible does not teach anything at all resembling the "rapture", as taught by various Dispensationalists and presented in books and movies such as "Left Behind." More than that, it has NEVER been the belief of the vast majority of orthodox, apostolic Christians throughout history up until the last century and a half. Therefore, if we are to accept something as theologically counter-intuitive and bizarre as an invisible rapture of believers before the Return of Christ in victory and judgment (not that something being counter-intuitive or bizarre is any reason to reject it!), then it should be 1.) grounded in the historic faith of the apostolic Christian community and 2.) taught clearly in Scripture without having to take various passages from their contexts, "decode" them, and/or fit them into complicated charts or maps of preconceived "end times" events. This is where the Dispensational doctrine of the Rapture fails. This is why the Christian church as a whole, even the post-Darby Christian church as a whole, has rejected this doctrine as unbiblical.

There is also a pastoral reason we reject the doctrine of the rapture--it doesn't prepare Christians to go through the worst because it teaches that when things get really bad in the world, the Church won't be around to suffer:
Unless by rapture one merely means being taken up into the air to welcome Christ and return with him to earth, there is no theology of the rapture to be found in the New Testament anywhere, never mind the term itself. But if this is so, what then are the implications?
...For one thing it means that the church of the last generation will go through the fire, just as every other generation of Christians has had to do. This is why Jesus’ word of comfort in Mark 13 is not that we will be spared the tribulation, but that God has shortened the time of it for the sake of the elect people of God, which clearly refers to the followers of Jesus (Mark 13:20). Notice for example when Revelation 12:1-6 in fact promises. The woman who represents the people of God in this chapter is not raptured out of the world when the Devil pursues her; rather she is protected from any spiritual harm while remaining in the world. Such is the lot of the people of God in every generation until the Lord returns. There will be no “beam me up Scotty” effect for the last generation of Christians. Rather there will be suffering and martyrdom, just as there was in the time when John wrote Revelation. What was true then will also be true in the end. [Witherington, p.130]

And finally, contrary to what many rapture adherents may believe, this is not a "Liberal" theological claim. Even popular conservative Christians such as Hank Hanegraff, "The Bible Answer Man", and others reject the idea of the rapture. But in the spirit of honest debate, I encourage people to read defenses of the rapture by some of its strongest proponents, such as Lewis Chafer, John Walvoord, and Charles Ryrie.

Okay, that's all for now. I look forward to many fruitful discussions on this and other issues here in the Dojo! Please feel free to comment if you disagree or if you have follow-up questions. This is what the Discipleship Dojo is for--theological sparring!

Be passionate.

Be honest.

But be charitable.

Walking together...


May 8, 2008

Genesis 1 revisited

A while back, we did a message on Creation and Genesis 1 at GSUMC. It was meant to be a multi-sensory worship experience designed to let people experience the text afresh in a way that it would've been heard and understood by its ancient near east hearers. As part of the service, I translated Gen.1 from the Hebrew text in a way that I believe brings out more of the meaning, purpose, and mystery of the text, which our post-enlightenment minds often gloss over. I also read aloud a short literary "commentary" that I composed on each section to help guide the readers through the text. I thought it'd make for an interesting post and I'd love anyone's feedback.

Translation of Genesis 1:1-2:3 (with commentary in bold)

by James-Michael Smith

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

but the earth was empty and desolate and darkness covered the face of the seas—yet the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Nothing. No planets, no stars, no oceans, no sky, no anything! It is from this nothingness that God brings into being all that we know. All that we are, all that we ever will be—brought forth in an act of creation beyond comprehension.

Yet before we have time to ponder this further, we are thrust into the midst of Earth's primordial watery darkness, with chaos and desolation as our only companions.
But wait! We find out that actually we are not alone in this dark and chaotic world— like a great majestic bird, God's Spirit soars over the deep; over the Abyss…and where the Spirit of God is, light and life cannot be far behind!

God said, "There will be light."

…and there was light!

God saw the light—that it was good!

God made a distinction between the light and the darkness. God named the light "Day" and the dark He amed "Night."

There was evening and there was morning. Day one.

The darkness will not last! Light is breaking through! The earth begins to
give signs of a cycle—a continual movement from darkness to light. There is separation; there is order. This is to be a world of light and darkness—day and night. Not a cosmic struggle between two opposing forces, as many will later imagine. But rather, a cosmic dance, between two wondrous partners, in devotion to their Lord and King! Two vast realms in which creation will play out at the command of the Creator.

Not through strength.
Not through struggle.
But through one thing, and one thing alone—the WORD!

God said, "There will be an expansive dome in the midst of the water, dividing water from water."

So God made the expansive dome and separated the water that is beneath the expansive dome from the water that is above the expansive dome.

That's what happened!

God named the expansive dome "Sky."

There was evening and there was morning. Day two.

The earth is shrouded in a state of watery mist. Water below, water above, water in front, water in back—everywhere water! But like the darkness, this chaotic watery state will not remain.

God speaks and the Sky—the vast canvas upon which the Great Artist will paint innumerable masterpieces each day and each night—comes into being. The waters are divided: those below covering the earth, and those above providing the rain, the snow, the clouds and the vast, blue expanse upon which living eyes will one day gaze!

But that is not all! While many ancient people will come to believe that the waters are an untamable force of darkness and evil that no one can control—a force that cannot be conquered; a realm that cannot be restrained—those who listen carefully can hear the waters themselves declaring that there is one name to which they bow! One Being, before whom they tremble! The One who will later reveal Himself simply as "I AM."

God said, "The waters beneath the Sky will be gathered to one place so that dry land will appear."

That's what happened!

God named the dry land "Land" and the gathered waters He named "Sea."

God saw that it was good.

The seas roar! Creation trembles! And in an unimaginable act of wondrous power, God transforms the world from a watery realm of chaos into a world with solid dry ground! Mountains, valleys, plains and hills—all are called into being by the King of all Creation!

But they are not to serve as homes for imaginary gods who look down upon hapless humanity. Nor are they magical gateways to and from heaven or hell. No! The rocks which form the highest mountain and the lowest valley exist primarily as an awe-inspiring witnesses to the power of the Divine Word!

Then God said, "The Land will sprout grass and plants producing seed and fruit trees producing fruit according to their type with seeds in it—throughout the Land."

That's what happened!

The Land brought forth grass and plants producing seed and trees bearing fruit with seeds in it according to their type.

God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning. Day three.

Again God speaks; again creation obeys! Yet this time He instills His newest creation, the Land itself, with the ability to bring forth life!

The tiny thistle, the mighty cedar, the life-sustaining olive tree, the healing herb, and countless others spring up from the Land in all their glory. Like billions of arms extended upward in worship of their Maker, the branches tower above the Land, ready to provide nourishment and shelter for whatever God might
bring forth next.

God said, "There will be lights in the expansive dome of the Sky, to distinguish between the Day and the Night and they will be for signs, seasons, days and years; and they will provide light in the expansive dome of the Sky—to shine over the Land."

That's what happened!

God appointed the two Great Lights—the greater light, the ruler of the Day and the lesser light, the ruler of the Night—as well as the stars. God put them in the expansive dome of the
Sky to shine over the Land,
ruling over the Day and over the Night, separating the Light and the Dark.

God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning. Day four.

The stage is set! The realms are ready for their rulers! Ready for those whom the King will now begin to appoint over them. The first to be appointed are the Great Lights. The lights, shining forth day and night without ceasing, appear for the first time in the Sky. There are two—a larger one to rule over the Day. To provide light, heat and energy. The other smaller one, to rule the Night. To serve as a marker for the times and seasons—accompanied by an entourage of tiny lights, the Stars.

But one thing is clear. While these great lights are appointed to rule, they are not appointed to rule all of Creation. They are not gods or goddesses—no more so than are the Mountains and Seas! They are simply parts of God's orderly creation…still awaiting its full glory.

God said, "The seas will teem with swarming creatures and flying creatures will fly over the Land, over the face of the expansive dome, the Sky."

God created the Great Sea Monsters and all the swarming creatures that swarm the waters according to their types and all winged flying creatures according to their types.

God saw that it was good.

God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the Seas; and flying creatures, multiply in the Land!"

There was evening and there was morning. Day five.

Just as the Light and the Darkness—the Day and the Night—are to come under authority and dominion of the Great lights, so too the Sky and Seas are now introduced to their rulers. The highest heights and darkest depths will be
inhabited by God's creation!

Swimming, swarming, soaring! The Seas and the Sky—places that will long be
unapproachable by the rest of creation—are the realm of those creatures whom God has appointed to rule, to live, and to reflect His wondrous artistry in design.

God said, "The Land will bring forth living creatures according to their types—livestock, small animals, and wildlife of the Land according to their types."

That's what happened!

God made the wildlife of the land according to their types, the livestock according to their types, and all the small animals of the ground according to their type.

God saw that it was good.

The final realm awaiting its ruler is the Land. And just as God infused the Land
with the ability to bring forth life in the form of vegetation, so now it is commanded to bring forth what will live upon its surface, feeding off its vegetation. Cattle! Horses! Foxes! Sheep! Rams! Lions! Badgers! Mice! The surface of the land explodes with life! Running! Jumping! Scurrying! Digging! The Land is their domain…but their ruler is yet to come…

Then God said, "Let us make Human in our image, according to our likeness; and he will rule over the fish of the Sea and over the flying creatures of the Sky and over the livestock and over all the Land and over all the small animals in the Land."

So God created Human in His image;
In the image of God He created him;
Male and Female—He created them.

At last, the ones whom God appoints as stewards of His entire creation make their appearance! These creatures…so different from the millions and millions others who have come before them! No scales, no wings, no claws, no fur, no feathers, no fangs—what kind of creature IS this…"Human"?

The answer is shocking! This creature, out of ALL the others, is the creature who alone is created in the image of the Creator! Though there are two types—male and female—BOTH are fashioned in the Image and likeness of God Himself! It's as if the Divine sculptor has left His fingerprints all over them both! Like God, they will too create. Like God, they ill too rule. Like God, they will too love!

And all of Creation has awaited their arrival!

God blessed them and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the Land and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the Sea and the flying creatures of the sky and over all creatures swarming over the Land."

Then God said, "Look! I am giving to you everything that makes seed throughout all the Land. And every tree that has fruit on it bearing seed, to you it will be for food. And to every creature of the Land, every flying creature of the Sky, and everything swarming over the Land that has living breath in it, all green plants will be food.

That's what happened!

God saw all that He had made and, behold!—It was exceedingly good!

There was evening and there was morning. Day six.

No realm of creation of lies outside their authority! These "Humans" will spread and cover the world. They will serve as God's co-regents, His ambassadors, His caretakers of all that has come before them. They will draw their sustenance
from the life-giving Land, and will rule over all that they encounter. What a glorious position! What an honor! Inhabiting and exploring, experiencing and naming, relating and governing! Human and God, working together!

All that has come before—from the most distant Great Light to the smallest Swarming creature—from the mightiest oak to the most tender sapling—from the most majestic mountain to the gentlest stream—all has lead up to this moment!

From dark nothingness,
to disordered chaos,
to watery surface,
to green dry land,
to creatures of the sea,
to creaturs of the sky,
to creatures of the field,
to creatures bearing the Image of the Great King Himself…

ALL of it is good. No, all of it is EXCEEDINGLY good!!

So the Heavens and the Earth and all their hosts were completed. God finished on the seventh day from all His work that He did. He ceased on the seventh day from all His work that He did. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. For on it He ceased from all His work that He did in creating.

The God of Creation, the King of All That Is, has finished His work. The Great
Artist steps back to appreciate His masterpiece. And what a masterpiece it is! So
much so, that nothing else is needed. No work remains.

After a six-fold cycle of creating, forming, and fashioning, God does what is perhaps the most amazing thing of all—He ceases His work! A Heavenly end to
the work of creating. Not so much for God's need; after all, He has created all there is solely by speaking it into being! But rather, for His creation's sake. To establish a seven-fold cycle of labor followed by appreciation…work followed by Worship.

And while the details of this Creation process may remain to varying degrees obscure to Human, the message will remain clear for all time! God brought forth all that is, in order to prepare the way for His most precious creation. A creature so precious that, though Human will soon break away from God in rebellion, the King of the Universe will choose that very Human form through which to appear within His creation and rescue it from its self-inflicted decay. To right all
wrongs and wipe every tear. To be their God, and they, His people!

But that's another story for another time…


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