What I Read in 2018

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.
-George R.R. Martin

Every year I like to track the books I read. It’s always interesting to look back and remember all the authors and stories that have journeyed with me on yet another trip around the sun. Here is my list of books and authors from my 2018 list along with some highlights and recommendations.

[books in RED are stories I read to my 8yr old son, books in BLUE are ones I’m still working on, books with an * were audiobooks]

  1. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. *A Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  3. Magnus Chase: Ship of the Dead, by Rick Riordan
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by CS Lewis
  5. Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr
  6. The Silver Chair, by CS Lewis
  7. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  8. Unashamed, by Lecrae
  9. Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, by Richard Rohr and Adreas Ebert
  10. *Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  11. *Superfreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  12. The Last Battle, by CS Lewis
  13. Prince of Fools, by Mark Lawrence
  14. Charlotte’s Web, by EB White
  15. *I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
  16. The Liar’s Key, by Mark Lawrence
  17. Reviving Old Scratch, by Richard Beck
  18. *Star Wars Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig
  19. *Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt, by Chuck Wendig
  20. The Wheel of Osheim, by Mark Lawrence
  21. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxbe
  22. Red Sister, by Mark Lawrence
  23. *Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End, by Chuck Wendig
  24. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
  25. The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright
  26. The Sacred Enneagram, by Chris Heuertz
  27. Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
  28. Unarmed Empire, by Sean Palmer
  29. *Bloodline, by Claudia Gray
  30. Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
  31. Lost Souls (Frankenstein #4), by Dean Koontz
  32. I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing-Brown
  33. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, by Eoin Colfer
  34. The Path Between Us, by Suzanne Stabile
  35. *Grant, by Ron Chernow
  36. The Prodigal Prophet, by Tim Keller
  37. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green
  38. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
  39. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
  40. Artemis Fowl: Eternity Code, by Eoin Colfer
  41. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling
  42. Everyone Always, by Bob Goff
So, this year I’ve developed a love for audiobooks. It started last year, but I really enjoyed them a lot this year. Nine books on my list were audiobooks. These are great for turning on while I’m out running the trails every week or when I’m doing the dishes. The Star Wars audiobooks have amazing production value. It’s like listening to a movie. They’re kind of like the old-time radio shows, with sound effects and background music.

I also have found that I much prefer physical books to ebooks. I appreciate being able to pull up a book on my iPad through Kindle or Overdrive, but it’s not as enjoyable for me as reading a physical paper book.

MY TOP BOOKS

Here are what I would consider my top books on the year in both fiction and non-fiction reads.

NON-FICTION

I Am Malala is an autobiographical memoir by Malala Yousafzai. The now-twenty-one-year-old Oxford student from Pakistan dared to stand up against the Taliban and was nearly assassinated at the age of 14. Her story is an amazing testament to the best and worst of humanity.

I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing-Brown is an eye-opening look at racism and bias in the US, especially among evangelical church-goers.

Grant, by Ron Chernow is an extensive look at the life and times of Ulysses S Grant, hero of the Civil War and 18th President. I’m still working through the audiobook, as it’s 38 discs with a 48-hour runtime (!), but what I’ve heard is absolutely amazing. Grant was one of the truly good men of his day. Many wanted to fight to end slavery, but Grant wanted to fight for equality and full citizenship for people of color.


FICTION

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green, feels like an instant modern classic. It’s at once both an intriguing, fun sci-fi thriller AND an in depth analysis of our internet-celebrity culture and an outrage-driven news cycle. But what I got from it was an optimistic take on what the internet could/should be if we let it unite us instead of dividing us.

Dracula is a classic for a reason. Bram Stoker was ahead of his time with this book. It could have been debuted last week and would be every bit as thrilling and captivating. Honestly, it took me a couple of tries to really get into this book, and I’m so glad I finally did. The whole book is comprised of “found” materials – letters, journal entries, news articles, telegram correspondence. But some of the scenes are absolutely gut wrenching and terrifying. If you like vampire novels and movies, go back to the source with this one.

Mark Lawrence has quickly become one of my favorite fantasy authors. Last year I read his Broken Empire trilogy. This year, I made it through his Red Queen’s War trilogy, which takes place in the same world concurrently with the Broken Empire books. It focuses on different characters on a different quest, and it brings in elements of Norse mythology. If you are a fan of medieval fantasy, you need to check out Mark Lawrence. The Red Queen’s War trilogy includes Prince of Fools, The Liar’s Key, and The Wheel of Osheim.

What are your favorite books you’ve read this year? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to connect with me on Goodreads.

7 Free (or Cheap) Apps to Actually Improve Your Life in 2019

I LOOOVE technology. It’s amazing. I’ve been following a lot of tech YouTubers over the last few years just to keep up with everything that’s happening in the field.

That being said, I’m also aware of how much technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. (See previous post.) In fact, check out this report from the Nielsen Research Group:

According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, nearly half an adults’ day is dedicated to consuming this content. In fact, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media. Behind this surge are the growing use of new platforms, as well as the younger, multicultural generations who leverage them.

That was as of July, 2018. And I doubt things have gotten any better.

Smartphones, screens, and communication technologies are here to stay whether we like it or not. The question is, as per the previous post, how can we use these devices in a way that actually benefits our lives and brings some level of sustainable improvement?

Below, I’m going to share with you seven smartphone apps that are free or cheap to download that can help you achieve your goals. I’m a little biased, because these are apps that I use regularly. There may be better ones out there, but I haven’t found them. And I do a lot of research before downloading and using an app. [And I use an iPhone, but most of this should be applicable for Android users as well.]

WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

My Fitness Pal, by UnderArmour, is one of the best dieting apps out there. The free version has plenty of features for your average Joe. It tracks calories, it can scan the barcodes on the foods you buy, it has entire menus from restaurants, it tracks your macros (Fat, Protein, Carbs) and some of your micronutrients (vitamins and such). It syncs really well with Apple Health to track your steps and calories burned during other exercises. It’s fully customizable to your specific food needs, whether you’re trying to lose, gain, or maintain.

I was hesitant to try this for a long time. Some people say that weight loss is a simple matter of calories in versus calories burned. That’s partially true. But if you really want to get healthier, you need to focus on the right kind of calories. My Fitness Pal helps with that by tracking your macros. When I finally tried it back in September, I lost seven pounds within four weeks. I think that was a little too much, too quickly, so I backed off a bit. But at the beginning of the year I was pushing 200 lbs. Now I’m right in the low 180s. I feel much better than I did, and I’m still eating basically what I want to eat.

WANT TO GET IN SHAPE?

Nike Run Club is a free app that tracks your run/walks. It gives you the estimated calories burned, which syncs with Apple Health. It stores all your information and gives you certain achievements along the way. The app includes access to guided runs that are awesome whether you’re a serious trainer or a first time runner. I’ve been using this for a long time. There are probably better running apps, but for what you get for free, I haven’t found one to replace Nike Run Club.

Nike Training Club is another good free app from Nike. This includes different workouts – everything from yoga to plyometrics to strength training. You download the workout you want, it times it out and walks you through step by step. There are even videos demonstrating the exercises for you. I wouldn’t want this as my main strength training app, but it’s a good supplement.

Starting Strength is a company I first heard of a few years ago from The Art of Manliness Podcast. Brett McKay, the podcast host, has been in the Starting Strength program for a while now and has shared his journey on the podcast and through his website. Starting Strength is all about barbell training, emphasizing the core lifts – squat, deadlift, bench press, military press, and power clean. If you have access to a barbell, a squat rack, and plates, then you can do this program. The app is $8.99, which is a lot for an app, but it’s a LOT less than other fitness apps that require a monthly subscription. Through the Starting Strength app you will get access to instructional tutorials, customizable workouts, and more. The app takes all the guess work out of it for you. You tell the app what your 5-rep workset is, and it does the rest. It even tells you the exact plates to load onto the bar, so you don’t have to stop and do math in the middle of your workout!

It’s a killer program. When you start, you will feel like dying. But you will get stronger. Go watch these instructional videos to help you get a sense of what the program is all about.

WANT TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES?

Every Dollar is a free app from the Dave Ramsey company. Say what you will about his practices and principles – the system works. Financial Peace University has helped thousands of families get out of debt and find financial freedom. I hate budgeting. I hate finances. I hate all things to do with money. My wife is awesome at taking care of the vast majority of that stuff for our family. Every Dollar makes it so much easier to track where we spend our money. You simply lay out your budget for the month, plug in all your expenditures, and it does the rest. *Honesty Moment* We haven’t been using this nearly as much as we should, but it’s our goal to get serious about it again this year.

WANT TO GROW SPIRITUALLY?

Most Christians with a smartphone that I know already have the YouVersion Bible app. But I don’t think most people realize how many tools this little app can pack into it. You have access to virtually every English translation. There are links to videos for the passage you’re reading. You can make images of verses to share on Instagram. There are hundreds of great Bible studies built into the app from leading scholars, pastors, and authors. You can connect with friends and do one of the Bible studies together within the app. It can send you the verse of the day, so you can begin every day with an inspiring passage. If you have this app, spend some time exploring everything it’s capable of.

Pray as You Go is an app for 10-15 minutes of guided prayer and meditation. There is a new one each day, with a specific passage of Scripture, thoughts, questions, and prayers based on that passage. If you struggle with knowing how or when to pray, this app can really help you with that.



What apps would you suggest for helping us reach our goals in 2019? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

Ditching Social Media to Regain Our Sanity

Did you know that nearly 80% of adults in the US own a smartphone? That’s nuts! Just a few years ago it was around 30%. Smartphones are getting better every year. They have better cameras, longer battery lives, clearer screens, and smoother designs.

I recently got Apple’s new iPhone XR. It’s an amazing upgrade from my nearly-three-year-old SE. But I’ve noticed something. Since I’ve gotten a new phone, I’ve been spending more time on it. Thanks to Apple’s new Screen Time tracker, my screen time has nearly doubled! Yikes…

Have you seen the photographs of people with their smartphones edited out? Photographer Eric Pickersgill took photos of people in their everyday lives with their smartphones and then edited the devices out of the pictures. It’s humorous in a disturbing and uncomfortable way. You can check out his full gallery here: https://www.removed.social

Every new year people try to make goals for self-improvement and such. Most fail miserably. But I don’t think that means we should quit setting and attempting to achieve certain goals.

For 2019, I want to become better at using my iPhone.

Smartphones are an AMAZING tool. There is far more computing power in your pocket than it took to land a man on the moon. Unfortunately, for many of us our smartphones have gone from being tools to becoming masters. We find ourselves being used by our technology more than we actually use it. We consume more than we create. And this is worst through social media sites that are run by advertisers.

In his book The Next Story, author Tim Challies poses the question: Do you own your technology or does it own you?

In today’s digital world, we are not the consumer, we are the product. Your attention, your personal information, your ideas and opinions, are all being sold to the highest bidder. All that info is being plugged into an algorithm, the sole purpose of which is to keep your attention for longer.

You’re probably reading this on a smartphone or tablet right now through a link you saw on social media!!!

Ok, deep breath…

So for 2019, would you join me in becoming better at using our smartphones instead of being used by them? Studies show that we would all be happier, more productive, and higher functioning humans if we would just put down our phones, sign off of social media, and actually live our lives.

Tomorrow I’ll share the smartphone apps I have that I intend to use to help make my life better in 2019. Yes, it’s possible. Like I said, our smartphones are incredible tools! So let’s use them rather than being used by them.

Biblical Enneagram Types: THREES

Enneagram Type THREES are commonly known as “The Performer” or “The Achiever.” Threes are driven by a need to succeed, or at least to appear successful. Threes aim to impress others with their skills, their knowledge, and their accomplishments. This is why the vice of Threes is deceit. Threes are expert “mask-wearers.” Threes can become whoever they need to be in any given situation in order to fit in or to make others think highly of them. The danger for Threes is that they can become social chameleons to the point that they lose their own identity, deceiving others to the degree that they end up believing their own false persona. Self-deceit is the true vice of Threes.

But the gift of Threes is truthfulness and authenticity. Threes have really good BS-detectors. They can see through the charades of others because they are so accustomed to the games people play. Healthy Threes value honesty in their relationships and with themselves. They can give you an honest assessment of the world as they see it, and they can tell you how to make things better. Streamlining, productivity, and efficiency are second nature to Threes.

Threes get stuff done.

Every Type has some of God’s own nature in them. When I think of the Performer or Achiever, I think of all the times we are reminded of what God has done for us. “Come and see what God has done.” “The Lord has done great things.”

As a Three, I relate to God as “The First Mover.” God has done the work of salvation for us. This also reassures me that there’s nothing I can do to make God love me any more or any less. I don’t have to work for God’s acceptance. I don’t have to “succeed” in order to earn God’s favor.

One prime example of a Three in the Bible is Jacob. Jacob’s story is recorded in the middle part of Genesis. Jacob and his brother Esau were the fraternal twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the grandsons of Abraham and Sarah. Even from the womb, Jacob was a deceiver. At their birth, Jacob’s limb stuck out first, but his brother was actually the firstborn. Jacob came second, grasping the heal of Esau. Jacob’s name literally means “heal grabber” or “deceiver.”

Jacob would eventually go on to trick his older brother out of his birthright and his blessing. Jacob’s early days represent the unhealthiest side of Threes – success at any cost. Unhealthy Threes can be ultra-competitive. They divide the world into winners and losers, and they definitely wouldn’t be caught dead among the “losers.” Failure is not an option. For unhealthy Threes like Jacob, the ends absolutely justify the means in achieving success and being known as the best.

Unhealthy Threes are not in tune with their emotions at all. They have the ability to compartmentalize their lives in such a way that negative emotions don’t necessarily have any bearing their ability to perform. But this can also mean that Threes try to avoid conflict, especially in times of stress. Rather than confront Esau and own up to his actions, Jacob runs.

While on the run, Jacob receives a vision from God with angels ascending and descending from heaven. Even at his lowest, God reassured Jacob that he was with him, that he was watching over him, that he was loved and pursued. I think this is a message that most Threes need to hear.

Jacob then went to work for his Uncle Laban. While working there, Laban gave Jacob a taste of his own medicine by deceiving him into marrying Leah AND Rachel. But during this time it seems as if Jacob turns a corner. He no longer tries to win at all costs. He works hard for what he wants, knowing that his efforts will pay off in the end if he’s patient enough to follow through. While working for Laban, Jacob gains wives and sons and a lot of wealth. But he also learns patience and humility.

Threes grow through struggle and challenge. If things come too easy to Threes, then they stay stuck in their unhealthy patterns of vanity, deception, and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

The ultimate challenge for Jacob came when he made the decision to go home and confront his past – possibly one of the hardest things for a Three to do. While Jacob was making his way back home, he had an encounter with God that would leave him crippled. Jacob wrestled with God all night, showing his dedication to the struggle and his unwillingness to give up when things got hard – true growth for a Three. In security, Threes go to the healthy side of Six, the Loyalist. They become more others-focused, more dedicated, more loyal, more in touch with their own emotions and those of others. In refusing to give up when things got hard, Jacob showed real maturity and transformation.

But he also failed. Jacob didn’t win in his wrestling match. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to a Three is failure. We learn far more from our failures than we do from our successes. Threes want to avoid failure at all costs, but it’s the very thing that can lead to growth and transformation.

When Jacob finally did confront Esau, things were not nearly as bad as he had imagined. He had feared for the worst – that Esau would still hold his deceptions against him and would seek revenge for all that Jacob had taken from him. Much to Jacob’s surprise, he was greeted with the open arms of forgiveness.

This can completely rock a Threes’ world. Threes, especially unhealthy Threes, have a hard time believing that they are worthy of love and acceptance. They know their own deceitfulness and vanity. They know their own faults that they are trying to hide from the rest of the world. When those faults, failures, shortcomings, and sins are laid bare for all the world to see, and they are still forgiven and loved anyway, that is almost more than a Three can bear.

Before Jacob met his brother face to face, he tried to soften things up by sending flocks and herds and gifts. Look at the interaction that follows.

Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
“No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
(Genesis 33:8-11)

Once Threes turn a corner in their lives they are no longer driven by success, vanity, and appearances, but rather by truthfulness, authenticity, and acceptance. This can take a lifetime for a Three to learn, and it only comes through the very thing Threes avoid the most – failure.

If you are a Three, like I am, you must stop fearing failure. You must stop believing the lies: “I am what I do; I am what I have; and I am what others say I am.” You are a child of God. You are loved, accepted, and pursued by God. Even if your worst and darkest part of yourself is fully known, you can also experience love and grace and forgiveness.
___________________________________________

If you haven’t yet, check out the song “Three” by Sleeping at Last

Messiah Is Coming, part 5

If you haven’t yet, read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. But then sin and rebellion entered the garden, derailing God’s creation and breaking relationships. Humans would no longer share in the free and full relationship of love with God and each other. Evil had entered their hearts, dragging them away from God and driving a wedge between each other.

But God – don’t we love that phrase? – but God would not let his children suffer forever under the weight of their sin and brokenness and death. God would send a rescuer, someone of Eve’s own offspring, who would crush the head of the serpent once and for all. This One would deal a crushing blow to death itself, although he would endure the full force of the serpent’s venom in the process.

God worked through his people to prepare the world for the coming chosen One. Through Abraham, God promised a world-wide blessing. Through Moses, God promised the Prophet who would bring God’s word to his people. Through David, God promised a King on the throne in Zion forever, one who would be regarded as the Son of God and a Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Through Isaiah God foretold that this coming One would be born of a virgin and would be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Emmanuel – God with us. The One to come would establish justice and bring freedom for the oppressed. The One to come would be a servant who would suffer and die but would be raised again to the glory of God.

I’m mindful of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:10-12:

The prophets who spoke of this outpouring of grace upon you diligently searched and inquired of the Lord about this salvation: to whom and to what time was the indwelling Spirit of the Anointed referring when He told them about the suffering of the Anointed and the honor that would follow it? The Spirit revealed to them they were not serving themselves but you. And you have learned from those who told you the good news by the Spirit that was sent down from heaven. Even the heavenly messengers would like to explore this news.

Might the other prophets have something to tell us of the One who is to come, the Anointed One, the Messiah?

According to the prophet Malachi, the Messiah would be preceded by another prophet in the spirit of Elijah.

Keep watch. I am sending Elijah the prophet to you before the arrival of the great and terrible day of the Eternal One, and he will return parents’ hearts to their children and children’s hearts to their parents, or else I will come and strike the land of promise with a curse of annihilation.
(Malachi 4:5-6 | The Voice)

According the Micah, the Messiah would be born in the rural backwater town of Bethlehem, the same home village of King David:

But you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
of the clans of Judah, are no poor relation—
From your people will come a Ruler
who will be the shepherd of My people, Israel,
Whose origins date back to the distant past,
to the ancient days.
(Micah 5:2 | The Voice)

From the prophet Hosea we learn that the Messiah would spend time in Egypt as a young child.

When Israel was a child, I loved him;
and out of Egypt I called My son.
(Hosea 11:1 | The Voice)

Jeremiah longed for a day when the Messiah would establish a new covenant with God’s people, a covenant not based on works but based on faith and grace and love.

Look, the days are coming when I will bring about a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors long ago when I took them by the hand and led them out of slavery in Egypt. They did not remain faithful to that covenant—even though I loved and cared for them as a husband. This is the kind of new covenant I will make with the people of Israel when those days are over. I will put My law within them. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will people have to teach each other or encourage their family members and say, “You must know the Eternal.” For all of them will know Me intimately themselves—from the least to the greatest of society. I will be merciful when they fail and forgive their wrongs. I will never call to mind or mention their sins again.
(Jeremiah 31:31-34 | The Voice)

The prophet and Old Testament hero Daniel was given a vision of this Messiah as he would be received in glory at the throne of God.

I saw another spectacle in the night visions:
I looked and saw someone like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was ushered into His presence.
To Him was given authority, honor, and a kingdom
so that all people of every heritage, nationality, and language might serve Him.
His dominion will last forever,
His throne will never pass away,
and His kingdom will never be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:13-14 | The Voice)

I could go on, but I simply don’t have time to mention all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. I wish we could see all the times the Christ appeared throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, often known as The Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord.

The Coming Messiah would be a symbol of hope and God’s promises to his people for over a thousand years. And as we approach Christmas, we recognize that on one ordinary night in an ordinary stable in an ordinary town, two ordinary people became parents to the most extraordinary child.

The Word became flesh. The Promise took on skin and bone. The Light of the World stepped down into darkness. Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Priest, King. The Prophets foretold his coming. The angels waited with eager anticipation.

The Messiah is coming.

Biblical Enneagram Types: TWOS

The Enneagram Type TWO is commonly known as the Helper. Twos have a need to be needed. Hospitality is their jam. They are always ready to play host or hostess at a moment’s notice. There’s always more room at the table with Twos.

Twos are, outwardly, very others-focused. Helpers tend to focus on the emotions and needs of the other people in their lives, often to the neglect of their own needs. Helpers are always wanting to make sure others are taken care of and can be hesitant to make their own needs and desires known. I emphasize the outwardness of their actions because Twos (like many numbers) live in a place of tension between their outward actions and their inward motivations.

Twos will help clear the table and wash the dishes at a friend’s house after the dinner party without being asked. But Twos, especially unhealthy Twos, can be resentful that no one else offered to join in. Twos are in that weird space of appearing humble but acting out of a sense of pride. They want to be needed, they want to help, but they can easily become bitter towards those who don’t help them.

Or to the other extreme, Twos can make themselves indispensable to someone they love and develop an unhealthy codependency. Twos can be enablers of bad behaviors in those they love because they so desperately need to be needed. If you are a Two or are in relationship with someone who is a Two, these are things to look out for.

But we all love the Twos in our lives. It’s no surprise to me that most women who are mothers identify, at least somewhat, as a Two. Mothers are the best example of Helpers in our every day lives. Moms are there for us no matter what. Moms want to make sure that we’ve gotten enough to eat, that our hair is combed, that our jersey is washed, and that our khakis aren’t wrinkled. This has been changing some over the past few decades as gender roles and household norms transform. More husbands/dads are picking up the load and not leaving everything to the wife/mother to do.

I don’t know if my mom is a Two, but when I read the description of what Helpers are like, I think of her and many other great women I know. This is even reflected in the language of Genesis 2 when God creates a “helper” for Adam, one who is suitable and compatible for him.

Do you know who else in the Bible is described as a Helper? God. Check out these descriptions of God:

Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.
(Deuteronomy 33:29)

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
(Psalm 10:14)

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
(Psalm 118:7)

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:6)

Like all types, Twos have something special of God’s own character within them. Twos came “not to be served, but to serve.” Twos will drop what they’re doing and help you in a moment’s notice.

But because Twos struggle inwardly with pride, their helpfulness can often be tainted by ulterior motives, bitterness, and resentfulness.

The classic story of a Two is found in Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Notice a few things. Mary and Martha live together, but who opened their home to Jesus? Martha. Who was making all the preparations? Martha. Who refused to ask her sister for help and let her resentfulness bubble over into an angry outburst? Martha.

Martha, Martha, Martha…

Martha sounds like a classic Two in this story. She’s playing the welcoming, gracious hostess to Jesus and his disciples. There are things to clean and an entire meal to prepare. Martha is definitely up for the challenge, but she can’t do it all on her own. She needs her sister to help. Unfortunately, Mary is nowhere to be found.

Mary, probably a Four, is completely bailing on Martha in order to sit with the guys and listen to Jesus teach. So Martha tattles to Jesus and tries to make him tell Mary to help her out.

Twos are in the Heart Triad. Twos, Threes, and Fours are more image-conscious than the other numbers. For Twos, it’s important to make serving and helping look effortless. Twos are more likely to have magazine-ready center pieces on their dining tables. Twos want everyone to think that they are humble, selfless, and that they’ve got it all together. But the family members of Twos know the reality of the situation.

I would bet you money (if I were a betting man) that this wasn’t the first time Martha had had this “discussion” with Mary.

Twos want to feel appreciated, and they want their efforts to be noticed. They just have trouble making their needs known. Bitterness takes root and grows when needs and expectations are not clearly communicated.

Twos need to learn the lesson that Jesus taught Martha. Only one thing matters – sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him. Jesus was a servant! Jesus was a helper! Jesus had a lot of Two in him. But Jesus taught us how to love with no strings attached.

In other words, what good is it if you have perfect table decorations but you miss out on the meal?

Serving is a gift (Romans 12:7). We all need Helpers in our lives. Some of my favorite people are Twos. We have much to learn from you and much to love about you. But we also need you to be real with us. We need you to let us help you. We need you to be open and honest about your feelings before you hold them all in and explode like Martha.

You have loved us and served us. Now let us return the favor. Sit down and take a load off.

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If you are a Two, be sure to check out the song “Two” by Sleeping at Last

Messiah Is Coming, part 4

If you haven’t yet, read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

The history of Israel was a rough ride. You can read all the good, the bad, and the very ugly in the books of 1 & 2 Kings. God made a great promise to King David, but because of the foolishness of David’s own grandson, Rehoboam, the kingdom divided into two distinct nations – the 10 Northern Tribes formed the nation of Israel (also known as Ephraim), and the 2 Southern Tribes of Judah and Benjamin formed the nation of Judah.

The monarchies of these respective kingdoms were riddled with wickedness and sin. There was no one to keep the kings in line. They were answerable to no one, seemingly above the Law. So God raised up a school of Prophets who would be his mouthpiece to the kings. Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Amos – all these men and more were God’s means of speaking truth to the powers that be. But none would be more well-known or have a greater lasting impact than the priest-turned-prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah would become the most-quoted prophet in the New Testament. His writings became known as “The First Gospel.” This is because much of what we know about Jesus’ life and ministry was foreshadowed in Isaiah’s prophecies.

In chapter 7, Judah was being threatened by the joint armies of Aram and Israel. God reassured King Ahaz that the threat would pass and everything would be ok. In fact, God gave Ahaz a sign that God had everything under control.

Listen then. You are none other than the house of David, the one who inherited God’s promise of permanent kingship for David’s descendants. Is it so easy to be a bore to people that you would exhaust God’s patience too? Suit yourself. The Lord will give you a proof-sign anyway: See, a young maiden will conceive. She will give birth to a son and name Him Immanuel, that is, “God with us.”  There will indeed be something Godlike about Him. He’ll be eating curds and honey when he knows to choose what is right and good and refuse what is not. But before the boy has the wisdom to refuse evil and choose good the territory of the two kings you now dread will be abandoned.
(Isaiah 7:13-16 | The Voice)

When the Southern nation of Judah felt anger toward their Northern neighbors in the region of Galilee, God reassured them that things would not always be this way. Darkness will turn to light, night will become day, and enemies will become brothers once again – all because of a baby.

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.

His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before—sustainable peace for all time.
This child: God’s promise to David—a throne forever, among us,
to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken.

He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always.
The intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, will carry this to completion.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 | The Voice)

God, through Isaiah, had much to say about this child who would come, who would be a sign of God’s presence with his people, who would reunite the people of God’s chosen nation.

Look here, let Me present My servant;
I have taken hold of him.
He is My chosen, and I delight in him.
I have put My Spirit on him;
by this he will bring justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1 | The Voice)

The Servant, the Chosen One, the Beloved would be God’s agent for justice and righteousness in the world, calling people to faithfulness. But the words of Isaiah 52 and 53 also remind us that this Servant would suffer unimaginably at the hands of the worldly governments. The Servant, Emmanuel, would suffer and die and be vindicated by God for all to see.

See here! My servant will succeed.
He will grow in character and reputation, achieving high standing and status.
Just as people used to be shocked by you,
even so his appearance was disfigured;
His form—once glorious—was marred until it hardly seemed human.

Now many nations will be astonished at his prominence;
world rulers will be speechless in his presence,
For they will see what they’ve never been told;
they will understand what they’ve never heard.
(Isaiah 52:13-15 | The Voice)

It is only through the Chosen Servant’s suffering, death, and resurrection that he would complete the ultimate objective – bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth.

The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me.
The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose.

He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to repair broken hearts,
And to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison, “Be free from your imprisonment!”
He has sent me to announce the year of jubilee, the season of the Eternal’s favor:
for our enemies it will be a day of God’s wrath;
For those who mourn it will be a time of comfort.
(Isaiah 61:1-2 | The Voice)

The Messiah would be known as a Servant, on whom the Spirit of God would descend, and who would be chosen and loved by God – the one and only beloved. This Suffering Servant would right all wrongs and set the Kingdom of Heaven in motion, bringing joy and light and freedom and favor.

The Messiah is coming.

Biblical Enneagram Types: ONES

Enneagram Type ONES are commonly known as “The Perfectionist,” “The Reformer,” or “The Idealist.” Ones see the world in black and white, with little room for gray. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect. Ones are always in pursuit of perfection as a way of controlling their environment.

Ones will straighten picture frames at a friend’s house.

Ones have a strong sense of justice and are greatly concerned with moral and ethical uprightness. When this is externalized, Ones can be some of the greatest advocates for human rights and positive change in the world. But when it becomes internalized, Ones become their own worst critics.

The world isn’t perfect, so Ones take it upon themselves to help make it better. But when Ones do something wrong they jump to thinking that they are bad, and so their anger and frustration gets directed inward.

Listen to me, Ones. There is a difference between saying “I did something bad” and saying “I am bad.” The first is a true statement that can lead to positive transformation. The second is a lie straight from the devil’s own mouth.

It’s no surprise that the Pharisees in the New Testament are portrayed as a very “One” group. If you just pay attention to the interactions Jesus has with them, you see that the Pharisee sect was very concerned with doing all the right things in the right ways. The Pharisees served as the moral backbone of Jewish society. The problem is that Ones can get a bit carried away with it.

Ones have a tendency to act very judgmentally toward others. Ones are often pointing out others’ faults and saying what others should or should not do. They expect perfection from others, but they can’t even obtain their own standards of perfection.

Can you see why Jesus was trying so hard to break them out of this cycle in regards to religion?

Jesus would say things like, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, then you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” That must have really grated on the nerves of those religious elites. How could anyone be more righteous than they were? Can you believe this guy?

In the same sermon Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Now that’s the language of a One. That’s something the Pharisees could get behind. But what’s the context of that statement? Loving the unlovable. Accepting those who are imperfect. Welcoming those who don’t have it all together. Investing in those whom you deem “lesser.”

The Pharisees couldn’t stand the things Jesus was saying, but also many Pharisees became his followers. I can see why. Jesus was trying to break them out of this need for moral and religious perfection in relating to God. That flew in the face of everything they were teaching. But once they actually listened to Jesus, they found that the true path to freedom and relationship with God lay not in keeping the laws perfectly but in loving God and others more fully.

I don’t think this effect was more profound on anyone than Saul of Tarsus, who would become Paul the Apostle. Paul is the classic example of a One. His journey is one from severe unhealth (anger, resentment, judgmentalism, perfectionism) to true health (love, acceptance, and service to others).

Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians 3 and tell me this doesn’t sound like the words of a One who has undergone a major transformation.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:4-14)

Ones are affected early in life by the message that they have to be “good” and do things “right” in order to be accepted. Paul had to learn that there was nothing he could do to earn God’s love. It didn’t matter how impressive his resumé or how solid his theology was. It would never be good enough. He could never be perfect enough.

Ones need to hear and really internalize the truth – you don’t have to be “perfect” in order to be “good.” Even in the very beginning (Genesis 1) God didn’t say his creation was “perfect.” He said it was “good.” There’s a difference.

Paul still struggled daily with the unhealthy habits and patterns of thoughts/behaviors of a One. He still had to fight off that inner critical voice (Romans 7). He still had to remind himself and others that love was the true calling, not religious perfection (1 Corinthians 13). He would still get angry and lash out at those who opposed him or simply refused to listen to his message (see basically the whole book of Galatians and the second half of 2 Corinthians).

But Ones don’t give up. Ones keep going, no matter what. When a One finds his/her true calling, there is nothing that can stand in their way. Paul faced beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks, but he was committed to his calling.

Redeemed, healthy Ones can literally change the world.
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Be sure to check out the song “One” by the incredibly talented Sleeping at Last.

Jonah: A Second Chance to Screw It Up

I love the way Jonah 2 ends. Right after the prayer concludes, it says this:

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 2:10)

Can you imagine what that would feel like? It’s one thing to be swallowed, but to be vomited up? I can’t even handle it when one of my children throw up. I get nauseous and feel like I’m going to puke, too. Thankfully my wife has a stronger stomach and less of a gag reflex. The thought of actually being thrown up – along with all the bile and remains of undigested fish food….

But it’s really no different than what Jesus says about lukewarm, stale, tepid Christians.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
(Revelation 3:15-16)

When God commanded the fish to regurgitate the rebellious prophet, the fish was probably relieved. Jonah was that tepid, wishy-washy fence-sitter that Jesus warned about later in Revelation. Jonah probably didn’t set will in the fish’s stomach.

LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN

Then we see what I consider to be one of the most amazing sentences in the entire story as we being chapter 3.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
(Jonah 3:1)

If I were God, I think I would have just left Jonah on his own and went to find someone else. There has to be someone better than Jonah – less racist, less spiteful, less flighty, more willing to take God’s word to people who aren’t just like him. But God didn’t give up on Jonah. God is a God of second chances. The sailors were given a second chance. The people of Nineveh would be given a second chance. And Jonah is given a second chance.

As a society we used to love good redemption stories. We like to see people who messed up get a second chance at life. But I don’t think we’re that way anymore. We want justice! We want people to get what they have coming to them! If someone is pegged as a racist, then that could be the end of their career. We’re so willing to dish out judgement and punishment that lives can be ruined for good based on a few Tweets in their past. We aren’t willing to help them work through their issues and give them a fresh start.

That’s the whole point of Philip Yancey’s book Vanishing Grace from a few years ago.

But I’m eternally grateful that while society may be short on Grace, God is overflowing with it. In the story of Jonah, it’s Jonah himself who is in most need of God’s grace. I think that’s the point.

The Bible is full of men and women who were given a second chance at life because of God’s grace. Just to list a few – Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, the Woman at the Well, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul. Each of these people had demons in their past (figurative AND literal). Jacob was a con-artist. Moses was a murderer. The Woman at the Well had a really checkered sexual history. Peter denied knowing Jesus. Paul used to persecute Christians.

Did any of these deserve a second chance? If they didn’t, then neither do I.

Jonah got a second chance because I think he hadn’t learned his lesson yet. Sure, he’s learned about God’s justice through the storm and about God’s mercy and salvation through the fish. But Jonah needs to learn more about God’s grace and love.

I know plenty of people demand justice for being wronged but then expect mercy when they are in the wrong. That’s Jonah’s outlook. Jonah was thankful to receive mercy for his own sinful actions, but he was still demanding justice to be done for the people of Nineveh.

GOD’S WORD, NOT YOURS

God says, it doesn’t work that way. God gave him these instructions:

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
(Jonah 3:2)

If Jonah were able to proclaim his own message, I wonder what he would say. Actually, I don’t have to wonder. All I have to do is get on “Christian” Twitter to see what the modern-day “Jonahs” are saying to their own “Ninevehs.” It’s not pretty. And it’s not good news. And it’s not changing any hearts.

We’ll get to what message Jonah gave to the people in Nineveh next time, but I don’t want to skip over this sentence:

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.
(Jonah 3:3a)

Does obedience indicate a change of heart? Nope. But it’s a start.

Imagine being covered in slimy fish bile and then having to make the 500+ mile overland journey to a foreign city. I bet Jonah had some interesting conversations along the way.

But here’s something you would miss if you didn’t do a little research into the ancient city of Nineveh. I’m just going to quote the Wikipedia article about it here. What do you notice about it?

The English placename Nineveh comes from Latin Ninive and Septuagint Greek Nineuḗ (Νινευή) under influence of the Biblical Hebrew Nīnewēh (נִינְוֶה[2] from the Akkadian Ninua (var. Ninâ) or Old Babylonian Ninuwā. The original meaning of the name is unclear but may have referred to a patron goddess. The cuneiform for Ninâ (𒀏) is a fish within a house (cf. Aramaic nuna, “fish”). This may have simply intended “Place of Fish” or may have indicated a goddess associated with fish or the Tigris, possibly originally of Hurrian origin. The city was later said to be devoted to “the goddess Ishtar of Nineveh” and Nina was one of the Sumerian and Assyrian names of that goddess.


That’s right. The name of the city literally meant “Place of Fish.” The symbol for Nineveh was a fish in a house. And they worshiped a god/goddess represented by a man-fish hybrid!

Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Jonah spends three days inside a fish. He is then vomited out of the fish and makes a three-week journey on foot just to be greeted by…images of a man-fish in the “Place of Fish.”

Welcome to Nineveh!

Messiah Is Coming, pt. 3

God made a covenant with Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring. God made a promise through Moses that he would send the people a Prophet like Moses to speak on behalf of God. God made a covenant with David that his heirs would be enthroned forever in the sight of God.

The reigns of King David and his son Solomon were a kind of golden era for the United Kingdom of Israel. During their rule, Israel grew in strength, in numbers, and in territory. They established a military, a government, and a religion. The capital was moved to Jerusalem, and the Temple was built on the very mountain on which Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac so many years before.

It was during this time that the Psalms became an integral part of Israel’s worship and national identity. The Psalms reminded them of their past and brought hope for their future.

The Second Psalm was written for and recited at the coronation ceremony of Israel’s new kings. Let’s look at it, and see if anything sounds familiar. Pay attention to the words in red.

“I am the One who appointed My king who reigns from Zion, My mount of holiness.
He is the one in charge.”
I am telling all of you the truth. I have heard the Eternal’s decree.
He said clearly to me, “You are My son.
Today I have become your Father.
The nations shall be yours for the asking,
and the entire earth will belong to you.”

(Psalm 2:6-8 | The Voice)

There was a special relationship between God and the kings of Israel. As the Jews awaited the Messiah, which literally means Anointed One, they were looking for an earthly king from the line of David who would be honored, not simply as the Son of David, but as God’s own Son.

But even David himself recognized that the one to come would be far greater than himself. Looking ahead to the future Anointed One, David writes these words:

The Eternal said to my lord,
“Sit here at My right hand,
in the place of honor and power,

And I will gather your enemies together,
lead them in on hands and knees;
you will rest your feet on their backs.”
The Eternal will extend your reach as you rule
from your throne on Zion.
You will be out in enemy lands, ruling.
Your people will come as volunteers that day; they will be a sight to see:
on that day, you will lead your army, noble in their holiness.
As the new day dawns and dew settles on the grass,
your young volunteers will make their way to you.
The Eternal has sworn an oath
and cannot change His mind:
“You are a priest forever—
in the honored order of Melchizedek.”

(Psalm 110:1-4 | The Voice)

This coming King would be greater than David, would be honored as God’s Son, and would even take on the mantel of the priesthood in the order of Melchizedek, King and High Priest of Salem (see Genesis 14).

Prophet. Priest. King. Son of Abraham. Son of David. Son of God. Messiah. Anointed One. Christ.

This is who the Jews were waiting for, longing for, praying for. As their ancestors in Egyptian bondage, so they too were crying out to be released from the grip of Rome. The Messiah would do it. The Messiah would rally his followers, march on Jerusalem, and ascend the throne!

Little did they know or consider the prophetic words composed by David that would become the 22nd Psalm.

My God, my God,
why have You turned Your back on me?

Your ears are deaf to my groans…
My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones have slipped out of joint.
My heart melts like wax inside me.
My strength is gone, dried up like shards of pottery;
my dry tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
You lay me in the dust of death.
A throng of evil ones has surrounded me
like a pack of wild dogs;
They pierced my hands and ripped a hole in my feet.
I will speak Your Name to my brothers and sisters
when I praise You in the midst of the community…
He’s not put off
by the suffering of the suffering one;
He doesn’t pretend He hasn’t seen him;
when he pleaded for help, He listened…
They will tell the generations to come
of the righteousness of the Lord,
of what He has done.

The Messiah would be hailed as King of the Jews and Son of God – but only in his death. The Messiah would be pierced by men and forsaken by God. Yet God would not “let his holy one see decay.” The Messiah would be rescued and vindicated by God, beginning a whole new era of love and life and righteousness. The works of God through his Messiah would ripple out into the entire world, like waves in a lake.

The Messiah is Coming.