More than Words

Psalm 19:14

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart

be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Hey, remember that thing you said when you were angry, scared, or hungry? Remember how it caused someone to recoil in hurt? Honestly, you probably don’t, but I can guarantee they remember it.

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Light the Way

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

What is the Bible? If we’re honest, the Holy Bible can be a very intimidating book. Have you ever tried reading through it? If you got past Leviticus, congratulations! Keep going, it gets better.

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REVIEW | Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall I enjoyed this book. As a person in full-time ministry and a Bible nerd, it’s rare for a book written on a popular level to keep my attention and interest. Many popular level books are great for the lay person, the average church goer, or the new Christian. With Rachel Held Evans’ latest, she hits all the right notes for me.

Her style is imaginative and informative. She takes liberties while also trying to stay true to the text. I found her creative retellings of the stories compelling. Evans will definitely go against the grain of traditional, fundamental, and literalist readings of Scripture – but in my opinion, that’s a good thing. We often try to make the Bible do and say things it was never meant to do or say.

I’ve been following RHE on Twitter for a while now, and while she was in the process of writing this book she talked about the importance of diversity in her research. She quotes and cites an array of scholars, pastors, theologians, authors, activists, and rabbis – men and women, caucasian and people of color. It’s fascinating to hear how different Jewish rabbis interpret a text compared to Evangelical pastors. The Bible truly is like a diamond that you must turn in order to see all the beauty of the colors hidden inside.

Each chapter handles a different section of Scripture – from creation and the Law to the conquest narratives, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Letters. She paints a beautiful overview of what the Bible is and what it does. She also shares heartbreaking stories of how the Scriptures have been mishandled, misapplied, and misunderstood. At best, this can lead to illformed theology. At worst this can lead to a complete derailment of people’s faith and even atrocities like slavery and genocide.

In short, what we think about the Bible matters.

When I was growing up we did something called “Sword Drills.” The Bible teacher would call out a verse and all the kids would try to be the first to find it in their Bibles. The first one would read the verse out loud and get a piece of candy. That’s fine, except for the notion of using our Bibles as swords. The Bible was never intended to cut other people down. It was never intended to be weaponized against people. Yes, the Bible (namely, the Word of God) is compared to a sword twice. Once in Ephesians 6 and once in Hebrews 4. In Ephesians the sword is wielded against the spiritual forces of darkness in the world – not against other people. And in Hebrews the Word of God is a sword that cuts deep, dividing joint and marrow, soul and spirit – of you, not other people.

RHE knows almost as well as anyone what it feels like to have the Bible weaponized against her. And her book, Inspired, will hopefully put an end to that kind of mentality for her readers. Although chances are…if you’re reading Rachel Held Evans, you probably aren’t the kind of person who would do that anyway.

When I’m reading a work of nonfiction, I always try to ask, “Who is this for?” I believe Inspired is for those who have fallen out of love with the Bible. It’s for long-time Christians who are bored with it or who are beginning to question everything they’ve been taught. It’s for skeptics who are intrigued by Jesus but don’t know what to do with the Bible. It’s for pastors and teachers of Scripture who want a fresh look at an ancient story. It’s for Bible nerds and Bible critics and the Biblically apathetic. But it’s not for anyone who is content with the status quo of their faith, who are fine with being spoon-fed a portion of Scripture once a week at church without questioning what they’re being taught.

If you’re ready to fall back in love with the Bible and see it in a whole new ancient way, then give this book a chance. Rachel Held Evans has really upped her game with this one.

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Biblical Enneagram Types: FIVES

Fives are some of the unsung heroes of the Enneagram. They don’t like the recognition and the spotlight. They don’t seek to be honored at banquets or showered with public praise. Fives know what they know and they do what they do – and they do it well. I’ve never met a Five who wasn’t at least somewhat knowledgable in virtually everything. Fives are the researchers behind the project. They are the quality engineers making sure your new car runs perfectly. They are the chemists developing new, safer, more sustainable formulas and medicines.

If you have a five in your life, you know they are great to have around. They’re like a walking Google search. Ask them a question, and they can probably give you an answer. If not, they’ll disappear for a while and then come back with one.

Fives read the Encyclopedia for fun as children.

Fives, often called Observers or Investigators, are not typically very outgoing – which is interesting because they share a line with Sevens. Fives tend to keep to themselves at parties and family gatherings. Most Fives will have a “fortress of solitude” where they can disappear for a while. It’s their space, and no one else is allowed in unless invited and accompanied by the Five. Respect their space and their privacy.

Being around large groups of people or in the spotlight for extended periods of time saps the emotional energy right out of a Five. But if you give them a task – a research project or something requiring their technical expertise – they will do it better than anyone.

One example of a Five in the Bible is (probably) Nicodemus. He only appears in John’s gospel account, but he must have made an impact on John. He doesn’t just pop up once but three times. Each time reveals something more about him.

EXPLAINING GOD

Nicodemus is a Five, but he’s a Five on a journey toward something greater than he could have imagined. (I’ll call him Nic from here on out. Nicodemus is tedious to type each time.)

Nic first appears in John 3.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night…
(John 3:1-2a)

Here are a few things we know about him, and they fit really well with type Five. 1) He was a Pharisee. Pharisees were concerned with doing the right things in the right ways. As a group they were probably a collective One, but they would be very appealing to Fives like Nic. 2) He was a member of the Jewish ruling council – also known as the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was comprised of top lawyers from both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was essentially a two party system not that much different than we have today. So Nic was one of the top 70 law experts in the nation. 3) He came to Jesus at night. Why at night? Was he scared? I used to think so. But if I view Nic as a Five, then it makes perfect sense. He wasn’t afraid of the crowds, he just wanted Jesus to himself. He needed that one-on-one time to go deep.

Nic starts up the conversation with Jesus this way:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

No flattery. No lofty or buttery language. Just right to the point. Respectful, but straight shooting.

Also, notice the scientific language as he opens. We know X because Y. Here’s a hypothesis: Jesus is a Rabbi sent from God. Here’s how we test the hypothesis: Observe the works he is doing. Analysis: No one could perform these signs if they were not from God. Jesus is performing these signs. Therefore, Jesus is from God.


Many Fives approach faith the same way they approach any other aspect of their lives. They tend to be very evidence-based and by-the-book. But they might not be so keen on church small groups or meet and greet time in worship. They want the sermon to be factual and Scripture-driven without a lot of flowery language or stories.

So what does Jesus do? He immediately responds with metaphorical (even poetic) language.

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nic is not tracking with Jesus. He’s trying to take Jesus literally (Can a man enter his mother’s womb a second time? That’s scientifically impossible!). But Jesus is relentless. He starts off with figurative language and then reels it in using Nic’s own worldview against him and exposing the insufficiencies of a purely materialistic approach to faith.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

You want to talk scientifically, rationally, and logically about God, as if God is a formula? Nic, you can’t even explain the wind, much less God. Even today, we can’t explain everything about the world, atoms, the universe. How much less can we explain the Creator of it all? But we can feel the effects of God all around us.

Fives don’t like that word – feel. Jesus is trying to get Nic to feel something when all he knows how to do is think. God gave us a brain, yes. But he also gave us a heart. (And I know the heart doesn’t actually control our emotions, that’s all in the brain. Just go with it, Fives! Haha)

Nic still isn’t picking up what Jesus is putting down. He’s still asking questions. (Fives are the most inquisitive number on the Enneagram.) So Jesus tries to put it in terms Nic just might finally get.

“You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

As far as we can tell, that’s the end of the conversation. Jesus doesn’t give Nic the answers. He gives him homework. Jesus gives Nic a research project. Son of Man – go look into Daniel 7 and figure out who I am. Moses lifted up the snake in the desert – go back to Numbers 21 and see how God saved the people.

TAKING A STAND

And you know what? Nic did his homework. He did his research. He found answers. How do I know? The next time we see him, he’s coming to Jesus’ defense – citing Jewish Law back to the people who would be willing to bend the rules in order to silence Jesus.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
(John 7:50-51)

This is huge for a Five. When Fives are in health and security, they can draw on the positive energies of Type 8, the Challenger. Fives in this space are more willing to make their voice be heard and to stand up for their beliefs. Eights are concerned about justice and fighting for the underdog. Nic goes to this Eight space because he’s more secure in who he is and what God has called him to do. He get’s chastised and mocked for it, but he doesn’t back down.

FROM GREEDY TO GIVING

The final time we see Nic is at the very end (or what they thought was the end). After Jesus died, he was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea – another Pharisee and Sanhedrin member. Joseph was joined by Nic in preparing the body for burial. Don’t overlook what it says about Nic.

He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
(John 19:39)

Seventy-five pounds of aloes, oils, and spices?! That’s a ton, and it would have cost a ton, too. The major vice of a Five is avarice (or greed). Fives can tend to be borderline hoarders. Fives will often keep the most random stuff and stockpile it because who know? We might need that someday. Fives can be very stingy with their knowledge, their possessions, their time, and the emotions. Fives keep things to themselves – literally.

When a Five moves to a place of health, they can become some of the most generous people in the world. They no longer operate out of a scarcity mindset. They realize that they have more than they need, and there’s plenty to go around. Healthy Fives can be some of the best teachers and mentors and philanthropists.

Nic, in one last act of faith, offered up probably thousands of dollars worth of burial spices that he had likely been storing away for himself or a family member – because you never know. But then he saw someone else in need of what he had, and he gave it freely.

FROM HEAD TO HEART

Nic wasn’t in the spotlight. He quite literally avoided it. But his transformation is incredibly apparent in such a few verses.

Fives, the greatest distance between two points in your body is not from the top of your skull to the balls of your feet. The longest distance is between your head and your heart. Nic didn’t experience real transformation until Jesus opened up his heart to feeling what God was doing. Sometimes there are no explanations. Sometimes there is insufficient evidence. Are you able to believe anyway? Do you trust God even when it doesn’t make logical sense?

rCQ: Questions from an atheist

/r/Christianity Questions

Recently, I came across this series of of questions asked by a Reddit user:

1) Do you agree with everything in the bible, sometimes it can be really messed up (like those quotes atheists like to bring up when they are debating with christians for example “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. Numbers 31:17-18”

2) Is the Bible like your law or advice for better life?

3) How often do you question your beliefs?

4) Are creationists the majority of christians?

Here are my answers:

1) It is my belief that if it can’t be said about Christ, it can’t be said about God (seeing as they are one and the same). I read about the violence of the nations in the Hebrew Scriptures in light of the cross of Christ. Jesus’ violent death at the hands of the state reveals the evil of state-sanctioned killing. So no, I don’t particularly “agree” that God truly commanded the killing of innocents. It was a shocking reality of war. I think this actually gives credence to the reliability of Scriptures. The writers certainly don’t try to sanitize or sugar coat anything. God is for sure a God of justice, but God is more so a God of grace and mercy, willing and desiring to save all who would turn to God.

2) The Bible is an argument about God. It’s a compilation of history, law, poetry, prophetic writings, letters, and biographical accounts. The Bible is a collection of 66 (or more) individual documents by at least 40 different authors/editors, written and compiled over the course of about 1500 years. It’s so much MORE than a law or book of good advice. It’s a window into how the people of God have interacted with, debated about, and sometimes literally wrestled with God. It’s the story of God and his people. The closest thing we Christians have to a “law” is maybe Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. But it really boils down to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and straight, and love your neighbor as yourself.” That is our law. That is our advice for a better life.

3) I question my beliefs all the time. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Certainty is. Faith isn’t faith if there isn’t a degree of doubt, the idea that I could be wrong about all this. Certainty is the destroyer of faith, because as soon as your faith becomes too rigid it stops growing and evolving.

4) Young Earth Creationism stems from a demand for a 100% literal reading of Genesis 1-11. That view is dying off, and certainly isn’t as much of a stronghold as it used to be.

High Five Thursday!

Interesting turn this week. Here is my list of my

Top 5 Not-So-Preachable Bible Verses

WARNING: Reader discretion may be advised.

Genesis 1:29-30
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Wait…so, every animal was originally created to be strictly vegetarian? Apparently so. I guess this means that in God’s original design, humans were not encouraged to eat steak, hamburgers, or chicken nuggets. I suppose this also applied to lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

A world in which every creature is vegetarian, thus eliminating the need to kill any other living being. Try preaching that right before the monthly pot-luck!

Genesis 6:4
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Angels came down to earth, had sex with human women, and those women gave birth to what some interpret as “giants”?? Some even go so far as to say that Goliath descended from these Nephilim. I challenge you to try and find a way to preach this verse without sounding completely off your rocker.

Exodus 4:24-25
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.

First of all, why would God set out to kill Moses, whom He just commissioned to lead His people out of Egypt? Secondly….eww? Of all the severed body parts to have pressed against my foot….gosh.

Judges 19:29
When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

This just sounds like straight up inspiration for a horror flick. The priest lets his mistress get gang raped, and then he hacks her into pieces, inciting an all out civil war. Yes, folks. This is in the Bible.

Ruth 3:8-9
In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
    “Who are you?” [Boaz] asked.
   “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.

To be honest, I have heard lessons on Ruth before. But for the most part, the preachers/teachers try to skirt around the issue. But I think any average reader would automatically assume the implications of “lying at his feet” and “spread your garment over me.” Well, whatever Ruth was trying to do, I definitely did not get this type of dating advice from any trusted Christian source….

Summer Reads

This is the list of books I have read this summer so far in order from the bottom up. Jesus Manifesto was definitely my favorite. Fearless and The Christian Atheist were somewhat similar in scope and content, but both worth the read. Jesus Wants to Save Christians does a good job of capturing the Exodus themes throughout the Bible. And The Happiest Baby on the Block was an interesting read in preparation for our child on the way.

The only question is what to read next? I’m kinda thinking I need to read more Bible before reading more books about the Bible.