PEACEMAKER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 24

 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
(Matthew 5:9 | The Message)

Everyone who would rather avoid conflict, let me know by making a passive aggressive comment under your breath!

There are very few people who appreciate conflict and arguments. Type Eights aside, most people would rather avoid those hard, painful conversations. But I think we are all aware that absence of conflict does not equal peace. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Whenever a family never fights or argues, it’s probably because nobody is talking to each other, they’re all just avoiding the tough topics that need to be addressed. Anger and resentment bubble and simmer just below the surface. From the outside everything might look ok. But unless there is some conflict, there can never be real growth or healing.

Some of the Beatitudes have a more obvious Enneagram connection than others. This is one of those. Enneagram Type Nines are commonly known as Peacemakers. When they are unhealthy, Nines tend to avoid all conflict and uncomfortable situations. They can physically leave or mentally check out – or worse, use numbing behaviors – in order to preserve their inward tranquility. But when Nines are healthy they can become expert negotiators, mediators, and peacemakers.

There is a difference between a peace-lover, a peace-keeper, and a peacemaker. Peacemaking is the hard work of entering into the conflict and the chaos in order to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire. Nines are especially equipped for this task because they can easily step into other people’s shoes. They have an easier time than most seeing the world from other people’s perspective. They can easily see both sides of a conflict and determine a middle-ground on which to compromise.

Healthy Nines make really good pastors, church elders, teachers, and even politicians.

I love how Eugene Peterson words this Beatitude in The Message. He describes these people as those who “can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.” Nines are not inherently competitive (for the most part). Nines just want everyone to have a good time playing the game. Unfortunately we live in a world full of competition. We compete for jobs, for online attention, for resources, for followers, for the promotion, for the corner office, for the spot in that graduate program. We’ve turned singing, dancing, modeling, and cupcake baking into major competition shows. Peacemakers are those who step in and remind us that not everything is a competition. Life is a team sport. Ministry is a team sport. Business and government and baking are team sports.

But Nines tend to struggle finding their place in life, or going through the process of individuation. They tend to define their identity based on their relationship to others. As kids, Nines picked up on the message that their own desires and ideas and opinions – even their presence – didn’t matter much. So they  defer to others who are more assertive and would often prefer to fade into the background. But when Nines step into their role as Peacemakers, then they can truly become who they were meant to be. Or as Peterson words it, “That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
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What’s the difference between peace-lovers, peace-keepers, and peacemakers?


If peace is not simply the absence of conflict, then what is it? How would you define it?


How is peacemaking connected to our identity as children of God? What does he expect from us? What is our place in the kingdom? In the world?

Who Is This Guy?

We just finished the Christmas season. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “What Child Is This?” From his conception and birth there was something different about the one they called Jesus. But who is he? What makes him so special?

-WHO IS JESUS?-

I believe that is the most important question you will ever have to answer. And believe me – everyone has an answer for that question. Every single person in the world has their own answer, even if it’s “I don’t know.”

So who is Jesus to you?

You might give the good Sunday school answers: Savior, Messiah, Christ, Lord, King, Son of God, Holy, Perfect, God with Us, Prince of Peace, Friend, Brother, The Word.

He is indeed all this and more. However, do we really understand what those titles and roles actually mean? Probably not. It’s like when you first began to be curious about your dad’s job. When you were young, you probably asked your dad what he did. And he probably told you, but you as a four-year-old had no idea what a proctologist or a regional manager or a vice president of finances was. But you would tell your friends just to impress them.

Hopefully in the coming weeks we will begin to actually understand what those titles actually mean.

-WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT I AM?-

There’s an interesting conversation Jesus has with his disciples right in the middle of Mark’s Gospel. He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:27-28)

Who is Jesus from a worldly point of view today? If you were to ask the average Joe off the street what they thought about Jesus, what might they say?

He’s a good teacher. He’s a myth. He’s a prophet. He’s a religious zealot who got himself killed. He’s a Jewish rabbi who became a legend. He’s a nobody.

Basically any answer you would get could start with the word “just.” He’s just ________________. But as we take a look through the Gospel of Mark, we will see that Jesus isn’t just anything. He isn’t even just the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God. He’s all that and more. Jesus is more than we can ever really grasp. That’s why people had such a hard time figuring him out. Even his closest disciples and friends – even his own family – didn’t really know what to make of him.

-JESUS IS…-

So who is Jesus? We’re going to dive into Mark’s Gospel to find out. But since Mark isn’t too patient in his writing, he spoils the whole thing right off the bat.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…
(Mark 1:1)

Every word of that sentence is loaded. “The beginning” automatically takes our minds back to Genesis 1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Mark wants us to know that something new is happening. Creation 2.0 is underway.

“The good news” is a very specific phrase that Mark is using. Our word “gospel” comes from the Old English phrase “good spell,” meaning a good word/news. It’s rooted in the Greek word evangelion, from which we get the word “evangelism.” This was a very familiar concept in the Roman world. Whenever a Roman general was victorious in battle, they would send messengers into the surrounding territories to tell the “good news” about the victory over their enemies. Or if a new emperor took the throne, messengers would go throughout the empire proclaiming the “good news” about the new Caesar, often hailed as a “son of the gods.” Mark uses that word intentionally, signaling that a great victory has been won and a new king is on the throne.

“About Jesus…” Did you know that wasn’t his name? Jesus comes from the Greek-ified (or Hellenized) version of the Hebrew name Yeshua. In English that would be the name Joshua. It was a super common name back then, and it’s still a super common name in our culture. But it’s a powerful name. It means “YHWH saves.” His name is his mission.

“The Messiah” is a term that means “anointed one.” This refers to an anointing ceremony that would set a person aside (sanctify) for a specific purpose – to become king or to achieve a specific task for God and his people, etc. This word is also translated “Christ.”

“The Son of God” is a phrase taken directly from Psalm 2, which was a coronation song in Israel commemorating the crowning of a new king in Jerusalem. In the middle of Psalm 2 God says, “You are my son, today I have become your Father.”

Mark makes it clear from the very beginning who he thinks Jesus is. He’s stating his thesis, and everything to follow is meant as evidence to back up his thesis. This gospel account is crammed full of people trying to figure out who Jesus is, and inviting the reader along on the journey of discovery.

Take the first chapter, for instance. That’s where we will begin. Grab your Bible or Bible app (or click on this link) to read Mark 1:4-39. Try and spot all the times we’re told who Jesus is or what he is doing. There’s also one big question asked about Jesus in chapter 1.

Who is Jesus according to Mark 1?

  • One more powerful than John the Baptist, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:7-8)
  • God’s Son, with whom God is well pleased (1:11)
  • Rabbi, calling his disciples (1:16-20)
  • The Holy One of God (1:24)
  • Exorcist (1:27)
  • Healer (1:30-34)
  • Traveling preacher/miracle worker/exorcist (1:39)

What big question is asked about Jesus in Mark 1?

“What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
(Mark 1:27)

When he commanded the demon and drove it out, the people had never seen anything like that. They were completely astonished at Jesus’ authority. You see, it’s one thing to claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s another thing to back it up with actions that others can see and report on. (We’ll get deeper into that in chapter 2.)

-BE LIKE JESUS-

Mark’s gospel also focuses on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are introduced to Jesus’ first disciples in chapter 1 – Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These two sets of brothers were also professional fishermen. Jesus, a rabbi, called them to be his disciples – and they dropped everything to follow him. The rabbi-disciple relationship was quite unique. We don’t really have anything like that in the US. A disciple was a student, the rabbi was a teacher. But the goal wasn’t just to learn what the rabbi knew. The goal was to live as the rabbi lived and to do what the rabbi did.

Disciples of Jesus should strive to BE LIKE JESUS. Not necessarily to perform miracles and drive out demons. But there are things we can learn from Jesus and imitate in our own lives as his followers. Here’s what I see from chapter 1.

BE BAPTIZED.
Jesus was baptized. His disciples were baptized. He commands others to baptize and be baptized. You should do it, too. In my understanding, the journey of discipleship doesn’t really begin until you commit your life to Christ in the waters of baptism.

KEEP THE MESSAGE SIMPLE.
So often the biggest hinderance in sharing our faith with others is the fear that we don’t know enough. I would disagree with that. Jesus’ first message was as simple as it comes – “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” You don’t have to deliver a doctoral level thesis paper in order to share your faith with someone. Invite them to church. Tell them what God has done in your life. Let them know that Jesus loves them and that they can experience grace and forgiveness. Keep it simple.

TAKE TIME FOR PEOPLE.
Jesus invested in his disciples. He chose them, he called them, and he shared his life with them. He also took time for people like Peter’s mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and healed her. Jesus was never too busy, never too rushed, never too hurried to stop and spend time with people who needed him. Take time for the people who matter most to you. Invest in those relationships.

VALUE YOUR ALONE TIME WITH GOD.
Even in the hustle and bustle of his life, Jesus made time to spend with God. He had to get up very early in the morning to do it, but he prioritized it. Jesus knew that he couldn’t make it through the day without spending time in prayer and worship with God. For so many of us, time is our most precious resource. We just don’t have enough of it. So make sure that God and others are getting the “first fruits” of your time.

DON’T GO WITH THE CROWD.
The disciples found Jesus praying alone and kind of told him off. “Everyone is looking for you!” But Jesus didn’t take the bait. He could have gone back to the crowd, amassed a following, grown in his popularity and celebrity status. But he didn’t. He kept his mission small. I can’t help but think of our culture today. If it could be summed up by one phrase, I think “everyone is looking for you” would be a really good one. We are expected to be available 24/7 via text, Snapchat, or DM. If we get a notification, we better check it and respond immediately. Jesus tells us not to take the bait. If you always give in to the notion that “everyone is looking for you,” then you are giving other people way too much control over your life.
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For an excellent introduction to the Gospel of Mark, check out this video by The Bible Project.


Why the Enneagram? pt. 2


In the previous post, I pointed to three fundamental truths that lay the foundation for working with the Enneagram. They are:

  1. Every person is created in the Image of God.
  2. Our highest calling is to love God with our entire being – body, heart, & mind.
  3. Our love for God is fulfilled in loving others AND loving ourselves.
Before you begin to build, you need to have a good base. Some of us may need to do a bit more foundation work before we begin. I believe that once we’ve got this foundation set, then we can begin the real work.
OUR TASKS

In my understanding, there are four main tasks that the Enneagram invites us to undergo. They are related to and flow out of the three fundamental truths. So if you’re ready to get to work on the Enneagram, here is what you can expect the process to look like.
1. Find Yourself

This is closely tied to the first truth, that we are all made in the Image of God. Some of us struggle with understanding who God made us to be. When I say “find yourself,” we may think that’s a task for high school and college students. We should have it all figured out by the time we’re young adults.
But have you ever stopped to think about who you are? If I asked you to introduce yourself, could you come up with anything to say that wasn’t related to your occupation, your age, your family relations, etc.? We tend to find our identity in our relationships, our jobs, our political beliefs, our religious practices, our hobbies and interests. But these are all peripheral to who we actually are at the core.
Have you ever noticed how God has a tendency to change people’s name in the Bible? Abram becomes Abraham. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul. Names mean something. God would often give someone a new name, taking their life from one path onto another path, or revealing who they were truly made to be.
Henri Nouwen famously laid out three lies of identity that we tend to believe: 1) I am what I do. 2) I am what I have. 3) I am what others say I am. If we try to find our identity in these lies, we will forever be wandering. But if we want to truly find ourselves, we must come to know the truth. Look at what Nouwen says in his book Life of the Beloved.

The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.

You are the beloved, chosen child of God, created in his Image, loved and accepted, created to do good works which God had planned for you long ago.

The first task of Enneagram work is to be honest with yourself about where you are and who you have become. The Enneagram, to quote Suzanne Stabile, “doesn’t put you in a box. It reveals what box you’re already in, and it shows you the way out.” We all have defense mechanisms and patterns of behavior that we fall back into unconsciously. The Enneagram helps bring those things to our awareness so we can “put off the old man” and become a “new creation” in Christ.

2. Love Yourself

I spent quite a bit of time talking about this point in the previous post, so I won’t go back over everything. But I want to reiterate the fact that God loves you and created your inmost being. Christ loves you and gave up his life for you. The Spirit loves you and lives inside you, bringing life and gifts.

If the triune God loves you this much, then shouldn’t you find reason to love yourself? God knows all your faults, all your failures, all your sin and brokenness. God knows it better than you do. And God loves you despite all that.

I find Paul’s words in Romans 7 extremely relatable.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(Romans 7:24-25)

You may look back at your shortcomings and screwups and think How could anyone love me? But God looks at all that and (see point 1) says, You are my beloved child. How could I not love you?

Love yourself. Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. God says you’re worth it. The Enneagram can help you see your own worth and value. Before you ever begin to make a change, you are worthy of love.

3. Deny Yourself

This may seem like a contradiction to the point above, but it’s really just what happens when we stop buying into the lies of identity that Nouwen pointed out. We deny ourselves when we begin to believe 1) I am NOT what I do. 2) I am NOT what I have. 3) I am NOT what others say I am. After all, weren’t the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness all about identity? If you are the Son of God…do this miracle…have these kingdoms…get people talking about you. That’s why Jesus could then turn around and say this:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
(Luke 9:23-25)

Notice, he doesn’t say that you must deny yourself ______X_______. It’s not that you are denying yourself pleasures or wealth or power. Jesus doesn’t call you to deny yourself things. The call is to deny yourself, your very identity, what you believe makes you you.

This is where the mask comes off. This is where you realize that who you have been is not who you want to be. In psychological and Enneagram language this is called the “false self.” We all have this image we want others to see. We build up walls to keep people out and prevent them from getting too close. We’re afraid that if we unmask, then people won’t like what they see underneath.

This is probably the most painful part of the whole process. We must be willing to say, “I’m going to take off the mask and get rid of my false self – even if it kills me. Even if my whole little world begins to unravel, it’s worth it. Living into my true identity as God’s beloved child is better than living under the lies of a fake identity.”

4. Transform Yourself

The bad news about the transformation process is that no one can do it for you. Even God can’t force you to change. You can only do the work for yourself.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. God will be with you every step of the way.

If you’ve ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, you understand this idea. The Pilgrim had a guide leading him through all the challenges along the journey, but the Pilgrim had to complete and overcome the challenges on his own. So it is with Enneagram work. No one can do the work for you. No one can force you to change or cause transformation in your life.

Paul describes the process at the beginning of Romans 12.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2)

Self-denial leads to transformation. And notice how we are transformed – by the renewing of our minds. When we undergo these tasks – finding, loving, denying, and transforming – we will begin to think differently about ourselves, God, others, and the world.

Start Here

If you are ready to begin the journey of transformation via the Enneagram, please check out my list of resources. Whether you’re a complete beginner wanting to get started or you’ve been at it for a while and want to go deeper, these resources can help you along the way. They have personally helped me to get in tune with myself and God. I hope they will be a blessing to you, too.

11 Great Enneagram Resources

Jonah: Who Are You?

The storm at sea is threatening to kill them all. The waves are swelling and breaking over the boat. The wind is driving the rain like gravel into their faces. They are frantically hurling the cargo boxes overboard in an effort to lighten the ship.

In the midst of this fear and panic, they find someone who really couldn’t be bothered by it all – Jonah, a prophet on the run.

After quite a rude awakening, Jonah is brought to meet with the rest of the crew. They’ve got to find out who is responsible for this storm – not necessarily what person, but what god/deity  is behind this. The most obvious god to pinpoint would be Ba’al, the Storm God of the Ancient Near-East. But Ba’al isn’t responding right now (shocker!), so they have to figure this out.

They cast lots (think Yahtzee, but with higher stakes). The lot falls to Jonah (shocker again!). Check out the interaction that follows:

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (Jonah 1:7-10)

They want to know his job, his region, his country, his tribe, his shopping habits, his Social Security number, his mother’s maiden name. They interrogate Jonah to find out which god he might have angered. In the ancient world gods were viewed as very tribal and/or territorial. Your family would have certain gods. You tribe would have other gods. Your country and region would have bigger gods. Even certain occupations, like merchants and sailors, had their own gods. So they have to narrow it down.

Let’s look again at Jonah’s response to this line of questioning:

“I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This is an interesting response for several reasons.

NATION OVER GOD

Jonah does the same thing I see so many people doing today. His first identifier was his country – “I am a Hebrew.” His identity was first and foremost grounded in his particular geopolitical situation. Jonah was a Hebrew before he was a worshiper of YHWH.

If you look back at 2 Kings 14, you will see that Jonah had every reason to be patriotic. Israel had just experienced the greatest time of political, economic, and military expansion in decades thanks to the word of God through his prophet Jonah. The king was evil, the nation was evil, yet God blessed them anyway. Jonah was at the top of his game. Jonah seems to be more than just a patriot, though. He has tendencies toward nationalism, the ideology that proclaims “My country, right or wrong.”

Today we have two identifiers – Christian and American. Which one is the noun and which is the adjective? That makes all the difference in the world. Are you a Christian American? Or are you an American Christian? Say you meet a foreigner for the first time and you’re getting to know each other. Do you tell that person you’re a Christian or an American first?

For Jonah it was clear that his allegiance to his country took precedent over his allegiance to God. He would rather blatantly disobey God than have a hand in saving Israel’s enemies. But when we become followers of Christ, we are now citizens of a new kingdom, a global kingdom. It’s great to be proud of your country and seek God’s blessing on the place you live (see Jeremiah 29). But it’s not ok to do that to the exclusion or detriment of other countries and nationalities.

YHWH, THE GOD OF HEAVEN

Jonah reveals the sacred covenant name of God to these sailors – YHWH. Any time you see “the LORD” in your Bibles, that is a replacement for the name YHWH. Jonah says, “I worship YHWH.”

But here’s the thing – YHWH was never just a regional God. YHWH had gone by other names, too. Most commonly the name El. El is the more widely used word/name for God. YHWH was the special name God gave to Moses in Exodus when establishing a covenant with the Hebrews.

I’m no Hebrew scholar, but from what I’ve heard and read, the name El is closely related to the name Ba’al, who was frequently referred to as “The God of Thunder” or “The God of the Heavens.” Jonah introduces these sailors to YHWH, the God of Heaven. Essentially, Jonah is using language they would have been familiar with to introduce them to YHWH and emphasize what a big deal this God is.

CREATOR OF THE SEA AND THE DRY LAND


Jonah gives the sailors the most basic Bible school lesson about who God is. YHWH created the sea and the dry land. That’s also a Hebrew way of implying “and everything in them.” So let’s all sing the Days of Creation song!

But this is an important distinction to make. Ba’al may have been “The Storm God” but he didn’t create the sea. There’s a big difference between having control over something and being the creator of something. I may know how to drive my Toyota, but I didn’t build it. My father-in-law worked at the plant where my vehicle was made. He knows where the parts came from and how they are all put together. If there’s an issue with the car, I defer to him.

YHWH isn’t just some little-case-g god like Ba’al. YHWH is the one who created everything that Ba’al supposedly controlled.

This rightly has the sailors terrified. “How can you run away from ‘the God who created the sea’ on the sea!

WHO’S IN CONTROL HERE?


With as crazy as things are, we always have to remember who is in control. God has not abdicated his throne to the big wigs in Washington. YHWH is still the God of Heaven who created the sea and the dry land and everything they contain.

When our identity is primarily rooted in our nationality or politics, then we will always be on shifting sand. We’ll be like the foolish man who built his house on the beach with no foundation. Nations rise and fall. Politics change daily.

But if our identity is rooted in God and the kingdom of heaven, we know we will always be on solid footing, not being tossed around by the winds of political storms.