Jesus, temptation and me

This morning as I read through Luke 4:1-13 The temptation of Jesus I was struck by the tactics and means the devil uses to try and bring us down.

His first point of attack was physical temptation.  Jesus was hungry, he had been without food for 40 days and was weak because of it and the Devil tempts him with the suggestion of bread.  I like to think physical temptation doesn’t hold much for me in this world, I’m not fussed about most material trappings – she says sitting in her warmly furnished home with full cupboards and the lack of little.  Would I still be so sure if it was all taken away from me.

Not getting very far as Jesus stands firm, the devil brings out his next offering.  Prestige and honour – offering him “authority and splendour” .  This is more my language, keep your bread but a tidbit of praise and a quick massage of my ego – yep you’ve got my attention.  But I’ve done this circuit before, and actually I’ve learnt it’s pretty empty and brings no satisfaction beyond a second or two.  Yes, I’m tempted but you can keep that one too Satan – I’ve tasted better things and by the grace of God I’ll forgo this round.

Then comes the powerful blow.  Physical temptation and the offer of prestige and honour getting nowhere, the devil starts fighting dirty and questions our identity.  “If you are the son of God”  “Surely God will protect you”  – Oh this one hurts.  The doubt, the questions.  Why didn’t God stop that?  Why did that happen?  If I was God’s child surely I wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t.  What if I’m not…..  I’ve taken a few blows from this one and so like a hound with the scent of blood it’s where the devil will home in on when I’m feeling frail.  And so I stand and I declare “ABBA, I BELONG TO YOU.”  You see Satan, My Father loves me and is awful fond of me – and along with your bread, and your prestige, you can keep your doubting questions because my identity is secure, I’m Abba’s child.

Into Ninevah

Ninevah, the infamous, barbaric city where Jonah was commanded by God to go and preach God’s wrath and the need for a city to change its ways.  Except Jonah didn’t want to go.  Ninevah was a place of fear, a hotbed of conflict and strife and as far as Jonah was concerned, best left to its own devices.  So “Jonah ran away” – and you know how the story goes; Quick Sunday School recap, he boards a ship, God sends a storm, the sailors panic, Jonah gets thrown overboard, he’s swallowed by a fish and on the third day is promptly vomited back on shore – to be told once again to go to Ninevah.

Not exactly your every day experience – yet one that reminded me this week of how my INFJ wiring sometimes needs to be held by the hand and coerced into a place it would rather not go.  Conflict  – is there anything more draining, all-consuming and terrifying for someone of an INFJ personality? (I’m sure we’re not the only personality types who hate conflict but it’s a biggy for us).  I avoid conflict at all costs; whenever I run into it, I feel physically sick and my head starts to thump and I will always, always try and keep the peace where possible.  And that’s why I’ve felt pretty churned up and drained over the last few weeks.  There hasn’t been any major conflict but it’s there lurking in the background between a friend and I.  I know she feels I’ve wronged her, I feel she’s wronged someone else and it’s created a tension, a tension I can’t bear – and I want to run.  It’s my Ninevah, I just don’t want to go there, leave it well alone.  Bury my head, smile, keep it cool and distant.  Put up those walls.  But – and it’s a big but – my walk with Jesus calls me beyond that.  Jesus says don’t be afraid, drop your guard – be truthful, be gentle, be vulnerable but do not be afraid.  To do life and to do it well I can’t keep running from conflict, for in doing so I give it a power that it ought not to have, I create a falseness and kill any opportunity for grace, forgiveness and growth.  So it’s time to get that coffee with my friend and to clear the air despite what I fear it might cost me.  I’m going into Ninevah.

What is it to be an INFJ Christian?

I’ve briefly mentioned earlier in this blog that understanding about my Myers Briggs type indicator has been a really helpful thing.  The more I learn about it the more helpful it becomes.  Somebody asked me recently after the creation of my new Twitter account of the same name –  what does it mean to be an INFJ Christian? – and that’s a really good question and one that has caused me to think much over the last few days (and as an INFJ I do enjoy a good think…)  It’s important for me to say that first and foremost my identity is found in Jesus and it’s important for me to remember that.  I do believe each one of us is created uniquely and no two of us are the same – yet when we see so much pattern throughout the whole of creation, why would it surprise us that there are patterns to be found within personality types too.  One of the most helpful analogies I’ve come across is the suggestion that our personality types are like the canvas upon which our individual experiences and journeys are painted.  I’ve still got a lot to learn but understanding those parts of me that are hard-wired and those that can likely be overcome is very reassuring.  One hundred and forty characters on Twitter doesn’t get you very far so perhaps as I learn and discover more of what it means to be a Christian INFJ I can share here and share with you.

Thank God it’s Monday

Mondays – I love them, though I’m quite sure that puts me in a minority category!  The reason I love Mondays is that while the rest of the world is heading off back to work, Mondays happen to be my Sabbath, my time to be still during an otherwise hectic week.  While there’s still jobs to be done, groceries, a bit of housework, a few phone calls to make, the pace of a Monday is different and the morning especially is sacred space.  It’s the time when I get to have a cup of coffee with God, I can curl up on my couch and just rest in his presence.  I can journal and then journal some more and my thoughts have time to be heard.  Sundays too of course are good for the soul, I love being with our church family, I love the buzz, the noise, the mess, – the signs of shared life together – but Monday is the day I wait for.

Perhaps the challenge though is to take the depth of my Monday into the rest of the week.  Being “still” isn’t about what’s going on around you but what’s going on within you.  I’ll always need to have my set-aside quiet times, my Mondays, but I’m slowly learning to find the stillness of a Monday amidst the noise of a Friday.

Not perfect, just better.

This week I returned to work after a wee break – and so good intentions of daily updating a blog and “keeping on top of things” started to fade somewhat as the reality of a busy life wrestled its way to the forefront.

I like the start of a new term and this spring to summer one is usually one of my favourites.  The evenings are getting much lighter and I always feel better for that – it must be all the additional vitamin D!

I also find the start of a new term is a great time for setting some goals and getting to grips with what you want to achieve over the next couple of months.  Sometimes however this can become a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re like me and want everything to be perfect  – I often find myself setting unrealistic goals that get abandoned half way through a term!  So this term, instead of aiming for perfect in everything and inevitably failing, I’ve instead looked at the different areas of my work and given each area a mark out of 10 according to how satisfied I am with it!  Some areas of my work are ticking along just fine and I could happily score them as a 7 or 8, other areas are not quite where I want them to be and would probably register as a 5 or 6 – and these are the ones that I’m going to give my attention to this term.  It would be counter-productive to try and make them a perfect 10 – as everything else would start to slide, but what I can do is set a couple of smaller goals and give these areas the attention needed to nudge them up the scale slightly.

I’ve chosen to do this for work this term but you could do it with any area of life – or indeed, life in general.  On a scale of 1-10 how satisfied are you with your home environment, relationships, career and so on.  And for those areas that you know are flagging a wee bit what small changes could you make over these next few weeks/months to nudge them up the scale a bit, not aiming for perfect, just better.

Thine be the glory

As is typical of an INFJ, I can be in danger of making life one big self-improvement plan – something that is potentially at odds with my Christian faith.  My faith in Jesus means that I’m whole, complete and there’s nothing that I can say or do that adds to that, or takes away from it.  It’s a done deal – His righteousness is mine.  Yet we still have a very real and messy existence as we plod on through this life.  But you see it’s the “plodding” that bothers me – I believe we were created for so much more but all too often we let the daily drudge slow us down, we become desensitised to the noise all around us and miss the voice that whispers our name.

I’m on a mission, I want to walk lightly and freely, at the same time as deeply and in servitude – pausing long enough to hear the whispers and enjoy the journey.  Yet that doesn’t happen instantaneously – Paul in his letter to the Romans spoke of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” – this is an ongoing process and one that I believe we’re invited to actively pursue.   I keep asking myself, is it compatible for a Christian to be so intent on seeking self-improvement or is that an oxymoron?  I’ve come to the conclusion that it all comes down to whose glory we’re seeking.   Self-improvement for my own sake and glory, whilst it might have short term benefits, is shallow and when all is said and done will only disappoint.  If however, I’m actively seeking God’s glory – using my limited understanding of psychology and self-awareness tools combined with the invitation to God’s Holy Spirit to transform, renew and strip away those old destructive habits and thought patterns in order that my life honours God all the more, then I’m convinced this a good and helpful pursuit to give time and attention to.  Self-help tools, like many things of the world are in my opinion neutral, it’s for what purpose and whose glory you desire them.  Use them for growth, for fruitfulness and ironically for getting rid  of “self”.

Father God, I’m committed to living for you and your kingdom and I’ll take whatever help I can get – Thine be the glory.

True to type

I think understanding our personality type can make such a difference when it comes to making sense of the world around us and how we relate to it.  While I think it’s important not to allow yourself to be defined by any particular label, I do believe understanding your basic character traits can go along way to helping you understand why you act, think and feel the way you often do.

For a long time I couldn’t understand why I used to get so teary and utterly exhausted when attending any kind of residential conference where lots of people were in attendance.  I would always enjoy the programme but the whole event would leave me completely drained and just desperate for home.  A couple of years ago I came across Myers Briggs/Jung personality types and learned that I’m an INFJ with a very high (75%) introversion type.  Introversion isn’t about being shy or anti-social it’s about how you “spend your energy” – being amongst people costs me a huge amount of energy and without quiet space to refuel I’m totally wrung out, hence the struggles of a residential conference!  There’s lots more about understanding the traits of my personality type that’s helped me to understand how I relate to my friends, work, my environment and the world around me – as well as confirming I’m kinda complex…

It can affect all areas of life – Mike Breen does a great job in his blog outlining how our personality types shape our relationship with God. Part 1  Part 2

If you want to discover more about your personality type you can take a test and learn more here

Would love to know what your personality type is and how you think it shapes your day to day life – leave me a comment :-)

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