Introverts: You Are Not Defective!

Book Review: Quiet  by Susan CainImage

Summary:  Western culture thinks extroverts are better than introverts.  The truth is that both types are necessary and complement each other. Our extrovert bias causes lots of problems.  These two personality types have a physiological basis and can be identified even in infants. We need to realize how introverted or extroverted we are and plan our time and energy around this.  Asian cultures value introversion the way we do extroversion.  Introverts can learn to ‘fake’ extroversion.  This is useful but unhealthy if done too often. We should teach children who are introverts how to be themselves.

Good Stuff:

Huge boost to anyone who is an introvert in North America. You will suddenly see all the potential in your personality type.  Your personality is not defective.  Your strengths may be undervalued, but they are powerful.

Section entitled, “Does God Love Introverts?  An Evangelical’s Dilemma.”  Highlights the sometimes extreme bias towards extroversion in evangelical churches. The good people are always happy, talkative, friendly and talking about Jesus to everyone they meet.  Was Jesus an extrovert?

Advice on how to fake extroversion is brilliant. This is necessary in western culture at times.  Also good advice on how to do it without burning yourself out.

Chapter on Asian culture gives great insight into cross cultural communication.  My favorite quote from this chapter from an Asian woman in a university class in the US, “Ahh, I see.  In America as soon as you start talking you are okay.”

The end of the book is a good warning for extroverted parents of introverts.  Try to help them but don’t try to fix them.  They aren’t broken.

Complaints:  Not many.  This book is awesome.

Conclusion:  I highly recommend this book to those who are quieter or like to be alone.  Introvert/Extrovert is a powerful lens to view the world through.  Introverts are devalued in western society and Susan Cain strikes a powerful blow at that kind of thinking. Quiet is balanced and very well researched.  We really need extroverts to read this book as well.  Probably knowing that many of them won’t Cain kindly made a TED talk video on the same subject.   Although, to be honest, the book is much better than the TED talk.  http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

by Isaac Whiting

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Book Review – Everyday Church

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 by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Summary:  The church is at the edge of society. We need to accept it and redefine church as small groups of people living life deeply together with a purpose to spread the gospel.  Our main thing needs to be small groups sharing life and mission together instead of Sunday morning.

Good Stuff:

“We have a loose connection with Christians on Sunday but then largely we go back to living our everyday lives on our own.”

True Biblical rebuke and correction can only happen when people share everyday life together.

“The church leader is someone who is sacrificed from the front life to equip everyone else for the front line. “

Law says “You Should…”  Gospel says “You need not…”

“We need truths we already know pushed down into the everyday realities of our lives.”

“Many Christians function as if the church is a meeting…an entity with structures such as constitutions, ministers, elders, committees and so on.”

Ministry is something done by ordinary Christians with the support of pastors.

An interesting section on how to speak gospel ideas into everyday conversations.

“A good church is a church in which the believers share their lives together as an alternative and authentic society.”

“This is what we are all about: just hanging out, doing nothing spectacular, but with gospel intentionality.”

“If the bulk of a church’s time and energy goes into the Sunday meeting, then everyday church will not happen.”

Complaints:

Some of their suggestions for how to do everyday mission sound like it is only for super social outgoing people. They say you should eat meals with other people as much as possible, walk places and be a regular at certain stores so you can strike up conversations with strangers and you should be exciting not boring.  “You will never attract people to Jesus if you are not excited about Jesus.”  “Our job is to have fun to the glory of God!”

In their conclusion they say groups of believers living together on mission must be more important than Sunday mornings for it to work.  But then they suggest you could keep the current model of church and just add some small gospel community groups to it. Which one is it?

Conclusion:

Overall a good book. They ran out of steam a couple of places, but most of it is useful.  It goes over the standard missional church story but doesn’t spend too long on it. There is lots of practical advice and examples.  If you have no idea what missional church is or are confused by it like most people, this is a good book to read.

Are You Ready to be Attacked?

Tetsudo - shield

Did you prepare yourself for war today?  In Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul encourages Christians to put on the complete armor of God.  Paul believed that this world is a spiritual battlefield. Bad things happen for no apparent reason.  This is because human beings have an enemy.  Satan is not a guy with red skin and horns. That was always just a metaphor and seems hokey today.  Satan is spiritual being of great evil.

Paul wants us to see life this way.  The world is not just what we see.  We should prepare for battle every day with the armor given to us by God.  We may not be attacked every day, but we will be attacked.  We should not be surprised when bad things happen.  We should expect it and be ready. 

What is this armor?  The belt of truth.  The breastplate of righteousness.  The shoes of readiness.  The shield of faith.  The helmet of salvation.  The sword of the word of God.

When we envision this armor we usually think of a medieval knight.  But that is the wrong metaphor.  Paul was writing during the first century AD.   He was not thinking of a medieval knight, but of Roman soldiers.  This is important.

Medieval knights had armor and weapons designed to fight alone.  They had huge swords, armor covering every inch of their bodies and shields they could easily swing to deflect a blow.  Roman soldiers had armor that was designed to be effective only when fighting together as a unit.  Their shields were large and covered the soldier holding the shield and also part of the soldier on his left. Their armor did not cover every inch of their bodies but only those parts that would be exposed when they were in battle formation.

The armor of God protects not only you, but also those around you.

Consider the shield of faith.  Faith is the ability to believe that God can and will answer prayer and help us.  When hard things happen many Christians throw down their faith and run.  Then the battle is lost.  Instead at those moments we need to take up our faith and declare that we believe God will help us.  This will protect not only us but those around us.

Or consider the Word of God, which is the sword of the spirit. This is our weapon against spiritual evil.  We need to prepare by constantly training ourselves to use it.  When evil attacks us we need to pull it out and use it.  Imagine you are in the middle of a fight, or that something terrible has happened to a family member or friend.  It is extremely difficult at those times to go to the Bible, but it is powerful.  Bring the word of God into that fight or tragedy, use it properly and watch how the situation changes.  The battle will not end instantly, but now at least you are fighting. This sword will defend you and everyone else around you.

Isaac Whiting

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How To Buy a Used Car

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Want to save thousands? Want to drive a better car and be debt free?  It isn’t that hard.

Recently we bought a 2003 Pontiac Montana in excellent condition. Transmission rebuilt two years ago, a $2000 job.  115k miles or 185k kms.  The Blue Book value is $4000 from a private party or $5600 from a dealer.  Our cost, $1900.

Here are some rules to follow when buying a car.

1. Don’t Buy a Brand New Car

Recommended by everyone from Dave Ramsey to my dad.  A new car loses a huge percentage of its value when you drive it off the lot.

2. Don’t Buy From a Dealer

Dealers make their money on convenience and confidence. Think about it.  The Blue Book value for any car has two numbers, private party and dealer.  The difference for my van is $1600 or 40%!!  The dealer will claim you are getting a similar deal to a private party, but it is obvious you are NOT.  Cut out the middle man.  Who wouldn’t pick 40% off over full price every time?

3. Do Your Homework and Use a Mechanic

People buy from dealers because they are afraid of problems.  They want the car inspected and they want a warranty. But what has the dealer actually done and what is the warranty really worth?  What they have done is cleaned the car, had a mechanic look at it and fixed things that are obviously wrong. You can do the same thing! 

Check out the car yourself.  Drive it, listen and look.  If you aren’t a mechanic then have one inspect the car.  Any mechanic will inspect a car for around $100.  No legitimate seller will refuse this and you often find something that will let you negotiate the price down at least $100.

Check the car out online.  In BC you can run a VIN search on ICBC website for $20 and know every accident associated with the car. I did this and knew more about our van than the seller.

4. Be Patient and Negotiate

A dealer will get you a car in a matter of hours.  Finding the right car the right way might take a couple of weeks.  It is worth it.  Be patient. You will end up with a better car for far less money. You won’t find the perfect car, but make a list of what you want wait for one that is almost exactly right.  It is easiest to decide on a make and model, a narrow range of years and price before you start looking.

Once you are looking at the car with the seller, negotiate.  This isn’t as scary as it sounds. Don’t try to be super impressive or salesman-like.  Be nice but firm.  Don’t talk too much but ask lots of questions.  Simply ask them if they will come down on the price.  They usually will. Sometimes if you ask enough questions and have done your homework the seller will talk themselves down.

Isaac Whiting

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Why You Should Never Grab Your Children

ImageWe have three-and-a-half children.  Sometimes we want to run away screaming.  However, we consistently get compliments about their behavior. A dozen times old ladies have given them candy or money because they were so impressed. Being a parent is complicated, but here is one rule that goes a long way.  Don’t Grab Your Children!

I see it constantly. A child is doing something that embarasses her parents. Maybe they are running in church or going after that fragile decoration on a friends coffee table. Mom or dad tells them to stop and is ignored. So they grab her. The parent physically stops the kid from doing whatever it was. This is always a mistake.

Now, I am no bleeding heart.. I am a believer in spanking at the right moment and age. The problem with grabbing your kids is that it doesn’t work. The child is out of control. They need something to control them. But when you grab them the point of control is outside their mind and body.

Imagine you are the child. You know you are doing something wrong. That is the seed of responsibility and self control. As soon as mom grabs you it is taken away.  It is mom’s responsibility to hold you back, not yours.  You learn that you can do whatever you want and someone else will make sure you don’t go too far. That is a super bad lesson to learn.

But you say, what else can I do?  The answer is simple and bears incredible fruit.
Don’t Grab Your Kids!
I like to think of it as a game.  Here are the rules.

1) You must get them to stop if you said no.

If you say no you have to deal with it.  You face it head on every single time, even if it is small.  If little Billy is climbing on a table and you have never told him he can’t then fine, you can let it go on.  But if even once you say ‘No climbing on tables’’ you MUST confront Billy until he stops.

2)  You cannot touch them  

You can’t grab Billy and pretend to hug him so he doesn’t climb up anymore. You must use your words. You can promise consequences as long as you follow through.. This means Billy has to think. The point of control is inside himself.  You are giving water and sunlight to that seed of responsibility. The choice is his.

3) You can punish them in appropriately

Billy is going to ignore you. He must have consistent consequences just like he will later as an adult. Spanking and timeouts can be good, but be creative. Most times there are more important things you can take away. Don’t think of this as doing something against your child.  You are helping them.

That’s it!  Win the ‘Don’t Grab Your Kids Game’  and soon your children will learn responsibility. They will respond when you say something and little old ladies will love them.

Tell me what you think –  Isaac

The Baptist is Coming to Wreck Your Party

ImageChristmas was great. We watched the kids dress up like sheep and tell us about the baby Jesus. We opened presents and drove a long way. Things aren’t perfect but they are pretty good. Time for a New Years party!

So what happens next?

What comes after the baby Jesus?  The answer is John the Baptist.  He lives in the wilderness. He eats bugs. He wears clothes that rub his skin raw and he breaks into beehives with his bare hands. His hair is all matted and he has a crazed look in his eyes. Run!  The Baptist is coming to wreck your party.

Here is the deal.  John the Baptist lived a life that should scare us sober.  He was Jesus’ cousin. An angel told his parents that he should follow certain rules for his entire life, the rules of a Nazirite.  You can find these in Numbers chapter 6.  He couldn’t eat or drink anything made from grapes.  But people drank wine at every meal and ate a lot of raisins.  No parties for John. He could never be near a dead body.  If his mom died he couldn’t go to the funeral.  And he could NEVER cut his hair. Just like Samson.  Samson had long braids.  In John’s case think dreadlocks.

At about 13 he left home and lived in the wilderness.  Hot, desert-ish scrubland. He was alone there for 15 years!  What did he do?  He prayed, listened and looked for God.

Around the age of 30 he began yelling a message from God.  Word spread and thousands of people went to hear him.  He yelled at them and then he baptized them. Jesus came. John screamed something about this guy being a lamb and saving the world.  About four people paid attention.

After that he called the king a godless sinner.  They arrested him and chopped off his head.

What kind of life is this?  No friends. No family.  Virtually no childhood. No job, no parties, basically no food, no stuff, no nothing. An entire life devoted to just one word:  REPENT.

And what does that mean?  It means recognize that something is wrong. The world is not just okay. Your life is not just okay.

We are so used to the things being wrong that we put on a smile and ignore them.  The people John spoke to lived in a world filled with evil, corruption and oppression.  But that is how its always been right?  Can’t do anything about that. Just do your best and enjoy what you can.  John said NO.

It’s the same for us. We are blind to the things we do wrong. We shake our heads at the news every day, but do nothing. And just think of all those family issues you ignored last week. John says NO.

The baby Jesus came to bring peace.  But no one can receive Jesus unless they accept what the Baptist has to say.

 

 

Stop Putting Dresses on the Heavenly Host

no angels

Most modern translations of the New Testament are excellent.  There are however a few places where you are completely surprised if you read the text in the original Greek.  Several of those places have to do with the Christmas story.  The verses that tell this story are so well known that many translations have chosen to keep old words that most people don’t understand, even if they think they doThe worst offender of all is the first half of Luke chapter two, the story of the Shepherds and the Angels.

The New International Version reads in verses 13 -14: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

A “heavenly host” appears and they say something that looks like a poem or song lyrics. Notice it doesn’t actually say they sing.

Christmas cards, songs, movies and virtually everyone imagines in this verse a magnificent heavenly choir, arrayed in their glowing robes and singing four part harmony while floating in the sky. That is ABSOLUTELY NOT what Luke is describing.   

The Shepherds are Terrified

The first clue is the reaction of the shepherds to the angel that appears in verse nine. The NIV says ‘they were terrified’.  The old King James calls them ‘sore afraid’.  The Greek literally says, ‘they were terrified with a great terror’.  They aren’t just surprised.  They are scared out of their minds. This is always the reaction when people in the Bible see an angel. Maybe they aren’t so friendly looking?

What exactly is a ‘host’?

Many people would say a host is a large number of people, or angels. But in that case Luke would be repeating himself when he says there was a ‘great company’ of the heavenly host. In fact, the word host has a very specific meaning.

The Greek word translated host is the word stratia. It is where we get our word strategy. It has only one basic meaning in New Testament Greek.  It means AN ARMY. Not a choir. It means soldiers in full battle gear formed up for war.

Battle Cry

If this is an army then why are they singing a song?  The answer is they aren’t. Luke doesn’t say they are singing.  They recite a kind of poem together. Did armies do that?  Yes and they still do. ‘One, Two, Three, Four, I love the Marine Corps!  The angel army is chanting a battle cry.  The battle cry is simple. We can paraphrase it like this, “Glory to God in Heaven.  Peace here on the earth to those who are His friends.  The war is about to end. The Enemy is going to die.”

Why is the war over?  Because a baby is born.  The army marches behind its most powerful weapon, its First Soldier, the death blow to Satan and the enemies of God, the baby of Bethlehem.

Isaac Whiting

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

Five Reasons to Take a Day of Rest

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by Isaac Whiting

What is It?

It’s a day of rest or a Sabbath.  I’ve heard people call it a Stop Day. The rules are simple. One day a week we don’t schedule anything. No meetings, no errands, no school, no church, no work.  If someone invites us to dinner… maybe.

On our day of rest we try hard to do nothing. I am not saying we don’t do anything.  I am saying we do nothing. The kids have to fend for themselves in the kitchen.  We put our own dishes in the dishwasher, but slowly.  We read some Bible together and sing songs, but only for a little while. We do whatever we want as long as it is completely unproductive.  If it is on your to-do list or you feel the urge to get it done quickly it is off limits. Oh, and we also stay together.

Now, here are five things this has accomplished in my life.

5) Work Hard Without Being Hopeless

                Life used to seem like an endless stream of work and crises.  Work, get it done, kids yelling, too tired, go to bed, get up and do it again.  Now I know the cycle will end once every week.  When I feel too tired to keep going I know a day of rest is coming.

4) Gives Me Bursts of Power

                This is huge.  Sitting around and doing nothing seems like a waste of time.  But its not! All time is not created equal. We have days where everything clicks.  We have times of day where we can come up with amazing thoughts and solve problems quickly. When I take a day of rest every week I have more of these times and stronger.  How much is that worth?  It’s incalculable.

3) Rest Without Guilt

How else can you get rest without guilt?  Unless you have a day where you are not allowed to get things done you will always feel like you are wasting time.  Rest without guilt is true rest.

 

2) Your Family Will Love It

                If you have a family they will all love your rest day.  My children are more excited about this day than they are about video games, movies and candy. The night before a rest day they go to sleep with smiles on their faces.  How rad is that?

 

1)      You Will Love It

                Finally, you will love it. Taking a day of rest has tons of tangible benefits, but the best reason to do anything is love.  I didn’t love them at first, but now I love them. They are peace and joy and life and fun. What are you working for in your life? 

 

 

Exodus and the Bronze Age Collapse

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This post is not well researched. It is just an idea.

Lately I’ve been listening to a podcast that is helping me tremendously to understand the world of the Old Testament. http://ancientworldpodcast.blogspot.ca/  There it is if you are interested.  It traces the first civilizations from pre-history to 500BC.

Here is the most interesting topic and my thoughts on it so far.

The Bronze Age Collapse was the major event of the 12th century BC.  Nearly every near eastern civilization was destroyed or fell into dark ages for a few hundred years. Some of these civilizations had been around for thousands of years previously. It effectively ended the world dominating power of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Hundreds of major cities were burned and destroyed.  Who caused all this destruction?

The word habiru, which is our word Hebrew, was not applied only to the Israelites.  It referred to marginal groups of people that moved outside the bounds of established empires in the 12th century BC.  These groups lived as brigands and nomads.  Why does the word refer specifically to groups in the 12th century?  Because before that there were no groups like this.  These groups are not just nomads. They are civilized people who LEFT.

That means the Hebrews of the Bible were not the only ones.  

These groups are probably responsible for the Bronze Age Collapse. In the face of political and economic repression large groups of people started leaving civilization.  Once they were outside the empires they banded together, despite being from many different races, and then invaded and destroyed the empires they came from.  It was like the first Arab Spring or like the Occupy Movement on steroids.

The question in my mind is how did something like that get started?  No one had ever heard of something like this before.  Ancient peoples believed that their kings were gods.

 What made so many people all at the same time believe they could defy and defeat the gods?

The best date we have for Moses is in the late 13th century BC.  That means all this craziness happened in the aftermath of the Exodus of Israel.  What if the Exodus is what caused all these people to believe they could challenge the gods? What if the Exodus inspired a century of revolutions that took down the entire ancient world.

Check out ancient world episode 9 for the podcast that got me thinking about this.

The Church of STOP!

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Forces in modern culture have combined to make many people both inside and outside the church very busy.  In most families both parents are expected to work.  Children are expected to complete an ever increasing mountain of homework and extracurricular activities, sports, music lessons, etc.  Media vies for our near constant attention.  In the midst of all this we are expected to build relationships and spend time with other people.

Secular culture has dealt with the increased demands marginally better than the church simply by placing some of these activities at times formerly reserved for religion.  Sports games are scheduled on Sunday.   Daily devotion and prayer are replaced by media consumption.

Christians feel the pressure more acutely as we try to meet the expectations of our culture and the expectations of the church.  There are simply not enough hours to accomplish all these tasks and we cycle repeatedly through overwork, failure and guilt. We compare our religious accomplishments with those of the early Christians and find ourselves wanting.  However, the early Christians in the cities of the Roman Empire lived in a culture with more free time than we imagine.  Only men worked, perhaps as little as 20 hours per week and nearly half the days of the year were considered holidays.[1]  Their example indicates that some amount of free time is necessary for the cultivation of a life of faith and for the advancement of the Church.

While we should not abandon culture and must meet some of the expectations it places on us, Christians today must find ways to free up time. We must employ the Biblical remedies to busyness, not as laws but as dynamic practices we choose to structure our lives around.  These remedies include Sabbath, Jubilee, simplicity, fasting, silence and retreat.

Sabbath is perhaps the easiest to implement. Christians should choose a day or other clearly defined period of time in which we regularly do no work.  We should abstain not just from the things we do to earn money, but from anything that feels busy or required.

The rest of these practices can all be understood with respect to simplicity.  Christians should choose to live in a way that does not require nearly so much energy to maintain.  Generally we should choose smaller houses, cheaper or fewer cars, less shopping, etc.  This would result in less need to work for some and in surplus money for others.  Christians should choose to become and remain generally debt free and to help others achieve this goal. We should further revive the practices of fasting in various ways, silence and retreat, which can help balance the effects of media and culture on our lives.