Stability - Jon Fryer

Tonight we’re going to talk about where our thoughts and words and actions come from, about where we find our peace and security, and about how we find our stability, our balance, our hiding place and shelter in a chaotic world.
 
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But you can’t find stability unless you know what you are standing on. So lets do something different.
Please stand. There are some lines on the floor. Please ignore them all except for the central vertical line, which is the only important one for the time being. Think about how you relate to other people. Are you the kind of person who has to be around other people, who gets antsy if you haven’t seen anyone else for at least ten minutes? The kind of person who doesn’t know what they are thinking unless they say it out loud and bounce ideas off of other people? If that’s you, please move to the left of the line (your right). Or are you the kind of person who need to be alone or with just your closest friends from time to time just to keep your sanity? The kind of person who knows what they think inside and only speaks up when there is something worth saying? If that’s you, please move to the right of the line (your left).
Ok, now you’ve chosen a side, don’t cross that line again – stay on the side you are on now.
 
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The important line now is the centre horizontal line. Think about how your brain works. Are you the kind of person who is interested in ideas and imagination and the big picture and leaps to conclusions and daydreams a lot? Please move to the top of the line (away from me). Or are you the kind person who is interested in details, and facts and figures, and science, and engineering and stuff and the real world? Please move below the line towards me. Again, don’t cross that line again either…
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Ok, so you are all now within one of four squares which are also made up of four squares, and which make up the four quarters of the grid… the important line is now the vertical line in your quarter. Again, what kind of person are you? Think about how you make decisions. Are you the kind of person who makes decisions with your head, coldly and logically and rationally, weighing up the options? Please move to the right (your left) of the line (but not over the centre line). Or are you the kind of person who makes their decisions based on the heart, on feelings, hotheaded and impulsive,
liable to change your mind depending on emotion? Please move to the left of the line (your right). Again, don’t cross that line again.
 
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Lastly, the final important line is the horizontal one in your quarter. Think about how you deal with the world. Are you the kind of person who categorises
things, and makes judgements, and likes organisation and systems and says this is good and this is bad, putting things in mental boxes? Please move above the line (towards the back) but not over the centre line. Or do you just accept the world as it is and not worry, and say chill out, who cares? Please move below the line (towards me). Ok, take a seat where you are…

What we have just done is a very quick and dirty version of a personality test called the Myers Briggs personality type indicator. The real science is much more complicated than the questions I just asked, but the theory is that all personalities can be divided up into sixteen different types, who react to the world in different ways, and those types are made up of different ways of looking at the world. Its to do with the way your brain is wired and in lots of ways is nothing to do with you, its just the way you are – its like being left or right handed. If you look around you, the people sitting close to you are the people most like you, and the further people are away from you the more different they are. If people are in the same row or column as you then you at least have some things in common in the way your brains work, but if someone is off on a diagonal to you then
you really couldn’t be more different…
Why did we do this? To find stability, you kind of have to know who you are and where you are, otherwise things will keep tripping you up when you least expect it. And to help each other find stability, we need to know a bit about our brothers and sisters. As you can see, we’re all different, and need different things. For instance, if you are sitting in a ‘Thinking’ column...
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… then you probably think that the people in the feeling columns are a little bit nuts. Why on earth are they getting upset over that silly little thing? Surely they just need to be a bit more rational? Why are they so unstable? On the other hand, the people in ‘Feeling’ columns are wondering why the people in the other rows are so cold and heartless, and why can’t they understand how traumatic it is that Fred said that I was only his second favouritest person in the world.
 
Or the people over here...
 
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...are thinking, why don’t those people over there just shut up and go away and let me get on with stuff – why do they have to talk about everything? Etc
etc etc.

The people who think and feel and process the world in a different to you are not evil. They just can’t help it – God made them that way. No one way of doing things is better than another. They are all good, all equal, and all part of the way God designed you to be – just like being left or right handed.

Here’s an idea. God created in his image, to reflect His glory. And God created us all to be unique. Does it not therefore follow that God created you just the way you are to reflect his glory in a way that no other person on the planet can or ever will. Each of us reflects a unique part of God’s character and personality that no other person can, and in a way that no one else ever will or could. The Bible describes the wisdom and glory of God as ‘polypoikilos’,
which means many faceted, many flavoured, multi-coloured. That’s us. Together we reflect the multi-coloured wisdom of God… 

So you guys over here in the I columns…
 
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… in your need to be alone occasionally, you’re like Jesus when he goes off to pray on his own and spend some quality time with just his Father, finding that still and settled place where you can be alone.
 
But you guys over on the other side in the E columns...
 
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...surrounding yourself with people and movement and noise, you guys reflect the Trinity in its Three-ness, always in relationship, forever sharing and dancing and being in community – in that still and settled place of balance there can never be just one alone, because no one can stand alone.
 
And you guys up here in the N rows...
 
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… with your big pictures and stories and imagination, are like the God who created the Universe in all its vast array, the God who dances in the ‘Nice Weather for Ducks video’ with its patterns and its beauty, and the bits where God went a little bit nuts and said, ‘Yup, duck billed platypus, great idea!’, and ‘Hmm, bumblebees, lets make them fly just ‘cos they think they can’.
 
But you guys down here in the S rows...
 
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...with your details and grasp of the real, you reflect the glory of the God of small things, who arranged everything in one great clockwork pattern, who makes every blade of grass and every snowflake and every daisy different just ‘cos he never got bored of doing it, and who counts every sparrow and every hair on your head.

And you guys over here and over here in the T columns…
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… with your thoughts and logic and rationality reflect just a little bit of the part of God who says ‘my thoughts are bigger than your thoughts’, and who holds the Universe in being in His mind – did you know that if God stopped thinking about you even for a microsecond you would cease to exist? – and who remembers each and every person who has ever lived and holds them safe and sleeping in His incredible mind.
 
Oh, and you guys here and here in the F columns, you guys…
 
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… with your feelings and your overflowing emotion and warmth and desire to connect, wow, you guys capture the very heart of the God who is love, and whose feelings towards us can not be measured, and whose passion for us drove Him to the cross and beyond, and who will never ever ever let us go.

And, you guys here and here in the J rows…

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… who categorise the world and make judgements, you guys reflect the heart of God which says ‘No dammit, there is black and white, there is right and wrong’, and who says that some things must be fought, and that someone has to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves and someone has to make a stand for those who can not stand themselves…

And you guys here and here in the P rows…

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… who say, its ok, the world is just as it is, wow, you capture the heart of the God who forgives, the running father in the story who throws his arms around his son who is covered in pig shit and says ‘You know what, it doesn’t change anything, you’re still my son and I still love you’, the God who hung out with beggars and prostitutes, the God who says ‘rest’.

Now the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Introverts or Extroverts, rational or emotional — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"  There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

… and together, together, we reflect the manifold, many flavoured, multi-coloured glory of God. We need each other or we become less than we should be.

So that’s all good. Our different personalities are by God’s design and part of his plan for us. What’s the problem? All of the things we have been talking about are reflexes, just like being right handed. You can use the other hand, but if someone throws something at your head, you use your favoured hand to block it by reflex. The problem is that the world is broken. We all know that. And we are all broken. We know that too. But that sometimes means that when the world (or the Devil) throws something at us we react by reflex when it is not appropriate and when we should be using a different response. We get tricked into using one response all of the time until we are so off balance that we fall over.

What kind of thing coming out of our character might be a wrong reflex? Lets take the Introverts first… what can go wrong with that instinct?
  • Hiding from the world 
  • Not reaching out to help people
  • Giving up on gathering with the people of God. 

What can go wrong with the Extrovert instinct?
  • Insensitive
  • Not spend enough time alone with God
  • Focus on others when God wants to spend time with you

What can go wrong with the iNtuitive instinct?
  • Not check the facts
  • Mistake daydreams for God
  • Forget the little details… like looking after people

What can go wrong with the Sensing instinct?
  • Ignore the spiritual in favour of concrete
  • Hard to believe what you can not see
  • So caught up in details (rota’s etc) that they forget the mission

What can go wrong with the Thinking instinct?
  • Cold hearted
  • Over analyse the spiritual
  • Ignore God when he asks for something irrational

What can go wrong with the Feeling instinct?
  • Lack of stability – the emotional rollercoaster
  • Turning to friends for comfort and support instead of God
  • Thinking that faith is about feelings - what do I do when the feelings stop?

 

It wasn't the Lord I wanted to hug...

 
What can go wrong with the Perceiving instinct?
  • Don’t take a stand against evil
  • Don’t take God seriously
  • Don’t take commitment to others seriously

What can go wrong with the Judgemental instinct?
  • Lack of grace
  • Legalism - Thinking everything is black and white
  • Putting people in boxes and refusing to see their good points or allow them to change

So you see, all of these good, God-given parts of our character can become an absolute menace if we rely only on them rather than practicing the other parts of our character that we are not so good at. The bible talks a lot about this is in the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, 
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, 
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, 
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, 
a time for war and a time for peace.

Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise— why destroy yourself?
Do not be wicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. 
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the culture we live in is a culture of extremes, and many of the ideas of the culture we live in come in and nest in our thoughts and our hearts where Jesus should hold sway. These ideas act like viruses. You know when you get an ear infection and it throws your balance off? Some ideas from our culture are like that, and get inside us without us noticing, and then we find ourselves even more unstable than normal.

What kind of ideas am I talking about?
  • Modernism – for the last 400 years or so our culture has told a story that says that the world is going to get better and better because of science, and if only we know a little bit more and a little bit more then everything is going to be ok. It paints the idea that just over the horizon is this shiny hyperreal world and all we have to do is wait for science to give it to us. What are the problems with that?
       
    • It plays to the P instinct to sit back and do nothing, ‘cos its all going to be ok. It is all going to be ok, but that’s because of Jesus, not science. And Jesus says ‘Come follow me’. He says ‘Get off your fat and lazy ass and do something to help out, or your corner of the world will take a lot longer to be ok than it needs to be.
    • It plays to the T instinct to look to science to think of an answer, rather than to ask the big JC. Our instinct needs to be pray first, then think… not just think. If you make an idol out of logic, out of how clever you are, out of science, out of looking smart, then you will always end up feeling stupid, feeling not good enough, a fraud, always on the edge of being found out.
    • It keeps us consuming. Part of the drive behind our purchase driven culture is the idea that you only need to buy this new toy, that holiday, this experience, and suddenly you will be happy. It’s a lie, and it’s a lie that is proving to be fatal to our world and our spiritual life. It’s a virus. Stuff can not make you happy. If you make an idol out of money and toys and experience, if that’s where you get your meaning in life, then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. There is always just one more thing that will make everything perfect, until it eats you alive. Idolatory always eats its children.
  • Commitment phobia – A knock on effect of consumerism is that it dissolves commitment like acid. Consumerism teaches us to shop around for the best bargain, to hold on until something better comes along. Consumerism only works in a low commitment culture. What are the problems with that?
    • It distorts our view of sex and relationships. We flee from the God given gift of marriage to one partner for life, because the idea terrifies us. What if we get bored? What if a better offer comes along? Commitment limits our options. Our society is broken because of this attitude of selfishness. When Jesus tells us to give without any thought of return, and that includes our commitment as well as our money.
    • It distorts our view of church. Rather than a group of people whom we belong to and who belong to us, we attend church for fear of missing out, and then, after a year or so when it gets a bit samey, we move on to something else. Jesus wants followers who are here for the long haul. He was in it for you until the end.
  • Therapeutic Faith – Our society is all about feelings. Feelings rule over facts, appearance is more important than reality, and we glorify the vacuous (Jade Goody, Jordan) and are suspicious of the clever (‘Because I’m clever!’). Where does that take us, and what are the problems with that as a world view?
     
    • A faith built on feelings can trundle along nicely until things get rough, but then it can not cope. Our culture values pleasure above all things, and “If it feels bad something must be wrong”, but the real world is not always like that, and it doesn’t get any more real than following Jesus to the cross. Sometimes it will feel bad so we need a faith where our head and our heart works together. A faith that is all heart and no head can have no discernment – there are lies in our culture and we need to check everything against the Word of God. A faith that is all head and no heart can have no compassion. To be like Jesus we need both.
  • Life as Acting – Our culture exists just as much in the media as it does in the real world, and this creates a world where we act all the time and nothing is real. You can be who you like online, you can make your life look awesome and yourself look popular on MySpaz of FaceHook, even if its not true. What are the problems of living life like you are acting all the time?
     
    • You are the centre of the universe. The movie is all about you. You are your own media channel, your own brand, your own publicist. Everyone else is the audience. Well, its not all about you, its all about Jesus. You are a tiny bacterium on a big ball odust – don’t you want to be something bigger? Being lord of your own tiny domain inside your head is terribly lonely. You are a slave to yourself. Jesus taught that real freedom comes from laying down your life, not bigging it up. Being in charge of your own life is a myth. If you worship the idol of power you will always feel afraid and weak, and you will need ever more control to keep fear at bay – it’s the Anakin Skywalker story.
    • Who you are on the inside is not irrelevant, its vital. God looks at the heart. Its what we get judged on. Conversely, appearances are not everything. If you worship the idol of self, of beauty, or your own body, then you will always feel ugly, and you will die over and over again inside as you age until when you finally die will be withered up inside even as all of the wrinkles are pulled tight. All idols eat their own children.

There are many others, but you get the point. Its hard to find stability and balance when your own sense of balance is faulty to begin with, and its even worse when our environment is a hostile and crooked place – its hard to find stability when the ground is treacherous.

So where do we go for balance? Where can we run to for stability? You know the answer. Tonight was more about pointing out the things that can trip you up, rather than telling you how to run the race. You already know the answer. The answer is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. God is the centre of all things, the keystone of all creation. All things rest on Him and revolve around Him. He is the still and settled place at the heart of the universe, the unmoved mover. When Jesus was on this earth he was the most balanced person who ever lived… and that doesn’t mean he had no personality. I know a guy who comes out as close to the centre of the Myers Briggs test as it is possible to be, but man is he boring. That’s not balance. That’s absence! Jesus wasn’t like that – the Bible makes it clear that he was an absolute blast to be around and people came from miles around just to hang out with him. Jesus is the perfect man, and so he manages to be all of those personality types at once in perfect balance, all of His God given reflexes kicking off at exactly the right time, thinking and feeling, judging and forgiving etc etc. And the Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to be more like Jesus, our conscience, the one whispering in our ear ‘This is the Way, walk in it’.

As Christians we need to make a choice about what we worship. Everyone worships all of the time – we are worshipping beings, its in our DNA. But everytime we take our eyes off Jesus then we let the viruses in and our balance goes. I guess the message here is that it’s the little things that matter. Little things like your big toe. Its what, 4cm? And yet without it you can’t balance as you walk. The big toe of the Christian walk are the little things that its easy to forget. Constant prayer. Regular study. Constant worship. Constant presence in the situation. Why? Because the Bible says these things build character. And character is just another way of saying ‘all the good things that your default personality grows into when coupled with the fruit of the spirit’. And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control.

Notice that the Fruit are the things that balance our default personalities – love to stir up the introverts and the perceiving to reach out. Peace to calm the crazy feelings down. Kindness to soften the judgemental. Gentleness to rein in the extroverts and the intuitives. Self Control to give balance to everyone.
And no one can grow on their own. We need to remind each other over and over – look to the cross. Look to Jesus. Look to the Father. We need to train each other to turn to God first, our own reflexes second. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

Therefore my brother and sisters, let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Great Day of the Lord drawing near.
Amen.
That Still and Settled Place
Jesus the Man
What was Jesus like?

The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?

The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?

The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?

Obedience
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Aslan
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Stewardship
Why should we look after the world God has given us?

Stability
How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

Doorkeepers
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Air
Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

Passover
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

Life
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

Fruit
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Wait
Teaching for Christmas Eve...

Authority
What does it mean to have authority?

Tired
What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

Angels
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

Fire
A contemplative service for Pentecost

Water
A creative/contemplative baptism service

Guidance
How do we know what we should do?

Stones
A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

Abraham
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Obedience
Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

Joy
How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

Healing
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

Church
The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

Temptation
How do we resist?

Holiness
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

Prophecy
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?

Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed