The Dangers & Myths of Personality Tests

Anonymous asked a question:

I’ve followed you for a while. I find solace in your blog. I recently did a Spiritual Gift Test in my leadership group at church. I scored a 23 in Mercy and Administration (out of 25), but I scored an 8 in Faith. The test is a tool to show your best qualities to serve your church. It really struck me hard, as I struggle with what God’s intentions are for me, and what my path is. A lot of the time I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I just don’t know what to do anymore. 

Hey my friend, thank you for sharing your struggle here.

Please know: there are a lot of “spiritual tests” out there, and I wouldn’t trust them all very much. In fact, there are thousands, if not millions, of personality tests and horoscopes and “strengths finders” and “which Marvel character are you,” and while they’re fun, they should never become permanent labels that determine your growth and journey.

I have to ask, who is developing these tests? Is it like every other westernized test with a western bias? Are they evidence-based? And if so, how? How many people have been misled by these things? And in a hundred years when they develop better tests, are we all just doomed today?

The most famous test of all time, the Myers-Briggs, is absolutely not based on any evidence or science at all. It’s also highly binary without any sort of continuum or grey area. And since major companies have been hiring and firing people based on tests rather than interaction, it’s a really big deal that we take a step back from them without condemning ourselves to one singular fate.

In fact, if we take a step back from a lot of books and blogs, many of them can be helpful, but they should all be filtered through skepticism. Authors, pastors, celebrities, and “experts” can offer good-sounding advice that does nothing but sound good. Always, always discern.

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How Can We “Judge Not”? What About Calling Others Out?

Anonymous asked a question:

How can we not judge others? What if they are doing something wrong and I wanna correct them? Does that mean I “judged” them? What if I categorized their action as a sin? Still “judged” them?

Hey dear friend, I believe this is one of those myths that needs to be cleared up with a big dose of nuance and balance.

If you ask most people about the general message of the Bible, we might say, “Love everybody” or “Don’t judge or you’ll be judged!” And those are true. The problem is: that’s way too simplified for our human condition. The Bible also offers many extra layers for us, because we’re all squishy fragile beings with three lb. brains that need more than a sloppy idea of “love” and “don’t judge.”

Love includes telling the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 13:6). It includes accountability, wisdom, boundaries, and healthy exchange (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:12-13, 1 Cor 6:19-20). We’re called to be as pure as doves but as wise as snakes (Matthew 10:16). Love doesn’t mean we let people off the hook, and there are plenty of examples where Bible figures spoke up at the risk of death: Esther, Nathan, Micaiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist, who was beheaded for it. And saying “Don’t judge” is often a hidden ploy that really means, “Don’t judge me because I want to be selfish and destructive without your finger-wagging nagging.”

The famous passage on judging, Matthew 7, actually says:

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

That final verse is important. Paraphrased, it says: First look at yourself, and then you can actually see someone else.

In other words, there’s actually a way to judge someone that isn’t a passive-aggressive, flesh-driven, smug, backhanded superiority, but a sincere effort to see the best in someone when they’re slipping up. It necessarily starts with looking at ourselves first. Am I judging this person out of my own need to win? To just get things off my chest? To just tell them off? To let them have it?

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Movies That Christians Should Watch: The Shawshank Redemption


Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Columbia Pictures

Andy Dufresne is sent to prison for the murder of his wife and her extramarital lover. He is soon indoctrinated in a savage world of bargaining, machismo, corruption, and despair. But Andy is a silent unassailable force who through intellect and his child-like innocence gains favor with both the guards and the prisoners. He befriends Red, a longtime inmate, who berates hope but believes in Andy, and together they forge a bond that survives the decades.

Starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Gil Bellows. Directed by Frank Darabont.

Questionable Content:
Graphic violence, quick visuals of a sex scene, language, implied prison rape, a vivid murder, and several suicides.

Why You Should See It:

Adapted from a short story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best American films ever made. It did poorly at the box office and wasn’t well received, but picked up steam on VHS and is now a beloved, timeless classic. Only three years ago, it managed to fill 151 hours of basic cable television in a year, tying with Scarface and second to Mrs. Doubtfire, and still paying residuals to its principal actors and crew.

The movie works because we like Andy Dufresne. He’s perfectly imperfect. Some movies manipulate the audience into rooting for the main character by throwing all sorts of contrivances at him (see The Pursuit of Happiness or Patch Adams), but Andy must do his sincere best in a broken system that does not allow for hopeful men like him.

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Movies That Christians Should Watch: The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1998)
Paramount Pictures

Truman Burbank, in one of Jim Carrey’s finest performances, is a nice guy with a nice wife, the nice house, job, and neighbors — but it’s all been staged for Truman. He’s the center of a global reality show in which he’s the only one who doesn’t know. From birth, he’s been raised on an engineered island with hired actors and millions of hidden cameras. If you think I’ve given away the big secret, this is only the start of the movie. Truman’s world slowly unravels when he finds clues that reveal the seams. He knows something is wrong; we find he has probably known it his whole life. He must decide whether to discover his reality or stay content on his perfect island.

Also starring Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, and Natascha McElhone. Directed by Peter Weir.

Questionable Content:
Some suggestions of sex, an unethical premise, and a scene of a man nearly dying.

Why You Should See It (Some Spoilers Ahead):

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Book Review: Heroes and Monsters

Josh Riebock writes an incredibly honest, gripping autobiography (the best kind, of course) about his struggles as both a Christian and a human being. If you combine Donald Miller, Chuck Palahniuk, and J.D. Salinger, then here’s the wild creation that bursts forth.

I first heard of Josh Riebock through a quote on Tumblr that went viral, and then I saw that Riebock had written a book. Honestly, my ethnic prejudice thought it would just be another white guy complaining about his first-world-woes and I’m-so-mad-at-church-culture-and-my-daddy, but from the first few pages, I was swept up into a very broken, human story that’s sort of the untold jagged thread in all of us.

From insecurity to grief to rage to love to hatred, Riebock carries you into his struggle and doesn’t hold back on his craziness. It’s everything about you that you wanted to say in church and to your best friend, but were too dang afraid to be that vulnerable.

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Question: Problems with Passion 2013

philskiiiii asked you:

What’s your opinion on blogs speaking on the “Problems at Passion 2013”? Would love to gain some insight from you.

I haven’t read those blogs — and I won’t waste my time on them. 

I’m aware you’re asking me out of curiosity so this is not to get at you, but please allow me the grace to go on a (pointless) rant here.

On a long enough timeline, anyone can complain about anything for any reason.

Maybe some of these blogs have legitimate concerns, but a conference like Passion is the very last thing that anyone should complain about, ever.

Should we have discernment about certain events like these?  Sure.  Should we understand what Christian conferences can and cannot do?  Yes.  Should we be careful about our doctrine and guard ourselves against emotionalism and big stages?  Of course.

But good folks like Louie Giglio have poured out their heart and sweat and blood to reach a younger generation with the Gospel — and I can guarantee that he and everyone else involved has contributed more for Jesus than any of these “Christian bloggers” will do in a lifetime.

I think we can afford a little grace for some secondary disagreements.

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The First Time Around Always Sucks: But That’s Growth

If you ever look back on your old creations — sketches, journals, dance moves, videos, or that squeaky song you wrote for the girl in sixth grade who didn’t know you — you will always cringe at your amateurish recklessness.

The first time through your masterful brilliant brainchild, you probably thought it was the greatest idea in the world. Now you run from it as fast as your friends bring it up to you.

But: we all go through this. It’s a clumsy, gaudy, lumbering phase of growth that requires a purging of all your awkward first moments, and it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s also okay. You can embrace the process and shed the old skin and keep pursuing your perfection. You’ll look back a year from now and possibly hate what you’ve made today — but that’s only a natural part of your growth. One day you won’t look back on any one single thing you’ve done, but rather see an entire mosaic in a single-hall museum of your creative journey: and that’s life. It’s a collaboration with yourself.

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Book Review: Who Is This Man?

Who Is This Man?
By John Ortberg

John Ortberg’s treatise on Jesus, Who Is This Man?, is perhaps better titled, Where’s Jesus? In a sweeping look across American history, we’re shown the overarching influence of Jesus’ ministry in our current values, philosophies, and culture, in almost a guessing-game of how to spot Jesus in our daily lives. Every chapter follows the same premise, showing how Jesus shaped feminism, government, art, morality, and our great human story.

Both Christians and the unchurched can overlook how big of an influence Jesus actually has on our global society. John Ortberg extrapolates backwards from values we take for granted today to a time when such values were a mystery, and how Jesus planted the embryonic seed to get it rolling.

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Book Review: Explicit Gospel

Explicit Gospel
By Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler writes a hit-and-miss work on the Gospel, full of sharped barbs that are occasionally convicting but are mostly mean-spirited and glitzy.

I really, really, really wanted to like this book. And indeed, I found parts of it absolutely brilliant. But we get a version of Matt Chandler here that hardly sounds like himself.

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Book Review: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Prolific Christian author Jerry Bridges does it again with his surgically precise work on spiritual transformation. For those confused on how transformation happens, Bridges goes into concise detail about our sanctifying journey with Christ. While there are already so many books on “How To Change,” this is the one that shows you the Holy Spirit’s role like you’ve never known Him.

Jerry Bridges is absolutely no-nonsense in his writing, and probably the cool philosophical uncle I always wanted. He uses the exact number of words to explain concepts with no sugar attached, never diminishes the uphill struggle, and clarifies huge concepts into a simple sentence. There are some writers who grasp their own material so well that they sort of leave you in the dust, but Jerry Bridges guides you just enough to keep your head above water while also challenging your knowledge. Of all the Christian authors I’ve dug into, good old Uncle Jerry is the most concise and plainspoken of them all.

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Book Review: Sacred Marriage

Sacred Marriage
By Gary Thomas

Perhaps the absolute seminal work on biblical marriage, Gary Thomas’ classic Sacred Marriage is worth a revisit considering both Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage have topped the charts. Written before the escalating attacks on marriage today, Gary Thomas’ work is more needed now than he could’ve imagined.

Revisiting this work with my faded highlights and old foodstains, I remember why it had struck such a chord before: because Gary Thomas is a writer. He does not mince words, does not skirt the issue, does not go for the easy answer. Using vivid illustrations with personal stories and sound theology, Thomas writes like a tough mentor but a comforting friend. He’s the coach you can expect to whip you in shape but also have a heart-to-heart with after the game.

Gary Thomas’ grand central thesis is, What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? It’s an incisive, convicting theme that is both biblical and practical. I believe almost all marriage books since (including Tim Keller’s and Mark Driscoll’s) have quoted this in one form or another.

Since marriage is but a shadow of our relationship with God, then marriage itself is our earthly picture of the Gospel for both joy and sanctification. Nothing else like marriage will give us such a clear view of God Himself. And nothing else like knowing God will lead to a fulfilling, lasting, joyful marriage.

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Book Review: Disciple

By Bill Clem

Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church writes a work on defining a disciple of Jesus Christ, an ultimately disappointing book that is far too American and seldom convicting. While there are brilliant sections strewn throughout, the book is neither groundbreaking nor wholly biblical. A missed opportunity for a much needed discussion.

Despite my best efforts and Bill Clem’s best intentions, this is the definition of disciple that I gleaned from his work:

A disciple is someone who looks like Jesus and joins a small group community.

Of course, I doubt this is Clem’s goal. Yet the book is so American that I could never see it working in an urban or third world context. With an almost abstract, self-help style, Clem writes in largely conceptual strokes about mind-molding and relational-sharing, but hardly ever touches on the Great Commission to Go and to Make.

It might be unfair that I expected a book like Radical. David Platt’s seminal work on discipleship felt much closer to the biblical reality of carrying the cross, denying the flesh, and giving your all for Christ. When I read a book about disciples, I expect urgency and adventure, not megachurch-style small groups isolated in an upper-class neighborhood.

While Clem gives a nod to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the great anti-Nazi preacher who authored The Cost of Discipleship and was hung for plotting against Hitler — in Clem’s work there was never any sense of risk or rejoicing. He instead makes discipleship appear like a nagging grandmother’s task of checklisting spiritual progress and attending church to copy the “stoic” personality of Jesus.

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Movies That Christians Should Watch: Apollo 13

Apollo 13 (1995)
Universal Pictures

**Some spoilers ahead.**

Three men are sent into space by NASA in 1970 when the space industry begins to lose its luster, and suddenly an expedition to the moon becomes a rescue mission back to earth. The journey is cut short when faulty equipment explodes and these three men, with the resourcefulness of the control center on the ground, use everything at their disposal to make it safely home.

Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise. Directed by Ron Howard.

Questionable Content:
Intense scenes of distress and anxiety in a spaceshuttle, plenty of well-deserved yelling, some coarse language, and a woman taking a shower loses her wedding ring (no nudity).

Why You Should See It:
The indelible words of Astronaut Jim Lovell are embedded in our culture: Houston, we have a problem. The problem is more or less a mechanical failure that would hardly make sense to ordinary laymen, but the film slows down to present these historic trials piece by agonizing piece: leaking oxygen, low battery, rising CO2 levels, freezing temperatures, possible heat damage and disintegration, and a horrifying scene where the broken shuttle must make a perfectly timed burst for 39 seconds in one direction.

We know they survived in the true story, but it doesn’t make the movie any less tense. The flight director Gene Kranz, played by a brilliant Ed Harris in the best performance of the movie, passionately breaks down each problem with the crew like a math puzzle: except the stakes are human lives. Hope drives them to relentless measures. No one sleeps. You’ll never hear “insurmountable odds” quite the same way again.

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Christian Books For The Rookies And Veterans

By request: here is a three-year reading plan of the Best Christian Books categorized for rookies, veterans, and burn-outs. You can stretch it to the rest of your life if you so choose.

I promise I’ve only recommended books that I have finished by at least 90% (by reading or audio), which means the list will be limited but at least personally experienced.

This list will change over time. I’ll be sure to edit and re-post!
**Last updated 5-5-2018**

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Music Review: Give Us Rest – David Crowder Band

Give Us Rest
By David Crowder Band

David Crowder Band, the cutting edge of Christian worship bands in the last decade, offer up their sixth and final album. It’s a virtuoso effort of bells, chimes, whistles, banjos, techno, and choir-pumped glory, with their most Christ-centered focus and ambitious musicality. It’s an unforgettable experience.

No one does it quite like the David Crowder Band. Not only have they been light years ahead of the Contemporary Christian scene (which is mostly light years behind), but they’re often outpacing their secular counterparts. While most Christian bands have an equivalent in the mainstream — Third Day is Pearl Jam, Tree63 is U2, Group 1 Crew is Black Eyed Peas, Switchfoot is Switchfoot — there’s really no close match to DCB. While they may be made of many derivative parts, David Crowder’s signature country twang and the aggressive, experimental musicianship is more than a copy-paste quilt of genres. He’s really in an artistic league of his own.

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Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage

The Meaning of Marriage
By Timothy Keller

We know marriage is in trouble. Pastors and Christian authors are stepping forward to save the day. Tim Keller, author of the renown The Reason For God, Counterfeit Gods, and Generous Justice, writes an ambitious and straightforward work on biblical marriage. With a gospel-driven, Christ-centered approach, Dr. Keller’s crisp, clear voice is easily accessible and insightful. Along with Dr. Keller’s wife Kathy, they have written a practical, powerful work on the great gift of marriage.

This could have been a cakewalk for Dr. Keller. He could have roundly quoted C.S. Lewis and some well known poems, conjure sound commentary on Ephesians 5, and say some profound things about the duties of a husband and wife. It really would have been that easy for him. Many readers are familiar enough with Dr. Keller to instantly recognize his writing voice and his penchant for classic quoting. It could also have been a call to Christian idealism, a list of you ought to and you should do tacked onto the gospel.

While Dr. Keller does some of these things, I felt his gritty real life experience bleed through the pages. Dr. Keller’s passion is alive in this work; not since Counterfeit Gods have I seen him this personally invested into his subject. This isn’t only from his own thirty-six year marriage but from having been in the trenches with hurting singles, broken marriages, and dying families. He has seen how secular culture and the Hollywood mentality has overwhelmed the thinking of our gullible world. The first chapter alone is a visceral tour of the corruption of marriage and families, with hard statistics and full-on truths. He never waters it down. “I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage,” he begins. So are we.

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Book Review: Why Jesus?

Why Jesus?
By Ravi Zacharias

For the giveaway of this book, click here.

“I have no doubt that many might well be offended by the challenges I have made to other beliefs in this book. I must expect that and will make every effort to defend my approach. Some might even consider the tone of this book too strong or harsh. That is not my intent. But it is hard not to get passionate when you read the bizarre twists of truth offered by proponents of the New Spirituality. I have been fairly blunt because I want readers to be brutally honest with themselves.” (230)

Dr. Ravi Zacharias indeed writes a searing, incisive work on the New Age movement that has invaded every facet of Western American thinking. Taking to task two well known proponents, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, there are no minced words as Dr. Ravi utterly upturns many of the preposterous assertions given by nebulous, exploitative, “Oneness” religion endorsed by the two celebrities. We also find that such strange religion has been endorsed by us, an unwitting generation fooled by foolish claims.

I was almost taken aback by the force of Dr. Ravi’s barbs against the New Spirituality. Had I not known that Dr. Ravi is one of the world’s most compassionate evangelists today, I may have mistaken some of his writing as aggression. But I sense his urgency: he is fighting for the truth, as many of us today live in a blind fog of capitulation to relativism. Dr. Ravi’s no-nonsense clarity by itself will knock most readers out of their reverie, quickly exposing how many strange lies we have believed.

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Book Review: You Lost Me

You Lost Me
By David Kinnaman

David Kinnaman has written an incredibly honest, important work that conveys the monumental changes in a post-Christian culture where the new generation is telling the church, “You lost me.” He has compiled all the common reasons why youth and young professionals are exiting the church doors. From interviews, research, and personal experience, Kinnaman makes clear the landmark at the crossroads of our faith, where we can embrace the rapid shifts of our world and hold the timeless truth of the Gospel instead of choosing one at the expense of the other.

This is an extremely organized book with informative charts, articulate reasoning, and not a single word wasted. Six common complaints have been made by the three groups of church drop-puts — prodigals, nomads, and exiles — which are Overprotective, Shallow, Antiscience, Repressive, Exclusive, and Doubtless. Kinnaman is careful to present these claims in a nuanced, balanced, well-researched manner without compromising. He treads a fine line here between understanding the overwhelming grip of our interactive society while re-asserting the tenets of orthodox Christian faith; it’s great credit to him that he does this without spiritual vertigo. He is pliable where he needs to be but firm where the Word does not budge.

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“Captivating Jewel”

Pastor Joshua Harris quoted my review of his book Dug Down Deep!

Check it out here.

My original review here.

Thank you Pastor Josh!

The Best Christian Books of 2011

Here are my favorite books of 2011. These are not necessarily the best written, but the most personally impactful.

Erasing Hell
By Francis Chan

In response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, Francis Chan writes a sobering and solemn appeal on the reality of hell. While largely criticized for its length and simplicity, I found it a near-perfect plea for those who do not consider our spiritual futures. My review here.

Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything
By Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced “chu-vi-jin” like religion)

An engaging if at times over-wordy work on what it really means to be known by Jesus. Tullian is a great writer, cutting away years of idolatry and guilt-driven religion in just a few sentences. My review here.

By Mike Wilkerson

One of the best works to arrive for breaking addictions and pains of the past, Mike Wilkerson of Mars Hill Church uses Exodus as a stirring challenge to overcome our shackles. Despite some structural problems, the book is a swift punch to the gut while a gentle embrace of new life. My review here.

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