εὐαγγέλιον

The first verse of the gospel of Mark in the Greek looks like this:
“Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ.”
Notice anything interesting about it structurally? What I notice is that at the center is the word that we translate as “gospel” (εὐαγγελίου). Keep the gospel center is a very wise approach when you have to testify. 

#testify

Why good leadership pisses you off-whether or not they’re right or wrong

I’m evangelical. I make no qualms about that. It’s who I am and is the place I’m most comfortable in. So when I see evangelical leaders, like Mark Driscoll for example, get lambasted in the media I have this guttural reaction to defend them despite our theological differences (like Driscoll’s cheesy and weak Calvinistic theology). I think one of the main reasons for this reaction-beyond my ties to this identity-is because there’s a leadership component, perhaps even an analog exampled by God, that’s necessary to have in order to do things right. This means people are going to be pissed, they’re going to get hurt, but at some point if there’s someone leading and people following AND they’re doing a good job then they have to get to this point. Let’s explore this space of effective leadership.

The good leadership Point of Exhaustion

A good leader pisses off those who follow at some point because good leadership has to lead to, well, a point. This looks and feels like an abrupt. Stop. But good leaders make it clear this is the leader’s place, the leader’s decision, the leader’s responsibility. (Yeah, I know. It’s intentional.)

The Place of the Follower Who Gets Pissed Off

These points are rare but are where good leaders get to lead to and reveal the defining lines of their achievements. But, achievements are structural they’re not just the leader’s. This means everyone who follows is stopped, exhausted or stripped of power, and obligated to the bidding of the leader because this point is beyond any one person’s domain(s), and in a sense beyond the leader’s power too. In other words, without the work that lead up to this point, this point wouldn’t even be possible. Successful organizations of people accomplish what they intend and that success always breaks down to experiences.

Experiences are a limited power. Experiences must be sustained. Experiences break down people.

Followers will get pissed, feel guilty, scared, there’s a plethora of feelings that may be involved in getting what an organization wants done done, but this is the costs of having accomplished an intentional state of things. Then why is anybody upset if it’s all for the accomplishment?

In this area of a hard stop, where the leader takes control and followers have no more say is where love and heartbreak can seem like the same thing. It’s a place of experience where there’s a reason for pain and suffering, a purpose in the madness, and things only make brutal sense in this place of experience. Let me repeat. Things make the most sense of life in and with and by experience or experiences. But from the outside, without experience, it looks like pain, evil, suffering, rudeness, power, unfairness, or limits.

The Father as our best Example

God the Father has never stopped promising he would rectify the world. He’s made it clear there are reasons, reasons for the pain and suffering, reasons why there are goods and evils we don’t’ get. In the case of our common salvation he accomplished this by his Son, and it is sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit and the obedience of his Church. But his leadership in this respect is offensive, counter intuitive, and from the outside doesn’t make sense.

The fundamental problem is in people’s questions. They ask how can God accomplish salvation in Christ, he died on a Roman cross as a poor insignificant itinerate preacher? But the question is not how. Asking the how question only reveals a right intuition that the solution should have no conflict or be unconfused but the solution should come from the what question. What is God that he would send his Son and accomplish salvation as he did?

So back to our organizational example’s earlier for just a bit. It is people and leaders and what and who they are that accomplish things and the limits of those accomplishments reflect, echo, cohere, or correspond to them. Now back to Jesus…

The cross is a peculiar place to stop and reflect at because it’s confusing, offensive, brutal. But for those inside being saved by the Father, it is a clear place we get to see the powers of sin, death, and evil lose their powers. It is the ultimate accomplishment. (Well, the resurrection is technically.) And those who follow will have to go through this point and be made into and out of all the things that Jesus as Lord implies.

Good leaders who accomplish their goals will lead people to their limits, and it will be frustrating; but great leaders help their followers see these accomplishments for what they are: experiences to be noticed, known, and sustained into new areas where success has yet to be experienced.

Pray, read, and thank God he has reasons. Ask him to show you the circumstances, the scriptures, and experiences to know what he is accomplishing in your life. All have access to his leadership. He is not a God of partiality. And you, as a future good leader, go piss people off but do it right.

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Elbib’s Story

Elbib’s Story

Hi, my name is Elbib. Let me tell you a brief story about the fragility of the universe, any universe, and all of them really. I’m going to assume you know a little history from the last 3,000 years or so. Here you go:

A beautiful talking piece of Marble with an unmistakable voice is the only pillar holding up the ideals of people. This Marble pillar is sculpted with magnificence as the image of a man named Jesus. Long stand the Marble and may human ideals hear that voice. 

Thanks for reading my story. I hope you feel as inspired as I do. 

-Elbib
  

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the same God?

What a loaded and unnecessary question this one has become. But it is one our generation must tackle again, as many before us have.

Bluntly put the answer to this question is like so many “yes but [then insert your tradition’s qualifiers here].”

Now hold on before you call me a heretic hear me out. Give me at least 400 words for goodness sake. I’m assuming you’re Christian (since all my posts are from a Christian evangelical standpoint) so please take this point to mind, if not heart. Do you worship the same God as me? That is, I worship God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we on the same page about my view of God given that info? If so, how is that heretical? (From an evangelical orthodox Christian perspective.) And you know what a Muslim would say about my fleshed out view of God? I’m wrong for believing so. 

But the question is a simple one that comes down to a word that in another language is spelled “Allah,” and in an another one “אלוהים” sometimes meant the same thing as our English word “God.” So what’s the real problem? I hope it’s not your fears of others?

Think about it, we’re floating on a spec of dust and if you really look out from that spec of dust you can see about 10 BILLION light years. 10 BILLION YEARS OF OBSERVABLE SPACE! Are you so small minded that you can’t give your Muslim neighbor a little charity? A little space to share a freaking word?! Maybe, just maybe, the same word can be said in a different language???!

Anyways, do we believe the same details about the implications of that word? No. But I think current Islamic phobia is making Christians think they have to believe things Christians have never believed before (in a mainstream sense), like Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God. Christians and Muslims, for Milenia have been arguing about details but have been big enough to give each other credit that at least we’re on the same planet for the same pursuit. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? It is the details beyond the “yes but” that question requires that need to be talked about because a “no” shuts out Christ from having a say.

I leave you with two quotes. One is from memory so forgive me if I butcher it and the other is a famous one.


For the intellectual, “their neighbor is anyone who is in need of the truth.” -Sertillanges


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” -William Shakespeare

In Between Abraham’s Obedience and God’s Promises: living in a world where the Judgment is over

angel-stays-abrahams-hand

I have been reflecting on Abraham’s obedience in his attempted sacrifice of his son. The event raises an interesting question for me, what is obedience for? Maybe we should learn from Abraham, and others like Moses, Mary, or some other paragon of obedience to God and conscience? I think the answer probably entails a Yes and a No.

Yes, in that their roles (obedient people of the past like Abraham) are invaluable to the world we live in today. Their obedience is what our state of affairs is built on. But no, in the sense that I think Christ is still ultimate and reminds us best what all these great people of obedience set up for us: the lesson of obedience in the gospel.

To summarize and explain this answer with the “gospel” is hard to put into succinct words so I will borrow from Mark’s gospel because I think he said it well and poetically: “then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” It is finished, the accomplishments of God and faithful people of the past are to give us the freedom to live in a world where whatever our state is, obedience is NOT weighed on the balance between God’s role or some human effort. The scales are gone and their great examples (our past) can either assist our state towards an obedience for obedience’s sake or it can be ignored and the richness, wisdom, and paradigms of the ages can be lost. With great freedom comes great risk but someone had to take the risks beforehand to create such a state, Abraham’s obedience and God’s promises were some key points. We are their benefactors. Live well and live with them. Believe.

What about the Law? Christians 2,000 years later…

There’s a fun couple of lines that goes, “have you ever read the Bible? Did you understand it?” I think Moltmann made this little two question dialogue famous but don’t quote me on that. Well anyway, tonight I sit here reading Leviticus and Matthew and can’t help but feel like I don’t think people actually understand them. ??? These books side by side make me feel like a lot of “Christians” claim they’re “Bible believing” but ignore large portions of the Bible. Leviticus and Matthew are great examples of this blatant disregard. Leviticus represents the Torah, the law by which Christ taught from in Matthew. You can’t understand one book without the other.

Read Matthew, Jesus was obsessed with the law: “be perfect as your father is.” That’s a quotation from the covenant pacts in the Torah, a la Exodus 19 and Leviticus 20. My struggle is, what do we Christians do with the law? Should we just ignore it as most do? 

I don’t have an easy answer. Maybe I don’t have one period? (And I’m open to yours. Leave them in the comments below.) On one hand the law is about parsing the world into holy, clean, and unclean. And on the other hand, a pro-law book like Matthew is about being faithful to that law AND to Jesus. But Matthew doesn’t see why we should abandon parsing the world up into holy, clean, and unclean. He’s more concerned that we don’t add to the specifics of the law and create additional burdens against the more authoritative spirit of the original law. In a sense Matthew is the Karaite version of Christianity.

Matthew’s Jesus arguably abolishes some of the law in light of this type of Karaite Christianity but not all of it, and remember in a sense he ramps it up (Matthew 5:17-20). Matthew’s Jesus is paradoxical, in the sense that Jesus doesn’t want his followers abandoning the law but actually continuing in it; but, at the same time Jesus, as the Messiah, wants his followers to obey him, even at the sake of abandoning some of the law (for example, Matthew on the sacrificial system is ok with it but implies Jesus’ cross is superior). I don’t know if Matthew has a way of solving this paradox and it’s hard to tell since he does it in a narrative form, that’s pro-law, it’s hard to point out all the specifics he had in mind. 

So have you read Leviticus? Did you understand it? I think honest Christians should say, listen, most Christians are Gentiles and not Jews so it’s not that the law is bad but it’s just not why we’re in the fold of Christ. In other words, there is a way of life that’s faithful to Christ but not bound by the law and we’re ok with the consequences. 

I think if Gentile Christians are honest and say that they basically believe in complex versions of universalism (depending on your denomination) it would make it easier to say that books like Leviticus and Matthew are more like parts of a set but they don’t make the whole. I think Jewish Christians have the option to join us or try to continue the law mitigated by Jesus’ superiority. But how to oder that into their lives sounds harder than the questions that sparked this post. The law is thousands of years old. Much has changed since then.  

In a nutshell, I think Christians side with the literal words of Paul when he wrote, “for Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” But, books like Matthew show us that Christianity is or at least can be a big tent religion that can take on more than a lawless version of itself. Honesty is key.

Keep your focus, awareness, and love for Christ and the law will be the least of your worries. Be blessed.

“abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” -The Apostles and the Elders

The Image of God through trinitarian Eyes

In an earlier post I struggled to come to grips with what the “Image of God” might be. In that post I wanted to error on calling it an ontological category rather than a functional category. But, upon further reflection I realized it’s both by necessity. It’s not unlike a wave that can collapse into and function as a particle (to use a physics analogy).

As a Christology: the image of God is to be organized as if he were us. (See Ephesians 4)

As a Pneumatology: the image of God is an active and transformative relationship of association with the Spirit that effects our reputation as if Jesus were us. (See 2 Corinthians 3)

As a Paterology: the organization and association of God means we have a status obligated to represent him in such a way that we “speak for God.” (See Romans 8)

“In the Biblical sense the Image of God is the embodiment of his organization, reputation, and representation.”

Simply put, the image of God in its smallest unit is a species: people. But God is where reality stops and proceeds so the smallest unit of what is doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. Like God, the reality of his image is also a range of his will in this species, which can also mean as this species is. Where God gets what he wants done through his people’s organization, association, and status is the image of God in the Biblical sense. After Christ this Biblical sense has been redefined into a trinitarian sense.

In Summary

As a concrete thing the image of God is people, whether they like it or not. But, as these people are, their effective range (being as if God were them) means they ground and sustain the value of that image into the world and universe. Protect and provide for a monkey, help a dolphin flourish, feed the poor, or make good government decisions, these examples can have the fingerprint of the image of God too. As Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.”

The image of God is shared but there are limits.

As I reflected on my inclination to call the image of God an ontological thing I was reminded of the progress technology has made and where it is headed. In the near future people will try to call robots equals because of how robots are programmed to act but hopefully you see the image of God can not be just how one acts. If robots were to be included into the image of God, it would be as people act towards them. To use the physics/wave analogy again: human conception (the smallest unit of people) has the unique power to collapse the wave of God’s signature (that’s in the fabric of the universe’s structure) so as to ride that wave into functions that are uniquely embodied by human conception and beyond. Now, if we could figure out how to conceive of robots as we are, then they would have the image of God in the same way too, but I find that unlikely. Sorry for the science fiction twist. Hope you enjoyed my nerdisms on the subject.

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Rememeber the stars

  
I spend much time learning complex arguments, innovative methods and models, theories galore, but then there’s those simple moments that bring everything back down to size. I heard my daughter talking about Jesus to a friend today and it made me smile, how simple and honest her view was. No doubt she’ll grow up and have more nuanced and mature views (as she should!), but for now that innocence is Not wasted on the young. 

If even God had to take a day to say it was all good we should too. Look up and remember the stars. Awe at God’s good creation again. 

If you recall my last post I found a fun Karl Barth quote that he found: “we are worthy.” Not because of anything we have done but because despite ourselves God stands over it all at times and awes at his work too. #perspective

Be blessed.

The politics of Jesus and its nature

“Render undo Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s” means we don’t get to abandon our commitments to our rulers but it acknowledges that we are committed to something more. If our commitments are in conflict the question is, why would I settle my commitments to a lesser power at the expense of the greater?

We can give our taxes to the government for a social safety net, that is a good. But our participation with the church to give to the poor directly, with our own words, our own money… Well, who is the power we are committed to? Our actions show who we think is greater, so Lord help me choose wisely!

This is the political drama of our day. Who will we serve when they conflict? God or Government? There’s still a measure of convenience in the sense that, in most cases, we can fulfill our commitments to both, and where that is the case we should strengthen our commitments (as in the case of doing philanthropic work through and by the Church). But, we also live in a day of disruption where old orders and powers fail dramatically and unexpectedly and this means our commitments are as important as they have ever been if not more. Who will you turn to when disruption happens? Who will we commit to when disruption happens and our commitments conflict?

Abortion, guns, the poor, marriage, violence, your friends. There is politics in all of these parts of our lives. The politics of Jesus, however, is disruptive to the disruptions of life. No one is safe from his rule and judgment. He accepts no less than first commitments. Be disturbed and challenged. May the Spirit give you strength in the day of adversity. Jesus help me!

Democrats are not the answer. Republicans wont save you. But Jesus demands to be a part of the answer and your salvation. 

Remember the question not asked of Jesus: “what is God’s?”

May you live in peace. Be blessed.

Technology and the Space to Communicate Truth without Fighting

Click here for a great (and quick) video on Technology
Today’s post is like I’m speaking in the mirror to myself. Hopefully you can relate and be convicted as much as I am.

I am toying with the idea that we have lost the ability to love in a deep way as Christians. Specifically, we have lost the ability to speak the truth to those we love, and to do it without fighting. Some set up is needed. 

I assume part of what it means to be Christian is to be free enough by the Spirit to practice disciplines. In community this is in things like going out of the way to care for your spouse as she likes to be loved, or working with outreach ministries to give assistance to the poor. Individually, it’s your classic spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. The practice of disciplines requires learning, forming, and doing things that keep us on task to never stop learning to be like Jesus. 

Now fast forward to today. In a world saturated by technology we are connected to each other with a series of things in between us. And when I mean technology I mean anything that is dependent on us controlling things and those things are packed with values. So for example, a condom or a birth control pill are both a form of technology. No, technology is not just computers. Technology is the dominate mode of modern life for better or worse. When I talk about technology I like to give the analogy of a fish and water. The fish doesn’t know it’s in water but it does know when it’s outside of it. Our social world is much like that fish, just our water is technology. 

The reason I bring up technology is because I’m convinced that it’s created a barrier for us to speak truth to those we love without fighting. It’s not the only problem in modern life, there are other powers in the way, but it’s such an obvious one that it needs to be pointed out. It manifests its obstruction in so many ways. I bet we express our views on social media but when in the same room as a family member with opposing views, my guess is those subjects don’t even come up. How about the most obvious truth, does it ever come up?: Without Christ people are out of step with reality; God has made Christ known so we can know and be in harmony. But this harmony requires a different space than the technological world, because it requires us being oriented with the world directly and nothing in between us and our values we use to manage and harmonize with reality. 

Here’s another very simple example, keeping our children clean is not about using diapers but about getting dirty, using our hands, and sometimes even washing our kid’s little butts directly so they can be clean because we love them. To do this right means using our hands and our words and repeating that discipline so many times it is part of their basic understanding about us and them and themselves and ourselves. Did I mention true Christian disciplines are acts of love done in the space of Christ (traditionally in his name)? 

Technology can be a helpful tool to accomplish these types of goals but in a world saturated by it, and becoming more saturated daily, it gets in the way. How many of you show disgust when you have to use your hands and clean your children’s butts? You’ve probably become accustomed to a level of controllable separation from things you dislike and the withdrawal affect of not having a technological level of separation to mediate your dislike manifests itself in disgust. 

The Lord loves a cheerful giver!

To learn to love in today’s world means learning to build connections where a space of freedom can be reconciled. Technology doesn’t, in general, provide that space because the world needs words, it needs hands, values, it needs us directly involved. Once again there is a new condition of the common human experience that needs to be redeemed for Christ. 

We Christians need to get to a place in our relationships where we can directly speak the truth to each other without fighting. This is a spiritual discipline and an act of true love. Sanctify your love, fight for it, redeem it. Get technology out of the way if that will help, but do it. 
Blessings!

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