Probably the most influential biblical scholar who has shaped my understanding of the bible and of Christianity itself is James B. Jordan.
I always like to read Christian thinkers who try to define life as God wants us to. Jordan does this through his extremely detailed study of the Bible.
Below is a link to his book Through New Eyes. In this book Jordan explains the symbols of the Bible and how, through these symbols, we can understand who God is and what His plan is for this world. The book is originally available from Gary North’s website.
I notice in my life that when things are going well, I am working hard, and my conscience is clear, I have no negative thoughts towards others. If other are doing well, I congratulate them, and if others are doing poorly, I try to offer help. But, when things are not so well for me, my attitude to others is opposite. Why is this?
In the opening chapters of the book of Revelation Jesus comes to evaluate seven churches. For most of the churches, He has some good things to say, and some bad things. They are encouraged for what they are doing right, and are warned to fix what they’re doing wrong.
And this is the healthy way to deal with issues in your own life. Every once and awhile you need Jesus to come and evaluate your life, to tell you what’s good and what’s evil. And though it might hurt some, you need to fix what Jesus says needs fixing. Doing this is the quickest path to a clear conscience and joyful carefree living.
The unhealthy way to deal with your issues is to compare yourself to others and point out all their faults in order to make yourself feel better about your own faults. In the short term this way is easier. I can always find someone worse off than me and quickly justify my own actions in relation to theirs. “I thought I was bad, but look at that guy.” This is projection — calling out and hating in others what’s really going on in you.
Whenever I encounter someone complaining about another without offering any kind of solutions, over and over, month after month, year after year, I know that person is projecting. They are unwilling to deal with an issue in their own life and so they’ve found someone worse than themself to project onto, thus making themself feel better. “I don’t have to deal with my issues until that other guy, worse than me, deals with his issues.” In the long term, projection will only lead to emptiness, bitterness, and foolishness.
Let Jesus come and evaluate your life. And even though it may be difficult, change what He says needs changing. Trust that He has your best in mind. Ask Him for help because He won’t let you down.
It is interesting how different social media platforms are used for different things. And this seems to support Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement: “The medium is the message.” As I have written about before, every medium is created for a specific purpose, and no matter how that medium is used, that specific purpose will manifest itself.
Take Facebook. Facebook is a platform created for you to present yourself, in the best possible way, to people who know you. Unlike Twitter, where you present your opinions (usually anonymously) to people who don’t know you, and unlike Instagram where you present images to people who don’t know you, your Facebook page is directed at people who know you and who you want to impress in a way which is positive to yourself.
But of course, your life is never perfect. Even when things are running quite well, your life most often falls short of your ideal expectations. But what do you present on Facebook? You present your life as though it always meets your ideal expectations. Therefore, your Facebook page is mostly deceptive.
And I often see this phenomenon with an organization’s Facebook page as well. Beware, when viewing a charity’s, or church’s, or missionary’s Facebook page. All may not be as it seems.
For example, I remember viewing a post by a missionary who had only recently begun working in Cambodia (which is where I live). The post consisted of several pictures of the missionary working with a western medical team. There was no written description of the post, only the photos. Anyone viewing the post would automatically assume that the medical team was there under the organization of the missionary, and sure enough, all the viewer comments proved that: “Great job!” … “You’re changing Cambodia!” … “Amazing team!”
Western medical teams don’t just partner with anybody. Those doctors are taking precious time off work and investing thousands of dollars into the trip. They don’t want their time wasted, and so will not partner with some new missionary who has only been on the field for a few months. So I was a little suspicious and I asked the missionary, “Was that your medical team?” No, of course it wasn’t. It was a team working with a well established organization, and the missionary had merely volunteered to help them for a day. But the Facebook photos made it look as though the missionary was running the show.
Maybe it’s not a big deal, and I just need to relax a bit. But this kind of stuff has always bothered me. I’ve seen it so many times that all the little examples build up and up into a big steaming pile of BS.
Perhaps I am just projecting here. How much of this am I guilty of myself? Would I even be able to see myself doing it?
As a Christian, one of the things I love most about Jesus is the fact that He is always sincere. Jesus will always present things as they truly are.
The inner crisis of a disintegrating society is constituted by the fact that too many people inside this society are not told what to do… An unemployed man [or a hampered man] is a person who looks for orders and can’t find anybody to give him orders.*
I am a master electrician, although I haven’t worked in the trade for several years now. One thing about working in a trade is that once you’re past being a first year apprentice, your responsibilities on the job are no longer limited to the tool belt. You have to begin training the guys less experienced than you. And once you’re a journeyman, you’ll likely discover that most of your time on the job is teaching and supervising the apprentices.
The number one thing that will stop an apprentice from doing his work is a lack of knowing what to do. It won’t be laziness or apathy. He simply either was not given clear instructions, or he is too overwhelmed with the task before him. And once that happens, he’ll either stall out altogether or begin lying about what he’s actually doing.
I remember working for a company in which the boss (not a very good boss) left an apprentice to run a fairly large job. There were several different areas in one warehouse where electrical work needed to be done. The apprentice had the skills and knowledge to do every job, but he was struggling and falling behind. The boss sent me to help him get back on track. After walking through the job site with the apprentice to see where he was at, he said to me, “There is so much to do, and I just don’t know where to start.”
To remedy the situation, all I needed to do was lay out a systematic task list for him to follow: “Do that job first, because you’re going to need that powered up in order to do the next job. Do that other job next so that we can move this junk into that corner to have space to do the next thing. Next, do such and such…….” Once he knew what to do and in what order, he was back to working at his normal efficient speed.
Visionary leaders are rarely good at creating systematic task lists. Because their leadership style is so rooted in rhetoric, their connection with practical realities is severed. Visionary leaders are often throwing bricks in the air to build the second story of a building for which no proper foundation has been laid.
It is amazing what can be accomplished with mere rhetoric, and as I have written about before, visionary leaders are needed to inspire people at the beginning of a movement. But it is also amazing at how quickly the rhetoric can become completely meaningless. Some things sound good and wise when spoken, and they might even be true, but when you actually stop to ask what the thing said really means and how it applies to real day to day life, it proves to be completely worthless. And when I hear followers of visionary leaders parrot their slogans without thinking, like Winston in 1984 I get a little lonely and depressed.
When a visionary leader sees that his followers aren’t doing what he expects and hopes for them to do, he usually writes them off and says, “They just didn’t catch the vision.” And he might actually be correct, but does he ever ask why? Also, because his expectations are what they are, he usually is only followed by more future visionary leaders, which isn’t always desirable.
A master knows that when his followers are not living up to his expectations, it’s usually because he hasn’t clearly defined what needs to be done at ground level. He hasn’t laid out the systematic task list. He assumes his followers are already passionate about the work and striving to be masters themselves (otherwise they wouldn’t be there), so he doesn’t waste time using himself as an example to inspire them to work harder or embrace the vision. He knows the passion will come from the work itself when the followers know what to do.
I am currently learning the skills and techniques of blacksmithing. Now, you can’t honestly call yourself a blacksmith until you’ve learned how to forge your own tongs. My first attempts at forging tongs resulted in embarrassing monstrosities which I kept hidden from my family so they wouldn’t laugh at me. I watched how-to videos and looked at pictures of completed tongs, but I could not get them right.
It wasn’t until I bought a book in which a master laid out the forging process, step by step, systematically. “Measure this much here … isolate this much material there … hammer down to half the bar’s thickness here …” Only then was I able to forge the tongs, and they turned out quite well.
When a visionary leader is most needed and effective, the movement which he is leading is in such a state of rapid growth that no one cares if there is any systematic structure at all. The movement is riding on a wave of excitement, and for the time, that is sufficient. But that wave is temporary. The master needs to step in and create some proper systematic structure.
Now, when I say “systematic structure” I am not talking about creating a bureaucracy. I am a libertarian, and I hate all unnecessary rules. But, it is a false dichotomy to say that you can either have structure or freedom.
A master is a master precisely because he knows how to create freedom in the boundaries of structure.
A visionary leader focuses much on vision, mission, and passion. He wants to be an inspiration to his potential followers. He is big on teams and for the members of those teams to buy in heavily to his vision. For this reason he creates as many opportunities as he can to impart his vision to the team members. Team members are encouraged to lead themselves, and change themselves as needed to be effective team members. Those team members who do not sufficiently buy in to the vision become pariahs.
Aside from evoking passion in potential followers, the visionary leader does not have much to offer. He does not necessarily know the solutions to the problems his followers will face. Nor does he necessarily have access to the resources his followers will need. Rather, he encourages his followers to deal with those issues themselves.
As so much depends on the visionary leader’s public image for his success, those followers who are best at making him look good will be the followers most celebrated and promoted.
A master, however, does not concern himself too much with vision, or at least not in the same way as the visionary leader. He is on a mission, and he is passionate, but in order for him to lead, he doesn’t require his followers to focus so much on who he is or why he’s there. A master knows what needs to be done, he knows how to get it done, and he has access to all the resources needed to get it done. He knows all the problems his followers will face before they themselves ever encounter those problems, and he is there to provide teaching and guidance.
A master requires hard work and excellence from his followers. Those who do that will be promoted and celebrated. Those who do not become the pariahs. The motivation for the followers is not passion inspired by the leader, but rather passion inspired by the work itself, excellence, and an ever increasing growth in knowledge.
I suppose a good leader will have both a visionary side to him and a master side. But, from my experience, most leaders lean heavily towards one, depending on what field they’re working in. Visionary leaders tend to be found in the business world, or in Christian growth movements, whereas masters are found mainly in the trades. But there is no reason the master has to stay there.
Personally, I prefer to follow a master, and am trying to become one myself.