He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Reflections on Easter – The Voyage Home

Reflections on Faith
10 Days Until Easter 2015

Like most people today, most people in Jesus’ time believed in some kind of life after death. The resurrection of Jesus, on the other hand, is not about life after death.

It is an encounter with the future.

The resurrection of Jesus is not about what happens to us after we die. It is not about life after death. We know little to nothing about that. The resurrection of Jesus is about what happens after that — what happens after life after death.

In other words, the resurrection of Jesus is the historical anticipation of a future event — the bodily resurrection of everybody for judgement. If Jesus is raised, then so shall we all be raised.

In the ancient world, according to New Testament scholar, NT Wright, while most believed in life after death, only the Jews believed in resurrection, and not all of them. The Sadducees famously did not believe in a resurrection and  tried to trip Jesus up with questions about what this resurrected life would be like.

Others, mostly the Romans, believed that some kind of disembodied soul would live on after death. (NT Wright believes this is one of the main misunderstandings of Christians today. This surprised me. I would consider faith in the resurrection to be a spiritual tattoo that distinguishes believers from nonbelievers).

Jews like Jesus believed in a general resurrection (presumably) at the end of time. In other words, they believed that everyone would be raised at the end, not that someone would be raised before the end.

So, if Jesus was raised from the dead, where did he come from? I suggest that Jesus came to us from the future.

This is weird because I don’t believe the future exists yet. So how can Jesus come to us from the future? On the other hand, I also know that the dead do not return. Yet, I am convinced Jesus rose from the dead.

So, there you go. The universe is not as I imagine it. It is much, much stranger.

In the future, we too will be raised like Jesus. That is, we are raised with a transformed physicality that has amazing new features and yet still continuous with who we are today.

So, Jesus is the first to be resurrected. He encounters us from the human future. Kind of like the crew of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.Star_Trek_IV_1986

In that episode, James Kirk and Mr. Spock must lead their crew to travel back in time to save Earth from impending doom. “Time” in The Voyage Home is connected. In order to save the Earth of the future, they must return to the Earth of the past. Future Earth is imperiled by alien probes that presumably are responding to distress calls that came from whales of an earlier time in Earth’s history.

The crew return in time to transport the extinct whales to the future so that (again presumably) they will communicate to the probes that their species has been saved.

The resurrection of Jesus means that the future of us is already breaking in. We live in the space between the first to be raised and the rest to be raised.

The task of the people of the resurrection is to be a “signal” to the present world of this approaching future. The good news is that this world is rescued from destruction and transformed to fulfill it’s creative potential. And we, as part of this world, will not live as disembodied spirits in heaven. We will bodily inhabit the new Earth. And we can begin now to live out this new ending.

Happy Resurrection season.

What do you think?

Others posts in the Reflections on Easter series…
31 Days until easter 2015 — What Happened to the Other Guy?
The Walking Dead

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Reflections on Easter – One Thing We know: The Dead Do Not Return

Reflections on Faith
10 Days Until Easter 2015

Originally published as “On Death and Resurrection” on March 27, 2005

Joyful Easter Season. Fifty thousand years of accumulated experience by the 70 – 100 billion Humans who have lived on this planet have led us to a certain knowledge of at least one thing:

The dead don’t return.

Oh, sure. Almost every culture that ever existed and almost every person who has ever lived believed in some form of life after death. This belief continues today. But while the dead may live on somewhere else, the dead stay dead. They may appear as spirits or ghosts, but they never return.

Accepted practices for disposing the corpse exist in every culture. In some cultures even the  almost  dead were buried to protect their transitioning spirits from the snares of demons. Imagine fearing the transition from this world to the next so much that you would bury alive those near to death. It was an act of love.

The journey from life to death, from here to there is universally understood to be irreversible. Once the living pass over, they are gone forever. The dead do not return. The whole world in every time and place have known the reality and permanence of the final transition.
8870531-plant-sunlight
This universal knowledge binds all mankind together at a primal level. This is what we know. It is our common lot.

The story of Jesus is rooted in an event that defies that which we – the entirety of the human race – have come to know with certainty.

I love the understated conclusion of Mark’s version of the life of Jesus. After the crucifixion, some women go to tend to Jesus’ corpse. But something unexpected happens. The stone has been rolled away and they experience a theophany. They are told that Jesus isn’t there. He is risen. And here’s the conclusion that I love:

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

That’s how Mark’s version ends.
So subtle. So terrifying.
So open to questions.
What if what we have come to know with certainty is certain no more?
Run, friends. Tremble.
Things are not as they seem.

Others posts in the Reflections on Easter series…
What Happened to the Other Guy?
The Walking Dead
The Voyage Home

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

———————————————————–

Originally published as “On Death and Resurrection” on March 27, 2005

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Reflections on Easter — The Walking Dead

Reflections on Faith
30 Days until Easter 2015

The Walking Dead
He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over. Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi’s angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

The Walking Dead is a very popular television series. The premise is that a virus spreads through the human race converting us into zombies. Given the recent Ebola scare, the idea of a pandemic that wreaks global havoc is not so far fetched. In the Walking Dead, zombies walk the streets of cities mindlessly and without purpose. That sounds remarkably like our real lives.

The band of survivors have one purpose: to survive. Our lives so often seem so empty of meaning that the idea of having such a focused purpose excites us. But we were created for far more than survival.

With 30 days to go until Easter 2015, I wanted to use this popular series to point out one thing the resurrection does NOT mean.

Resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. There were some in the ancient Greek city of Corinth that may have thought so. They wondered if the resurrection would be like The Walking Dead. Some of them may have used a Walking Dead scenario to scoff at the idea of resurrection.walking dead

Their doubts about the resurrection came in the form, according to the apostle Paul, of a couple of questions: “How are the “nekros” (the corpses) raised?” and “With what kind of body will they come?” (I Corinthians 15.35)

Paul answers that the resurrection is not the resuscitation of corpses, but a metamorphosis of the body. In the first reflection in this series, What Happened to the Other Guy?, I touched on the idea that resurrection is not about life after death.

Lots of people believe in a “disembodied” or “spiritual” life after death today and the same was true during the time of Christ. This is not the scandalous idea that resurrection brings to the table.

Resurrection means the transformation of our physical bodies into physical bodies (not spirits) that have remarkable properties suited for the new creation.

Interestingly enough, our physical bodies are changing at the cellular level right now. Every 5-7 years we are entirely new creatures physically. Every cell that made up our bodies 7 years ago has died and every cell that makes up our current physicality is new. But we are the same person. In the resurrection Christ’s body erupted with transformative power and was made new, but it was still him. The resurrected Christ was the same Jesus the disciples and his friends and family knew.

Christ was not undead.
He carried within his new body new features suited for the new creation.
We will not be the undead in the resurrection.
We will be as the butterfly to the worm.
Alive with new bodies for a new creation.

What do you think?

Alex McManus
Author, Makers of Fire

Others posts in the Reflections on Easter series…
31 Days until easter 2015 — What Happened to the Other Guy?

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Reflections on Easter — Where is the other guy?

REFLECTIONS ON FAITH
31 Days to Easter 2015

What Happened to the Other Guy?
He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over. Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi’s angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Jesus was crucified, according to Luke, along with two others.
One of these men mocked Jesus. “If you’re the messiah, save yourself and us!”

The other defended him: “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus turned to him and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The modern imagination conjures up all kinds of scenarios about what this means. One of these scenarios is that they both went to heaven when they died. The two
crucified men ended up together in Paradise, then, now, and forever, amen.

But then we turn the chapter in Luke’s gospel and find that on the third day after Jesus’ death, Jesus appears to two men who are walking on the way towards a small town called Emmaus.

Of course, we’re so startled by the appearance of Jesus that we forget the other guy. You know, the guy Jesus took to paradise with him. Shouldn’t he be happily tagging along behind Jesus?

No.

Something happened to Jesus that did not happen to the other victim of crucifixion.
Jesus experienced resurrection.

Sure, the other guy may have been experiencing life after death, something we know little to nothing about. But Jesus had gone another step further. Jesus was experiencing, in the words of NT Wright, life after life after death. To be more specific, Jesus was experiencing resurrection life (a fully embodied and physical life) after the life (about which we know little to nothing) that comes after death.

This is so important as we approach Easter Sunday– the one Sunday a year in which we remember the reason we gather all those other Sundays.

We don’t gather because Jesus’ spirit goes on. (Insert Titanic musical theme here).
We don’t gather because Jesus went to heaven (or paradise) when he died.
We gather because we ride the wake of the most surprising event in the history of our species: a resurrection, a physical, fully-embodied, historical defeat of death that anticipates the resurrection of all.

It isn’t that Jesus is alive after death.
That’s not resurrection.
That’s not the gospel.
It’s that he defeated death and was bodily raised.
That’s the news.

That means the powers that rule this world are in danger because their
ultimate weapon, death, is defeated. The resurrection faith is not a faith that claims the next world but concedes this one. Resurrection faith believes that the powers of evil in the world can be opposed because the resurrection of Jesus means that they don’t get to keep this world.

This “religion” is not an opiate for believers. It is a mortal blow to the powers.

The resurrection means that this world has been taken from the hands of the powers of darkness – demonic, governmental, economic, religious, societal or otherwise. We are now traveling towards a future in which the meek inherit everything.

Yes, the future. That’s where the resurrected Jesus comes from. He comes to us from the future, God’s future. God’s future is not made up of disembodied spirits or souls living in heaven, but of an integrated new creation, a new heavens and new Earth become one.

So back to Luke’s story.
The other guy from Luke’s story, the one who was promised paradise?
He was not tagging along with Jesus on the road to Emmaus because he was not yet raised.

At best, he only had life after death. Meh.
He awaits his resurrection, as do we all.
He’s in the parenthesis, in the midst of transition, as are we all who are in Christ.
He is, as are we who believe, in heaven.

But, Jesus is raised to Life from life after death by the power of God.

What do you think?

Alex McManus
Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

Two Major Shifts: Dematerialization and On-demand

Last year I led a sessionyoungspock on the Future of Education for the Orlando extension of Asbury Seminary. We discussed two major cultural/technological shifts- Dematerialization and On-Demand- and their implications for education over the next few decades. What are the implications of these same shifts for the mission of your business, organization, or church?

DEMATERIALIZATION

Dematerialization has been a major shift in the entertainment industry.

Think Blockbuster and Netflix. (This was spotted for you almost two years ago in our “How Life Changed in the Last Decade” series). The material, brick-and-mortar business is gone. The digital business thrives.

It’s a major shift for readers. Think Borders (now gone) and Amazon (now ubiquitous). Think paperbacks and Kindle.

What are the implications of this shift for brick-and-mortar business, shopping malls, universities and seminaries, and churches? An example of the implications of Dematerialization comes from the world education in the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Through Udacity a student can earn a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech for about $7,000.00. And you don’t have all those expenses related to relocation. And now, as MOOCs team up with Educational Institutions AND employers, this is a game changer.

Here’s the fun part: Imagine a university or seminary campus 25 – 50 years deeper into this century. What do you see? Any university or seminary that is investing in brick-and-mortar facilities needs to consider the “dematerialized” future.

ON-DEMAND

How many of you have needed to learn how to do something and immediately turned to Youtube for the answers? My wife, Niza, came home from a college class a while back confused from a lecture. She searched it on Youtube and found the videos that helped her understand what she was supposed to be learning in college.

The three “Rs” of learning used to be reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Add “R”search. Today, we can discover what we want/need to know on-demand by searching for it online. But the key here is not that we can find what we want, as cool as that is, but that we can find it when we want it.

On-demand.

This means ultimately customized and personal. What might the implications be for your organization? Not in 2050, but today?

THE DEMATERIALIZED AND ON-DEMAND FUTURE

Ok, so let’s paint a picture.

You’re a young person in India or Kenya born in 2015. futurecityWhen you’re in your early 20s, you feel a calling to study X — engineering, theology, etc.

Unlike the first billion people on Earth who came online during the bulky desktop era, the last billion people to come online, of whom you are one, all did so in a completely mobile digital world.

High quality content comes to you, wherever you are whenever you want it. The quality of your learning corresponds to the level of your interest. You are in charge of how much, how deep, how fast, and how far you go.

And the goal isn’t even a degree.  The immediate goal is a skill, a practice, a competency. The long term objective is to be deeply connected to opportunities for life long learning.

Ok, back to the present.

Leaders, you’re probably already responding to these shifts whether you know it or not. And, an important skill for leadership in the 21st century is the ability to fearlessly describe the present. But, just in case, here are some processing questions for you and your team.

  • Are we seeing these shifts in our field and relationships?
  • How are these shifts changing behavior?
  • What are ways that we’ve already begun to shift our practices and strategies?
  • What are some strategically intentional shifts we can make to pre-position ourselves for these shifts?

Alex McManus
Author of Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

Kepler_16b_20x30large

Retro Posters about Future Vacation Possibilities

Kepler_16b_20x_30

Download the posters from JPL.
My friend, Joby Harris, created some beautiful posters for NASA to mark the discovery of habitable worlds.

From the CNN source:
These posters mark the discovery of potentially habitable worlds.

“Rendered in the retro style of classic travel billboards of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the posters depict these distant worlds as pleasurable destinations.

The image for Kepler 16-b — previously compared to the fictional “Star Wars” planet of Tatooine because of its dual suns — shows a space-suited figure basking in the light from the twin orbs overhead.

“Relax on Kepler 16-b,” the poster says. “The land of two suns … Where your shadow always has company.”
HD_40307g_20x30Although the planet is depicted as a rocky, terrestrial world, NASA says it could also be a gas giant like Saturn with freezing temperatures that would make it hostile to known lifeforms.

A second poster shows an astronaut free-falling to experience the powerful gravity over HD 40307g, a “Super Earth” 44 light years — or 264 trillion miles — away.
Another sunny day on Kepler-16b.

The third depicts Kepler-186f (even further away at 500 light years) with a scene of red trees held back by a white picket fence.
Kepler_186f_39x27The planet has been previously described as “Earth’s cousin” because it’s similar in size to our own world. Because it orbits a cooler, redder sun there’s speculation that if plants did grow here, they’d be a different color to our own vegetation.

Where the grass is redder

“Kepler-186f, where the grass is always redder on the other side,” the poster’s slogan reads.”

illions of people are now trying mindfulness. Here, Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of Headspace, a meditation app, conducts a meditation moment for commuters Photo: Neilson Barnard

The Saddest Trend of 2015

My friend, Greg, sent me an article from a UK News Source, The Telegraph, titled, The Saddest trend of 2015. The article is about the growing popularity of the technology of “mindfulness.” The practice of mindfulness, rooted in Buddhist meditative practice and now a phone app, was so popular in 2014 that it was, in the writers words, “pretty hard to get through the year without noticing it.”

If you haven’t heard about “mindfulness,” take it as a reminder that you don’t have to travel into space to explore other worlds. The writer lives in a different world than you.

Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present, and leaving behind the cares and worries of the past and the future. And it’s popping up in schools, business offices, and, as in the featured photo to this article (Photo: Neilson Barnard), even on the street. There’s even a documentary about it.

(As a side note, It figures that I would write a book on “leading from the future” in a year that was all about the present.)

The article takes a nice twist, as it cites data from the Mental Health Foundation that estimates that one in four people will experience a mental health problem every 12 months, when it asks:

“Why are so many of us living lives we feel unable to cope with? How is it that we are so unhappy with our lots that we will willingly sit cringing in a room with our colleagues while remembering to breathe?”

The writer concludes that an app that helps guide us in mindfulness may not be enough. The problem is “our lives and how we lead them.” Rather than a practice to cope with a life that depresses us, how about a change of life? If that were the end result of mindfulness, the world could change.

Jesus seemed to point in the same direction. He also told his followers to focus on today: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6.34)

And just before this, he told them: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6.33) In other words, be intentional about what your life is all about.

So, in bullets:

  • Make sure you’re intentional that your life is about what matters (macro)
  • Focus on today (micro)

As I’ve mentioned before and expand upon in Makers of Fire, there are (at least) three undercurrents in 21st century life that indicate we’re trying to be more intentional about what our lives are all about. They are trajectories that move us from

• outsiders to insiders
• above to within
• against to with

In a thumbnail, we are trying to design a world that has room enough for everyone to benefit. (<— Click to tweet) And, when I say “everyone,” I don’t just mean everyone who is alive today but future generations too.

We want a world …
…that is more integrated, not a world of “us” vs “them, but “us” with “them”.
…that bursts open with life because it is our garden. We live within it not above it.
…of collaboration in which we tap into the genius of our species to solve problems and create solutions that work for everyone. Perhaps we might even evolve from a world of “‘us’ with ‘them’” to world where it is just us.

Then maybe we would not need to remember to breathe. We would not need to turn to an app to help us find peace and happiness. We could just open our eyes and look around and enjoy the beauty of the world and of our relationships. That would be a happy trend.