Making a Difference

jfk quoteHappy New Year!

     There’s a line in the movie The Greatest Showman, that came out Christmas 2017, which stuck with me. It’s actually a quote from P.T Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman in the movie.

 

“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”

     Too many of us, trying to fit in, actually merely blend in. We become part of the background while others step forward. We react to what is going on around us rather than initiating actions that will matter.

     In the progression of history, we are living in a hiatus, a time between times. If you think of time as a series of phases and transitions, we are in a transition, about to enter into some new yet-to-be-defined reality. What a great time to be alive! We get to write the definers of the next age, of the next paradigms of human perspectives.

     The great thing about transitions is that we cannot turn back; we must forge ahead.

     Sadly, too many of us want to live in the past. We’ve entrenched ourselves in the belief that the past was more secure, more stable, safer. It is change, the new, that is to be feared. Really!?! This is why our schools & colleges should require a course in HISTORY, no matter what your major. We have lost our way.

     Christians have taken the sports mantra No Fear and turned it into a tee-shirt— Fear not… . [Isaiah 41:10] Yet we Christians seem more afraid to face change, to face the future, to face our world’s fluctuating foundations and values than anyone. What’s with that, anyway?!?

     The genuine Christian should not strive to fit in, to blend. Rather, to make a difference in the world; from the lives of those around them, to the world arena. Let’s step forward and be counted.

     So instead of New Year’s Resolutions, make action plans; instead of setting personal goals, set people goals. Who will you help? Who can you love like Jesus? Who can you pass on your wisdom to? And don’t tell anyone. Just do it.

Make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ a consideration of postChristian apologetics

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Advent #4 Peace

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Merry Christmas!

      The angels declared to the shepherds “…peace among those with whom he is pleased.”  Yet, those were not peaceful times in Israel. The revolt of the Maccabees had been crushed. Roman invaders had set up their own “parallel” government; and there were weekly executions of rebellious Jews. How could these times ever be considered peaceful? Still, the angels proclaimed PEACE!

      An odd announcement for those times. And ours. Taking the world as a whole, there is not a wide dispersion of peace abounding. Just glance at your news-feed. Scan your own life; peaceful? Yet it was in such times that the Lord God Creator of the universe chose to enter our realm. [“in the fullness of time, God sent forth his son ”] To this day there still remains evidence of His arrival— us. Yes, us. Christ birth, life, and death have done all that is necessary to open the way for us to be restored in a relationship with our Creator. One question we need always ask of ourselves is— Do our lives bear evidence of His coming?

      Another question— Do you think your life would change for the better in a relationship with God? Or, is a relationship with God really matter that much?

      These are not a trick questions; so, here’s another.

      Do you think your life might carry more peace within, in a relationship with God?

      I’ve always felt less-than-fully-human when I move outside my own relationship with the God who made me. Like half of me is missing. Identity crisis.

      In Romans 12:8 we learn that “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all.” This peace, between individuals, political factions, and governments, is only possible if it emanates from a heart of peace.

      This Christmas, seek this kind of inward peace that it might flow throughout our world.

Be peace,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ Christ!

ADVENT #3— JOY!  ~the shepherd’s candle.

16 December 2018

      Merry Christmas!

            If you’ve watched the opening video…, you have watched it, right?!? Anyway, after you HAVE watched it, you’ve already grasped the point of Advent candle #3— our joy is to be expressed, not only on a hill outside of Bethlehem on a star lit night, but in the midst of the marketplace, the town square, among people who need to see, and hear, our joy this Christmastime.

            How many Christians have you met that portray the Christian life as a life of sacrifice, drudgery, or somber obedience. In too many ways have we hid our light under a bushel, encased in our silent personalities, afraid to let it shine? Or maybe your Christian faith is a personal matter, between you and the Lord: if so, then you would be disobeying His commandment to go out into our world and make disciples.” [Matthew 28:18-20.]  Though we may carry a quiet faith, a personal faith, it is by no means to be a surreptitious one; “they will know you by your love…. “  It is at least that. Yes?

            Our Western, especially American, culture can rob us of our joy in so many ways. For one, we can make Christmas about everything except Christ. Oh, we may replace Him with the baby Jesus, and the sweet manger scene. Jolly ol’ Santa Claus with his bag of toys & delights. Or we may supplant Him completely with buying & giving, shopping, rushing around to get one-last-thing. We’re like that.

            Let me ask you something— Where does your joy come from? Is it like the shepherds’ surprise and wonder at the splendor of myriad of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men, with whom He is well pleased!”  Or does it come from buying your kids (or grandkids) one super-duper awesome Christmas gift? Maybe it comes from receiving something this Christmas that you truly didn’t expect to get. Don’t get me wrong; all this is great, and fun, and joy producing in oodles of delight, with candy kisses thrown in. I like that too.  J

            Still, I want most of my joy this Christmas season to come from Jesus. The birth of the Omnipotent God into our meager realm, to live, to thrive, and, eventually, to die: that I might live!  HALLELUJAH!

Behold our King,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ An ADVENT of PEACE!

Advent #2 Faith

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Merry Christmas!

            With the second Sunday in Advent we light the candle of Faith, or the Bethlehem Candle. Why? Because the prophet Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David.

            In ancient times, Bethlehem was a backwater, nowhere town; it was a place no one visited.  So to become known as the birthplace of the Messiah, even though prophesied by the prophets, was a long forgotten history.

            So often do amazing people come from insignificant places. There is a small town in Western Massachusetts, Ashfield, nestled in the rolling hills of the Berkshire Mountains. Who would have guessed that one of the greatest film makers of the twentieth century would have come from there— Cecil B. DeMille?!?

            So many of us have also come from insignificant, inconsequential places; we have lived unimportant lives. Or have we? If we have been called to Christ for His glory we are hardly insignificant. We may feel we have little if anything to bring to the Table; but that is far from the case. At the least we have been granted Faith; and Faith is no small matter. Believing in someone who is not fully revealed is a great honour; acting in compliance with the words of a book written 2,000 – 3,000 years ago and affirming that it is accurate is an act of submission and strength. Blessings upon you.

            Like our Lord Jesus, we have been sent into a world of turmoil, death, slander, and grief. So, like our Lord, may we, this Christmastide, bring faith, and offer faith to those who have no Christian understanding.

            This second candle in Advent is not one that is comfortable being muffled under a basket.

Hold forth faith,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ An ADVENT of JOY!

Advent #1 Hope

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Merry Christmas!

For those who are not familiar with the tradition of lighting a candle for each Sunday leading up to Christmas Day— it is a tradition that dates to the 300’s at a meeting of church leaders called the Council of Sargossa. It gradually developed into a season that stretched across the month of December. One of the first mentions of an Advent calendar appeared in 1851 in a children’s book by Elise Averdieck. The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. Advent candles shine brightly in the midst of darkness, reminding us that Jesus came as Light into our dark world. The candles are often set in a circular Advent wreath.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace–He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day.

So, let’s start— HOPE.

America has recently witnessed an upheaval in civil indecency, half-truths, murders, and mass migrations and confinements of immigrants against their will. It’s hard to find hope these days. So many people are suffering. So many accusations are flying as to who is to blame.

A century ago, in response to a newspaper article that asked, “What is wrong with the world today?” the British journalist G.K. Chesterton purportedly wrote a letter to the editor which read, simply:

I am.”

Hope is a decision to see through the quagmire, to peer into our darkness and find light, if ever so faint; to create solutions in the dark. Hope is what Christ brought into our world when he was born.

            This Christmas, I want to give hope to those around me. How will you give hope to people this giving season? Our world is in desperate need of hope. Be creative!

Give hope,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ An ADVENT of FAITH

Empulse #12 A Christian Message for a postChristian Heart

kermit_the_frogSarah had come to faith in Christ during  college. After two years in the campus group she showed up in our home out of frustration. She was visibly distraught. Her Christian staff worker had told her she “just needed to trust Jesus.” “That,” she said, “just was too simplistic.” She was aggravated, angry, and very near the detonation point. As we sat that evening in front of our wood stove she collected herself to tell my wife and me a story we could hardly believe.

            Sarah[i] had grown up in a proper family in a rural area in New York; mother, father, two sisters and one brother, older. On the surface everything appeared to be status quo. But just below the surface lay insidious evil. Sarah’s older brother had been raping her every day of her life since she was eleven years old. One of her sisters found her in tears one day after one of her brother’s assaults. In the process of trying to shield her brother, Sarah’s sister Jennifer[ii] guessed what had been going on and told Sarah that she, too, was also being raped by their brother every day. When they confronted their brother he threatened to commit suicide. Sarah and Jennifer told Bob[iii] that he had to tell their parents within the week or they were going to the police.

            The two sisters were resolute in their determination and insisted that Bob follow through and tell their parents what he had done to them. Instead, to their shock, Bob committed suicide. He left a suicide note for his parents blaming Sarah for everything (leaving out any mention of Jennifer).  Sarah began to sob, scream, curse, and go completely out of control as she told us that her parents believed what her brother had written in his farewell letter. They told her that she would just have to admit her complicity in the ongoing, five year “affair” she had had with her older brother. After Bob’s funeral, Sarah’s and Jennifer’s older sister told them that she too had been raped by him, repeatedly; but they did not want to speak about it, ever again.

            It was now close to midnight. Starr and I were having trouble staying awake. As I put another log in the wood stove, Sarah cried, “How can I ever ‘just trust in Jesus!?!’ He suffered and died for my sins once and for all…, and it was done with. I died every day of my life for seven years. He has no idea what I went through.”

            Sarah’s story is not the only one of its kind. In my role as a counselor I have heard similar stories more times than I would have imagined.  There is truly a lot of pain out there. Not that the pain in our era is any greater or more severe than at any time. Each epoch inflicts its own form of tribulation and torture on its populace. Wars, genocides, rapes, wholesale slaughter of entire peoples and other gruesome agonies have found their way into our history books.  They remain glibly reported events of a distant past. But for those who lived through them, who suffered through assault, or war, or witnessed genocide, the actuality was excruciatingly devastating and left lifelong scars. Life was lost to an evil enemy from whom there was no escape; there seemed no end to suffering. But people always held out hope— hope of rescue, hope of survival, hope in their God. Hope that, in the end, things could be worked out.

Until now.

As we have shifted into this postChristian era any spiritual basis for hope has been totally obliterated.  It has been supplanted by forms of pragmatism, hedonism, self-absorbed isolationism, or a simple denial of the harshness of personal and global tragedy.  People are also disappointed in a god who is not there. Hope has become a contrived notion of a cynical society, held out like a carrot on a stick. Hope in a god, any god, is perceived as a naïve pretense couched in the spiritual jargon of religion.  Empty words.

So how can the message of hope that is offered by Jesus Christ be heard, understood, and believed in such a truth-weary & broken culture?

This is the question that we will now seek to answer. And the answer will cross many lines of safety, many given definers of the gospel and how to present the truth claims of the faith.

            On a personal note, this part of the series is not easy for me to write. I know Sarah, and others like her, who have sought hope in the Christian gospel and Christian community, and found only glib patronages.

Offering hope, in a deforested war zone.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ A Christian Message for a postChristian Heart: part 2

[i] Not her real name.

[ii] Not her real name either.

[iii] Not his real name.

Give Thanks

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What are you thankful for? Before you answer let me reflect on “being thankful” for a bit.

            Most of us have so much we grow comfortable with what we have and assume we will always have the means to replenish or buy more. Canada just observed Remembrance Day about 11 days ago. Armistice Day was just commemorated across Europe. In the US we have Veterans Day: a day becoming more solemn even though world conflicts lessen.

            Now, in the US, our Thanksgiving is upon us. Question: What are you thankful for? Here are a few things I am thankful for—

  1. You! Because you take the time to read what I write. For your love and friendship.
  2. My wife of almost 48 years— Starr.
  3. Josh & Blair; Jax & Caleb.
  4. Bethany & Jeff; ‘Bekah, Duke, & John.
  5. My mom & dad. Technically, they’re both dead; but not in my heart.
  6. My wacked-out sister Carol Norton. I love you sis! J
  7. William H. VanArtsdalen, Jr.— who keeps a roof over our heads.
  8. An ability to write. Still.
  9. A clear mind. A clear mind. A clear mind. And umm, oh— a memory.
  10. Being forgiven. I cannot imagine who I would have been without the grace of Christ that stalked me.
  11. Health— mostly.
  12. My incredible education!
  13. Usefulness for some Christians: more useful to many of the normal people around me.
  14. NEED’s Board of Directors scattered all over the world.
  15. Melanie Lamere— my right-hand man in New England.
  16. Ian Montgomery— my comrade-in-arms. The other half of the devious-duo.
  17. 40 Years in New England. Autumns.
  18. 1 year in Colorado. Mountains.
  19. Financial backers who believe in what I am doing. You’re all crazy.
  20. A perspective on life that the best is yet to come. I’m not done yet.

Giving thanks,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
www.CluelessChristianity.com