After There’s Nothing Left: Forgiving Myself, Forgiving God, and Accepting His Forgiveness

Forgiveness for Myself

      As we move into these last three considerations in What Forges Forgiveness, forgiving others, and/or accepting their forgiveness is often representative of an inner need to forgive yourself. When I was a young boy, 8-16, I was told repeatedly that I could do nothing right; I was always wrong. As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t even cut the grass right! (According to my dad.) Of course, I did blow up our basement with my Chemcraft Chemistry Set one Thursday afternoon.

      My dad was none too amused. He never forgave me: neither did I. I missed my experimentation with things about which I knew very little.

      So many of us go through our lives never forgiving ourselves for past failures, real or imagined. We live in a continual state of fear, or of being discovered, or of being ignored because we believe we are not worth that much—not even worth our own self-forgiveness.

      I was wrong to not forgive myself. So are you. I needed to forgive myself for the things I had done that were truly rebellious, illegal, and wrong. And I needed to ask forgiveness from others, especially my dad. Had I never forgiven myself, I doubt I would have ever believed that God could truly forgive me. But He did…, so I had better forgive myself as well!

      This next section, as well as next week’s, were not easy to write.

Forgiveness for God

      For a lot of us, there is a very deep seated need to forgive God. Not that God has intentionally done anything to us; but we often take it that way. Why did my dad die so young? Why God. I asked You to help me get into Princeton, but I didn’t. I, we, wanted to have children of our own, but we didn’t, or couldn’t. Even today, it gnaws away at my soul. I mean, what’s the point?!? I pray and nothing changes. God, You won’t do what I want You to! Really!?!  ‘nuf said.

      BUT, arising from the issue of NOT forgiving God, for whatever reason, is the matter of a life-long anger, a grudge, if you will, against God. I’ve seen this resentment grow in intensity within me. “Irrational” does not begin to describe the potency of some people’s hatred of anything religious, or spiritual, or especially, God. “If God exists, I don’t want anything to do with him!” people have told me. Maybe there was, at one time, a reason, an event, a tragedy where “God didn’t come through for me!” but that has long since been removed from our present situation. Now, we are left with only a pure, resolute resentment and absolute anger against Him.

      At the very least, this anger will eat away at your soul and spirit until you set yourself to resolve it. It will also eat away at other relationships in your life. Count on it.

      But do keep in mind that any of us can chose to forgive God for whatever we believe He has done to us, either by accident, intention, omission, or imagination, at any time. God is not sitting on His Throne in heaven thinking of new ways to hurt you, screw you over, or wreck your life. That makes no sense. Why?

      Why would the Lord God Creator of the Universe, and of us, want anything for us other than his best. He is much more the Lover than the Tyrant.

      In the next EMPulse, I want us to consider why it is so hard for some of us, OK, me, to receive Forgiveness from God.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness from God

After There’s Nothing Left: What Forges Forgiveness?

forging, forgivenessThe title of this subsection is not merely titled for the sake of alliteration. Rather, it is a serious question around a quite somber difficulty for many, many people. Forgiveness. In general, people find it difficult to forgive; conversely, unless in a court of law, to receive forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is something that is forged, like a steel blade tempered in the fire, heated to the point of meltdown, then hammered to utility on an anvil. Finally, it is sharpened to perfection at the hand of a master sword-maker. So also is forgiveness. It does not simply show up. It goes through testing, hammering, reheating, reworking, and sharpening. Then, when its work is accomplished, it becomes one of the most powerful spiritual weapons anyone might possess. The admission that you are forgiven, truly, by the Lord God Creator of the Universe, is to realize that you can risk your life more than you ever deemed possible. To be forgiven is to be empowered by God to make a difference. (It is also quite a countermeasure against depression and defeat.)

      There are a myriad of aspects to forgiveness that could be considered here. But I will limit our discussion to only five. Here are the first two.

Forgiveness for Others

      Though we are admonished to forgive those who have wronged us it is not quite as simple as that. Some of those wrongs have wreaked havoc with our lives, our livelihood, our families, and our financial security. Forgiveness often takes quite an extended period of time. Here then, again, is the matter of trust. Can we ever trust the other person(s) again? That is a much larger issue. Mix in a reality that some people who have wronged us believe they have done NO wrong: they believe they were righteous and right in their pronouncement of judgment upon us. They were justified in what they did or said. Can/should we forgive those who have not come to repentance before us, let alone before the God of the Universe?

      It is extremely hard to forgive others…, especially if you believe they are in the wrong. Conundrum.

      I believe forgiveness of others can only be fête accompli thru true humility and contrition; a willingness to take the lower place, even if the other party or person is clearly in the wrong. This is not to say that your forgiveness is ignorant of the facts. Rather, it chooses to take the subservient position for the sake of resolution, of restitution.

      At times, it may be the case, that you are unable to extend forgiveness to another. This is usually reflective of a long-standing, deep-seated pattern of being betrayed or hurt by others who did not seek your forgiveness. Or, it could also mean you are just so mad at present, that you are still out for vengeance and/or revenge. Seriously, not quite healthy all the way around. Nonetheless, you need to deal with your anger/grief and come to a point of genuine, heartfelt forgiveness…, no matter how long it takes. It rests on you to take the higher ground. If you cannot, or will not, forgive, how will you ever receive it from others? How will you receive it from God?

Forgiveness from Others

      There isn’t one of us who hasn’t hurt another person. Accidentally, thoughtlessly, casually, or intentionally, we all have inflicted wounds on one another. Some wounds we inflict are intentional. Retaliation. Revenge. Reprisal. And we know we are doing it. If there ever were an instance of moving over to the dark-side, this would describe it; the deliberate act of hurting another.

      But our confusion arises when the one we have wronged comes to forgive us. What will we do?

      It comes down to an issue of individual arrogance. If someone offers you forgiveness the implication is that you have done something wrong. Of course, if this is true…, you don’t want to be reminded of it. If you DO receive their forgiveness, then you find yourself in an awkward spot. You’ve received forgiveness, admitting your evil intention, and now… what? Feels squeamish, doesn’t it.

      May I suggest that you admit your wrongness and simply say “thank you.” Or, “Thank you. I hope you can forgive me. How do we move beyond this?”

      Inversely, if you cannot receive forgiveness, how will you ever extend it to other people?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

[note: you may never come to a place of forgiving another person without the assistance of the God who made you. It sounds trite, but I have found that the bond I have with Jesus Christ has done more to enable me to forgive another person than I imagined possible.]

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness for myself, for God, and from God

After There’s Nothing Left: This Gets Personal

There is a line from Shakespeare that reads “How do I love thee…, let me count the ways.” In an oddly related way, this is how I often think when I ponder my own sin(s). Here is a list of some of the areas where I have struggled.

  1. A Need for Significance. For me, this has not been as much a need to control, to be in charge, as a need to make a difference. To be sure, nothing is wrong with this. Nonetheless, when it becomes a compulsion it ceases to be a gift to enjoy and is degraded to a self-promotional lust for influence.
  2. A Desire to have the Best. Have I mentioned I like Volvos? A well equipped XC60 with heated-massaging seats and all the goodies to bathe you in luxury. Then there are well made watches— Patek Philippe, Breitling. True representations of God’s handiwork in creation. Or, so I tell myself.
  3. A Sense of Self-Worth. Too often has the value of myself come from what I’ve done and the things I possess. But accomplishments and possessions weigh in very lightly in the grand scheme of the universe. My self-worth is turning out to be what I pass on to others.
  4. Aloneness. Throughout my life I have been in leadership positions. I have become self-sufficient in many ways. Although, in recent years, I find myself surrounded by a host of people to whom I can delegate much of the responsibilities of leadership. Nonetheless, I find myself feeling terribly alone far too often. It is not the case; I know that. My aloneness is an irrational feeling of isolation which leaves me in a state of despondency and depression. It is a struggle.
  5. Sexual fantasy. In a sense, I’ve told you nothing. What man does not struggle with this!?! For many this can be the same as drug addiction, or alcoholism. That was what it was like for me for many years. Now, not so much. But remember, I am a man just past 75 (stop laughing). If you are reading this in your 20s or 30s, it is still, probably, a very strong siren yowling in your heart and head. Do not let it take over your very being. Its cost…, could be your future.

      These things drain my soul. There will be similar things in your life that will drain your soul. So when you find yourself drowning in self-pity and depression, you should probably do a lot of soul searching. But you may also throw guilt on yourself as a way of understanding your failure. In reality you may or may not be guilty.

      Remember, our Lord is overflowing with compassion and forgiveness. He only calls to us to turn to him… and ask.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— what forges forgiveness?

SOUL CONFESSION-muddy waters

A way out of Depression

I’ve often identified with the Apostle Paul’s changing descriptors of himself as he advanced in years. “I am the least of the apostles…, the least of all the saints…, the chief of sinners. The older I grow in faith the more conscious I’ve become of my own rebellions against the Lord who loves me and seeks my best. Why do I do it? Simple. Because I want to. Sin pleases me. It does not please God; it wounds Him deeply. Too often do I put my life in danger by stepping outside of His perimeters of protection for me. I am a foolish man who needs to admit my capricious revolt in confession, as real guilt before a Holy God, and seek Christ’s forgiveness. Thus— soul confession becomes a way out of depression.

More likely than not, my soul’s confession should be a daily thing; providentially. I tend to dwell on being genuinely forgiven through Christ’s grace in salvation, rather than constantly groveling in the dirt before God. Nonetheless, some significant time of soul-searching is always in order. Oddly, I believe Christ would have me come openly and humbly before him in the process, still holding onto his gift of forgiveness and new life, possibly to soften the blow, more likely to deepen the honesty and sincerity.

What Do I Need to Confess?

Before we get into the nature of our confession, it would be wise to refine an understanding of Sin. To be sure, it IS definitively breaking God’s Law, delineated within the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. But that definition, at best, is rudimentary and simplistic. Sin is such an anachronistic, ambiguous word that it necessitates further amplification for a world which sees Sin, if it considers it at all, as merely getting caught.

Let’s start with an examination of the “logic,” the “why,” of the law. For God’s law was not given to us arbitrarily; it was conferred upon us in a context with a purpose that most of us have forgotten.

The Context for the Law

The simple question here is, “Why was the Law given?” Most people will respond that it was given to point out sin, or to keep us from sinning. But go further back in time, to the Garden. Whether you treat this Biblical passage as historical or metaphorical, the Truths it presents remain unchanged—the order of Creation, our ancestors first steps (and missteps) with God, their assignment to designate animal characteristics (“naming” them), God’s command to expand the human race through “knowing” one another intimately. And one, ONE, constraint, only one command— “Do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil; for in that day you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) Among all the pleasures and responsibilities granted our first ancestors was inserted just one prohibition, ONE— DO NOT. Was it, on the one hand, a simple experiment our Creator Father had put in place to test our devotion and thankfulness to Him: or, on the other hand, was it a stated warning for our own protection?

We failed. Our lives were now truly at risk.

Subsequent laws given through Moses, also given for our protection, were constructed to address a now disparate, unruly and rebellious “people of God.” Thus, did our ancient ancestors develop further amplification on the Law in the form of the Mishna (commentary on the Law), and the Gemara (commentary on the Mishna). Ancient Jews understood quite well what it meant to break the Laws of a holy God. They were painstaking meticulous in their strict compliance to adhere to even the remotest hint of law breaking. But they had forgotten its original purpose— to teach us to trust in the Father, and to protect His Creation.

The context for all laws, those found in natural creation, human history, and the Judeo-Christian tradition are the same— to keep us safe, under the protection of our Creator, so that we might flourish in this world. To forget this is to lose the context for confession.

What we call “sin,” represents our choice to step outside the perimeters of God’s protection, to challenge His sovereignty. Confession is the realization that we have stepped outside of the protection of our God & Father. Confession opens a space for us to seek resolution and restitution in a relationship with our Creator through forgiveness and to nestle once again within His safety.

I’ve never enjoyed swimming in muddy waters. You?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— this gets personal.

Things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design pt 2

  Finally, just two more causes that contribute to my ongoing depression and keep me from fulfilling my life of faith in Christ.

5.       Personal Failures. Personal failure can be devastating. Moral failure, professional failure, being an absentee mom or dad, or just constantly making dumb decisions or mistakes can weigh you down and, over time, break your spirit. Build up a track record of them and you start to crumble as a person. I’ve been there. I must admit that I have a propensity to make numerous and stupid mistakes. When I teach principles of management to business execs, I always include this maxim—

Always make the same mistake at least twice:

that way you will be able to make it perfectly the next time.

      I’ve learned this from personal experience. And I wish I were kidding. But I am not.

      I have also lost the confidence and trust of people in at least two professional organizations. Even though the President of one reinstated me in a different capacity, the devastation of judgment on my performance rating and failure on my part led to a two-year depression that was very painful to crawl out of. Years later, I found some closure and resolution. The second professional failure still leaves me with a gaping “Why?” in the center of my soul. I was dropped, with sparse explanation, from a group of people I loved dearly. Someday, I hope to learn what everything was really about with this dismissal. It seemed so unjust.

      For a considerable period in life, as I’ve said earlier, I felt as if I had raised failure to an art-form. I just could not get things right. To this day I am never quite sure I am doing some things right. But that doesn’t stop me from trying, from pressing on. Personal Failure has come to mean that I haven’t quite figured out exactly where I fit into a situation. Maybe my gifting and skill set are not quite a match: maybe they are the prophetic voice that must speak into the confusion. Maybe not: but I still try.

      I do not fail as much as I used to. My failures are not as BIG as they once were. Then again, I have a great deal more confidence in God today than I once did.

6.       My Own Desire to Chase after Evil. Every decade of my life has had its own dictum, its own maxim that defined it. In 1945 the Jews held onto the slogan, Next year, Jerusalem! It spurred them on to fight for what they believed in— a national Jewish state, Israel. I too have some dictums. They run like this— make a difference, Imagine, Embody Truth, No More Games, My only safety is in the arms of God. In this past decade, my mantra has been Honor God, honor people—make a difference. My individual and corporate belief in a God Creator, who is Jesus Christ, has convinced me that all of us are placed on this earth to make a difference. No exceptions. It is not about me. It about others, everybody…, everywhere.

      With this precursor, I must reconfirm that I enjoy my sin. I love running from God and chasing after evil. I do not like myself when I do it, but I do it anyway. “My bad,” just does not do justice to my natural propensity to step out of the perimeters of God’s protection for me and assert my insignificant independence against His glorious might, strength, and wise principles for living.

      If anything prevents me, personally, from fulfilling God’s design on my life, it is this. I want to fulfill my own design! Is this wrong? Yes. Is this rebellion against the God who made me? Yes. What is he thinking?!? You are asking! Well, I want what I want! That’s all. It’s self-glorification in all its grandeur. I am informing God that His design for me is all well-and-good, it’s just not what I want. This, in turn, fosters a bitter depression that I cannot get what I want.

      My soul will never achieve a place of proper reflection it so desperately needs until I tackle this myriad of issues that press me to the floor and bind my spirit in Gordian complicated knots. I cannot think critically, see clearly, or gain an unclouded perspective on life until I get a grip on my life the way it is. Not the way I think it is, but the way it actually is. I have found other people are a constant source in insight for me to reflect upon myself. I thank God for them. You will need the same kinds of people in your life too, if you are ever to find soul reflection a rich, troubling, and rewarding practice.

      Next we will consider the issues that muddy the waters of the soul, which blind us from seeing things clearly. When people say that confession is good for the soul, well, they’re right.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— muddy waters

Things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design.

Continuing, there are a number of things that are at war within my soul to prevent me from fulfilling God’s design for my life. Maybe you have some of the same.

  1. Doubts. The Christian faith is, well, exactly that— faith. As a former philosophy major I know full well that there are a number of things in our experience that cannot be verified. Faith is one of them. So also are love, history, time & space, and an after-life. To be sure there is evidence for their existence, but no empirically verifiable proof. Thus, I could be wrong about this whole God thing. But I do not believe so.

      I have come to realize that empirically the most anyone can hope for is certitude, not certainty. Even in the sciences there is more faith than we might imagine. Get used to it. The more we examine a thing the more we influence its behavior. And this raises the level of doubt we have about the accuracy of our findings. My faith truly is faith. So at times I fall into a sea of uncertainty and doubt. Is this all real? I hope so; truly, I hope so.

  1. Fear. Flowing out of Doubt is Fear. Intensive doubt leads to fear. Irrational fear, in my case. As I have written these pages I have faced fear as I have not known before. Not of any specific thing, just fear. For many others, their whole lives are gripped by fear! They live nary a moment absent of genuine, all-consuming fear. Fear of going outside. Fear of groups. Fear of driving on a freeway. Fear of others. Fear of being known. Fear of failure. Fear of being wrong. Fear of never being good enough. Fear blinds people of seeing what it is God has for them. It binds them in boxes too small for God’s plan for them. So they settle into those boxes and dare not to look beyond. They lose so much.

      Fear can be overcome; but it is not a comfortable climb out of that box. It is a considerable challenge. You will need someone with a rope, a guidebook, a gentle hand, a commanding, encouraging voice. And someone to give you a push through. But anything, ANYTHING, is better than the confinement in your box of fear.

  1. Arrogance. I’ve often found myself arrogant, too full of myself, to listen to others. (Others have mentioned this to me with little subtlety.) I’ve stubbornly stuck to my own way of doing things that just could not work. But it was my way. I lost a lot of friends acting this way. I also failed a lot more than I needed to. If only I had listened. But, no, I knew it all. It has taken me a long time to learn the words, “I was wrong. Forgive me. Are you still willing to help me?” Arrogance is simply an admission that we are insecure and therefore we must know everything; thus, we don’t even ask for the simplest of directions. Directions to a location, how to sew on a button, how to repair a lawn mower, or how to mend a damaged relationship.

      It takes a strong person to overcome arrogance. A kind of self-blindness comes with arrogance that prevents us from seeing anything from any other viewpoint other than our own. Some of us don’t even want to hear, let alone consider, another opinion, another way of approaching a problem or situation. We dig in our heels and insist on our way, period. If our souls are ever to truly rest then we must give up our arrogance and become part of the human family: not as its center, but as a fellow traveler, learning from others who are much further along in their journeys than we might be. I’ve learned this the hard way. DO NOT follow in my footsteps.

  1. Disapproval from Others. Let’s be honest, we all want the approval and acceptance of family, friends, work associates, and from those who lead in whatever field of common interest where we invest our lives. This is a normal part of socialization. We want to be a part of something: it’s called being in community. In many ways human beings are defined by their inter-connectedness, their histories, their commonalities, their family & kinships, their relationships…, everywhere. So when we come up against the disapproval of someone important to us, it is a mortal blow. We feel less of a person, unacceptable, at least for the time being, if not permanently. A simple parental “No” to some children will shatter them to the core of their being. For other kids, it will present a challenge to circumvent in some clever, devious way. We are all so very different when it comes to disapproval.

      Most of my life I have met with disapproval in seemingly larger doses than normal. My father rarely approved of anything I did. In his eyes I could not even cut the grass right. When I bought my first car, a Volvo PV544, I was realigning the steering wheel when he screamed obscenities at me to let the entire neighborhood know that I could not do anything, ANYTHING, right. I knew right then and there that I would be on my own in life. During my college days my academic advisor encouraged me to drop out. “You’ll just never make the grade or measure up.” So encouraging. ( I completed my first Masters Degree before he did.) In my first professional job I was informed that I would need very close supervision. This devastated my confidence about ever getting things right. Then again, I saw my immediate supervisor three times that first year, once the second year, and only twice the third year. Odd definition of “close supervision.” I thought. I just kept pressing on and getting the job done.

      My personal need for the approval of others has faded over time. I still like to have people approve of me; I just don’t need it. Approval or disapproval have been supplanted by knowing who I am and knowing what it is I am supposed to be doing on this planet. I know God’s design for me. Do you?

      It’s really quite refreshing. Soul-lifting, actually.

      There are a couple more things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design on my life. Thus, plunging me into further depression. Therefore, sadly, there will be a section “c” to this present section.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Confession- a way out of depression

After There’s Nothing Left: flat-2-fantastic faith

Sistine Chapel      As promised, here some of the things I am doing to restore my faith from flat to vibrant. These actions have made a major difference in both recovering from depression and restoring my soul.

1.       Interfacing with a diversity of people. Surrounding myself with only like-minded friends would never expand my understanding and acceptance of them. I learn from those who are of a different mindset, a different culture and temperament. Maintaining this balance in my life seems to reinvigorate me; it draws me to a place where the earth and its peoples come into clearer perspective. I regain a sense of mission in life and what my role is in the grand scheme of things. (That’s why I still have to get above 14,000’ at least once a month.)

2.       Seeking more times of solitude. Please note that I am a genuine extrovert. Though significantly tempered from earlier in life, an extrovert in every sense of the word— grabbing life by the bal…, er horns and going for it! Ergo, solitude, for me, is difficult, yet critical. I tend to end my days earlier (usually with a wee dram of fine single-malt Scotch), pondering if I had made any difference this day, as its hours and minutes tick away. God willing, I have.

      If you are primarily an introvert, you need not heed this advice. It is true that you need solitude as much as us extroverts. But you also need to get out more and engage with God’s creation in the lives of others. And I’m not sure the single-malt Scotch would be a good idea for you; unless you are with someone.

3.       Furthermore, I read the Bible differently now. I read it not so much for content, or information, or to support a theological position; rather, I read it to see and sense how Jesus moved.  I track his movements, not topologically, but relationally. How did he interface with people? How did he meet them on their own grounds, in their own life situations, and reveal himself to them? Why did they respond the way they did? Why did he use questions and metaphors (parables) so much? Why was he cryptic on some occasions and not on others? What pushed him to seek time alone with his Father? And an especially important question for me— How did he love people, no matter their cultural diversity?

      In a way, I enter into the text of Scripture to feel its pulse as much as I used to analyze it for its content and truth. In my book CLUELESS CHRISTIANITY, I have a chapter subtitled “-the non-propositional nature of Truth.” If you enter into the times and culture, the life-situations and heartbeats of a text, you will see what I mean. When Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the life.” he wasn’t kidding. He was shocking.

4.       I pray differently too. Though I have special times for deep, concentrated confession, worship, and intercession, I have also learned to “pray without ceasing,” as it were. That is, I arise each morning in an attitude of prayer (…er, after coffee) and maintain it throughout the day. This often becomes difficult, to say the least. It is often interrupted by lust or laziness, hunger, counseling, that guy who just cut me off, or writing (like now). But the attitude of constant prayer, that is, an open channel between myself, and Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, is always, ALWAYS open. I do not believe I have ever had a simple two way conversation with anyone where the Spirit of God was not involved in the discourse in some way at some time. I’ve also learned to keep quiet in prayer. I now wait for God to speak. That’s important, and takes time.

      Granted, this three-way-open-prayer exchange has some side effects. We always have to listen, even if ever so briefly, to that funny little voice in the back of our head, before we respond to the person in front of us; which, of course, is a good thing for an extrovert. On the down side, having an open channel to God on an ongoing basis does ruin our enjoyment of sin. It truly, really, just is not as much fun as it used to be. This too may be a good thing for us…, and for me.

5.       Finally, I have been listening to astute Christian leaders from around the world [Ian Montgomery- Peru (now Vermont), Vaclav Havel- Czech Republic (through his writings), Phill Olsen- South Africa (now stateside), and Leonard Sweet, (Rings of Fire)] who can feed my soul. It would not be an understatement to admit that there are many men and women around the world who have a more significant grasp on Scripture, on the interface between the Christian faith and our world’s cultures, and on their own lives, than I will ever have. Thanks to the Internet I can now access many of them as I drive, sit in my study, or in front of my fireplace on a cold winter’s morn. I have learned that I know very very little. Thus, I avail my mind to learn from others, some of whom I find myself in cordial and vast disagreement. But that’s OK. My faith is being challenged, probed, assaulted, and fed. Thus, it is moving from flat to fantastic. Hopefully, by the time I am finished writing this book (yes, these EMPulsi are coming out in book form…, hopefully before I die), flatness of faith will be a thing of the past for me. That would be nice.

      Simply put, we need a faith that is Alive! Vibrant! and Full of Life! We need to live as if we are truly forgiven; for, in fact, WE ARE!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Things that Keep Me from Fulfilling God’s Design.

After There’s Nothing Left– flat faith

As you read this section you need to know that I write it in a condition which very much falls in line with this segment’s heading. My faith has been quite flat for some time now. Not by conscious choice; rather, simply through poor decisions on my part (or lack thereof), and geography. I have very few Christian friends where I live. Let me rephrase that— I have found it difficult to find the kind of Christian friendships here that can truly feed my soul; but there are some— Jeremy, Paul, Mike, John, Alan. Not that I am all that special, or above anyone else; quite the opposite. It is more an issue of commonality of perspective on culture, society, the Christian faith, and the nature of the interplay between them. I enjoy my pluralistic, feigning-acceptance-yet-ignorance-of-my-faith culture. I walk gingerly among my fellow believers, fearing their reproach or scoffing. I walk boldly alongside my pagan friends, caring for their pain, their heart’s concerns, their relational ambiguities, and gender confusions. Nor do I judge them. That I leave for God.

      My soul is weighted heavily with their concerns, their pain, their sorrows, their emptiness. Caring like this is a conscious decision. I rejoice with them at the birth of their children; weep, and pray, with them at the loss of a child, or over a broken marriage, or loss of a partner. I love those whom God has place in my path. I am well aware that I might be the only Christ they ever know.

      The same is true of my friends who are genuine followers of Christ…, or even for those who are not quite there yet. The love is the same, even though the people may be of vastly divergent dispositions.

      Thus, have I defined one of the reasons for my flat faith. I care for others more than I am cared for. This is a problem. Some years ago one of the pastors of my church described me as a “non-maintenance member.” Surprised, I asked him what he meant. He proceeded to describe me as one who came across as such a strong person that I needed no care, no pastoring, no shepherding. Wow! I sadly informed him that such was far from accurate. But sadder still, nothing really changed. I will admit that I do present quite a solid, secure, aura; because, overall, it is who I am. But I am not without weakness, softness, and a deep need for fellow human beings to gather about me to encourage and love me.

      Over the next few EMPulses I want to give you some ideas on what I did, and what you can do to restore your faith from flat to vibrant. A flat faith can suffocate itself and die.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Flat2Fantastic, pt.11.

After There’s Nothing Left: Resentment and UnForgiveness… on my part

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  Throughout the course of my days I have come across individuals whose lives are filled with anger, resentment, and revenge. Over time, I watch as it eats away at them, devouring their energies and their spirit. To my amazement and sorrow these people hang onto their anger and rage like a dog with an old bone; and they keep gnawing at it. I try to tell them it will eventually destroy their spirit…, but they do not want to hear it. They would rather chew on the rot and feed their infection.

      Then there are also those who never, ever forgive. They hold a grudge, remembering “what you did to me” so long ago; and they want pay-back. Someday, somehow, “I will get you back for that!” I have had people write me asking my forgiveness for the anger they felt toward me 10-20 years ago. I cannot even remember who some of these people were. But I am glad they got it off their chest.

      But what a way to live!

      Far too many people let this life-sucking resentment-of-another consume their lives. When people live for revenge there is little energy remaining to live for anything else. The sad reality is that many of these people do not want to give up their vengeful spirit. So they remain angry, seeking to undo another person’s happiness or livelihood!

      What a way to die.

      One form of resentment should be more aptly branded as embittered jealously. You not only want what someone else possesses, you are incensed that they have it and you do not. Whether it’s their house, their car, their wife, their job, or their happiness, I deserve it more than they do. Allow me to pose a question— Then why do they have it? Maybe what they have was never meant for you for any number of reasons. The truth might actually be that you DO NOT deserve it more than the other person. Could it be that you have not worked as hard for it? The problem we are missing is that we have grown so accustomed to the infection of comparison-itis that we have lost our own way along the path hewn out for us. Most of us have our own idea of success. What we do not seem to grasp is that another’s success does not necessarily reflect on ours. In fact, we may already be successful but don’t want to accept God’s definition of success for us. Ask the unemployed Ph.D. raising four kids, or the under-employed executive working in a Third World country restructuring their government in the midst of a military upheaval.

Success is not always ours to define. Resentment will leave you with nothing but emptiness and unfulfilled longing. But in periods where soul reflection becomes necessary to your very being you must fight yourself to attend to these deepest of soul-sucking demons. To NOT address them is to pass over a festering wound and pretend it will go away if you pay it no heed.

During his college days John Steinbach (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men) was told by a professor that the day he became an author pigs would fly. In each subsequent book Steinbach wrote he penned this Latin insignia in the front—

Ad astra per alas porci

-to the stars on the wings of a pig

      For those who need to let go of some resentment— Fly Free. And when you feel the urge to dump a little pig-poo on those who poo-pooed you in the past…, DON’T. Hold onto the grace you have within.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Flat Faith, pt.10.

After There’s Nothing Left: Feeling Like a Failure

my-failures    So many people constantly struggle with guilt. I am not one of them. Mostly. Through years of rejection, depression, trial & error, and simple stubbornness I have somehow overcome my sense of failure and risen to a place of significance. Well, in some circles.

  When I listen to people who constantly struggle with a sense of failure I can barely fathom the depths of their sense of worthlessness. It must be terrible to never feel good enough, to feel always judged and condemned by either God or others…, or both. I wonder how people live who struggle with guilt all the time; so little joy, so little lightness-of-being. Only weight. There was a time in my life when I made so many mistakes that I felt like I had perfected failure to an art-form. Not that I no longer made mistakes; only now I’ve learned from them; and I do not let them weigh on me as much.

      I’ve learned to distinguish between a sense of failure and real failureReal failure must be admitted and addressed, especially if you are the cause behind it. Personal failure in relationships is tragic. Most people find it quite difficult to own up to their complicity in the breakdown of a relationship. It is just too painful. Some people simply get angry and blame everything on the other person. (Isn’t that helpful?) Their insecurity leaves deep scars across far too many lives. Real failure requires fortitude and maturity to first acknowledge and then to correct if it is possible. In some instances, this is not possible: in others, it remains open to the one who failed to come clean and seek reconciliation and resolution. Real failure has consequences. Never doubt that: do something about it.  [Please note—you may need help.]

      A sense of failure, usually has its birth through multiple failures, real or perceived. Though it is possible to feel like a failure and withdraw into a shell from the very first moment, it is not typical; it takes at least two or three close-together events to drive a person into a personal cloister of private self-doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a sense of failure is significantly different than actual failure. When I was in my teens I felt like a total failure. It didn’t matter that I was a fashion model and drove a Volvo; I felt undesirable. It didn’t matter that my SAT scores were 686 & 782; I never showed them to my parents because I thought they meant a D and a C. I felt stupid. I felt I was a failure and that is how I lived. I was an ugly, insecure, scrawny 134 lb. failure. Throughout most of my college career I continued in this vein until it dawned on me how much more the other guys were studying— and I wasn’t. Hummm!?! My sense of failure slowly turned into “Well, maybe not so much.” What a revelation!

      One of my seminary brothers, during lunch, in a conversation with someone else, simply remarked “God don’t make no junk!” he probably never knew I overheard his comment; but that comment mulled around inside me and took root. I wasn’t junk. The God Creator of the universe had made me. Therefore, I did not have to be a failure. Neither do you. Remember, FAILURE simply means you have not discovered what you are designed for yet. Remember— “The only BIG risk in life is not taking any.”

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Resentment and Forgiveness…, on my part, pt.9