When life hands you a lemon…, remember what God has made you.

Come on… . You know what you’re supposed to do. Make lemonade.

    What if the impact of the lemon was so great that it knocked you out of kilter? What if you’ve been hit by so many lemons that you’re tired of being hit by them; one after another, in unrelenting sequence. Beginning to bruise? Beginning to hurt? Tired of ducking? Or you never see them coming. You start to turn a little sour over it. Even bitter.

    If you cannot extricate yourself from the situation, what do you do?

    You might have to learn to adapt. To defend. For sure, to duck.

    But there is a point where you really want a bat to slam a few of those lemons back at their source. The reality is that we are targets. Anyone serious about honoring the God of the universe is a BIG target for the lemon arrows of our adversary.

    What?!? You thought this Christian life would eventually settle down to middle-American comfort? Only if you are no longer a threat to Satan and his hoards. Believe me. I Peter 5:8 is still right on target.  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

    Our faith is in constant battle with spirits who would destroy us. Feeling the love yet?

    The Christian life isn’t all peaches ‘n cream. There are a lot of destructive lemons headed our way. Our adversary, other people, friends, and our present-day culture are all at full throttle to destroy our faith in Christ. If you do not know this, you must be hiding out in a cave somewhere.

    I’ve found that our best defense, other than ducking or slinging a few lemons back, is to remember who you are and what our Lord Christ has done for us. He has placed inside you all the power of God the Father. AND, you are not alone.

    You have brothers and sisters in Christ that make up the great Fellowship to come alongside you in time of need, aloneness, or attack. Do not disregard them.

    So what to do about those lemons? As I said earlier, do duck, lob a few back; and remember What God the Father has made you. You are strong, you are not a wimp. Your sins have been forgiven and you have a sword of the Spirit [Eph. 6:17] to wield when things get testy.

    Remember…, our God is so full of surprises. Lemon Moody Foodies Be the surprises God has designed you to be.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Brrrrrr

Review, Renew, Recharge

[personal note. I really do not feel like writing this EMPulse. The side effects from Radiation Treatments for my cancer have not been kind. I’m not sleeping. Serious body pain. And constant fatigue. So I write this for you. I feel like something the cat threw up,]

    Let’s face it. It’s going to take more than a cup of coffee or a dinner-for-two at a nice restaurant to recharge our batteries. These past 2 years have wreaked havoc on us. We are not who we were.

    Most of this early 2022 world is trying to find our way through yet another reiteration of the COVID19 virus (flurona); not to mention rising costs in virtually every area of life. Government has shown itself as being somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of our world’s dilemmas. And we’ve just opened another can of worms with the commemoration of the insurrection of the attacks on our Capital Building. O joy.

    In the midst of all this mess I am going to ask you to get a better handle on 2022. Take out a notepad and write down the tipping points of YOUR life over 2021. Some of these points will be not-so-great: some will be the-best-that-could-be-expected; still others will be GREAT!

    So, how have these events prepared you for what might come upon you for 2022?

    REVIEW can be encouraging or depressing. So let’s move on to RENEW. What parts of your life need RENEWAL? Repair? Elimination? What needs to change? Renewal steps just don’t happen by themselves. Call me if you want some help.

    Finally, NOW CAN YOU REGHARGE YOUR BATTERIES IN 2022? Planning a vacation this summer is too far out to help now. What recharges you in winter? If in Florida, maybe you need to go pound some snowballs somewhere. If your spiritual life seems frozen, try a different way to spend time with God, or at least a way from all the distractions in life.

    Find a way to turn your mind OFF, and your heart ON. Dinner and prayer with a friend. Single malt scotch, a good cup pf tea, something. Something that takes you out of the warp & woof of life. A weekend in a secluded mountain cabin, or an empty beach. Something.

    Between New Years and the Super Bowl there isn’t much to live for in western culture. Except freezing your butt off and looking for cheaper flights to the Caribbean.

    David once bemoaned his state of forlornness in Psalm 42.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?

And why are you in turmoil within me?

     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

My salvation and my God.

     Without Christ in our lives I wonder how any of us would make it. Even with Christ it’s hard sometimes. But I would still admonish you to rise up and fight! REVIEW, RENEW, and RECHARGE your life, your faith, with a little determined effort on your part. Don’t expect God to do it all for you.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— When Life hands you a lemon…, just forget it.

Advent – The Christ Candle

Over time, many Western traditions added a fifth candle to the Advent Wreath— The Christ Candle. One solitary candle, in white, surrounded by the other four in the center of the wreath. This candle represented the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

  Mary, having just given birth, probably did not feel like  celebrating; and the mid-night visit from the shepherds seemed a bit confusing, and unexpected. Joseph must have been even more bewildered, not to mention exhausted, at these astonishing events.

  Significant variations of the celebration of Jesus’ birth have evolved over geographies and centuries. In this world pandemic era we are challenged with even more issues.

1.       Now, we are discouraged from gathering together in large groups.

2.       Now, we are encouraged to wear face masks… while trying to sing.

3.       Travel is discouraged because of COVID Omicron.

4.       Lodging is always a challenge. … not to mention the price has gone up.

5.       And Jesus is just as hard to find today as He was then.

      Add to these rough considerations the reality that you might contract COVID and not be here in February. Intriguing times.

      Nonetheless, we must light the Christ Candle on Christmas Day. For us, it is a declaration that all the ills of this world cannot diminish, tarnish, or stain the incredible significance of this historical occurrence. The Lord God of the Universe chose to humble Himself and become one of us. I’ve never quite grasped the magnitude of this life changing incident. How could our Father have ever come up with this course of action?!?

      Consider all the world-changing events that have taken place throughout history. What solution would you have designed to solve the estrangement between God and His creation? Creative doesn’t begin to describe this incredible unconventional solution. ‘Tells you something about the nature of God, doesn’t it!?!

      “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above… .”

      This Christmas Day, try to find some time where you can sit and ponder this marvelous revelation— the sacrifice of God to draw us back to Himself. The entrance of the Son of God into this earthly realm. Jesus.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

As Jesus Christ was sent into this world to redeem us, so now He sends us into this world,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— New Year’s Resolutions— What were they last year? Hummmm?

Advent – The Angels’ Candle

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

  As we draw closer to Christmas day, the PEACE Candle, or the ANGEL’S Candle, reminds us that we are not, to say the least, in a peaceful world. Impending war with China, over Taiwan, or Russia, over the Ukraine, or Iran, over whatever, we are not a peaceful world.

  With a rising debt-ceiling, there can be few of us who are comfortable with our nation’s, or our family’s financial futures. Our grandchildren will still be contending with the consequences of our actions today for years to come.

  If you are a student of history, you understand these present conditions are ripe for the onslaught of war; or at least, undeclared conflict. O joy.

  So where does anybody find peace in this world we live in? Trust in governments certainly doesn’t seem to be a viable option. Nor does trust in money. It’s nice to have, making you and yours a little more secure. But how long will that last?

      Now Friends! There’s somewhere we can turn…,  if we’ve taken the time to form and forge the kind of depths in our relationships needed for such times as these. Friendships go a long way in bringing us peace.

      Still, the only source of peace I know that last literally forever, is bonding ourselves with the God who made us. It doesn’t get much more peaceful than that. Now, does this assure us of world peace? No. Racial peace? No. Governments which actually work together? Absolutely not. The end of hatred and prejudice? Definitely not.

      The angels’ announcement of peace to the shepherds the night God entered our tiny planet was a declaration that, if you align yourself with God, with Jesus, you can know the most unusual peace that cuts across the insanity and chaos of all that is going on around us. When I find myself in a tense or dangerous situation, I find the peace of Christ running calmly through the undercurrents of my soul.

      Chaos is still chaos. Frantic disruptions will come. But glued to the grace of Christ, this will have little effect on our present disposition.

      In my own life, I’ve known excruciating physical pain. I’ve known despair to the depths of my soul. Starr and I have known unknowable personable loss, and even ostracism within the Body of Christ. But peace reigns.

      So light up this 4th candle in Advent! Let it shine and remind you what our Lord Jesus has given to all of us. PEACE. Not a peace this world could ever understand, but one that passes all understanding. [Philippians 4:7-9] As you trust your life, your future, to Jesus Christ, more and more, this peace will come upon you and surprise you, at the most unexpected times. Get used to different.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— The fifth Sunday of Advent— the Christ Candle.

Advent – Candle of Faith

The Second Candle in Advent represents FAITH. So few people have faith in anything these days. Faith in government is shot, faith in marriage vows has all but vanished, faith in a God who has our best interests at heart has failed all over the globe. We have truly descended to become a faithless generation.

Well, except for faith in money. We truly believe that money, lots of it, more of it, will save us. At one of the URBANA Mission Conferences I recall Rev. John R.W. Stott, then chaplain to the Queen, recounted a story of officiating at the funeral of a wealthy English Lord. A friend of his, a Dowager, leaned into him to ask, Vicar, how much did he leave? Rev. Dr. Stott wisely responded My Ladyship, he left it all!

Faith in money is foolish.

  In my cancer treatments, I am putting a lot of faith in my doctors. [I think I have four at present.] I am out of my element when it comes to radiation therapy. I have little choice but to put my faith in their training and treatment plan.

  It is much like that with Christian faith. There is little we can do to save ourselves. That was left to the Son of God as He poured out His life on a Roman cross. People often ask me if I am assured of my salvation. My response is that I do not have to be…, that rests in my Father’s hands. For the most part I enjoy being a Christian and living by the principles and precepts Jesus has laid out for us in Scripture. But then there are times when living the Christian life becomes quite difficult, especially inside the Christian community. Other believers can be so unforgiving and judgmental at times.

  So faith, our faith, needs the context of personal trial and error, where it has been tried and tested and proven under fire. Personally, I wish it were not so, but it is.  “   for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” [James 1:3 ESV] And I’ve never been good at tests.

  Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855] proposed that faith is like throwing yourself back into the darkness and finding that there is a God there to catch you. Well, I’m not so sure that is a great definition of faith. We have too much verifiable evidence from historical accounts and subjective validation that our faith has been proven over and over again.

  Can faith be explained away by skeptical and “rational” argument? Well, yes. But not without prejudice. Can the miracles of our faith be challenged? Of course. But they are not so easily dismissed. Too many eye-witnesses.

  Can the internal validation of faith be brought into question? Absolutely! But you would be hard pressed to argue with millions and millions of Christ-followers spanning 2,000 years of history that they were WRONG.

  So when you question your faith, or have doubts, remember the myriads of believers who went before you. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, banished from their homes, their communities, judged and exiled from their homes and countries, and, more so in our era, ignored. Yet I have often found in my life that people are hungry for what Starr and I have— an abiding peace in times of uncertainty, a stability they cannot attribute to financial security, and a life-joy that drives them crazy.
  So get an Advent wreath and light ‘er up! Consider where your faith lies.


  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Shephard’s Candle— JOY

Advent – Candle of Hope

 Advent Candles & wreaths are meant to draw our thoughts to the coming of the Christ child. Traditionally, they are four candles, representing Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Sometimes a fifth candle is added, the Christ Candle, placed in the center, to commemorate the coming of our Lord Jesus.

      In these COVID19, racially tense, Capital Riots, school shooting and economic inflationary times, not to mention our political oppositionalism, these five candles can draw us apart from the immediate concerns of this world and give us some Godly perspective on everything going on.

      The first candle, the Hope candle is also known as the Prophets candle. Those who prophesied the Coming Christ who would draw all men to His salvation and new life. In these present days there doesn’t seem to be that much hope floating around. Too many people I see are in some level of depression, deep within their own agony with little hope of ever recovering. Others despair over the plagues covering our globe or attacking their own

families. And still others struggle with borderline poverty, broken relationships, sickness, and family deaths. Could it get any worse?!?

      Well, yes…, especially for those who follow Christ. Genuine Christians have always been marginalized and singled out for social and governmental discrimination. Why? Our principles for living go against the powers that be in almost all societies. We can accommodate, blend, acquiesce, concede our place in history to deconstructionism, or live under ideological intimidation; but we can never back off from our commitment and resolution to love and honor Jesus Christ.

      To do so would disavow our faith, bring shame on His works, and deny that we have any hope in these convoluted days.

      So, how do we have hope in these troubling days? Psalm 42 comes to mind first…—

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvationand my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,    a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock:
 “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
 [ESV]

        Hope is as close as our bended knees.

      MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Faith in Uncertain Times

No Thanks

     It’s been a hard year. Hard to find things for which we’re thankful. Yet here we are— at Thanksgiving 2021.

      In our lives, we’ve both had covid, I have cancer, race relations and government conflagration have never been in such a rage, and our economy isn’t anything to rave about. Except negatively.

      So…, how can anyone be thankful? Here are some of my reflections.

·         Our world is not engaged in any full-scale wars. Praise God!

·         Climate change is finally being addressed (somewhat).

·         The natural beauty of this world still amazes us. [although some snow might be nice.]

·         COVID19 is not devastating the world as the FLU did in 1918-1919.

·         God still surprises us with His unexpected miracles.

·         The US economy is still resilient.

·         Starr & I are mostly healthy. Although afternoon fatigue afflicts both of us.

·         Ministry continues to glorify Christ, with some modification.

·         My 14-year-old Volvo is running in top-notch shape.

      Still, life has gotten a tad strange, hasn’t it? I do not believe we can define the new-normal quite yet. But the old normal is indeed gone.

      So here is my challenge to all of us. We are the ones to define the new normal under the principles that Jesus Christ has given us. Honor God, honor people, make a difference. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” [~James 1:27 ESV]  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  [Colossians 3:17 ESV] 

      Are these things hard to do in times such as these? Yes! Remember the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in Lord of the rings?  “I wish it need not have happened in my time, said Frodo. So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.”

      We all live within the strictures of our times. May we, who hold the name of Jesus dear, rise above the fray and chaos, and offer thanks to God for all He has given us. So, instead of no thanks…—

      Happy Thanksgiving!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being Christian at Christmas

The Gospel in Context

      Although we in the West too frequently assume that our Gospel can be summed up neatly in a four-point outline that is not necessarily true for much of the rest of the world. If we are honest with ourselves, four-point gospel outlines are no longer appropriate here either. They assume too much background knowledge on the part of the hearer. It is no longer there.

      It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi as saying Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. Whether he said this or not, the saying has a point. WORDS alone are not the gospel. ACTIONS must proceed, accompany, and follow its explanation.

      More recently, we had The Wordless Book, where the black page represented our sin, the red page pointed to Jesus blood shed for us, the white page depicted our cleansing from sin, purity, and the gold page our reward in heaven. Sounds great if you’re a white evangelical American Christian, right. Great for children.

      But if you are an African black man, the booklet represents something quite different. Black is the color of life. Red is the color of white man’s warfare. Gold is what the war and bloodshed is all about. And White is the color of Death. So much for The Wordless Book as a tool of explaining the gospel.

      The Gospel of Christ is always bounded by at least four qualifiers— the Scriptures, the surrounding culture, the personality of the presenter, and its accompanying acts of kindness and love. If we do not take into consideration ALL of these factors, then our offer of Christ as Lord and Savior will be out of context for those we want to draw to Him.

      Another concern we must take into account is our own heart. Do I love this person? Do I know how to love this person? Sometimes I think that the language of romance is more appropriate to evangelism than any formatted presentation. Is my heart into this stuff? Or is this just another academic practice of the Christian agenda?

      Some years ago, when we were looking for a good definition for evangelism, the phrase to love the hell out of a person rose to the surface— theologically and practically. It just seemed to make sense.

      Missionaries throughout history have been spurred on by their passionate love for a people who they knew very little about; yet, somehow, grew to love them with the sacrificial love of Jesus. Are you there? Or is evangelism still simply about commando-raids into our evil culture?

      I pray that God will break your heart for one, two individuals and you will fall in love with them and want them to have what you have. Not heaven, but heaven here in earth— a tight meaningful relationship with the God who made them— Jesus Christ.

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— working on it

The Gospel for People Who Know Nothing – pt.2

  

What we are facing is the new blank mind of people around the world losing their ability to imaging our gospel. It is not good news to them. It is the memory of European and American oppression. Throughout history Christian aggression and suppression have been the purveyors of our Christian faith.

      In America, the decline of Christian influence can be followed through the founding deists, separatist Puritans, our own Civil War, and two World Wars. Interspliced with seasons of revival meetings and a deeper divide between what we profess and how we live.

      How did we come to this?  

      Scripture speaks of people who have a form of godliness but deny its power. [2 Timothy 3:5] Since the close of the American Revolution (Colonial Revolt) our evolving country has given credence to a deity and its influence over land. But it has been more a matter of lip-service than reliance or acclaim. God is a convenient Deity. To counter this casual reference schools of higher learning were established to teach a more indepth understanding of God and His Word: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, to name a few.

      Overtime, they lost their cutting edge regarding our basic faith. Other “schools of higher learning” also shed their Christian moorings and limited their focus to the sciences, arts, and more practical concerns. It is not yet clear whether our nations colleges and universities will again respect the role and substance that Christianity provided for their foundations. But at this point they are primarily turning out well educated students with sparce knowledge of the Christian faith. A blank-mind. They know little, nothing, of our faith.

      What can be done about this?

      First, let’s admit that Christians have lost the culture wars, at least in America and Europe. Then we need to move on to construct wise courses offered alongside university courses, hopefully for credit, to educate genuine followers of Christ along side of any who want to learn the truth about our faith. Parachurch groups (IVCF, Cru, & Navs, etc.) have made some inroads; but now they are being challenged by antiChristian administrations across this country.

      Next, we need to uPgrade our Sunday schoolsand adult education in churches to address these objections to the claims of Christ. No more sweet bible stories or flannelgraphs about Jesus.

      Finally, and probably not really finally, we should enter into conscious service and love to those around us. Truly caring for their sorrows and hurts. Not as a ploy for the gospel, but as the gospel itself. Our job is to be salt and light, not condemnation, doom & gloom. It is God who will give them life: not us.

      We just need to walk in their midst and be light. Clear representatives of what genuine Christianity is all about.

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel in context

The Gospel for People Who Know Nothing – pt.1

     Over the past 50+ years we have witnessed two major shifts in Western society that have yet to achieve total fruition: the death of a belief in any absolute, final truth, and, the emergence of anger as a preferred response to any challenge. Couple these two shifts with a general milieu of indifference to the Christian message as well as a diminishing understanding of what it’s all about and we have a pre-proclivity to toss aside the Christian faith as having anything meaningful to say.

     Houston, we have a problem.

     In western culture the historical context for the Christian message, the gospel, has all but vanished from the public consciousness. And in some cases, even the Church has lost sight of its message, and probably its original purpose as well.

     To put the gospel of Jesus Christ in a postChristian context is to pull Truth out of thin air. “Truth” in a postChristian mindset does not exist. There are multiple truths, held by each individual that works for them individually. To tell them they have a sin problem makes no sense. What is “right from wrong” anyway?

     If they have time to think at all, getting them back to Where did all this stuff come from? is a real trick. More people spend their energies on anger than anything else. If it’s not anger, it’s brokenness. We have a lot of lovin’ to do before most people can wonder about where did all this come from, let alone have a context for our gospel.

     The gospel wasn’t given to tell people they are sinners. That has no context in today’s world. It is given to tell them they have hope. The whole world is not doom & gloom. Nor is it a negative encouragement (?) to simply confess their sin(s). The Christian message for this shattered, scattered, twenty first century is that you can only become all you want to become in life, all that’s good and noble and right, through reconnecting with the God who made you. Once you understand the greatness of God you will know you need to repent for the life you are now living.

     God’s design was for us to enjoy Himself and the world around us. For that to be in place and activated we must re-ignite our vertical relationship with Him.

     In a sense, none of us is fully human without a vertical connection to the God who made us; a vertical relationship that gives our horizontal relationships a completed context. To go through life without a vertical connection to our Creator lessens our humanity. We are NOT all God intended us to be.

      What I’m getting at is that people in our postChristian society have no clue of any of this. They simply think that Christians think we are better than they are and that we think they have a problem.

      If Christ’s message of salvation is to be understood and acted upon we need to present it in such a way that their blinded-blank brains can receive it. With little to no conception of the effects of sin on their standing before God might I suggest that we point them to consider their own lack of fulfillment in life? Their brokenness, their sense of loss, their buried distances from other people, their loneliness in this world.

            Pascal (1623-1662) was right— “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”

-This is from page 75 of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées’ (New York; Penguin Books, 1966)

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel for people who know nothing. Pt.2.