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.

Jerks-for-Jesus… revisited

     It’s not that they were evil or unkind; they were merely afraid and judgmental, wanting to protect their own faith and that of their families. Any true believer could not have friends who were in the world. This turned our witness in this world into commando raids, followed by a regrouping and a debriefing session back in the safety of a Christian conclave.

     I judged this model of evangelism and condemned it. I was wrong.

      These were simple people in postwar America who wanted to escape the horrors of man’s hatred of man.

      Unfortunately, this pattern dragged into the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s to become a format for the evangelical sector of Christians in our country. Forty years later, it still holds sway over some expressions of our faith.

      Today, in these early decades of the 21st Century, true followers of Jesus cannot be afforded the safety of cocooning within our fortresses of Christian fellowship. Our world has lost any historical understanding of the nature of our faith; and the media seems only interested in reporting the aberrations. And there are many.

      Might I suggest we adopt the example of our Lord Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

      If Jesus could forsake the glory and safety of Heaven and take on the form of common man, can we do any less?!? Our mission is to this world, to those around us, to those He has placed in our path. We do not have to go very far to find the mission our Lord has created for us. But we DO have to come alive to the consciousness that it is there.

      The waitress, the banker, the business associate, the neighbor, the sales-person, the little league coach, the golf partner, the fellow mountain climber risking their life right beside (or below) you, the biker, fellow soldier, the auto repairman, the barber, er, stylist, the insurance agent, the backyard football fanatic, your kids, others peoples’ kids, or even your agnostic angry relative. Really, they’re just not that hard to find.

      All Jesus wants us to do is to make time for them in our over-packed schedules and to love them. It will feel intentional at first; but once you fall in love with the people God has placed in your path, you will never do evangelism again. You will simply be drawn to draw them to your Savior & Lord.

      Oh, yeah, the Jesus model.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel for people who know nothing. Pt.1.3  

If You’re Going thru Hell… Keep Going.

 Jean Paul Sartre a famous existentialist philosopher [1905-1980], once quipped that Hell… is other people. He was not known for his people skills.

     Winston Churchill, on the other hand, got it right— If you’re going thru Hell… Keep Going.

     Too many of us wallow in our guilt, or pity, or lamentable state until we find the right person, or persons, to drag down with us. I used to comment on someone we know quite well (name withheld) who seemed to live by the axiom Life is a bitch…, then you die. Actually, for this individual, that would have been a step uP.

     It is further said that Misery loves company. Well, no it doesn’t. Who wants to be around a chronically miserable person?!?

     In the Christian Bible we are admonished to Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. [Phillipians 4:4, ESV] There have been times when, if someone had said that to me, I think I would have clocked ‘em. The loss of a parent, a child, someone you love, loss of a job, a tragedy, financial ruin, etc. What you want/need is someone to come alongside you and weep with you, to grieve with you.

     I’ve had such friends— they were/are life to me.

     So IF you’re going through Hell, keep going. But go through it with a friend; someone you love/someone who loves you. Even our Holy Trinity is Three in One. Our God understands the importance of friendship, companionship, a soulmate.

     If you’re trying to make it on your own, you won’t. But if you turn your eyes to God and cry out “God, please help me!” He might answer you through the love and gentleness of a friend.

     Don’t be an island. Our Lord is there to help you get through the tough times. You are worth it. He thinks so. (I think so too.)

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Jerks for Jesus…, revisited.

Finding God: Pulling It All Together

     Everyone’s journey to find God is different. The way you were brought up plays a big role in the process. Life experiences. Tragedies. Disappointments. Even those amazing moments where you could proclaim— ‘I DID IT!’

     But there comes a time in our search for God when it feels like the shoe is on the other foot. When you’ve exhausted all your avenues of find God and the path comes to a WALL.

     In my journey I studied philosophy for 3 years, trying to live by the precepts of each path. I tried to live by the teachings of other religious leaders— Mohammed, Buddha, the Torah, Hari Krishna…, all to great travail. In truth, I knew God wanted me, Jesus, specifically. So I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction; trying to escape the God Who, I learned, sought me.

     I hid in philosophic debate, academic prowess, theater, romantic relationships, and cross-country adventures. The end of my 3½ attempted escape all culminated in a prayer of “I give up. I cannot fight you.” sitting under the alter in an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan. My new life in Christ was inaugurated at about 3:00 a.m. that morning. No one was more surprised than I.

     My fledgling days as a new Christian brought new attitudes and actions into my daily routine. The biggest realization that dawned on my soul was, in all my efforts to find God, God was actually looking for me; boxing me in at every turn to draw me to Himself.

     So in your own search for god/God, don’t be too surprised when you find yourself leaning in a certain direction, on a path you had not previously intended to follow; irrespective of your religious background, cultural heritage, or academic pursuits.

     Pulling it all together, God is not some academic exercise that we postulate and create in our image. He is an amazing entity who resides outside this created realm. It is His to judge, to direct, to condemn, and to salvage. Do you really want to be on the wrong side of history when He comes to take what is His? Do you want to remain on the fence, waiting to see how things go, how things turn out, before His arrival?

     One of the greatest challenges of our time is a fear of commitment. Be it personal relationships, business commitments, or decisive decisions of any kind we hedge our bets. Something better might come along. Might?!? So we never fully commit to anyone, anything. This is not a good idea.

     Our God is a God of promises. He’s not messing with your life to screw you over.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— “When you’re going through hell… .” — Winston  Churchill.

Finding God: Overcoming Chaos

 

When I was studying art history at the Philadelphia Museum of Art one of my favorite paintings was by mid-twentieth century abstractionist Jackson Pollack (1912-1956). It depicts the randomness of oil paint dripped onto unprimed canvas. It is a h-u-g-e painting, covering most of a wall.

     When I first saw it I asked the museum’s curator, How much did we pay for this? I was shocked at the price-tag.

     Granted, I am not a connoisseur of abstract art. But it did reflect the sentiment of the age— CHAOS.

     Having just emerged from the chaos of WWII the world was searching for new definers; we were not who we were. But what were we?

     Historically, in the times following tragedy, people are searching for a new interpretation of the world around them and for some personal understanding of themselves. This was such an era.

     So also is our time.

     Amidst the civil, racial, and political unrest of the past decade the West has been plunged into a time of finding new definers to understand ourselves. For Christians it means discovering new ways of integrating our faith with the rest of our lives, and the world around us. Here are some of my ideas…

1.       STOP! Put your life on pause for a morning. Get away. Take a note-pad. List your observations.

2.       STOP! Spend time listening to God in prayer.

3.       Talk with someone who is NOT a Christian. Ask how they are making sense of it all.

4.       Talk with someone who is a Christian. Get their take on these impending challenges.

5.       Take time to let the Bible read you. I do not suggest a genealogy.

6.       Unless you live on the west coast, take time to breathe the fresh Fall air.

7.       If you are married, have a leisurely meal with your spouse to roll things around.

8.       Pray together for some kind of united front. You’ll need one another a lot more in these days.

     I’ll not beleaguer you with more ideas in the hopes that you will discover better ideas than mine. But do keep in mind, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. [Proverbs 16:3]

     God is full of surprises. [You know the rest.] Not all is chaos.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Finding God— Pulling it all together pt. 5.

Finding God: What are you looking for? A Guide

  As I wrapped up the initial What Are You Looking For? I realized that some procedural guidance might come in handy. So here is your GUIDE on how you might proceed.

1.       What have you done in life that you truly enjoyed? Earliest memory? Something that still lights you up?

2.       As you look back, what have been the tipping points in your life? You know…, those events or experiences that changed you.

3.     What difficult experiences have you had that make you shy-away from certain situations even today?

4.    How readily do you trust people?

5.    On a 1 – 10 scale, how likely are you take risks?

6.    What scares you, overwhelmingly? [beside these questions]

7.    How far into the future do you feel safe in planning?

8.    What are your wildest dreams? What dreams are you actually going for?

9.    Who can you talk with about this stuff? [buy dinner]

10.   What legacy would you like to leave behind? For family? For your community? For the world?

       In my arena of influence, I try to project what we need to do NOW to make a difference in the future. I know, I know, it’s a bit prophetic on my part. But I really enjoy dreaming the future, preempting problems, and creating things that others haven’t thought of yet. Fortunately, there are now many others who have joined the ranks of culture prophets and dream outside the box. Bill Edgar, Dick Keyes, and Richard Peace come to mind.

       One more thing to consider— How much do you rely on God in Prayer? To exclude Him in your processing is a grave mistake made by too many of us. He has a perspective on everything. Including you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take.

                                        ~Proverbs 3:5-6.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Conquering the Chaospt. 4.

Finding God: What are you looking for?

    The history of the telescope can be traced to before the invention of the earliest known telescope, which appeared in 1608 in the Netherlands, when a patent was submitted by Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker. Although Lippershey did not receive his patent, news of the invention soon spread across Europe. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepieceGalileo improved on this design the following year and applied it to astronomy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telescope


    The telescope was and is one of the greatest instruments for searching the heavens or peering across the cities to find our what’s on the other side. But to answer our question— What Are You Looking For? we need to turn our gaze inwardly, to explore our hearts, our minds, and our soul.

     Might I direct you to consider some of these questions as you explore—

1.       Why is there anything?

2.       Did a God create all there is? Or did it always exist? Or did it evolve from some primordial ooze?

3.       Why do you exist? Not just because you were born…, but what is your purpose(s) in being on this earth?

4.       Why do you seem to have a moral compass? A sense of right & wrong? Is it merely cultural?

5.       Do things just happen? Or do you sense some behind-the-scenes plan? Can you recalculate as you grow?

6.       What is that One Thing you want out of life more than anything else?

7.       What is the One Thing you must do before you die to make a difference? To leave a legacy?

8.       If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

9.       If you could change anything in your own life, what would it be?

10.   What else matters that you want to effect?

     Yes, I’ve pondered all these questions more than once; and come up with different answers as I’ve grown and changed through my experiences and perspectives on life. “Is Jesus Christ truly God incarnate and has He genuinely granted me a place in His Kingdom by His side?” is one question I roll around on an almost weekly basis. Faith is not a solid thing: it is a dynamic organism.

     If you believe you have all the answers, then you haven’t discovered most of the questions. When I was young in my Christian faith, I had all the answers…, just not all the questions. The Westminster Confession of Faith grounded me in Truth. But it left out some things— miracles, individual revelations, calling, spiritual intuitions, and, forever that bugaboo, gut feelings.

     So when I ask What are you looking for? I’m right there beside you, wondering about so many things myself, even though I am basically established, my Christian faith is still that…- faith.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for? Pt.2 



Finding God – Where can I find God?

     We’re all searching for something. For some, it’s money, or the things that money can buy— a beautiful house, exotic car, vacation house, top notch education. Or maybe good health, or a few more years of life; or a family, kids; peace, security, and rest.

     Whatever we desire most becomes our god. It just does. Still, deep within our soul and our psyche, this focus eclipses all else. Not a deliberate obsession…, but close.

     There is a saying within Buddhism that, “The only Zen you will find on top of the mountain is the Zen you bring up with you.” [Robert M. Pirsig] Personally, I would hope that Zen, or the God I seek, would be a little grander than that. I carry too much baggage to drag my Zen along with it.

     A lot of us create our god from temporal things, as delineated above. Some of us seek a God beyond this realm. Yet with so many religions claiming to be the path to god, how do you discern which one, or a combination thereof, is truly accurate?

     This EMPulse series will investigate the most important of today’s religious belief systems and leave you with the task of figuring it out. FYI, this is the kind of route I took on my journey to Christian faith. It was not fun.

      One of our Board members, Beverly Dowdy, a former Duke Univ. Librarian, suggested these ideas to initiate your search for god—  

1.  Find persons of faith that you can trust.  Talk to them.  See what commonalities they have that speak to you.

2.  Keep an open mind but do not turn off your brain.  Be ready to discard any baggage you may have accumulated about God.

3.  If these people of faith participate in some kind of worship, go with them.  Listen to and absorb what is going on.  Ask questions. 

4.  If worship speaks to you, continue it.  Find a place to practice it. Most people over the centuries have found that being in a sacred place is pivotal.

5.  If you cannot find a sacred place, try worshiping within a local community.

6.  Most people of faith pray.  Ask them how.

7.  Open your mind to accept intuition, intimation, or peace.  Be open to what is going on through the worship or prayer.

8.  Try reading some of the books that are traditionally considered holy.  If they do not make sense to you, ask people of faith that you trust to explain them.

     Personally, I’ve found that my walk of faith has grown over the years. What I first thought were my struggles to find God, was actually His gracious exposé of my own arrogance and superiority. Now, I find humility is a much safer stance to assume when searching for the God of the universe.

     Over the next few (or not so few) inquiries we will be honorable and open in what we learn about various spiritual paths: their differences, similarities, and disparities.

     So help us God.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for?  

Challenging Challenges: A Fantastic Message

One of the greatest Challenges that faces both the individual Christian and the church at large in the West (US & Europe) is a lack of motivation to take the message of Christ to the whole world. The missionary zeal of the 19th century has given way to the comfort levels of the 20th century and the fracturing in this early 21st century. Add to that our recent COVID19 isolationism and you see what we have today— Christian Cocooning.


    Too many of us have become consummate separatists. We still brush shoulders with normal people every day; yet few of them truly understand the substance of our faith in Jesus. They know we call ourselves Christians (hopefully), but that word has little content behind it.


    The Gospel of our Lord has been inadequately formulated for this postChristian culture. We still use the Problem Solving Model of the gospel formulated in the early 1950s. Dare I say that this gospel was based on the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner format— You have a problem. We have a solution. Buy our product, and your problem will be solved.


    When it comes to our message, only those who know they have a sin problem could respond to this message. C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need forgiveness.” No Mere Christian


    The summary gospels of the 1950s have left us with an inadequate gospel that has no personal or cultural context in this era. Could it be that we should consider a reformulation of what we call “the Gospel?” One that doesn’t start by telling men they have a problem. Rather, one that reminds them that true life-fulfillment    they can only be achieved by reuniting with the God who made them, Jesus Christ. A Fulfilment Model.You can only fulfill your lifeBy reuniting with the God who made youThrough Christ’s love for you.He completes YOU.


    We need to ask— What does the world outside the church know about our faith?    We also need to ask— What do we know about the world outside when it comes to our faith?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference, Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— A NEW Series. Don’t know what yet, You have any ideas?  

Challenging Challenges: Isolation

     Having just survived the COVID19 Pandemic (2019-2021) the world is faced with many Challenging Challenges. One of the strangest is a propensity for many of us to remain isolated.

     Oddly, the Pandemic was good for me. It isolated my wife and I within the cloister of our home. I wrote more, prayed for others more. And pondered my ancient question— What is God designing me for in this next phase of my life?

     There are a myriad of facets to consider: vision, strength, age, concentration, dreams, networks, support teams, spiritual disciplines, Starr, and numerous others. For me, I work best in context and conversation with other people. Give & take, argument, debate, sharpen my wits to produce better solutions about life.

     But I still need times of isolation for contemplation and reflection. These Colorado mountains offer great expanses to draw nearer to the mind of God.

     As followers of Christ, we dare not continue in a stance of isolation while our world is struggling to reboot. They need us. In Matthew 5 we are called to be the salt and light of this earth (13-16). Salt preserves: light clarifies. We cannot do that if we cloister in our churches or hide in our homes.

     Later, in John 17:13-19, Jesus prays to his Father that He should NOT take us out of this world. Rather, that we should be protected from evil. Considering we are postPandemic I do not believe continued isolation is an option for any genuine follower of Christ. Like I said, these people need us.

     For the sake of people’s redemption we need to reenter the warp ‘n wolf flow of our society. We need to be involved in the lives of the people around us. Even virtually! But not exclusively.

     Fear is Christ’s enemy. We need to overcome our fear and join in His ongoing mission to those He has chosen to place in our path.

    So where are you struggling with re-engaging? What keeps you in isolation?

     Get out there and enjoy the miracles our Lord has for you to discover.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  same ol’ , same ol’ .