Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
NEXT— ungrateful at Thanksgiving
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
NEXT— ungrateful at Thanksgiving
Ever see a map of the world that looks like this one? Probably not. This is one of the 2D maps that keeps the positions of the continents in correct proportion.
Unlike the Mercator map (see below) which keeps the longitude and latitude parallels in line & makes Greenland look pretty much like the biggest continent on the face of the planet, whereas the AuthaGraph map is concerned with representing the continents in proper proportion to one another.
This is a major shift in how we image, or imagine our planet to appear in a 2D format. It requires us to think differently.
For many of us this amounts to a new way of perceiving. It forces us to consider a new paradigm of the placing of the continents.
The same kind of paradigm positioning is now thrust upon the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has known for quite some time that she is no longer a dominant force in the world in a political sense. But she still holds the power of God to change cultures and individual lives. We need to learn a new way of intermingling that is in keeping with the new paradigms of our changing cultural attitudes to our faith.
We need to position ourselves within a new way of perceiving, and of being perceived, in our rapidly changing world. ALL Christian witness is predicated on the following factors: Scripture, culture, personality, relationships, and the power of God at work in us, individually, and globally. Over the centuries, the Church has grown more organizationally than spiritually: as such, it has become more concerned with quantifiable control than empowered presence. This is an imbalance and must be adjusted.
But how?!? Might I suggest that we start by losing our fear and judgmentalism and learn to love our healthy pagan neighbors as themselves— the way Jesus loved people. His love was full of compassion, passion, patience, truth and grace. Should our love be any less than that?
That’s right, even the way we love people has to change. Paradigm positioning is real.
NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 2…
One of the most repeated phrases in our Scriptures is “The Word of the Lord came to … .” [e.g. – Jeremiah 1:1-19, Ezekiel 1:3, 21:18, ]. It seems that God spoke to many of His prophets and leaders far more directly than He does today. Maybe our generation is just too dense to hear God. Or could it be that we have the Scriptures revealed to us?
Although, there have been times when even our ancient prophets could not (or would not) hear what the Lord was saying. Numbers 22:21-34 gives us such an example. Look it up. A little embarrassing.
Does God speak directly to us today? Some say all we need is found in Holy Writ. Nonetheless, there have been times when people have heard God speaking to them directly. What are we to do with that?!? On a personal note, some people, Christians & otherwise, have told me they were directed by God to do a certain thing; and that I was to clarify what it was they were to do. No really, put me on the spot!
The Word of the Lord, as the Christian Bible, is a revelation to us all. God gave it to us because He knew we could not understand Him by just looking around. Scripture is clarifying God to us. He knew us, as creatures who turned our backs on His grace, and could not see His Truth in the natural world. Thus, His Word is clarified and explained in the stories, poems, actions, and letters of Scripture. Frankly, though, many of us are still clueless as to how He wants us to honor Him and love one another. The word Dense comes to mind. Worse, we read the Bible and toss it aside, writing our own rules for living.
This is not smart. To the contrary, it is dangerous.
Nonetheless, there are some Christians to whom God has spoken specifically— Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Paul the Apostle, Constantine, Patrick, Graham, Wimber. Personally, I heard God command me to become a Christian. [It was not a comforting voice.] Then again, to marry my wife…, 48 years ago.
So the question bounces back to you. Have you heard God speak, individually, to you? It certainly would not be binding upon all Christians; but it would most certainly be binding upon you; as long as it does not contradict anything in Scripture.
My suggestion? Listen carefully, seek confirmation from Church Elders, clean up your life, and obey.
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
“Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something.” ~Dorothy Sayers
The image for this article is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to American citizens (and others) who have made a substantial contribution to the shaping and preservation of our American heritage and to the world. Recipients in recent history have been- Walt Disney, Bruce Springsteen, Ellen DeGeneres, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, and Bill Gates.
None of these men or women said “no” when they were told it couldn’t be done. They just did it. We need to emulate their perspicuity and perseverance. Too many of us give up midstream; or worse, we dream but never start.
What are the characteristics of people who just do it? Who make no excuses? For one, they stick to it! Take Elon Musk: he has found so many ways to fail that he has probably lost count; but he keeps at it. On a personal note, I used to say that I had failed so many ways that I had raised failure to an art form. Elon Musk stuck to it; so did I. And so do a lot of you. Keep it up!
Another characteristic is listening to criticism, especially creative criticism. You know what to do with the negative critics. No you don’t. Actually, listen to them; listen to lots of people. One mouth, two ears…, remember? You want all the creative input and creativity you can get.
Then there’s regrouping and starting over when you realize you’ve been heading down the wrong line of development. Don’t be ashamed; be smart.
Psychologists tell us that the key to successful, long term relationships is humility. This is also true of anyone who seeks solutions rather than making excuses. One of our Board members recently designed reorganization for her business that eliminated her division. That’s creative, gutsy, and reeks of humility. She made no buts about it. She just did it.
She could do it because her character gave her a base for such courage. If we are to become people that have no buts, we must pay dedicated attention to nurturing not only our skills, but our moral character and spiritual selves as well. Never doubt that your life has a spiritual dimension that calls for your attention. It is the basis for everything else you do. From the song in the movie, Saving Sarah Cain, TURN UP THE MUSIC, “make peace with God and make peace with yourself.” That’s good advice and as good a place to start as any.
There is so much more to becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t make excuses, but I will end these contributions with just one more— build bridges, don’t burn them. Too many of us burn our bridges behind us, or in front of us. Christians are especially good at building walls between one another; and the world outside. Christ never intended it to be this way.
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
2. To the best of your recollection, what is the Christian Gospel?
a. Now find someone who is NOT a Christian and ask them what it is.
b. Tell them your understanding of the Gospel. Ask for their feedback.
3. Interview people, Christian and otherwise, about the statement- The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. What did you learn?
4. Ask people if they have overriding principles that govern their actions. Learn.
5. How are your overriding principles apparent in your actions?
6. Given that throughout history the Christian faith has adapted to fit into every people group, culture and era around the world, what do you think of the idea of a postChristian Gospel? Is it opening Pandora’s Box?
7. To what extent is our message a mind-to-mind transfer of information leading to a decision to follow Christ? To what extent is it a heart-to-heart thing leading to an encounter with Christ that can be explained later?
8. In what circumstances is a problem-solving model of the gospel more appropriate? In what circumstances is a fulfillment model more appropriate?
9. How do you discover the presuppositions and assumptions a person holds about life and the Christian interpretation of life?
10. How simple is the Gospel? How expansive could it be?
11. How are you doing at being in the world, but not of it?
12. Where do you have a tough time bein’ green?
It is tantamount to interweave action in the postChristian gospel. The apostle James writes,
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
Given the present-day imbalance between Western wealth, emerging Chinese wealth, and the poverty of Third World countries this writer must insist that our postChristian Gospel, our “good news” include a definitive Christian presence and immersion in the midst of our world’s tough situations. These run the gamut from local poverty and homelessness to national insurrections, global inequities and human indignities. Unless individual Christians and the Body of Christ in the West, in all her various forms (churches, parachurch organizations, missions, social services, home groups, etc.) are willing to take their place alongside of other non-Christian agencies, in concerted, cooperative enterprises to care for our world’s impoverished, ill-treated, and subjugated masses, the “good news” of Christ’s salvation will seem all talk, no action. Nowhere in our Scriptures are we called to withdraw from our world, except for times of fasting and prayer. Instead, we are commanded to be involved in our world as active participants in its daily endeavors. To this end Jesus prayed to the Father on our behalf in John 17—
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
Christ wants us embedded within our communities to reflect who He is to those around us. This is the context for our verbal message— our lives demonstrating the Truth and character about Jesus Christ for living in front of our families, neighbors, and work associates. Then, we must invest ourselves in national and international efforts to bring justice and financial assistance (homes, wells, grain, cattle, etc.) to those in need; all-the-while, “enfleshing” Christ’s commandments.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
If our postmodern/postChristian world is ever to grasp the importance of our “good news” its context must be the holy lives of Jesus’ followers lived out in community, both inside and outside the church. Truly, we who claim the Name of Jesus Christ do not have the option to withdraw from this present society, except for prayer, rest, and rejuvenation in His Holy Spirit.
Not of this world…, absolutely! But…, definitely in this world.
NEXT TIME~ Framing a postChristian Gospel: …it’s not that easy bein’ green— part 7.
Embedded…, & active,
Dr. Gary Davis
“God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
~Jean Jacques Rousseau (June 1712 – July 1778)
6 February 2019
The Question— So then, what should the Christian message (heart & mind) in a postChristian society look like?
First, it must be exhibited in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. Genuine Christians will act differently within a postChristian society. For one, we will not withdraw from the society and seal ourselves within our Christian peer groups, small groups, or large churches. We will be immersed in the matrix of our culture, from politics to pubs, from businesses to the broken hearted, from philosophical forums to the Supreme Court. In short, true postChristian-Christians will be active members in our communities. And we will be involved, openly & matter-of-factly as Christians, with little apology for our faith. For our faith will in no way resemble the narrow-minded, withdrawn hibernation of the last era of western Christendom; that era is dead and gone; and needs to be gone.
Instead, a postChristian faith will speak of the greatness of our God and how important it is to live by the principles He has set down for His creation. It will exhibit a kind of Christianity that encourages people to flourish and grow. Christians in this new era will be a positive contributing force for Christ, working alongside those of other faiths, even postmodern atheists, for the glory of God and the enrichment of the peoples of this earth.[i] True evangelism takes place when it becomes the unconscious expression of a new life in Christ. It makes a difference in peoples’ lives through the kind of life lived out, publicly, by Jesus’ followers. The gospel will be communicated heart to heart through service, commitment, caring, and a cohesive Christ-honoring presence in peoples’ lives.
Second, the WORDS of the gospel will become complimentary to the LIFE of the gospel exhibited in the lives of Christ’s followers. Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words was how Saint Francis put it. Remember, the WORDS of the gospel merely explain what the God of glory has done to bring the human race back into a relationship with Him through Christ’s work on the cross…, and subsequently, through His Holy Spirit living within us. As necessary as they are, the WORDS of our message are empty without a practical demonstration of their Truth through the way we live. [Do not misconstrue this to mean simply— live morally. It is more than that. It is a summons to live Godly, based on the precepts set down in the New Testament by Jesus Christ.] The WORDS of the gospel will take the postChristian perspective back to the raison d’etre for the Christian message— namely, that this human race, and each of us individually, should live in harmony with the God who created us. This is the nature of our Salvation, to be rooted in the fulfillment of Christ’s work at Creation through His sacrifice on the Cross. Repentance and forgiveness have no context outside the restoration and fulfillment in Jesus’ work at Calvary.
Thirdly, the core of the Christian message must abound with LOVE. Simple enough!? Not really. This is a problem. Why? Because we often say we love people (normal people), but in reality we hardly know them at all. We have little social contact with people who never go to church but rarely are we involved in their lives enough. We simply do not know them. Love grows in relationships when people become open and honest with one another about their inner lives; when agreements are adhered to; when trust is constant and never betrayed. It might be helpful if we morph the idea of loving another into the romantic mode— falling in love with them. The language of romance holds far more concrete images than does the idea of loving another person in a platonic, spiritual, evangelistic kind of way. It engages our emotions as well as our verbal communication and spiritual concern. It ignites our passion and deep desire to be with the other person. It encourages our heart desire to give everything to the other person for the sake of Jesus Christ. You know what being in love does to you. It makes you alive again!
Maybe our problem is that we don’t allow Jesus to love us passionately; therefore, we cannot love another passionately. It is questionable whether a genuine follower of Jesus Christ who will not allow God to love him/her fully would ever be able to love anyone else, Christian or otherwise. This is an issue which our postChristian church in the West must yet grapple. We still speak of love more than we exercise it. Talk’s cheap— action’s everything. Let’s get it on!
NEXT TIME~ Framing a postChristian Gospel: talk’s cheap—action’s everything— part 6.
[i] In my own interactions with “normal” people I have been constantly surprised by their preconditioned response to the word “Christian” and their surprise when they discover that a genuine Christian has been in their midst all along, talking from his own Biblical presuppositional base.