Phases #4 Discipleship

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PHASES— #4, Discipleship

    Welcome to the Christian life!

The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin  discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.

To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.

Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—

1.      Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.

2.      It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?

3.      It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?

4.      Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.

5.      You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.

 

Growing in grace and forgiveness,

  Gary

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PHASES #3, Delight

gary davis, christian, delight, discovery, life           Welcome to the Christian life! Can’t you just taste that cheesecake with strawberry topping and drizzled chocolate?!? And that huge scoop of cookies ‘n cream ice cream! Yeah…, me too. No? Go ahead…, take a moment to taste it. Yes, now.

            The first days of freedom and realization in the Christian life are like that. You can just taste your whole body smiling. The Delight phase, at least the initial one, is pure hot fudge! My first days as a Christian were a complete Lightness-of-Being. After 3 years of fighting and running from God I gave up; it was as if a tremendous weight that was pressing me down had been lifted off me. I was finally free.

            There is an peculiar sense of peace, of inner-grinning-joy that overcomes you when you realize you are forgiven and set free before God. If there were any subjective evidence of regeneration in Christ, as God’s grace is extended to us, it would be this internal delight.  This inward quiet peace that has a warming, soothing effect.

            Still, for many of us, when we lose our joy and return to a more settled Christian life, we wonder what happened. Let me see if this helps. Remember your first kiss? And the next and the next and the next? Of course you do. Well, as your relationship with Christ develops and deepens, those kisses take on a richer meaning beyond mere passion. They become symbols of your mutual commitment to one another. Your passion morphs into something far more powerful than initially.

            The same is true within your Christian faith. The passion is still there; but it manifests itself differently. It expresses itself in worship, longer times in prayer, and acts of grace to others. Its language takes on more practical and private expressions.

            Now, all this being said, it was a surprise to me that, as I aged, my original passion returned. And it did so within a much more informed, educated, experienced faith. It is a far deeper delight than I might have imagined.

            So as you move through the various Phases of your Christian life, and maybe recycle a few, keep in mind that it isn’t over ‘till you’re dead. You’ve got a few more Phases to grow through.

Reveling in the new reality!

  Gary

Phases #2 Deliverance

  prism_by_arcanic_salvation-d56e33z         Welcome to the Christian life!

            Today’s postChristian mindset generally rejects any concept that places humanity in second place; it disdains the idea that we owe anything to any higher power, be it God, our Creator, or a superior alien life form. Sadly, it is the opposite that is true reality.

            Chaos theory is more likely to govern our state than the myth of human progress. Technology is not God— really. It is helpful: but it does not order the ebb & flow of the universe. It will not deliver us from our downward spiral into inhumanity, decadence, and self-destruction. For that we need a deliverer.

            Remember those first days and months of your new found faith in Christ? Whether you grew into it within the Church or arrived at the realization that He had redeemed you suddenly, your consciousness that you had been delivered from your sin, your rebellion, your rejection of God’s demand for your life elicited a deep breath of relief.

            You were no longer the same. You had been delivered from yourself and all the evil within you and around you through the work of Christ on the Cross. Your debt to God had been paid! You had been offered deliverance and you accepted it! Not a bad deal— you gave Christ everything you had, everything He rightfully deserved…, and He gave you everything He had. Zowie!

            The reality is that through our ancestors’ rejection of God’s claim on their life we all had inherited their rebellious proclivity. Historically, this has been called “sin.” We generally know it as breaking God’s lawThe Law— set in place to safeguard us from stepping outside of the perimeters of His protection…, and from breaking God’s heart. He had created us out of love; and we told Him to simply leave us alone. We could manage on our own; independent from Him, our Creator.

            He knew we needed deliverance from this myth. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our rejection— death. Now, Christ offers us His love and forgiveness. Deliverance!

            Something truly worth celebrating!

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 

~Galatians 4:4-7 [New International Version]

You’ve been delivered; celebrate!
  Gary

PHASES- #1, an Introduction to the Christian life

            Welcome to the Christian life!

stoning_of_st_stephen1625oil_on_oak_panelmusee_des_beaux-arts_lyons“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”–Tertullian

       In the first few centuries, Christianity grew quickly. By AD100, it had become mostly Gentile and had begun to break from its Jewish origins. By 200, the faith had permeated most regions of the Roman Empire, though Christians were mostly in the larger urban areas (Gaul, Lyons, Carthage, Rome). By 325, an estimated 7 million were Christians with as many as 2 million killed for the faith.”http://www3.dbu.edu/mitchell/anceint_christian_martyrdom.htm

The Martyrdom of Stephen, (only 36 at the time of his death) spurred many “Christ Followers” to deeper understanding of the cost of their salvation. Is this what you’ve sighed up for?

Throughout these next few months I will set forth the various Phases of the Christian life, as I see them. Granted, there are many more, or fewer; this is only one early 21st Century writers perspective. Enjoy.

Here is my list of the Phases of the Christian life we will explore.

1.      Deliverence 6.      Discouragement
2.      Delight 7.      Decisions
3.      Discipleship 8.      Dedication
4.      Distraction 9.      Deliverence (again)
5.      Disillusion 10.  Delight

For now, let’s start with the admission that if everything in your life of faith is static, solid, and unchanging, you are not growing in your newfound faith. You are pretending or hiding or deceiving yourself. The Christian life is not a static, once-for-all-time thing. It is a fluid work of art in constant flux.

Get used to it.

Much love,

Gary

Love games., and how to play them

dr gary davis, clueless, love, christian, amherst, communication, games, love gamesLOVE GAMES. We’ve all played them at one time or another. Not something I’m proud to admit; but I have too.

We learn to play love games because we’ve been hurt, wounded. We learn to not trust, to not be open, to guard ourselves. We play them because we want to protect ourselves, our hearts, from further pain. Nothing wrong with that!?! At first. But after a while we grow a shell around our souls, like the crust on an apple pie; just not as tasty.

In marriage, partners guard their love, withhold their deepest fears and desires from the other. In business, we learn to play our cards close to our chest, revealing just enough that will still allow us to hold the upper hand. It’s business; not personal. With friends, we might dare confide, unless we have been betrayed before. After that, no one really knows us. We always hold something back.

We even play love games with God. We pretend to serve Him when we are secretly seeking recognition for our own actions. We give to the poor in a shielded, cautious manner, making sure we don’t forfeit our own safety or security. Or indulgences. Sacrifice?!? That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

Love Games are a part of life. We use them to protect ourselves. At some point, though, they can dominate our souls and shut out the world so thoroughly that we trap ourselves within our own fortress.

Is there any way to safeguard ourselves within this self-imposed isolation, these ostensibly compulsory love games? Well, yes…, but you will have to work hard. Here are some ideas for you to bring your best to your love games—

  1. NEVER be real with yourself. There are real dangers in discovering a deeper understanding of who you really are. Best to remain content with your fanciful projection of yourself.
  2. NEVER lose control. You must regulate everything around you. Leave no variance in your realities. Surprise is your enemy.
  3. NEVER trust others, especially your fellow workmates. They may gain your complete confidence in the beginning, but be careful; they will outshine you in time. That is exactly what you don’t want. NEVER enable people to become better than you.
  4. Above all else, DO NOT TRUST GOD! To do so puts you in too precarious a position. You never know what He is going to do with you or your situation. Letting go of the game to give God control over your life is a very risky move.  Trusting God will make your life and livelihood far more exciting in the long run, but do not be concerned with that. Better to stay safe now than to trust your future to some unknown God.
  5. MAINTAIN YOUR JUDGMENTS OF OTHERS. TRUE, they are not designed to be like YOU. They are inferior. Above all else you MUST win. It is not your job to empower lesser people to succeed.
  6. NEVER TELL THE WHOLE TRUTH. Subtleties, nuances, and innuendoes will do just fine and enhance your odds of winning the game.  Always withhold something. NEVER reveal all:  NEVER say what you actually mean.
  7. NEVER CONCERN YOURSELF ABOUT WHO YOU ARE BECOMING; just play the game and blend in until it is time for you to take control. Taking the time to evaluate and recalculate your direction is a waste of your time.

Still want to keep playing love games? Maybe…, maybe not? Tune in for our next discussion.

NEXT DISCUSSION:  Escaping Love Games.

 Your turn…,

Gary

How does love affect us?

gary, davis, love, live, heart, affect, christian, clueless

Your first thought should be, “You’re kidding right!?!” Everyone knows how love affects us. Do we? From The World of Psychology comes these ideas on How Being in Love Affects Your Personality. https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/05/30/the-science-of-love-9-ways-being-in-love-affects-your-personality/ .

  1. You’re a Combination of Happy and Anxious.
  2. You’re Addicted.
  3. You’re Capable of Taking More RISKS.
  4. You’re Over-the-Top Overprotective.
  5. You Can’t Focus.
  6. You’re Confident
  7. If You’re Neurotic, You Become Stabilized.
  8. You Don’t Judge.
  9. You’re Smarter.

In short, your dopamine level propels you to heights you never thought you could achieve. But it’s not simply chemical. That’s merely a scientific analysis.

Being LOVED is an enabler, a foundation, a definer, a source of personal strength, a reference point, and a reflective mirrorof who you are. When you know you are loved you feel safe, secure, and in a place where things make sense. This is true of romantic love, family love, brotherly love, or familiar love. Love provides the context for so much of our life that it can never be underestimated.

NOT being loved creates a vacuum in us which is not always filled by wonderful things! Just the opposite; we replace a healthy human love with a self-promoting, self-aggrandizing love. This kind of love may seem fulfilling at the moment, but in the longer view creates isolation, protective walls, and a façade we want others to see. Choose your loves wisely.

There is yet another effect of love on us. It stems from the love that we give to others. Because if love is to be grasped to the fullest, it not only must be received, but given. Dare I say that if you have difficulty receiving love, you will have equal difficultyexpressing love. Love’s manifold facets affect us in the giving and receiving of it; its volume expands exponentially as it is given. For that is what grounds love in its fuller context.

So, if I may ask, How’s your love life? Are you being loved in such a way that it fills your life? Are you loving another that enhances your own life (& theirs, of course)? Or do you find it hard to love or be loved? These are the kinds of questions to talk over with your spouse, a good friend, or a counselor.

 NEXT DISCUSSION:  What are the effects of NOT being loved? Of NOT loving?

 How do you say “I love you?

Gary

The cold never bothered me anyway

Disney, frozen, clueless, christian, new englandIt’s early morning. I wrap my hands around my coffee mug in front of the warmth of a wood-stove fire. A layer of fresh snow coats the hill out back where sledding is a favorite pastime. The sun is just on the rise. And…, it is COLD. -2F at the moment; but we could see 20F today if the sun is bright.

This is my kind of day!

We have a lot to do today. Writing, counseling, designing the future with some local Christian leaders. I will probably get to my office uptown at some point after my doctor’s appointment at 9:00. But right now, I am simply content to sit here and ponder the deeper questions of life in the flames of the fire.

You see, the cold never bothered me. I love it cold. When a lot of New Englanders head to more southern climes, my wife and I head north; usually to Freepost, ME, for a time of play at LL Bean and hiking snow covered beaches. We love the cold that much. And yes, you go right ahead and think we’re crazy. We are.

It’s a lot like that with faith too, isn’t it? When our faith seems cold we long for those warmer times. All of us go through cold times and hot times in our faith. Yet I wonder if this is more a commentary on our temperament than on the reality of our faith. We may feel cold in our faith at times; but that does not negate the genuineness of our faith. It is Christ that holds us. Christ before me, Christ behind me… .

If we could see our future would it then still be faith? No. For there would be no reason for faith. It would be more like following a map than carving a path through the wilderness.

My faith, though based in history and Scripture, often feels like blind faith. This is especially true in those seasons of cold realities, when there seems little to hope, little to celebrate. In those times, bland faith might be a better descriptor.

We who deign to be Christ followers need to learn to rise above the pain and trust again. I know I’ve had to this past year. And it was not easy. It was time and energy consuming. But I trusted that our Lord would never give me more difficulty than I could bear, more adversity than could be a crippling weight. Even David, in Psalm 42 was aware of his despair and depression. But he fought back and knew he would again praise God even for these times. Just not yet.

So don’t let the cold bother your faith. Push through it. Maybe you’ll even learn to love the cold. Go ahead. Go out and play in the snow. Wow! The temperature is almost up to 12̊ F!

 

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary