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 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 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

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.

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: 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 – 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 – What’s Worth Dying For?

One of favorite novels of all time is Charles Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES. In it he describes the horrors & inequities of the French Revolution (1789-1799). But it is also a story of love and nobility. Without getting too deeply into the plot, Sydney Carton switches places with Charles Darnay so that he is the one who is executed by guillotine, thus saving Darnay. In Dicken’s novel his last words are—

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

     So the question we each need to think about is— What’s worth dying for?  

     Julius Caesar’s vision for a Roman Empire led to his murder. Jesus’ proclamation that He was God led to His crucifixion. Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence led to his assassination. Martin Luther King Jr’s cry for racial justice also led to his assassination.

     Let’s tighten the question. What, who, would you die for?

     I would die for my wife, our children, my friends, and, if necessary, even a stranger. I would die for my faith in Christ.

     But maybe this is the wrong question. What’s worth living for? might be more to the point. What you would live for you would also die for, of course. But how you live is as important, if not more so, than what you would die for.

     Some challenges— Are your beliefs serving a higher calling? A greater purpose? Do you live with a purpose? Or do you simply wait for whatever comes along?

     Are you guiding those around you? How? Are you leaving behind a legacy, a reason for the next generation to come alive? How are you training younger believers to live their faith in their way in their culture?  All followers of Christ are called to do this.

     What’s worth dying for? I would hope you would have a long list.

Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friend.

      ~ John 15:13

     In these crazy days, please, think about what you’re living for: and what’s worth dying for. If it is just yourself, you might want to reconsider that.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Cancer