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

Challenging Challenges – Fighting God

Nooooo! Not the Greek God of Thunder. Definitely NOT Chris Hemsworth. THAT would be a simple feat.

     Fighting the real God of the Universe is somewhat more of a challenge. Actually, it’s just a plain bad idea. Stupid too.

     But far too many of us do it consistently. We reject His principles for living; we reject His perimeters of protection; we fight His offer of salvation; and we reject His offer of manifold gifts and blessings. What is wrong with us?!?

     This is a fight we cannot win that has dire consequences. But fight on we do!

     We truly believe God will take away all our fun, box us in to become a charming, conservative package, and make “nice” people out of us. Yet, seemingly, we seek to return to our barbarous pillage & plunder days, adhering to no code but our own, if it’s even a code at all.

     There are some advantages in fighting God. We get to write our own principles for behavior, based on what we want. We get to live outside His perimeters of protection for us and sin boldly. We are free to deny His offer of salvation and place ourselves above all others with, supposedly, no consequences for our actions. We are free to define our own happiness, snubbing any and all miracles He might want to grant us. Is this what you really want?

     However, we are all still called to make a difference for good in this world. We are encouraged to bring peace between desperate factions. And we are summoned to love other people. So what do we really gain by fighting God? He is our one reliable source of strength and safety. Are our individual rights, our personal freedom able to protect us as much as He does?

     I often ask people What is God designing you for in the next phase of your life?  Do you know?

     Or this question from James 4:1-3 [erv]

Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don’t get them. So you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God. Or when you ask, you don’t receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.

     Isn’t it time for each of us to take time to examine our own wars with God? Seriously, what is worth fighting God for?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What’s worth dying for?

Challenging Challenges – White Blindness

In recent days (and years), we have seen an increase in racial challenges to white autocracy. It has not been a pretty picture: but it has been a good thing. For too long have white people, especially in the South, turned a blind eye to the black issues that we have created.

     This EMPulse will try to speak into some resolution to this systemic problem.

     First, some review of white attitudes toward black people over the past 175 years is in order.

·         Slaves-property/profit. Negros were seen as property, somewhere between farm animals and human beings, fit only for what they could produce.

·         Freed-a blight & problem. By the late 19th century blacks were seen as a blight on society. Human, but dirty and immoral.

·         Repressed- uneducated, persecuted. The industrial revolution in the early 20th century kept them uneducated. They were persecuted in their poverty.

·         Rising presence- cannot be ignored. By mid century Black people became a rising presence in white dominated America; treated still as inferiors, tolerated by the white establishment.

·         Societal acceptance- almost. With the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and the clarion voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., white-America was forced to adapt to an intelligent vocal minority that knew that this national prejudice what not what God intended in creation.

·         Latent systemic prejudice. Within the first two decades of the 21st century, there arose a chorus of voices from the black communities across America that enough is enough! White repression, especially from local police, has grown out of control. A few bad cops, and possibly an undercurrent of resentment, gave impetus to a swelling outcry against police brutality. And, of course, disproportionate racial response within Black America.

     So, here we are, 5 months into the 21st century. We have NO resolution, NO solutions, and little understanding of the local and national scheme of things on either side. Personally, I do not believe that any white man has the ability to put himself in a black man’s shoes. The historical/social differences & distances are too great.

     What can we do to correct, or at least address, the inequities, prejudice, hangings, burnings, murders, discriminations and ostracizations of these past 175+ years?

     To look to government, local or national, to correct these injustices is vacant expectation. Do any of us really believe they know how?

     To let the people work it out on their own terms hasn’t worked out so well either. Look up the Tulsa (OK) race massacre on May 31-June 1,1921, or, the Rosewood Massacre in Levy County, FL; or the police repression of the Freedom Movements of the early 60s – late 70s.

     The only solution is for genuine Christians is to take up their cross and follow their Lord to repentance and faith. To sit before our Lord and examine our own hearts in terms of our hidden prejudices is a good place to start. Remember what our Lord calls us to—

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:39-41

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:28.

     I grew up in Baltimore in the 1950s-60s. To say it was a dangerous, tense time between whites and blacks would be academic. I lived it. I had some truly great friendships with a couple black guys that were frowned upon by my white friends. It was a hard time in my life. And I would do it the same way all over again to live out the gospel in their midst.

Honor God, honor people, of all races, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Fighting God

Challenging Challenges – Anger

     The greatest cause of conflict between individuals, political factions and people groups is anger. I, WE, have to be right! And we have to win. Ever since the Fall man has sought to control man. In rage we have endeavored to dominate those around us, their lands, their people and this earth. And we do it with all vitriol and anger.

Over the centuries millions have died from our rage and anger. It seems we cannot control our tempers. Getting mad turns to madness, and madness to obsessive wrath. Look at any world history; often, it will not be a review of our accomplishments; it will be a history of tribal and global warfare & conquests— then, accomplishments.

     How do we, as followers of Christ, deal with this madness?

     First, unless we live in a highly controlled environment with little contact with anyone outside our control, we will, at one time or another, get angry. It might be at an incredibly poopy diaper, a teenage frustration, or a political change, somewhere along the line something, someone, will get to us and light our ire. We need to admit this!

     Second, prayer and counseling may help or hinder. In prayer we often bury or disguise our anger as a spiritual issue which needs to be cast aside. Good luck with that. Through counseling you may learn coping methods to calm or sublimate your anger. Or, counseling may just serve as a good way to talk yourself through it. Depending on the kind and depth of your anger these paths may or may not help.

     I have known some people who have lived their whole lives in anger. And they do not want help. Be careful around this kind of person. Their fuse may ignite with the slightest irritation.

     Third, consider just dropping it, letting it go, giving up on any resolution whatsoever. You already know it’s seething inside you, eating away at your soul. At times there just are no answers…, only moving on. I hate this: but sometimes there is no resolution. But, there is always forgiveness.

     Still, if you insist on holding onto your anger keep in mind that your desire for payback, revenge, whatever, will slowly destroy all the rest of you. I watched this with my own father; it was not a pretty picture. And, yes, I’ve had my anger issues too.

     When Scripture admonishes us “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” [Ephesians 4:26] it is not a mere suggestion. It is a principle and a command to wrap up your day and let go of those incessant goading’s of our Adversary go by the way. And yes, they will ruin your night’s sleep if you let them ruminate within your soul.

     Stop it! Let it go.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— WHITE BLINDNESS

Challenging Challenges: Regrets

regrets

  Let’s see… . What are some of the things we do, or don’t do, that we later regret?

·         Irrational fears; being afraid of something, of someone.
·         Being insecure about something.
·         Losing my cool.
·         Not going for it. The RISK Quotient.
·         Putting myself first.
·         Not offering forgiveness…, first.
·         Or…, never seeking forgiveness.
·         Never admitting wrong.
·         Living behind a façade.
·         Standing forth for what is RIGHT.
·         Sacrificing.
·         Withholding love.
·         … & many, many more.

     What are some of the regrets that you carry with you? Some cannot be resolved, but some can be resolved. What are some creative ways you might bring about a resolution of some of your regrets?

1.       If in the last 2-3 years, go to the person or group and seek forgiveness in person.

2.       On the other hand, if you were the one offended, just let it go.

3.       If you regret what you did, seek forgiveness within reason.

4.       Some regrets from your past will just have to take their place in your history. There will probably be no resolution. Again, just let it go.

     Too many of us drag painful memories along with us in case we need to call on them as weapon in some future argument. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for new life and new growth to take place in your life. It drags you into an abyss of anger and resentment.

     Neither are options for genuine followers of Christ. Seeking forgiveness is. So is offering it. The time for forgiveness for past-wrongs is well overdue. If we are the recipients of God’s FORGIVENESS & mercy shouldn’t we extend that to those who done us wrong?

     Remember this conversation between Peter and Jesus? [Matt. 18:21-22]

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother or sister who sins against me?
 Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, 
I tell you, not seven times,
 but seventy-seven times.

     We all carry regrets with us; things we have done, things we could have done, things done to us. For all and any, Jesus’ directs us to forgive. AND forget.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— ANGER

Challenging Challenges: Genuine Commitment

We attended a wedding once where we were invited friends of the parents of the groom. After the ceremony I asked the grooms father, “Do you think they’ll make it?” to which he replied, “Well, you know, these days the words don’t mean very much.”

     To say I was a bit taken back would be an understatement. His response came just moments after the ceremony. He did not think their marriage would last; turns out he was right. Within 2 years the couple had separated.

     In these early days of the twenty first century our adherence to the commitments we make are surely glancing at marginal. Businesses are ruled by the bottom line. Treaties are honoured, sort of. Government commitments are, well, tenuous. Everyone seems to be asking the same question— What’s in it for me?

     That doesn’t sit too well with me. My wife and I are coming up on our 50th Anniversary of marriage. Neither of us have ever asked that question. It’s always been What can I do for you? How can I help you fulfill your dreams? How can I encourage you in your walk of faith?

     There is a poem in the book of Psalms that starts with the dual questions— 

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your Holy Hill?

[Psalm 15]

The poem goes on to answer it with a slew of brilliant admonitions. There is one answer I would like to draw attention to (verse 4)—

…who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

     Basically, you stick with the commitments you’ve made through good times and bad. Too many in our society simply drop their commitments when the going gets tough. Such wimpy fortitude will destroy marriages, break partnerships, and lead to wars. People will get hurt. People will be killed. Children will be shattered and scattered. That is the way of people who do not keep their commitments.

     What’s in it for me? is the major barrier to genuine commitments. Shouldn’t we rather be asking What can I do for you?

     KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— REGRETS

Challenging Challenges- Getting in the way of Yourself

    

    Far too often we get in the way of ourselves. Whether it be a big boisterous personality, a shy reticent more introverted one, or simply a bitter demeanor, our true passion in life is overshadowed by a persona other than who we truly are.

     Ask me how I know.

     The challenge for us is to become who we genuinely are both inside and outside. Not that we wear our hearts on our sleeves, but that there is generally a match between what people see is what they get.

     Let me explain. For most of my youth I huddled alone in our basement building models of the military industrial complex of WWII. I preferred being alone. Then, during the 2nd half of my sophomore year of college, shortly following my conversion to Christianity, my personality totally flipped. I became a total flamboyant extrovert. It was weird. Most of my friends thought I had gone completely berserk.

     What I needed to learn was to allow God to sculpt me, in each phase of my life, into whatever shape and personality He needed me to be. And my clay was not that pliable.

     Now, years later, I seem to be retiring into introversion. Hummm.

     I used to teach a course titled How Your Personality Filters your Faith. Simply put, God fashions our personalities to fit His purposes for every season of our lives. Our job is to make sure we don’t get in the way of ourselves OR who our Creator is molding us to be. When Scripture says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, [Psalm 139:14] [this should have included the admittance that we do not like to be fearfully and wonderfully made without our consent.] We are a stubborn creation.

     What are some of the ways we can overcome this natural inclination to fight God’s remaking of us? How can we stop getting in the way of ourselves? Some ideas on how to do that might be—

–  Think before you respond.

–  Listen more than you talk.

–  Ask a friend how you come across. Be sure you are sitting down when they tell you.

–  Ask God about His design for you in this phase of your life.

–  STOP all the frantic running around.

–  Be still…, and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10] Meaning, stop trying to be god.

     Remember that our Lord can honor you and make use of you in whatever your circumstances. Just the way you are. Mostly. [Although some of us need to clean out a bit of our BS.] Then again, He may choose to remake you completely. Ask me how I know.

      Christ has made all of us for a purpose. Do you know what yours is? What can you learn about it from your situation, your personality, your weaknesses, and your strengths?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2 Corinthians 12:9]

     Just don’t back your own car over yourself when you are supposed to be going forward.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Genuine Commitment.

Challenging Challenges: an Introduction

    

This past year has been challenging to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic (2,740,000 deaths to date), racial inequities, police violence, the murders of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, the insurrectionist occupation of the US Capital building, seemingly random mass killings from massage businesses to supermarkets. We have a mess. The question on the minds of many is—  

Where do we go from here?

      It’s the right question to ask. We live in a fluctuating world of spinning constants and variables. An axion that best describes our era might be constants aren’t, variables won’t. Uncertain times lie ahead. Each of us has a role to play in this grand new drama.

      Thus this new series on Challenging Challenges. This is no time for any of us to cower in the corners to wait to see what happens. We need to get involved, on whatever level we find ourselves, to make a difference.

      For a long time now we at Clueless Christianity have signed off with “Honor God. Honor People. And Make a Difference.” Now, more that ever before, this needs to be our life-song.

      Some of the challenges we will consider are—

·         Loss.

·         Anger.

·         White blindness.

·         Our own mortality.

·         What’s worth dying for?

·         Getting in the way of yourself.

·         Regrets.

·         Redefining Success.

·         Genuine commitment.

·         Fighting God.

·         An inability to trust.

·         Making our relationships count.

      … and probably more.

      Like the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, only to have it come rolling down again, some challenges are ever before us.

      Throughout our lives we will face issues and difficulties that we must challenge. Some will phooff away like cotton candy: others, will stand against us like hardening concrete. But they do have to be confronted, conquered, gone around, or subdued for us to create a future. For all of us.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Getting in the way of yourself.

After There’s Nothing Left: Final Thoughts

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

                                                Ecclesiastes 1

      These words of the Psalmist might best sum up our discussion on depression over these past seven months. It’s all been said…, and it will be said again. This was just my offering on our human condition and why so many of us seem so constantly defeated in life. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      There is always a way out. God has promised us that [1 Cor. 10:13]. Yet few of us seem to want this way out of our depression. We would rather wallow in its ensnarement and miss out on the joys of Christ in life.

      I will never understand that.

      If you are ever to recover your soul, if you are ever to recover that full sense of living again in the open sunlight instead of stealing back onto the shadows of your soul, you must attack the cause of your depression head-on. Don’t get me wrong. Gathering the strength to do this is no simple matter. You will need a person of safety, a soulmate with whom you can share your life safely. You will need a place of safety where you can escape, rest, and ponder. You will need people gathering around you who love and care about you. You cannot be in this alone. Above all you will need God’s help to get through the process. Again, you are not in this alone.

      Depression is a tool of our adversary to defeat us. Whether it be a chemical imbalance of a lingering response to a terrible experience depression will slowly eat away at your soul until it destroys you. Do not give in to it. FIGHT!

      We are all made to enjoy this world, defeat its enemies, and to rise victorious with our Lord Jesus Christ. Never doubt that this is God’s design for us, for you. Now…, go for it!

         24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time[a] and now and forever. Amen.

~ Jude

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— to be announced… maybe.

After There’s Nothing Left: clean heart & clean soul

            Welcome back! Now that we’ve passed through our Intermission it is time to switch gears from delineating what happens to our soul when you neglect it, deny it, or just don’t bother to feed it, to rebuilding it.

             Point of clarification— When referring to “Soul” it should be taken as the whole of the human being— body, SOUL, & spirit. Historically there has been a debate as to whether we are tripartite, or dipartite; having three aspects to who we are vs. two aspects— body & spirit comprising the soul (self). We will not address this debate here. Rather, we will consider the rebuilding of the soul as the restoration of the whole human being to a vibrancy of life before God and before the world: a healthy human being.

      So we will turn our attention, from here on, to the refurbishing, the re-nourishing, the rebuilding of your soul, your whole being, body/soul/spirit.

      One of the first natural results that flows out of a time of Soul Confession is Soul Clarity. This clarity, like the facets of a cut gem, sparkles in the countless colors of the spectrum. For once you have cleared out the garbage in your life, between your soul and God, between yourself and those around you, and within yourself, you start to see things more clearly. You start to feel lighter in life, and in spirit. The world around you shines brighter; the colors of existence seem more vibrant, pulsing with life, dazzlingly brilliant.

      The questions that haunt you are no longer morbid or morose. Rather, they are questions of possibility and hope. “I wonder what’s in store for me around the corner?” “What comes next?” Clarity of life elicits an attitude within that is expectant, hopeful, and courageous. “I can tackle anything!” Cleaning out your life, through confession, forgiveness, and humility produces clarity and perspective on just about everything.

      The first adversity to recovery is admitting that you need to deal with yourself. Attitudes, mindsets, absolute perspectives you hold will all need to be scrutinized. Trust me, it’s no fun, but necessary.

 Totally dependent on You,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— digging out of the dirt.