Falling Behind Before Fall

6086519585_59a875090b_bSit down. Breathe. Now breathe again. Two weeks from now is LABOR DAY WEEKEND. What?!? You forgot to get in your summer vacation? Oh, you’re on it now. So you’ll be all rested for the back to school bunch. Getting ready to head off to college with your brand new $1600 laptop, buying new clothes and school supplies for your kindergartner [They total over $125 this year], and wondering if your air conditioners should be put away just yet, or in November…, maybe never.

Conclusion: you’re already falling behind.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that There is more to life than increasing its speed. But every Fall in Western civilization that is all we seem to do; increase our pace of life to the breaking point. I’ve wondered why someone hasn’t yet engraved their tombstone with I didn’t finish everything.

Given the present pace of culture I’m not sure it is possible for us to finish everything. We have to pick and choose. What is critical? Next, what is important? Then, what is broken that absolutely demands our attention? NOW! Move to Critical list.

If you are married there is always the question of priority for you family. Are they? Will you interrupt your work load to spend time with your wife, your husband, your kids who desperately want your love and time?

In other words, if you don’t want to fall behind as we enter this Fall, STOP ADDING SO MUCH TO YOUR SCHEDULE. Wait…, is it jammed full already? Hummm. Let me think. CUT THINGS. Unless, of course, you’ve made yourself indispensable to every commitment in your life. Let other people fill in for you. How else will they be able to make the same mistakes you did, and learn from them?!?

You need to make a difference on this planet in the time God has given you to be here. You will be less effective if you are constantly worn down and cranky. So…, STOP now. Reassess, before you are so over-committed you don’t even have the time to do that.

For what it’s worth,
  Gary

BEYOND WORDS: Take 9— a Love-Leveled Faith

heart hands love take 9After all is said and done, one thing remains. Unless our faith and witness are cloaked and immersed in the love of Christ all our efforts to express our faith in a postChristian manner, and to communicate it to people who are totally clueless about this salvation-thing, will be no more than a sounding brass and clanging cymbal. (I Corinthians 13:1)

Too much of our Christian expression of faith has become rote, perfunctory, and lifeless. We go through the motions. We’re nice Christians and the world is tired of the sham. This mechanistic approach to our faith has also seeped into our evangelism, with simple gospel presentations, to forcing conversions, to erecting an invisible barrier between us and anyone trying to find their way in life.

But we were not called to be nice. We were called to be loving…, and Truthful; not in a judgmental way, but more like fellow sojourners whose lives have intersected for a time for mutual comradery and benefit. The God of the Universe has chosen us to be His voice, His feet, and His hands on this planet to explain to everyone what it is He wants to give us. We bear a wonderful responsibility— the privilege of being Christ’s loving emissaries to a world of broken, successful, hurting, and wonderful people who have no idea of the Grandeur of Christ.

Just think of who they could be if they connected with the God who made them!

There are many facets to the Gospel of our Lord, but love must permeate them all.

So, a question—Do you love people? Or maybe, Do you feel your love for them? Do you sense Christ’s love flowing through you as a vessel of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness? You know what it feels like to love your parents, children, even your relatives (well, most of them). Do you know what it feels like to genuinely love people who have had it with Christianity? Who are sick of nice Christians? Who don’t care anymore? Or who are so angry at God and His church that they wish we would just go to hell?

If your heart is broken by these people then you are beginning to sense the kind of love our Lord has for them. We are NOT called to convert them; that is the Father’s job. We are not called to cajole them into the Kingdom. We are called to love them; to walk with them on their journey— in their sorrows, to enjoy them in their celebrations, to help them in their efforts to make this world a better place; even, to suffer with them and die for them. The Truth of the gospel takes on life in the way we love people. We must give them the Words of the Truth, to be sure; but we must also go Beyond Words.

‘Nough said.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Beyond Words: Take 4 – A Personality Specific Faith

Larson personalityIn this edition of Beyond Words let’s look at how your personality filters your faith.

My wife is sitting across from me just opening a medium-size bag of M&Ms. Different colors on the outside and consistently the same within. Very much like our world’s Christ-followers. Sometimes, even with a few nuts thrown in for variety.

Not all Christians are alike. Not all expressions of our faith are alike. Not all people are alike. Kind of like stating the obvious, isn’t it.

Yet within the decreasing influence of Western Christendom we try to maintain a boring sameness in our faith as is impossible. The reality of divergent races, cultures, and personalities should be obvious. We are all not one. We are a complex multiplicity of beings with a common commitment to Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, we live in an era where some really smart people have done some deep research on the different kinds of people we are. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Myers began their research in 1917, which culminated in the Myers-Briggs (Personality) Type Indicator Test in 1956 (MBTI). You can take a simplified FREE version of the Test here—

https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

The observable reality that we each have a distinct personality is a great gift from God. For Christians, it means that the gospel can take on different shapes and nuances across a broad spectrum of races, cultures, and divergent personalities. We don’t all have to be the same. Even better, none of you have to be likeme. [Phew!]

You see, when God created us He intentionally built into us divergent dispositions to reflect the majesty of His glory. Thus, we are NOT all the same; nor should we be. If we were, it would be an admission that people are unilaterally boring and that the Lord God Creator of the universe is, in fact, not all that creative.

The myriad of different cultures and human personality traits is proof of exactly the opposite. Therefore we should also expect a plethora of different kinds of Christians— quiet, contemplative, sensitive, exuberant, and nuts. This must be so because the majesty and diversity of the Trinity imprints upon us, not in a manner to rob us of who God has made us, but to empower us within our specific personality design. What a gift!

So, get used to being you, trying to offend as few as possible. You have been designed the way you are for a reason; find out what it is.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Beyond Words-Take 2- Faith Factors

 

One critical question needs to be asked when desiring to connect the Christian Message with people living outside the confines of the Christian bubble. Namely— What are the key elements that determine the expression and communication of our faith in a postChristian society? As a reminder, we can no longer “just give them the gospel.”The gospel” simply has no cultural pinning in a world so long removed from its Christian roots. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words—

communication circles

In the next few EMPulses we will explore these 6 elements in more depth. For now, let us open a cursory unpacking of these ingredients.

First, to express and/or communicate our faith in this postChristian society we must establish a Biblical Mindset within our own practice of faith. Just going to church, saying the right words, and memorizing a few Bible verses conveys only s surface-faith to others.

Next, we need to understand that our faith is Personality Specific. Our personality filters our faith to fit who we are and who we must become. We must not squeeze ourselves into a faith-box. You cannot be like me or any other Christian. You must be you.

Thirdly, our Christian faith is Culturally Sensitive. We dare not continue to import a western faith into a postChristian Europe, emerging Africa, or a diverse Asia. One of the distinctives of our faith is that it fits into the heartbeats and lifestyles of the host-culture. Yet, in our Western, North American patchwork of cultural blends we must here, too, learn to be culturally sensitive.One size, or shape, does not fit all.

Fourth, as we offer people a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must remember that they must hear His offer of life in their context. “The Gospel” must be heard in their life context. Therefore, in many ways, the Gospel is Receiver Determined. How do they see the Christian faith? It is our task to express our faith in ways that they can respond to and receive Christ’s life into their own.

Fifth, the expression and communication of our Christian faith should be Community Networked. First, we should be networked within a healthy group of fellow believers who have a similar passion for the normal people around us. Second, our faith communication should be networked among those God has placed in our path. No need for commando raids or “debriefings” afterwards. We need to immerse ourselves into the lives of those around us who have no concept of the Christian message. [Warning: you may just come to love them.]

Finally, we, as genuine Christians, need to become more aware of the Holy Spirit of God within. We need to become Spirit Attuned. For we do not offer a person merely the Truths about Jesus, we are offering them Jesus Christ himself. We need to attune our spirits to be in line with God’s Spirit and also in tune with the lives of the people we have come to love. We cannot sense the work of Christ in the lives of others until we clean up our own inner-selves. No wonder God works in spite of us so much of the time.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

 

 

Hidden

051048048057054055054050124053048048124052048048Why are we hiding? Or— What is it we try to hide? Too many of us exert a lot of energy trying to hide, or trying to hide something about ourselves that, if revealed, would expose us.

The artistry of Bev Doolitle (1947-   ) depicts objects hidden to the casual observer. We are so much like the horses in her paintings. If people were to look intently at our life, what is it we would try to hide? I’ve worked with some people whose biggest fear in getting married was being known. I tried to assure them that being known, and still loved, was the best part of being married; I’m not sure they bought it.

What drives us to hide things? Insecurity, fear, shame, dishonesty? Or worse, why do we hide ourselves? Of course, if you’ve been betrayed or used, there is some warrant for it. You don’t want to be hurt that deeply again.

The issue, basically, is one of safety. We ALL want to feel safe. So we hide the parts of us that would expose us. This is wise…, to a point. But our need for safety can also choke the spirit within us. It can bind us in a box with just slits through which we take in the outside world.

Would you like to escape your box and take in more of the outside world? Here are some ideas—

  • Spend time with people. Reflecting off of them will give you insights into yourself. You’ll surprise them; they’ll surprise you.
  • Try something that engages your soul. Doesn’t matter what. Just not too much over the line. Deeper discussion, life challenging experiences. Hold back on sky-diving.
  • Build one-safe-friendship. Create a confident.
  • Create a private novel about the kind of life you’d like to live. Then, slowly, start to live it.

Hiding takes a lot of energy. Think what you might be accomplishing if you didn’t have to work so hard at hiding your true self. Think of the energy you could invest in developing new dreams, new skills or new relationships. Be intentional. Remaining hidden, if pursued over a long period of time, results in further isolation; and that creates further fear of being known.

You do not need to stay hidden. Make the decision to be known.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Etiquette for Enlightened Evangelism

Gary, davis, Christian, manners, care, pray, Many people would agree that manners matter. In the case of how we interact with people outside our Christian culture it is just as important. Here are 10 rules to help you in your etiquette within society.

1. PRAY– Ask God to prepare you to offer Him to people you don’t know.

2. Do your homework-Learn about yourself, your culture and the gospel.

1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…”

3. Go where people go– Jesus didn’t sit around and wait for people; follow His example.

4. Shut your face-Much of the work we need to do has already been done by the Holy Spirit. Ask questions to see what is important to them. Find out what the Lord has revealed to them already.

5. Be interactive in conversations-Let feedback determine the way your express God’s love to another. (This requires you to listen)

6. Become transparent– Relax, you don’t have to be perfect, but you MUST be open and honest. Let others see that Christianity can be messy, because it is REAL!

7. Develop the art of caring-People are not a sting operation: they are not projects or targets. We must learn how to love them in the process of life. Meaning caring take time.

8-Make time for people– Now take some time with them. The gospel is best communicated with action more than words.

9- Find out how people it in life without God– This is critical! If a person feels no need for God because he can make it on his own, then how will they ever respond with a NEED for the kingdom? Another reason to take your time and learn more about a person.

10-Pray with people– Ask first, then watch how God becomes visible in their lives.

 

Resilience

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Resilience

Bouncing back. Getting up again. Beaten down and rising from
the ashes like the Phoenix. Overcoming failure and discouragement. Going for it again.

Why are some of us good

at it and others not so much?

Resilience is not necessarily based on generation, gender, cultural affinity, location or situation. It seems to be ingrained in certain people; they just have what it takes.

For others, who have been beaten down repeatedly, it becomes a matter of fortitude and determination. Sheer will-power. They have to fight not only their surrounding circumstances, but themselves as well. That is no simple matter. So what does it take to become resilient?

First, it requires that you make a decision; maybe two. 1) That you will not let this thing, whatever it is, overwhelm you. You will not let it win. And, 2) that you will fight, FIGHT, to overcome it. If these decisions are not made right up front, you do not stand a chance.

Second, you will need to surround yourself with friends of equal mind, kindred spirits, who share your dreams and goals in life. Do NOT hold back from seeking their advice, solace, and wisdom.

Third, you will want to set timely goals or check-points along the way for evaluating your recovery. How well am I bouncing back? Have trusted friends also give you feedback on how you’re doing. Be assured that setbacks will assail you; that’s life. But you are not back at Square-One. It’s just a setback.

Finally, and I hesitate to suggest this because so many of us use this as a scapegoat for being responsible- try PRAYING. (not for relief but for strength and wisdom) There’s something that cleanses the heart, mind, & soul through prayer. So, Christian or otherwise, try talking to the ceiling: you may just be pushing beyond it.

Resilience is every bit as much a matter of faith as it is fortitude. It is a determination within your soul that has its expression in the lives we live. Don’t hold back.

You can teach yourself to bounce back. Keep practicing. One day it will come more naturally.

Now, where’s my Pogo Stick,

  Gary