Chapter 1. New Maps-Old Roads

51nopdewa5l-_sx326_bo1204203200_      My last few months as a senior in college I worked as the Athletic Director for the local YMCA. Since it was a somewhat smaller Y, I was responsible for just about everything. But it did have one perk I had not quite counted upon—the summer tour! So, the summer between college days and my first year of grad school found me working as a swimming coach for the YMCA on tour throughout North America. Our team hit national and local parks and swimming clubs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  We competed with local outcroppings of the Y and anybody else who wanted to swim against us. One of the places we toured was Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Now, growing up as an inner-city kid in Baltimore, MD, I could never have imagined a place so majestic, so alive, so grand. Jackson Hole got to me. I fell in love with the town, the people, and, of course, Grand Teton National Park. I vowed that I would return yearly!

      For the most part I was able to do so, until the onslaught of kids eight years into our marriage. But in our early marriage Starr (my dangerous wife) and I made the 2,400 mile trek from the East Coast to the Tetons an annual pilgrimage. For a couple of years we tried to see if we could find our way to Wyoming without ever opening a road map. I was guided by my heart, by my passion for the West, by my memory, and by a small piece of paper with route numbers. Yup, you got it, never missed a turn; well, okay, maybe a few where we had to back track.

      Until, one day, the Wyoming Department of Roads put in a NEW road, then redirected and renamed the old ones. I was forced into unfamiliar territory. You guessed it; we got totally lost. Old roads now had new route numbers; and there were now new roads where before there had been only buffalo and antelope. Now I‘m not one of these guys who is afraid to ask directions. By humorist Dave Barry‘s standards I may not be a real guy, but at least I don‘t stay lost long, either. I ask for help.  Saves time and frustration.

     You need to do the same.  When you‘re lost…, ask directions.

     The point of this chapter is this— unless you are consciously living your life continually immersed within contemporary culture, you need help finding your way. It is harder to find your way when new roads overrun the old ones. Simply put, you need a new map. Your cultural map is out of date; you think the old route, but find new signs that make you go ―HUH? You‘re on the wrong road, even though you want it to be the right one. What happened, you think?  You’ve been buffaloed (sorry, old Wyoming joke).

      Let‘s start by twisting our necks around to look back. Where did Christians get culturally lost? Where did the road take new turns?  What happens when we insist on following old maps?

Getting lost to find our way again,

  Gary

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Closing Door #3 The year 1000

dr gary Davis, clueless, crusades, church history, closed doors

The year 1000 was a pivotal year in both society and Church. Our world was in juxtaposition to itself: Europe was just entering the Middle Ages, when agricultural technology took a great step forward; by contrast, sub-Saharan Africa was still in the darkness of the pre-historical era.

     The entire world population hovered between 250 & 300 million people.

     Within the Church, the authority of the Papacy was in decline. It was the period of saeculum obscurum, the Dark Ages. The church in Europe retreated from “the world” for safety and seclusion. This left an open door for Islam to invade southern Europe and occupy the Iberian Peninsula.

     The dominance of Islam in the Holy Land initiated Pope Urban’s call to all Christians to lead a Holy Crusade against the Muslims who had overrun Jerusalem as well as the Holy City of Constantinople. The Millennium had gotten off to a cataclysmic start. True believers were, once again, confronted with the choice to enter the fray in the Holy Land to defend the faith, or to retreat to walled cities and monasteries for safety, food, and seclusion from the world outside.

     Another notable event was the Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in 1095. The Eastern Church did not believe that Christianity needed one central authority, in one man, as the final arbiter of all matters of faith. The Orthodox Church operated more as a fraternity of churches, rather than a hierarchy of churches that traced papal authority in direct lineage to the Apostle Peter. The Church closed its doors on itself, splitting East and West.

     During the European Plagues, one ending in 750, and another, emerging in Central Asia, to hit Europe in 1346. The second plague became known as The Black Death; nearly 25 million people perished during this pandemic.

     Once again, the Church opened its doors to the poor, weak, and dying; she then swallowed them within; holding tight rein over their actions, land, and purse-strings.

     Too often it takes a devastating event to motivate Christians to reach into the lives of the lost to care for them, feed them, and journey alongside them. We dare not allow the models of our faith in the past determine our present interface with the world around us.

     I know I’ve quoted G.K. Chesterton [1874-1936] before; but it seems apropos to do so again.

What our world needs now is a new kind of Prophet.
Not one like the Prophets of old who told men they were going to die;
But one who would tell them they are not dead yet.

 Not dead yet,

  Gary

Closing Doors 2-Changing Arenas

jean-lc3a9on_gc3a9rc3b4me_-_the_christian_martyrs_last_prayer_-_walters_37113     Images of Christians being eaten by lions or slaughtered by gladiators in Rome’s Colosseum can be found in many of the West’s museums of art. Oddly, many of these paintings were commissioned by the Church to recall our less than auspicious beginnings.

     From the crucifixion of Jesus to the stoning of Stephen, to the persecution of Saul, the Church got off to a precarious start. In its attempt to squash this new, blasphemous religion the Roman Empire did more to coalesce early Christian resolve than they could have imagined.

     By the early 3rd century thousands of “Christ followers” had been tortured, crucified, and ripped apart by lions. Because of their sacrifices, many people saw the principles of the Christian faith as a viable alternative to the gods of Rome. One such martyr was a young convert to Christ named Perpetua. Her death in the arena served to solidify the faith in a myriad of Christians who followed, including Augustine.

     In the early 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine (272-337 CE) declared Christianity the official religion of the empire, leaving Christians alone to believe what they wanted. This act (some say on Constantine’s deathbed) changed the lot of the Church forever. The Roman government had cleared the way for the early Christians to spread their beliefs freely; and spread they did.

     “Missionaries” ventured forth into the unknown to tell people of the salvation found in Christ. From China in the East to Gaul and Britannia in the West, individuals with godly passion and personal dedication spread the message of Jesus wherever they went. Roman roads, designed to move Rome’s troops rapidly throughout the Empire, now carried the Gospel to the ends of the known world. The Church grew and expanded. And it also became enormously wealthy, possessing lands and holdings funded by her adherents, sometimes willingly, other times, not so much. Eventually, this wealth resulted in a vicious rivalry between Church leaders and Feudal Lords; both vying for political power and possessions.

     Many Monastic orders grew out of the perceived divisions and commercializing of the church. Men and women would cloister themselves in monasteries for scripture study, service, and escape. These movements, and others like them, began the separation of the church from society. However, some sets their minds to preserve the codex of Scripture, provide “monastic escapes” for those who required silence, secrecy, and protection. And they provided basic life sustenance for their surrounding communities.

     However, they never understood the importance of being IN the community, rather than an evasion from it.

     A story— One of the men I mentor is teaching a course on 21st Century Evangelism. When two of the students learned that we were actually going to talk with a realnonChristian” they dropped out of the class. What have we come to? Should we build more walls and defend ourselves against the onslaught of our “evil” society?

     Jesus didn’t.

What will it cost you to engage your world?

  Gary

From the Archives

Small_USPS_TruckFrom March 1998

Personal encounters with an obvious Work of God.
An obvious work of God-something that seems kind of rare; you don’t experience it everyday. So it’s nice to relate one such encounter for your reflection.
She was a postal worker; someone who had taken our packages and letters (like NEEDnews) and mailed them out for us over the past 10+ years. In many people’s eyes, someone just to glass over and get on with your life. But God had arranged a divine encounter, as it were.
My executive  assistant, was mailing out some correspondence for me last week when Anne noticed the NEED letterhead on the envelopes, “oh, you must work for Gary. Could you have him call me; there’s something I need to talk over with him.”
So Anne and I met at The Pub for some munchies. “I’ll be direct. I need to find a spiritual path for my life and I have no idea how to find one. You are one of the few spiritual people I know who will shoot straight with me. Where do I look?”
Anne went on to tell me of the personal unhappiness she carried with her, even with “the best husband in the world.” She talked about the 2-3 years of counseling she had just completed when her therapist told her “I don’t know what else to do for you.” She talked about her dreams and the weight of feeling unfulfilled as she approached 50. Then she said, “How would you guide me in the quest for a spiritual path?”
It was obvious that the Lord was drawing her to himself. It was his Spirit at work in her. I was just the guest at the party, the interpreter, the navigator.
So I told her of how Christ came to reestablish a connection between us and our creator. I told her that our ancestors rejection of God’s perimeters for our protection (that’s sin for most of us) had broken our relationship with God and badly damaged our human relationships.
“What you need, Anne is to be reconnected with the God who made you and loves you.”
“But that’s a big step, Gary, and I’m not a risk taker.”
“Anything in life worth going for is a risk, Anne.”
“I know. That’s why I need your help.”
“Well, okay. But really need to talk to God himself. He’s a lot more help than I’ll ever be.”
We just gave her the Guide Book, a Bible.
Gary

Weeds in my Soul

weed, faith, weedkiller,

I have a confession to make. I hate grass! Ok, then you also know how much I hate weeds. The problem is…, if we killed all the weeds in our lawn there would be no green left. I swear the whole lawn is a field of weeds!Conundrum.

Weeds seem to sprout up no matter what I do. Weed Killer, Clover Obliterator, or Brush Fire Kits— nothing works. The same is true as I seek to live an honorable life before God & man. Weeds. Everything is basically green, but when you look closely— weeds.

One of the books I am presently reading talked about the weeds that grow up in our souls. We don’t always notice them because they are green like everything else. Sort of. They seem to creep amongst the lush grass that I have been cultivating and grooming most of my adult life. It’s like some of the Spiritual Turf Builder spread evenly over the green grass of my soul is snatched away by the weeds, just like on my lawn.

I’ve learned to live with the weeds in my lawn; not so sure I am all that comfortable with the weeds in my soul. Nestled within the deep crevices of my soul they can do serious damage. Not that I live with a pseudo-spirituality or surface-Christian faith. I do not. I live as upright a life as I can. But there are weeds.

For most Christians, green is green, weeds, grass, what’s the difference?!? But for professional Lawn-Keepers for-the-Lord, they can spot a weed from a mile away. Sometimes, that’s all they see. That’s all they focus on. Thankfully, the Father looks at us through the eyes of Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our weeds are taken away. Now that’s Turf-Builder!

So stop wallowing in your guilt and shame. Get on with grooming your soul to produce that pleasant aroma of freshly mown grass, announcing that your spiritual lawn is now trimmed and your weeds are gone.

Remember that about other people while you’re at it.

Honor God, honor people.., make a difference,

Gary

Still sleeping…but half awake

cat, asleep, awake, gary davis, christianity, thinkingMany genuine Christians in this postChristian era still do not comprehend the extent to which the influence of the Christian message has lost its hearing in Western Culture. The mighty dollar is the new God of choice. Power is the new religion; whatever it takes to stay alive or succeed is the practice of faith.

Christianity has lost sway over people’s lives, government decisions, and general morality. What genuine Christianity is flourishing here is doing so outside the mainstream cultural inclinations. But we are not at odds with our culture; we have been subsumed within its values so fully that we are barely noticeable; unless, of course, one of us tries some lame-brained stunt to get noticed in the name of Jesus. Thus do we verify our culture’s judgment that we are irrelevant to anything that matters.

We are still sleeping when it comes to understanding what normal people genuinely think of us; if they think of us at all. To be fair, though, some of us are waking up to the reality that we are in the minority; at least in American culture (referring to the US). Most Christians in the USA still need to come to grips with the realities of the cultural changes and blurring-of-the-lines that has taken place. Do you want to know what people think of us?!? Ask them. Take time to build rich relationships with people around you who never, EVER go to church. Do you want the truth, or do you want to stay asleep…, in a permanent daze?

Let’s wake up and get involved in the lives of those who sit just on the fringes of our lives, who need Jesus.

Honor God, honor people.., make a difference,

  Gary

Beyond Words-Final Take-What the future holds

future, hoverboard, clueless, christian, gary, davisA good portion of the Christian landscape in the West seems to be all about impending gloom & doom. To address this, I refer you to this web-post last August, 2015— http://worldrevivalnetwork.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-you-have-been-duped-into-believing.html. Humanity, as a whole, is doing better than it ever has. But there are still a few of us who are the crazies, the conspiracy theorists, the terrorists; the prophets-of-doom who try to drag us into their spiral so only they can “show us the way” and pull us out.

If I remember things aright, the Lord God of the Universe holds the future in His hands and we are admonished to not be afraid.

In the light of being heralded a false-prophet, or even a heretic, I would like to make some predictions about the immediate future. The sun, in all likelihood, will come up tomorrow. Some parts of life will get better; some parts will get worse. We will ALL still have to pay bills, eat, and take out the trash. Some of us will not have food to eat; some, sadly, will not. Our world governments will continue to play with the balance of power between those who HAVE and those who HAVE-NOT. Some of us will get in a vacation: some of us have no concept of that in our language or culture. So, same ol’, same ol’— with continuing sophistication & refinement.

Not much of a prediction, is it? Hardly a prophesy either.

But I hope the point is clear. At best, our future is only marginally within our control.

Since time-travel to the future has not yet been perfected, the future remains a matter of trust and vigilance. We trust that our own efforts, individually and corporately, will make us ready for whatever curve-balls life will hurl our way. But vigilance must remain constant. We need to keep our eyes open in persistent awareness that we are not the final arbiters of all things. If you are trying to make it on your own, controlling and/or containing your immediate environment you are, of all people, absurdly in over your head.

So…, what does the future hold? It holds possibility, determination, hope, pain, struggle, sorrow, loss, and celebration. It is an open door for us to step through with trepidation and boldness. We live and move and have our being within the safe perimeters of the God who made us. If we can learn to flourish within them we can change the world. So help us God.

 

Honor God; honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

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