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?



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.

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,


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,


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— 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,



A Spirit Attuned Faith

Spirit AttunedSo far, Takes 1-7, we have considered the various factors that determine both our own expression of the Christian faith and its communication to those outside the Christian realm.

  • A Biblical Mindset Faith
  • A Personality Specific Faith
  • A Culturally Sensitive Faith
  • A Receiver Determined Faith
  • A Community Networked Faith

And now, we turn our attention to a critical factor that influences our faith on a daily basis and on an eternal basis as we communicate it to others— a SPIRIT Attuned Faith.

We can study to develop a Biblical mindset; we can learn from tests and others about the shape of our God-given personality; we can grow into a culturally sensitive faith; we can listen more intently to learn more about those who might receive God’s offer of real-life; and we can strive to be part of two distinct community networks— one Christian, the other— not so much. But nurturing a Spirit Attuned Faith will demand deep inward soul searches, doubtless many more than one.

For unless we are in-tune with God’s Holy Spirit we cannot read the work of the Spirit, or of His adversary in the lives of those who so desperately need to reconnect with the God who made them. Of course, becoming Spirit attuned is no simple matter. It involves a complete vulnerability, a displaying of our soul, if you will, before the God of the Universe. The searching of the soul is often not a pleasant experience. It comprises a total and true confession of who you are before a Holy God. No games, no shadows, no pretenses.

Becoming Spirit Attuned means that you are conscious of God’s presence in your life on a moment my moment basis. It means an honest washing of your soul in constant motion. The result is that you will feel cleaner, lighter, afresh with faith.

There is a down side, though. You will not enjoy your personal sin as much as you used to. You will still sin; it just won’t be as much fun anymore. Sorry.

Nonetheless, tuning-in with the work of Christ within yourself will enable you to sense His miracles at work in the lives of others. And it is amazing! It eliminated the need for a formula-gospel, a shift in our persona to “present the gospel,” and an enjoyment of entering into Christ’s work rather than fighting through those butterflies & knots in your stomach.

So, please, take some time to let the Spirit of Christ search your life, and your soul, to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.

For what it’s worth,


Beyond Words Take 7 – A Community Networked Faith

In this edition of Beyond Words we will think about our place in a community. Well, actually, two communities: one, Christian; the other, our surrounding society.

First, if we are to flourish in our present postChristian culture we must be deeply networked within our churchour Christian community. We need her safety, her training, her friendships and definitely her worship together. We need to tell our stories to one another, share our lives together, and, always, eat chicken & pizza together. Maybe not at the same time.

The relationships we build within the Body of Christ are critically important for those who might attend church with us. They need to see hugging and laughter and prayer and forgiveness of one another. They need to join in on the fun. They need to see what life in Christ might be like.

Secondly, before you can ever get them to darken the doors of a church you first have to get to know them in the midst of their safe-places, among their friends and within their interests. No Christian should dwell in a void, surrounded exclusively by other Christians. We need to embed ourselves inside our office parties, Saturday baseball leagues, our children’s sports teams, even the PTA & library reading club. God never intended us to hibernate away from our surrounding culture except for times of prayer & fasting.

What He expects us to do is to become beacons of light, enjoying the celebrations of this world with the friends we make in it. If all we have are Christian friends we have somehow lost the intent of the Great Commission to “GO!” We are not given the leisure to WAIT for people to come to us. We are called to enter their world; very much, I think, like Jesus did.

WARNING: If you do this you will get your hands dirty. You will have your faith challenged…, and strengthened. Some well-meaning believers will criticize you for spending so much time among “the heathen.” That, too, is what Jesus experienced. It’s where He was meant to be.  It’s where we are meant to be too.


For what it’s worth,