Jerks-for-Jesus… revisited

     It’s not that they were evil or unkind; they were merely afraid and judgmental, wanting to protect their own faith and that of their families. Any true believer could not have friends who were in the world. This turned our witness in this world into commando raids, followed by a regrouping and a debriefing session back in the safety of a Christian conclave.

     I judged this model of evangelism and condemned it. I was wrong.

      These were simple people in postwar America who wanted to escape the horrors of man’s hatred of man.

      Unfortunately, this pattern dragged into the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s to become a format for the evangelical sector of Christians in our country. Forty years later, it still holds sway over some expressions of our faith.

      Today, in these early decades of the 21st Century, true followers of Jesus cannot be afforded the safety of cocooning within our fortresses of Christian fellowship. Our world has lost any historical understanding of the nature of our faith; and the media seems only interested in reporting the aberrations. And there are many.

      Might I suggest we adopt the example of our Lord Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

      If Jesus could forsake the glory and safety of Heaven and take on the form of common man, can we do any less?!? Our mission is to this world, to those around us, to those He has placed in our path. We do not have to go very far to find the mission our Lord has created for us. But we DO have to come alive to the consciousness that it is there.

      The waitress, the banker, the business associate, the neighbor, the sales-person, the little league coach, the golf partner, the fellow mountain climber risking their life right beside (or below) you, the biker, fellow soldier, the auto repairman, the barber, er, stylist, the insurance agent, the backyard football fanatic, your kids, others peoples’ kids, or even your agnostic angry relative. Really, they’re just not that hard to find.

      All Jesus wants us to do is to make time for them in our over-packed schedules and to love them. It will feel intentional at first; but once you fall in love with the people God has placed in your path, you will never do evangelism again. You will simply be drawn to draw them to your Savior & Lord.

      Oh, yeah, the Jesus model.

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel for people who know nothing. Pt.1.3  

Challenging Challenges: ReShaping our Faith

Some years ago, a man argued with me that drums in worship were of the devil— especially the snare drum. Why? Because they were used in dance halls. It reminded him of women’s bodies shaking.

      Well, we’ve come a long way baby.

      Although the former Pentecostal movements of the 1940s-1960s may have gone too far, the pendulum has now sung the other way where many Christians are turning back to the rich liturgy of the 14th Century.

      Please consider this— that both have gone to the extreme in reformatting their expressions of faith to accommodate the worshiper.

      Over the years and through my travels I have observed that our Christian faith to be aligned to fit the expressions of the host culture.

      Latin American expressions of faith are different from many North American expressions. African expressions differ from Western and Eastern expressions. And Chinese expressions are as diverse as the country is vast.

      So, how do you express your faith, both within the church and out there, among normal people? I pray its’ expression is neither too archaic nor too avant-garde. Our faith should be communicated in the idioms and expressions of our host culture, no matter our geographic location.

      But ALL must have certain common concerns.

1.       A broken heart for the poor and needy.

2.       Proactive in seeing social justice done.

3.       A heart for God; not simply a head.

4.       A deep passion to draw others to the feet of Jesus.

5.       A love of life!

6.       A hunger to immerse ourselves in God’s WORD!

7.       A calling to involve ourselves in this neutral or aggressive pagan world around us.

8.       A deep longing to see God.

9.       Joy in being with God’s people.

10.   A practical prayer life that summons the power of God to intervene.

     However you reshape your faith, make sure these ingredients are contained in its new awakening.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Isolation

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

everest15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
 (ESV)

     O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? This is the question for which we have sought an answer over the past five weeks. For this last installment considering the solutions raised in Psalm 15, I’d like to zoom in on the last phrase— He who does these things shall never be moved.

      The only other place in the Bible that this phrase is used is in 2 Peter 1:10. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” Is the implication in both places that we shall never sin…, again? No. Never stumble, never move, yes. For our primary focus in life is set on the mind of Christ and what He desires for our lives.

      Then again, look back over the previous solutions in both sections, Psalm 15 and 2 Peter 1-10. I do try to live up to these solutions and to put them into practice. They form a great code to live by. Do I often come to a place where I have attained this level of commitment to God? Not exactly. How about not even close.

      Two of the things I’ve always cherished about our Christian faith are (1) that the goals of pleasing God are always just beyond my reach, giving me something to aspire to. The other thing (2) is that our faith in Christ provides us with a direct access to God the Father with no prerequisites or conditions to approach Him. He is simply there for us— as a father, a friend, a deliverer, a place of safety, or rest. He is also there when we need a swift kick in the butt.

      Remember the story of the Footprints in the sand? When the traveler saw only one set of footprints Jesus explained those were the times when He carried us. In my case, and maybe in yours, that’s not the case. For me, when only one set of footprints were there, Jesus explained that they were the times when He dumped me into the surf and said Sink or swim, buddy!

      Our Christian journey is a constant warp & woof between being buoyed along in the arms of our Savior and learning to stand on our own in the struggles with the darkness that is in this world. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference and proceed with discernment…, and decisiveness.

      Never shaken, never moved.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Disruptive Technologies & Innovation

Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

skull-demonic-fingers-satan-1565457-pxhere.com
15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
     [He] who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
      How often does my heart turn to the dark side? To inwardly seek revenge, retribution, retaliation?!? Years after claiming Christ’s grace as my own I still seek to lord something over another, to seek my own pleasure, to gain notice for success. I, who claim to be in service of the God most high, still seek a place in the sun. How often have we spoken in a derogatory way about our fellow Christians? How often have we questioned the integrity of others just to look good ourselves?
      God forgive me. And us.
      O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who indeed! Our world calls this slander, and there is no place for it among us. Confession is good for more than just the soul. It is good all the way ‘round.
      Our neighbors, likewise, deserve our respect and protection. When Starr and I lived in Amherst, MA, we knew all our neighbors, so did our kids. Everyone had a key to everyone else’s house; we shared a community 22’ ladder, show blowers, power washers, tillers, ropes, and garden vegetables. And there were no fences. Where we live now is all fences. Building our community takes a little more work, but we’re getting there.
      This pandemic has provided us with great opportunities to serve those around us. How could we ever do evil to those we love who live next door? Still, I understand not all neighborhoods are like ours; but we could try to make them that way.
      A reproach against a friend enforces the previous two phrases to mark the seriousness of accusing someone of a serious deed. If this happens to you, there better be an uncontestable proof that the criticism is true. If it is true, own up to your failures. If it is not, you must stand your ground and rebuke your accuser. Gently, quietly.
      Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? Indeed! Certainly few. By the qualifiers set forth so far, none of us would make the cut. But thanks be to God! All has been provided for us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!
      Unlike every other religion in the world, our God has provided a way for us to approach Him without proving ourselves. He paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of His rule over our lives. HE is our provision at the entrance way of heaven, to be received by our Father!
      Welcome home, son. Welcome home, daughter.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
 
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT– Making the Cut

what’s happened to us? fear of engaging

gambar-1-27      Fear of engaging. Maybe it goes back to some fear in our childhood? Or to the Silent Generation, who could barely say anything after witnessing the horrors of the Second World War.

      One of the reasons our evangelical world first developed four-point gospel outlines (1949) was literally to put words into the mouths of those who could barely speak, or just simply didn’t want to talk anymore. It was truly a silent time in our land. [Coincidentally, the phrase daily quiet time also emerged at this time.] Or our silence could have been a result of the McCarthy investigations into possible Communist sympathizers. This laid the groundwork for the Cold War of the 50s–60s.

      Today, in 2020, Christians in the West still have difficulty, if not blatant fear, of engaging the world around us. We might not know what to say. We might not know the answers to their questions. We don’t know how to lead them to Christ. Worse yet, we may not know even one normal person (read non-Christian) to engage. We just have no point of contact with normal people in a religious way.

      So we unconsciously huddle within our Christian cultures fearing any significant contact with the World. We are afraid of being tainted, tempted, or taunted. But we do not find any of this in the New Testament.

      Instead, we find Jesus’ disciples transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, bold to declare His deity and saving grace in the face of severe opposition, even unto death.

      What’s happened to us? Too many of the Christians I know are clueless when is comes to engaging anyone with the gospel of Christ. We steer clear of those conversations at all costs. Allow me to offer five ideas on how you can follow our Lord into people’s lives.

  1. Relax. Let the Spirit open doors for His witness. No need to tense up.
  2. Remember God is in control. You do not have to be. Nor do you have to get thru some pre-scribed gospel outline. Respond naturally using your heart and your mind.
  3. Place yourself in the midst where normal people gather. This may take some creativity while we’re in this COVID19 self-isolation period.
  4. Fall in love with people. The command to love hasn’t seemed to sink in. I find more meaning if we connect with people as if we’re in love with them, looking forward to our next meeting.
  5. Give God some room to work. Our job is to show up, be there, and love creatively.

      Our God is so full of surprises. Enjoy yourself and watch Him work.

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

What’s happening to us?

paradigm-shift2

     If you haven’t noticed, the Western world is in the midst of another paradigm shift. This time from a modern, scientifically verifiable facts, to a  postmodernpostChristian view of reality that is not related to facts or history or consents to “Ultimate Truth.” They say there is no such thing. How can they know that?

     Of course, I truly hope the people who designed this 737, and those that built it, were not so inclined but adhered to the laws of physics and flight…, especially the landing part.

     Most of us live in a world that relies on the dependability of continuous change; that is, new things are usually predicated on earlier ideas or inventions. But in a paradigm shift we experience an occurrence of discontinuous change. The NEW things are not connected to the past in any way. The automobile had as much to do with horse transportation as our smart phones have to do with landlines.

     The expressions of the Christian faith are going through a time of discontinuous change in our society. Although we hear many Christians cry for the old-ways of the liturgical calendar and liturgical worship, the fact remains that the format of faith constructed in the 400s or 1700s is not designed to face the assaults of this postChristian sensibility in which we life.

     Still, other Christians today, decry the loss of our “old-time religion.” They tell us that today’s contemporary worship service, with its culturally affinitive music and come-as-you-are mentality is nearing its end. Really?!? Oddly, Paul in his missionary journeys never considered NOT adapting his style or methodology to each new situation. Read Acts! Read Paul’s Letters! Nor did the earliest missionaries to the Far East, or to the Vikings.

     The Christian message should always couched in the idioms and formats of the host culture. When we try to import 17th century European Christianity to other cultures if always backfires. And that includes the postmodern/postChristian landscape in which we find ourselves today.

     There was nothing particularly sacred about the 100s–400s. Although a lot of Christian beliefs and practices were established in that period. Nor was there anything sacred about the 17th century. Why do we constantly try to return to their expressions of faith as if they had something we do not!?!

     We have the privilege of formulating new, multifaceted expressions of our faith for this time, our peoples, and for a world more closely woven together. Let’s get at it!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Consider What I Say

jesus2bpraying “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Thinking, thinking, thinking. We do a lot of that in our evangelical enclave. We want to get things right. We want to think Biblically; from studying the Bible, to theology to worship to communication. Even Paul the apostle encourages us to consider what I say….  He must have had some sense that what he was writing carried some weight with Timothy.

     I wonder if the people I’ve taught over the years still consider the things I have said. Then again, do I still listen to the voices that come into my life? I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

     Heeding what others say to us, taking it to heart, may be just the way our Lord is driving home His point of what He has designed us for. His guidance comes in many forms— first, of course, is through the revelation we know as the Bible. That is inspired by God and binding on all humanity for all time. But the second, specific to us individually, may come from a consensus in a meeting, a whisper from your wife or husband as you nod off to sleep, or even through a little child in your neighborhood.

     Our Lord helps us understand His divine revelation and His personal guidance through many means. Do not try to tie Him down to our boxes of form and focus. He is full of surprises! I once heard the voice of God coming through an 11-year-old boy I was chatting with in a hallway at First Baptist Church, in Amherst, MA. Wasn’t looking for it, no buildup to it in our talk: just Boom! I don’t think he ever knew.

     When our Lord gives us understanding He also expects us to do something with what we now know. Has God been speaking to you about anything new through Scripture, or a non-descript 11-year-old boy, or someone else? Take heed. For as understanding comes, so does our responsibility to act.

     I end with a warning. Never put yourself in a position where you cannot hear your Father speaking to you. Stay immersed in Scripture. Have your “God’s-voice antennae” always fine tuned and ready to listen. [See I Samuel 3; Samuel, the Lord, & Eli.]

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being a Christian in a postChristian world.

Suffering Hardship

suffer hardship     You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     There are areas on this planet where our Christian faith is not tolerated— Muslim dominated countries, Europe, the American marketplace and political arena. Genuine Christian faith is seen as an abnormality, a somewhat out-of-touch mythical hope in non-verifiable assertions. At varying degrees there is definitely a form of persecution being levied at genuine followers of Christ; in some places, it is demonstrably horrific, in others, like the United States, it is expressed as a slowly unraveling code of conduct being undercut in all areas of life.

     We are allowed to hold our beliefs in our “deity” as long as we keep it to ourselves…, so far. But the paradigm shifts through Modernism to postModernism will eventually expose a postChristian sentiment that is most probably quite aggressive and vicious. The time is coming upon us when we will know the suffering of our brothers and sisters, both subtly and overtly, in other regions of the world.

     Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

     Our adversary has always sought our destruction. Remember, he is described as a roaring lion, prowling about, seeking whom he may devour. [I Peter 5:8] Namely us.

     WE dare not tell those who have recently joined the ranks of the redeemed that, now their sins are forgiven, their life will be a Christian cakewalk. It will not be so. We all have been enlisted in a great company of saints who have gone before and will come after, to lift the praises of our God and to serve the hurting, the dying, the poor, and the lost within themselves. And, yes, it is for this that we stand against our world to serve and not to use.

     Our faith will be tested with constant disruptions as we try to hold on to what is right and good and pleasing to our Lord.

[Note:  Since Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want you also to read this accompanying post on the disruptions we face today, the racism, and the complacency that grips too many of us. We dare not be neutral.] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/zackhunt/2018/01/words-martin-luther-king-jr-white-american-christians-need-hear-today/

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— entanglements.