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.

Tenacity & Disruptions

disruption_680  For some time now, since the mid-1800s, I’ve been immersed in the letters of Paul to Timothy; especially 2 Timothy. Ergo, we are going to enter into a series of considerations on 2 Timothy 2. I’ve titled this series Tenacity & Disruptions, for, as you know, we are often interrupted in our Christian journey by things that draw us away from our focus and our faith. So…, let’s get started.

     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. [NASV]

     So, let’s get started. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It should be obvious that there is a prior relationship between the writer, Paul, and Timothy. It is a close one too. Son, Paul calls him. The first thing Paul directs him to do is be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Why? There are so many disruptions in the Christian journey that Timothy, like us, needed to be reminded to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

     Our tendency is to be strong in our own strength. One of the banes of our lives is that we are quite capable of getting things done on our own with little to no dependency on our Lord. We are perfectly able of operating on our own without any reliance on the grace God has provided. I, for one, am most prone to this weakness. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Christian life, it is having to have faith.

     What about you? Is it difficult for you to find your strength in our Lord’s grace? Or are you quite capable? Is it possible you can handle everything in your world because you haven’t put yourself in a position where the only thing left for you is to rely on His grace?

     Too many of us don’t trust God with the BIG stuff in life. We’ve become calculating Christians, where we’ve counted the cost so many times that we miss opportunities to join God’s miracles of grace in everyday life. Try stepping out in faith a little more over the next few days. You’ll be amazed at how our Lord will surprise you as you live in His grace. Tenacity, remember?

Happy New Year!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Advent – PEACE! The Anticipation Candle

332323561_3e25043fd5_w     As we come to the Fourth Sunday in Advent we light the candle of PEACE…, in anticipation of our long awaited Lord. The Messiah of Israel. The Saviour of the world.

     What could the people of 1st century Judea have done to prepare for His coming? Nothing. Had the people of that day been honoring God, Jesus’ incarnation would not have taken them as such a surprise. But history reads otherwise. Wars, murders, sickness, strife among nations, and within families were as commonplace then as they are now.

    Christ’s coming was as essential then as it is now. We are still a people, a species, who reject His principles for honorable living. We want no one to rule over us or set any perimeters on our choices or actions. And we still want NO consequences to limit our choices of propriety or respect of the environment or our actions toward any other human being. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  … and all around me. [William Ernest Henley]

     If ever a delusion has overtaken our hearts and minds it is that we are the supreme rulers of all there is. We answer to ourselves and none other.

     If PEACE were ever needed in our world it is now. Truly, it has always been needed. We are the only ones here, at this hour, who can bring it about. And we cannot without the peace that our Lord Jesus Christ offers, flooding our lives with overflowing love and wisdom for those around us. This is not a platitude; it is work, hard work. And we best get to it quickly.

     So as we light this PEACE CANDLE, Starr and I are quite aware that there is little peace in our world, our neighborhoods, and our families. There is a lot of work to be done to bring about peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Make this one of your goals this Christmas. Become a Person of Peace for everyone around you. Peace can be infectious, contagious, and result in others, who need the peace of Jesus Christ so much, creating a new heart for forgiveness.

     Forgive those who’ve wronged you; and tell them. Before Christmas. Then seek forgiveness from those whom YOU have wronged. It may not solve all the issues, but it is a good start.

     Let this fourth week of Advent begin a new stage in your life— one wherein you strive to live at peace with all men…, and all women. And children, and fellow employees, and bosses, and… .

Merry Christmas!
Gary

NEXT ADVENT 5— The CHRIST Candle

Untenable

ropeun·ten·a·ble  /ˌənˈtenəb(ə)l/  adjective
1. (especially of a position or view) not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection: “this argument is clearly untenable”     – Oxford Dictionaries
     Over these past few weeks I have been reading and listening to lectures by Peter Boghossian, author of How to Have Impossible Conversations [DaCapo 2019]. Dr. Boghossian is a professor at Portland State University who argues that we are done with Culture Wars 1.0. We are now entangled in Culture Wars 2.0.
 “The rules of engagement relate to how we deal with our disagreements. In Culture Wars 1.0, if an evolutionary biologist gave a public lecture about the age of the Earth based on geological dating techniques, creationist detractors would issue a response, insist that such dating techniques are biased, challenge him to a debate, and ask pointed-if unfairly loaded-questions during the Q&A session.
“In Culture War 2.0, disagreements with a speaker are sometimes met with attempts at de-platforming: rowdy campaigns for the invitation to be rescinded before the speech can be delivered. If this is unsuccessful, critics may resort to disrupting the speaker by screaming and shouting, engaging noise makers, pulling the fire alarm, or ripping out the speaker wires. The goal is not to counter the speaker with better arguments or even to insist on an alternative view, but to prevent the speaker from airing her views at all.” https://americanmind.org/essays/welcome-to-culture-war-2-0/
     This shift to Culture Wars 2.0 is a new playing field for the Christian. We will not even be allowed a platform to offer our values. We will be shouted down. So where does this leave us in the marketplace of ideas and the public forum? Trying to present a meta-narrative about ultimate destinies and Truth has been eliminated from the discussion. There is no discussion.
     So, now what?!?
     Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) once said
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister. All the Friars should preach by their deeds. This eventually was condensed to Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words. Though it is impossible to proclaim the gospel without words the point is well taken.
     Like our Lord Jesus, our actions must supersede our explanations. Offering the love of Christ may often lead to the question Why are you doing this? Sometimes I explain my faith; sometimes I simply reply, because it is right.
     We have entered a new phase in the battle for the hearts of men. When we are informed in advance that we will not be allowed to speak. We are not there yet, but it is coming.

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

NEXT ungrateful at Thanksgiving