When life hands you a lemon…, remember what God has made you.

Come on… . You know what you’re supposed to do. Make lemonade.

    What if the impact of the lemon was so great that it knocked you out of kilter? What if you’ve been hit by so many lemons that you’re tired of being hit by them; one after another, in unrelenting sequence. Beginning to bruise? Beginning to hurt? Tired of ducking? Or you never see them coming. You start to turn a little sour over it. Even bitter.

    If you cannot extricate yourself from the situation, what do you do?

    You might have to learn to adapt. To defend. For sure, to duck.

    But there is a point where you really want a bat to slam a few of those lemons back at their source. The reality is that we are targets. Anyone serious about honoring the God of the universe is a BIG target for the lemon arrows of our adversary.

    What?!? You thought this Christian life would eventually settle down to middle-American comfort? Only if you are no longer a threat to Satan and his hoards. Believe me. I Peter 5:8 is still right on target.  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

    Our faith is in constant battle with spirits who would destroy us. Feeling the love yet?

    The Christian life isn’t all peaches ‘n cream. There are a lot of destructive lemons headed our way. Our adversary, other people, friends, and our present-day culture are all at full throttle to destroy our faith in Christ. If you do not know this, you must be hiding out in a cave somewhere.

    I’ve found that our best defense, other than ducking or slinging a few lemons back, is to remember who you are and what our Lord Christ has done for us. He has placed inside you all the power of God the Father. AND, you are not alone.

    You have brothers and sisters in Christ that make up the great Fellowship to come alongside you in time of need, aloneness, or attack. Do not disregard them.

    So what to do about those lemons? As I said earlier, do duck, lob a few back; and remember What God the Father has made you. You are strong, you are not a wimp. Your sins have been forgiven and you have a sword of the Spirit [Eph. 6:17] to wield when things get testy.

    Remember…, our God is so full of surprises. Lemon Moody Foodies Be the surprises God has designed you to be.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Brrrrrr

Advent – The Christ Candle

Over time, many Western traditions added a fifth candle to the Advent Wreath— The Christ Candle. One solitary candle, in white, surrounded by the other four in the center of the wreath. This candle represented the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

  Mary, having just given birth, probably did not feel like  celebrating; and the mid-night visit from the shepherds seemed a bit confusing, and unexpected. Joseph must have been even more bewildered, not to mention exhausted, at these astonishing events.

  Significant variations of the celebration of Jesus’ birth have evolved over geographies and centuries. In this world pandemic era we are challenged with even more issues.

1.       Now, we are discouraged from gathering together in large groups.

2.       Now, we are encouraged to wear face masks… while trying to sing.

3.       Travel is discouraged because of COVID Omicron.

4.       Lodging is always a challenge. … not to mention the price has gone up.

5.       And Jesus is just as hard to find today as He was then.

      Add to these rough considerations the reality that you might contract COVID and not be here in February. Intriguing times.

      Nonetheless, we must light the Christ Candle on Christmas Day. For us, it is a declaration that all the ills of this world cannot diminish, tarnish, or stain the incredible significance of this historical occurrence. The Lord God of the Universe chose to humble Himself and become one of us. I’ve never quite grasped the magnitude of this life changing incident. How could our Father have ever come up with this course of action?!?

      Consider all the world-changing events that have taken place throughout history. What solution would you have designed to solve the estrangement between God and His creation? Creative doesn’t begin to describe this incredible unconventional solution. ‘Tells you something about the nature of God, doesn’t it!?!

      “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above… .”

      This Christmas Day, try to find some time where you can sit and ponder this marvelous revelation— the sacrifice of God to draw us back to Himself. The entrance of the Son of God into this earthly realm. Jesus.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

As Jesus Christ was sent into this world to redeem us, so now He sends us into this world,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— New Year’s Resolutions— What were they last year? Hummmm?

Advent – Candle of Faith

The Second Candle in Advent represents FAITH. So few people have faith in anything these days. Faith in government is shot, faith in marriage vows has all but vanished, faith in a God who has our best interests at heart has failed all over the globe. We have truly descended to become a faithless generation.

Well, except for faith in money. We truly believe that money, lots of it, more of it, will save us. At one of the URBANA Mission Conferences I recall Rev. John R.W. Stott, then chaplain to the Queen, recounted a story of officiating at the funeral of a wealthy English Lord. A friend of his, a Dowager, leaned into him to ask, Vicar, how much did he leave? Rev. Dr. Stott wisely responded My Ladyship, he left it all!

Faith in money is foolish.

  In my cancer treatments, I am putting a lot of faith in my doctors. [I think I have four at present.] I am out of my element when it comes to radiation therapy. I have little choice but to put my faith in their training and treatment plan.

  It is much like that with Christian faith. There is little we can do to save ourselves. That was left to the Son of God as He poured out His life on a Roman cross. People often ask me if I am assured of my salvation. My response is that I do not have to be…, that rests in my Father’s hands. For the most part I enjoy being a Christian and living by the principles and precepts Jesus has laid out for us in Scripture. But then there are times when living the Christian life becomes quite difficult, especially inside the Christian community. Other believers can be so unforgiving and judgmental at times.

  So faith, our faith, needs the context of personal trial and error, where it has been tried and tested and proven under fire. Personally, I wish it were not so, but it is.  “   for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” [James 1:3 ESV] And I’ve never been good at tests.

  Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855] proposed that faith is like throwing yourself back into the darkness and finding that there is a God there to catch you. Well, I’m not so sure that is a great definition of faith. We have too much verifiable evidence from historical accounts and subjective validation that our faith has been proven over and over again.

  Can faith be explained away by skeptical and “rational” argument? Well, yes. But not without prejudice. Can the miracles of our faith be challenged? Of course. But they are not so easily dismissed. Too many eye-witnesses.

  Can the internal validation of faith be brought into question? Absolutely! But you would be hard pressed to argue with millions and millions of Christ-followers spanning 2,000 years of history that they were WRONG.

  So when you question your faith, or have doubts, remember the myriads of believers who went before you. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, banished from their homes, their communities, judged and exiled from their homes and countries, and, more so in our era, ignored. Yet I have often found in my life that people are hungry for what Starr and I have— an abiding peace in times of uncertainty, a stability they cannot attribute to financial security, and a life-joy that drives them crazy.
  So get an Advent wreath and light ‘er up! Consider where your faith lies.


  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Shephard’s Candle— JOY

The Gospel in Context

      Although we in the West too frequently assume that our Gospel can be summed up neatly in a four-point outline that is not necessarily true for much of the rest of the world. If we are honest with ourselves, four-point gospel outlines are no longer appropriate here either. They assume too much background knowledge on the part of the hearer. It is no longer there.

      It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi as saying Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. Whether he said this or not, the saying has a point. WORDS alone are not the gospel. ACTIONS must proceed, accompany, and follow its explanation.

      More recently, we had The Wordless Book, where the black page represented our sin, the red page pointed to Jesus blood shed for us, the white page depicted our cleansing from sin, purity, and the gold page our reward in heaven. Sounds great if you’re a white evangelical American Christian, right. Great for children.

      But if you are an African black man, the booklet represents something quite different. Black is the color of life. Red is the color of white man’s warfare. Gold is what the war and bloodshed is all about. And White is the color of Death. So much for The Wordless Book as a tool of explaining the gospel.

      The Gospel of Christ is always bounded by at least four qualifiers— the Scriptures, the surrounding culture, the personality of the presenter, and its accompanying acts of kindness and love. If we do not take into consideration ALL of these factors, then our offer of Christ as Lord and Savior will be out of context for those we want to draw to Him.

      Another concern we must take into account is our own heart. Do I love this person? Do I know how to love this person? Sometimes I think that the language of romance is more appropriate to evangelism than any formatted presentation. Is my heart into this stuff? Or is this just another academic practice of the Christian agenda?

      Some years ago, when we were looking for a good definition for evangelism, the phrase to love the hell out of a person rose to the surface— theologically and practically. It just seemed to make sense.

      Missionaries throughout history have been spurred on by their passionate love for a people who they knew very little about; yet, somehow, grew to love them with the sacrificial love of Jesus. Are you there? Or is evangelism still simply about commando-raids into our evil culture?

      I pray that God will break your heart for one, two individuals and you will fall in love with them and want them to have what you have. Not heaven, but heaven here in earth— a tight meaningful relationship with the God who made them— Jesus Christ.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— working on it

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  

Finding God: Pulling It All Together

     Everyone’s journey to find God is different. The way you were brought up plays a big role in the process. Life experiences. Tragedies. Disappointments. Even those amazing moments where you could proclaim— ‘I DID IT!’

     But there comes a time in our search for God when it feels like the shoe is on the other foot. When you’ve exhausted all your avenues of find God and the path comes to a WALL.

     In my journey I studied philosophy for 3 years, trying to live by the precepts of each path. I tried to live by the teachings of other religious leaders— Mohammed, Buddha, the Torah, Hari Krishna…, all to great travail. In truth, I knew God wanted me, Jesus, specifically. So I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction; trying to escape the God Who, I learned, sought me.

     I hid in philosophic debate, academic prowess, theater, romantic relationships, and cross-country adventures. The end of my 3½ attempted escape all culminated in a prayer of “I give up. I cannot fight you.” sitting under the alter in an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan. My new life in Christ was inaugurated at about 3:00 a.m. that morning. No one was more surprised than I.

     My fledgling days as a new Christian brought new attitudes and actions into my daily routine. The biggest realization that dawned on my soul was, in all my efforts to find God, God was actually looking for me; boxing me in at every turn to draw me to Himself.

     So in your own search for god/God, don’t be too surprised when you find yourself leaning in a certain direction, on a path you had not previously intended to follow; irrespective of your religious background, cultural heritage, or academic pursuits.

     Pulling it all together, God is not some academic exercise that we postulate and create in our image. He is an amazing entity who resides outside this created realm. It is His to judge, to direct, to condemn, and to salvage. Do you really want to be on the wrong side of history when He comes to take what is His? Do you want to remain on the fence, waiting to see how things go, how things turn out, before His arrival?

     One of the greatest challenges of our time is a fear of commitment. Be it personal relationships, business commitments, or decisive decisions of any kind we hedge our bets. Something better might come along. Might?!? So we never fully commit to anyone, anything. This is not a good idea.

     Our God is a God of promises. He’s not messing with your life to screw you over.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— “When you’re going through hell… .” — Winston  Churchill.

Finding God: What are you looking for? A Guide

  As I wrapped up the initial What Are You Looking For? I realized that some procedural guidance might come in handy. So here is your GUIDE on how you might proceed.

1.       What have you done in life that you truly enjoyed? Earliest memory? Something that still lights you up?

2.       As you look back, what have been the tipping points in your life? You know…, those events or experiences that changed you.

3.     What difficult experiences have you had that make you shy-away from certain situations even today?

4.    How readily do you trust people?

5.    On a 1 – 10 scale, how likely are you take risks?

6.    What scares you, overwhelmingly? [beside these questions]

7.    How far into the future do you feel safe in planning?

8.    What are your wildest dreams? What dreams are you actually going for?

9.    Who can you talk with about this stuff? [buy dinner]

10.   What legacy would you like to leave behind? For family? For your community? For the world?

       In my arena of influence, I try to project what we need to do NOW to make a difference in the future. I know, I know, it’s a bit prophetic on my part. But I really enjoy dreaming the future, preempting problems, and creating things that others haven’t thought of yet. Fortunately, there are now many others who have joined the ranks of culture prophets and dream outside the box. Bill Edgar, Dick Keyes, and Richard Peace come to mind.

       One more thing to consider— How much do you rely on God in Prayer? To exclude Him in your processing is a grave mistake made by too many of us. He has a perspective on everything. Including you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take.

                                        ~Proverbs 3:5-6.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Conquering the Chaospt. 4.

Finding God: What are you looking for?

    The history of the telescope can be traced to before the invention of the earliest known telescope, which appeared in 1608 in the Netherlands, when a patent was submitted by Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker. Although Lippershey did not receive his patent, news of the invention soon spread across Europe. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepieceGalileo improved on this design the following year and applied it to astronomy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telescope


    The telescope was and is one of the greatest instruments for searching the heavens or peering across the cities to find our what’s on the other side. But to answer our question— What Are You Looking For? we need to turn our gaze inwardly, to explore our hearts, our minds, and our soul.

     Might I direct you to consider some of these questions as you explore—

1.       Why is there anything?

2.       Did a God create all there is? Or did it always exist? Or did it evolve from some primordial ooze?

3.       Why do you exist? Not just because you were born…, but what is your purpose(s) in being on this earth?

4.       Why do you seem to have a moral compass? A sense of right & wrong? Is it merely cultural?

5.       Do things just happen? Or do you sense some behind-the-scenes plan? Can you recalculate as you grow?

6.       What is that One Thing you want out of life more than anything else?

7.       What is the One Thing you must do before you die to make a difference? To leave a legacy?

8.       If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

9.       If you could change anything in your own life, what would it be?

10.   What else matters that you want to effect?

     Yes, I’ve pondered all these questions more than once; and come up with different answers as I’ve grown and changed through my experiences and perspectives on life. “Is Jesus Christ truly God incarnate and has He genuinely granted me a place in His Kingdom by His side?” is one question I roll around on an almost weekly basis. Faith is not a solid thing: it is a dynamic organism.

     If you believe you have all the answers, then you haven’t discovered most of the questions. When I was young in my Christian faith, I had all the answers…, just not all the questions. The Westminster Confession of Faith grounded me in Truth. But it left out some things— miracles, individual revelations, calling, spiritual intuitions, and, forever that bugaboo, gut feelings.

     So when I ask What are you looking for? I’m right there beside you, wondering about so many things myself, even though I am basically established, my Christian faith is still that…- faith.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for? Pt.2 



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: Making our Relationships Count

   Ok, Ok…, after you’ve stopped laughing at the photo let’s think about this.

How do we make our relationships count?!?

It’s one of the greatest challenging challenges of our era. Yes, divorce rates have dropped; but that’s only because people aren’t bothering with marriage so much anymore. Or, as one of my friends put it “I done with letting the law dictate my personal relationships.” Long term commitments are predicated on What’s in it for ME?

     As a genuine Christian I want to challenge this present mindset in direct opposition. At a reception after the wedding I heard the father of the bride comment “Everyone knows the words don’t mean anything anymore.” Mind you, this was at the reception, immediately following the wedding service and the exchanging of vows.

     Seriously?!? I was truly offended.

     Let me offer you some of what I’ve learned that makes a relationship count.

1.       Psalm 15 admonishes us to Swear to our own hurt and do not change. (v4). That means keeping our commitments, come hell or highwater. For my part, I’ve done that. You?

2.       Betray no one. It builds a track record of distrust. Not smart. Let your YES be Yes; and your NO be NO. [Matthew 5:37] Remember the KISS Principle?

3.       Immerse yourself in building up other people. It will make a difference in who you become.

4.       Love with all the kindness and compassion you have!

5.       Always forgive first! Especially when you know you’re right. It’s about the relationship, not the argument.

6.       Invest in things that matter. Not so much gifts, though they can be super nice. Rather, experiences that build up others.

7.       When our kids were growing up we would always tell them, “If you assume the higher position, there’s only one direction you can go. If you take the lower position, there’s only one direction you can go.” ‘Nough said.

8.       So many training courses today encourage us to be a servant of all if we are to rise in this world. Our Lord tells us, simply, to be a servant of all. ‘Nough said again.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Reframing Our Faith