After There’s Nothing Left: What Forges Forgiveness?

forging, forgivenessThe title of this subsection is not merely titled for the sake of alliteration. Rather, it is a serious question around a quite somber difficulty for many, many people. Forgiveness. In general, people find it difficult to forgive; conversely, unless in a court of law, to receive forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is something that is forged, like a steel blade tempered in the fire, heated to the point of meltdown, then hammered to utility on an anvil. Finally, it is sharpened to perfection at the hand of a master sword-maker. So also is forgiveness. It does not simply show up. It goes through testing, hammering, reheating, reworking, and sharpening. Then, when its work is accomplished, it becomes one of the most powerful spiritual weapons anyone might possess. The admission that you are forgiven, truly, by the Lord God Creator of the Universe, is to realize that you can risk your life more than you ever deemed possible. To be forgiven is to be empowered by God to make a difference. (It is also quite a countermeasure against depression and defeat.)

      There are a myriad of aspects to forgiveness that could be considered here. But I will limit our discussion to only five. Here are the first two.

Forgiveness for Others

      Though we are admonished to forgive those who have wronged us it is not quite as simple as that. Some of those wrongs have wreaked havoc with our lives, our livelihood, our families, and our financial security. Forgiveness often takes quite an extended period of time. Here then, again, is the matter of trust. Can we ever trust the other person(s) again? That is a much larger issue. Mix in a reality that some people who have wronged us believe they have done NO wrong: they believe they were righteous and right in their pronouncement of judgment upon us. They were justified in what they did or said. Can/should we forgive those who have not come to repentance before us, let alone before the God of the Universe?

      It is extremely hard to forgive others…, especially if you believe they are in the wrong. Conundrum.

      I believe forgiveness of others can only be fête accompli thru true humility and contrition; a willingness to take the lower place, even if the other party or person is clearly in the wrong. This is not to say that your forgiveness is ignorant of the facts. Rather, it chooses to take the subservient position for the sake of resolution, of restitution.

      At times, it may be the case, that you are unable to extend forgiveness to another. This is usually reflective of a long-standing, deep-seated pattern of being betrayed or hurt by others who did not seek your forgiveness. Or, it could also mean you are just so mad at present, that you are still out for vengeance and/or revenge. Seriously, not quite healthy all the way around. Nonetheless, you need to deal with your anger/grief and come to a point of genuine, heartfelt forgiveness…, no matter how long it takes. It rests on you to take the higher ground. If you cannot, or will not, forgive, how will you ever receive it from others? How will you receive it from God?

Forgiveness from Others

      There isn’t one of us who hasn’t hurt another person. Accidentally, thoughtlessly, casually, or intentionally, we all have inflicted wounds on one another. Some wounds we inflict are intentional. Retaliation. Revenge. Reprisal. And we know we are doing it. If there ever were an instance of moving over to the dark-side, this would describe it; the deliberate act of hurting another.

      But our confusion arises when the one we have wronged comes to forgive us. What will we do?

      It comes down to an issue of individual arrogance. If someone offers you forgiveness the implication is that you have done something wrong. Of course, if this is true…, you don’t want to be reminded of it. If you DO receive their forgiveness, then you find yourself in an awkward spot. You’ve received forgiveness, admitting your evil intention, and now… what? Feels squeamish, doesn’t it.

      May I suggest that you admit your wrongness and simply say “thank you.” Or, “Thank you. I hope you can forgive me. How do we move beyond this?”

      Inversely, if you cannot receive forgiveness, how will you ever extend it to other people?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

[note: you may never come to a place of forgiving another person without the assistance of the God who made you. It sounds trite, but I have found that the bond I have with Jesus Christ has done more to enable me to forgive another person than I imagined possible.]

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness for myself, for God, and from God

After There’s Nothing Left: Resentment and UnForgiveness… on my part

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  Throughout the course of my days I have come across individuals whose lives are filled with anger, resentment, and revenge. Over time, I watch as it eats away at them, devouring their energies and their spirit. To my amazement and sorrow these people hang onto their anger and rage like a dog with an old bone; and they keep gnawing at it. I try to tell them it will eventually destroy their spirit…, but they do not want to hear it. They would rather chew on the rot and feed their infection.

      Then there are also those who never, ever forgive. They hold a grudge, remembering “what you did to me” so long ago; and they want pay-back. Someday, somehow, “I will get you back for that!” I have had people write me asking my forgiveness for the anger they felt toward me 10-20 years ago. I cannot even remember who some of these people were. But I am glad they got it off their chest.

      But what a way to live!

      Far too many people let this life-sucking resentment-of-another consume their lives. When people live for revenge there is little energy remaining to live for anything else. The sad reality is that many of these people do not want to give up their vengeful spirit. So they remain angry, seeking to undo another person’s happiness or livelihood!

      What a way to die.

      One form of resentment should be more aptly branded as embittered jealously. You not only want what someone else possesses, you are incensed that they have it and you do not. Whether it’s their house, their car, their wife, their job, or their happiness, I deserve it more than they do. Allow me to pose a question— Then why do they have it? Maybe what they have was never meant for you for any number of reasons. The truth might actually be that you DO NOT deserve it more than the other person. Could it be that you have not worked as hard for it? The problem we are missing is that we have grown so accustomed to the infection of comparison-itis that we have lost our own way along the path hewn out for us. Most of us have our own idea of success. What we do not seem to grasp is that another’s success does not necessarily reflect on ours. In fact, we may already be successful but don’t want to accept God’s definition of success for us. Ask the unemployed Ph.D. raising four kids, or the under-employed executive working in a Third World country restructuring their government in the midst of a military upheaval.

Success is not always ours to define. Resentment will leave you with nothing but emptiness and unfulfilled longing. But in periods where soul reflection becomes necessary to your very being you must fight yourself to attend to these deepest of soul-sucking demons. To NOT address them is to pass over a festering wound and pretend it will go away if you pay it no heed.

During his college days John Steinbach (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men) was told by a professor that the day he became an author pigs would fly. In each subsequent book Steinbach wrote he penned this Latin insignia in the front—

Ad astra per alas porci

-to the stars on the wings of a pig

      For those who need to let go of some resentment— Fly Free. And when you feel the urge to dump a little pig-poo on those who poo-pooed you in the past…, DON’T. Hold onto the grace you have within.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Flat Faith, pt.10.

Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

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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

Define Blameless, Psalm 15

large-inmate-get-out-of-jail-free-card15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart.

      Throughout history we have refined the blame-game into a glorious art-form. She did it! The devil made me do it! It’s not my fault. That’s right. Blame the other guy. He did it.

      There is, however, a way out of this insidious cycle.

  1. Walk blamelessly.
  2. Do what is right.
  3. Be honest with yourself.

Let’s look at these three solutions more in depth.

      Walk Blamelessly. Easily said; not so simply accomplished. On the surface it means we cannot enter the blame-game; on a deeper level it is a challenge to live life as morally pure. Not morally pure as possible, morally pure.  None of us can do that, even with Christ’s forgiveness. Since the first humans, our nature is to cut across God’s perimeters of protection for us and to do what we want.

      Fortunately, God has provided us a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card through Christ’s sacrifice for our rebellion on the cross. We are forgiven.

      Do what is Right. There is a line in the Jack Ryan movie series, in Clear and Present Danger, when Harrison Ford confronts a fellow senior government official and yells, “No! It’s right or it’s wrong!” If God’s Truth has been inscribed on our hearts since Creation then every human being is accountable before Him to do what is right. We know that. Social Anthropologists aside, we know. Now let’s DO IT.

      Be honest with yourself. This is the most difficult thing to do before a Holy God. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve nothing from our Creator; no blessing, no honor, no forgiveness, certainly no heaven.

      The question has never been “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?” Quite to the contrary, “Why should a loving & just God let anyone into His heaven?” If you don’t get this then you’ve created God in your own image, instead of the other way around.

      Thankfully, there’s Jesus. In a synagogue in Nazareth, where He was raised, He read from Isaiah (ch.42)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”

      This is what He has done for us. Shouldn’t we at least try to do what He asks in Psalm 15?

Walk blamelessly, do what is right, be honest with yourself,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Making the Cut: … slander & evil

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

91119

4428688046_baabbdcaa4_b     Eighteen years ago America’s soil was violated in a three pronged terrorist attack that left many of us stunned. Most of us have recovered. Some of us weren’t even born. But this attack changed the way we viewed our safety, our stability, and our place in the world.

But what have we learned? We learned that our homeland is not impervious to attack. That 2,977+ Americans dies that morning. That wars are not always waged between nations but between ideologies. That ancient and extreme forms of Islam are alive and practiced today. Some barbarous. That America has some sins to be atoned. [We’re not a perfect pious country.] That many peoples around the world truly hate us and our way of life. They may have a point.

From our point of view, we created a lot of enemies that day. The reality is that we already had them.

Now let’s run ahead 18 years and look back. We are still fighting a war with certain branches of Islam. No resolution. Yet! But our God is full of surprises.

Most of us have been enemies of God for much of our lives. But God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]  Even genuine Christians remain enemies in some areas of our lives. Hey, we’re only human! No. For too much of our lives we are worse than that. Nonetheless, Christ calls us to walk honorably before him, to care for widows and orphans, to feed the poor…, and to forgive our enemies.

It is the evil that invades our hearts and ensnares us that is the enemy of Christ; and ours too. We dare not lose sight of that.  Ever.

Many in the West don’t give much credence to good & evil. They’re just constructs of the mind and definitions we use to label us vs. them. SERIOUSLY! So men are neither good nor evil. We are neutral. Really?!? History records otherwise.

So as we commemorate this 9-11 remembrance let’s remember who the real enemy is; not Islam, not the radical right or left, not home grown terror. It is the evil that under-rides the world and the entire universe seeking to destroy us and divide us and take away any remembrance of God and his redemption.

Bastard!

If you are a genuine follower of Christ you have been set free from your rebellion and rejection of his holiness. You do not have to hate or hold grudges or ancient animosities. You can chose to live a life that makes a difference among men, that forgives wrongs done, that prevents future conflicts. Now get on with it.

Honor God, honor people…, and be a pain in Satan’s ass,

Gary

NEXTTEPID

Of Cubes and Chaos: Stepping up our Game

134294One of the oddities of our day, or maybe every era, is that genuine Christians never seem to rise to the occasion. We wait to see what happens before we respond or step in. To my way of thinking we need to step up our game. We need to be leaders within our culture and community, not waiting to see how things go and then reacting.

     One of the causes of this is that we are too wrapped up in church work. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but if it keeps us from our primary mission of drawing people to Christ then something is seriously wrong. We create a comfortable confined faith imprisoning ourselves from the world out there. I never saw Jesus draw that us/them dichotomy.

     In the world, but not of it. Remember?

     So…, how do we step up our game?  Some thoughts—

     Start by cutting back. You are probably excessively frantic & over-committed. [Aren’t we all?]  You will never be able to have an effect on your surrounding community unless you make time for them— and that means cutting.

     Listen to people around you; friends, neighbors, work associates, waitresses. Learn from them. It may take a while before they open their lives to you, but there will come a time when you become a safe person for them. Wait for it. Wait for it.

     Up your silence before the Lord. Listen more before him than you ask for things. ‘Nough said.

     Find someone with a common mind and heart to yours; someone who shares your passion for this world and the people in it. Meet often. Talk about your discouragements too.

     Never forget that our Adversary prowls about like a roaring lion who wants to eat you up. [1 Peter 5:8]

     Finally, stick to it; stay committed. It is too easy to become distracted and exhausted when our Lord calls you to make a difference.

     There will always be challenges-to-complacency in life. Don’t give in to the illusion of safety.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Of Cubes & Chaos: Forgiveness

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737 Another side of my Cube simply reads FORGIVE. It is important for us to remember how difficult it is to do that. We may say we forgive; but then we harbor a grudge, or a slander, or cast a shadow, for decades. We “share” a concern about the one who wronged us with others considering him/her for promotion or something; not fully trustworthy, possibly. Remember Truthiness?

     Our reality is that we haven’t actually forgiven that group or individual. So we disparage them to others. Subtle, isn’t it. Maybe not so much.

     Which is more challenging— to offer forgiveness, or to seek it? Two sides of the same coin? Over my life-span I’ve noticed that the people who are more willing to admit wrong, and seek forgiveness, are also those who forgive others more readily.

     But there will always be those who find it virtually impossible to admit wrong, or seek forgiveness whatsoever. Why? I think it has to do with their self-worth. If they admit to being wrong that somehow diminishes their personhood; it becomes a matter of personal pride.

     Some people simply cannot see themselves as wrong…, ever. That would make them less of a person; it would throw spurious doubt on their perfection. (Which they know, deep down, they are not anyway.) FYI— I was perfect once! For about 5 minutes in April of 1987. (You’d better be laughing.)

     To err is human (Duh!) To screw up is even more human. To forgive is not. It takes a special strength to confess you are wrong about something. You are going to need God on this one. Prayer matters.

     My wife and I have a principle we’ve tried to abide by our entire marriage. Always be the first to say you’re sorry; especially when you know you’re right.” 

     We admit we’re wrong much more readily now.

     “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

NEXT—   paradigm positioning— where are we?

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

But…. an introduction

original

An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. ~Billy Sunday

But… . ~an introduction

     We’ve become a myriad of excuses. We need to be a world of actions! But, no, it’s easier to make excuses than to follow through on what we’ve committed to. I am as guilty of it as you. For my mornings, the graphic for this article says it all. Seriously, I don’t want coffee in the morning: I NEED coffee!

     “But…!” ummmmmm. Right.

     But we never did it that way before.

     But I was too tired.

     But my support staff did not arrive in time.

     But I ran out of time.

     But I wanted it.

     But honey… .

     But God… . [Lot’s more on this.]

     But, But, BUT!  Sometimes I feel like we’ve left off a “t.”

     We’ve become so good at making excuses that we should all have a Masters Degree in the Arts for our accomplishments.

     This series will shift radically from the problems we face with communicating with our own culture, let alone to another one, and turn our attention to a unilateral human problem— making excuses. First, we’ll look at a series of people who DID NOT make excuses. Then, we’ll study the psychology of WHY we make excuses. Finally, we’ll examine some of the excuses we make and WHY we make them.

     So if you’re one who never makes excuses, you can skip this series and wait for the next one on lies we tell ourselves…, & God.

     BUT, preliminarily, let’s define our terms.

An excusedef. transitive verb

1ato make apology for

  bto try to remove blame from

 [Mirriam-Webster Dictionary]

     So, how’s your excuse-quotient these days? Up to snuff? Most of us are so good at making excuses we are not even aware we are doing it. Tune in next time for some discouraging examples of people who pushed through!

NEXT— “But... people who offered no excuse.”

No buts…,

Gary

Framing a postChristian Gospel: a heart to heart thing part 5

heart-257157_1920“God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”

~Jean Jacques Rousseau (June 1712 – July 1778)

6 February 2019

The QuestionSo then, what should the Christian message (heart & mind) in a postChristian society look like?

     First, it must be exhibited in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. Genuine Christians will act differently within a postChristian society. For one, we will not withdraw from the society and seal ourselves within our Christian peer groups, small groups, or large churches. We will be immersed in the matrix of our culture, from politics to pubs, from businesses to the broken hearted, from philosophical forums to the Supreme Court. In short, true postChristian-Christians will be active members in our communities. And we will be involved, openly & matter-of-factly as Christians, with little apology for our faith. For our faith will in no way resemble the narrow-minded, withdrawn hibernation of the last era of western Christendom; that era is dead and gone; and needs to be gone.

Instead, a postChristian faith will speak of the greatness of our God and how important it is to live by the principles He has set down for His creation. It will exhibit a kind of Christianity that encourages people to flourish and grow. Christians in this new era will be a positive contributing force for Christ, working alongside those of other faiths, even postmodern atheists, for the glory of God and the enrichment of the peoples of this earth.[i] True evangelism takes place when it becomes the unconscious expression of a new life in Christ.  It makes a difference in peoples’ lives through the kind of life lived out, publicly, by Jesus’ followers. The gospel will be communicated heart to heart through service, commitment, caring, and a cohesive Christ-honoring presence in peoples’ lives.

     Second, the WORDS of the gospel will become complimentary to the LIFE of the gospel exhibited in the lives of Christ’s followers. Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words was how Saint Francis put it. Remember, the WORDS of the gospel merely explain what the God of glory has done to bring the human race back into a relationship with Him through Christ’s work on the cross…, and subsequently, through His Holy Spirit living within us. As necessary as they are, the WORDS of our message are empty without a practical demonstration of their Truth through the way we live. [Do not misconstrue this to mean simply— live morally. It is more than that. It is a summons to live Godly, based on the precepts set down in the New Testament by Jesus Christ.] The WORDS of the gospel will take the postChristian perspective back to the raison d’etre for the Christian message— namely, that this human race, and each of us individually, should live in harmony with the God who created us. This is the nature of our Salvation, to be rooted in the fulfillment of Christ’s work at Creation through His sacrifice on the Cross. Repentance and forgiveness have no context outside the restoration and fulfillment in Jesus’ work at Calvary.

     Thirdly, the core of the Christian message must abound with LOVE. Simple enough!? Not really. This is a problem. Why? Because we often say we love people (normal people), but in reality we hardly know them at all. We have little social contact with people who never go to church but rarely are we involved in their lives enough. We simply do not know them. Love grows in relationships when people become open and honest with one another about their inner lives; when agreements are adhered to; when trust is constant and never betrayed. It might be helpful if we morph the idea of loving another into the romantic mode— falling in love with them. The language of romance holds far more concrete images than does the idea of loving another person in a platonic, spiritual, evangelistic kind of way. It engages our emotions as well as our verbal communication and spiritual concern. It ignites our passion and deep desire to be with the other person. It encourages our heart desire to give everything to the other person for the sake of Jesus Christ. You know what being in love does to you. It makes you alive again!

Maybe our problem is that we don’t allow Jesus to love us passionately; therefore, we cannot love another passionately. It is questionable whether a genuine follower of Jesus Christ who will not allow God to love him/her fully would ever be able to love anyone else, Christian or otherwise. This is an issue which our postChristian church in the West must yet grapple. We still speak of love more than we exercise it. Talk’s cheap— action’s everything. Let’s get it on!

NEXT TIME~ Framing a postChristian Gospel:  talk’s cheap—action’s everythingpart 6.

Embedded,

Gary

[i] In my own interactions with “normal” people I have been constantly surprised by their preconditioned response to the word “Christian” and their surprise when they discover that a genuine Christian has been in their midst all along, talking from his own Biblical presuppositional base.