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 – pass it on

Passing-e1470776100537   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]

     Let’s move on to reflect on the ideas in verse 2. For one, Paul had a sense that it was his responsibility to pass on to Timothy what the Lord had taught him. Probably out of love for the boy (a young man in that culture) But also out of a sense that the message of Christ needs a community context. For we are called to learn from our Lord, through Scripture, about the ultimate realities of this universe and our role in how they play out. And we are called to make a difference, to entrust what we learn to faithful men who will be able to teach others.

     This process is a selective one. Sadly, it implies that we are not to waste our time with people who do not want to learn; nor do they want to pass on what they’ve learned to others, let alone others who can teach.

     You’ve met them, so have I. They just want more with no intent or plan to pass it on. I presented a series of lectures on Christianity & Culture at Columbia University in NYC some years ago. When I finished they were eager to have me return so they could hear more. I said no. Why? They hadn’t utilized anything of what I’d already taught them to make any difference in their surrounding university.

     It’s great to have friends! I love the ones who put up with me. J But I want to invest in people who will take what I have taught them, ponder it, and put it to good use.

     My ever faithful Problem Solver, Melanie Lamere, left a note on my desk reminding me that my legacy was the changed lives I had left behind me all over the world. “Forget your books and writings. It’s the people you’ve left in your wake who will make a greater difference after you’re dead and gone. Get over it.”

     So…, are you making a difference for Christ in this world? How? What are you passing on? What are you leaving behind?

Honor God, honor people…, pass it on,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  suffer hardship

For a new year— on a personal note…

202     It’s New Year’s Day. By now most of us are exhausted from all the Christmas prep, buying way too many gifts, Tree decoration (and de-decoration), excessive amounts of FOOD, way too many Christmas cookies, more Food, and relatives descending in droves from places unknown (leaving us with the laundry).

     Time for a break.

     Whoops! Now it’s New Years. After all the celebration, thank God for football! With all the Bowl Games going on today at least we can relax with snacks we shouldn’t have and break all our resolutions in the first few hours of this new year.

     Some things to engage your more contemplative side—

  1. In whose lives do you want to make a difference this year? Names please.
  2. Do you have the relationship with your spouse that you want to have? What will you do to get it there?
  3. Did you have any $$$ left over from this last year? Good for you!
  4. What % of your income did you give to others last year?  Oh…, inappropriate question. You know what to do. Start TODAY.
  5. How will feed your soul in 2020? List and dates.
  6. Who do you need to befriend? Who do you need to drop?
  7. How will you make a difference for Christ and His glory in our world? Where? When?
  8. Should you buy a new mattress this year? How old is your present mattress? Sleep is important.
  9. What ONE THING will you commit to this year and get it finished! By June 30.
  10. What do you need to change in your life? Don’t know? Ask your spouse or a friend who you trust to be brutally honest with you.

     There is a phrase in Psalm 15 that always stays with me. It starts with a question—

15 O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken. [NASB]

     Like you, Starr and I have had quite a year. We’ve made commitments that were not always easy to keep. But we did it. Give us a call and we’ll tell you about it. Our love and prayers go out for you daily. Count on them.

Happy New Year!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity

Of Cubes and Chaos: Paradigm Positioning 3- Dashed Dreams

   When I was in sixth grade I had a crush on a girl. She looked a lot like this. Carla Jean Stewart- the love of my life…, in fifth grade. Alas, it was not meant to be. She moved, I moved. Never saw her again. My dreams of a bright future with my precious blue-eyed blonde crush were never to be.
     Dashed dreams of childhood.
     Since then I have known many dashed dreams- some of them more devastating than others. But I recovered, mostly. Today they’re just an ancient memory. And I’ve learned something.
     Dreams are fun, fanciful, wonderful diversions from our realities. And it is good to dream them. (Most of them.) Some might even come true. Most, though, will hide in the back right corner of our minds and pop up later on in life. Like now.
     I don’t dream of young beautiful blondes anymore; actually, I married one! But she was a brunette by the wedding. I didn’t care. She was perfect for me! She was God’s gift to me. Still is. Who cares about hair color!?!
     Had I pined for my childhood crush I would have never met my wife. And if any of us hang on to a past love, dream, fantasy, etc., we will miss the better things our Father has in store for us. When I was first in ministry, I could see no other future for my life outside of the ministry’s opportunities for service. Little did I understand how I had adjusted my dreams to fit their realities, limiting both God and myself. What I am doing today is so far beyond who I was back then. What a surprise.
     The monkey on the vine image still holds true. Sometimes you have to let go of the last vine before you can reach out and grab the next one. Or, as we’re more apt to say around here- God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. And if you believe that I’ll send you Zac Efron’s cell number.
     Dashed dreams simply clear the way for you to move beyond your limited perspective to a more expansive, wilder, Christ-infused vision.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and watch your doors to be blown off.  [Proverbs 3:5-6. Sorta.]
     Dashed dreams are mere hints that you should be dreaming bigger, wilder, adventurous ways of God.
     Get with the program.

Honor God, honor people…, and watch out for flying doors,

Gary

NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 4: stepping up our game. 

Out of Time

But…7. ~out of time!

     THE precious commodity of our era is TIME. No one has any.

“Can you help me trim my lawn?” “Yes, but….”

“Can I talk to you about my marriage?” “Well, yes, but.”

“Could you help me put on my winter tires?” “Sure, But I just don’t have the time.”

     Sounds familiar? Doesn’t it?!?

     We live in a society where people have to schedule everything. Some of my friends want to meet me for lunch. My treat, no less. And we’re looking at 3-4-5 months out. These are friends? Are they? I’m beginning to feel more like a slot on a calendar that a friend.

     There are consequences to this kind of filled-to-capacity scheduling. On the plus side, you know what you are doing months (or years) in advance. When I was in my 20s-30s, I used to plan my days for a year in advance, color-coded by arena of operation, divided by ⅓’s of days. So it you asked me who I would be having lunch with on, say, November 14th, I could tell you. Over time, I realized I was more in control of my schedule than God. This was not a joyous discovery.

     If you will indulge me, here are some ideas on gaining more time by not cramming your schedule years deep.

  1. Learn to breathe. Like Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe…,” or Elijah after doing battle with the prophets of Baal, learn to rest, to breathe, to sleep in the safety of our Lord. [1 Kings 18-19]
  2. Schedule 1-2 hours each day where nothing is scheduled. If our Lord wants something in that time, fine. If not, take the time to rest, to relax, or to refresh yourself, your family, or a friend. You are not indispensable.
  3. Don’t do everything: share the load. DELEGATE. More likely than not, there are more people around you who are just as capable as you. Pass some of your responsibilities on to them. They will do just fine. God is with them: you don’t have to be.
  4. Be more concerned with doing the right thing, rather than doing things right. Doing the right thing is a reflection of your time with God: doing things right is an indication of your fascination with perfectionism.
  5. Remember Elsa’s song “Let it Go.” Well…, ‘nough said.

     There is a story Helen Rosevere (1925-2016) told of her early days as a medical missionary pressing into the interior of the Congo in Africa. The first day she and her porters covered such incredible distance that she thought she could make it to the Mission Station in 2 days rather than in 3. But her porters refused to move on the 2nd day, saying, “Dr. Rosevere, we must rest and wait for our spirits to catch up to our bodies.” She got the point.

     During my college days we had mandatory chapel. Dr. Robert Bartell, a speaker, quoted something I have never forgotten. “There is enough time in each day for you to do all of God’s will.”  Are you?

     You do not have to run out of time.

NEXT

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

It’s not easy being green

kermit     If you’ve been challenged by this call to develop a postChristian Gospel, please know that it has been something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. Remaining true to the Biblical/historical constructs of our faith, and to the Church, while trying to acclimate our message into yet another cultural context is no easy matter. Wycliffe Bible Translators face this challenge with every new language group they encounter; as did early Western Christian missionaries trying to introduce Western Christian constructs to Eastern and African cultures). Our difficulty is in recognizing that our postChristian era has developed its own culture and language group, based on its basic premise that there are no absolute truths; there is no meta-narrative to explain all of reality; there is no one singular system of belief that can encompass the grand diversity of human experience. At this point, of course, genuine Christians must disagree and still engage with the prevailing points of view.
     It is thus, at this point of division, that we must still follow our Lord into this world’s various cultures, adapting His time-tested message to be understood within the grand diversity of human experiences. This is not a task to be taken on lightly, let alone naively. Our message can neither be too complex to be grasped by the simple, nor can it be so simple that its matrix, woven throughout human history and into both ends of eternity, be lost in “the simple gospel,” with no context outside of the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Fulfillment rubric. That is why we must end our consideration of a postChristian Gospel with a reference to BEING GREEN.
     Being green, surprisingly, refers to more than environmental/ecological responsibility. The framework to which I refer comes from a 1969 musical piece sung by Kermit the Frog, Ring-master of Jim Henderson’s MUPPETS. I encourage you to watch it; go to-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpiIWMWWVco&feature=related to view our hero sing it in his own croaks.] “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” (lyrics by Joe Rapposo)
     In the song, Kermit’s point is this- that he may not like the way he is, blending in, often passed over, ordinary; but this is the way he is and that’s that. He is the color of Spring; he is cool & friendly-like. And though as a frog he is small, he can be big, like an ocean, or important, like a mountain. He is green, and that’s just fine. Engaging the postChristian heart is a lot like being green. We may not be too good at it, we certainly don’t fit into our culture’s predominant mindset, but we have to remain true to who we are, to what we believe, and to be what Christ has designed us to be in the grand scheme of things. We are each called upon and designed to play our part in the daily activities of the Lilly Pond. Some days we just sit around and zap flies with our tongues; other days we may run into those postmodern Bull Frogs that beat up on us and take away our pad, trying to push us out of the operations of the Pond entirely. Nonetheless, God has plopped many of us in the middle of the postChristian Pond and expects us to live up to our responsibilities as a vital part of this society’s nurturing and development. We are here to bring Christ’s peace, forgiveness, and new life to the rest of the Pond. We may not like the taste of fresh fly on our tongue…, but we’d better get used to it if we’re going to make a difference.
     There remains yet one more thing to consider- merely practical suggestions on how to be who you are, within your own personality, family, church, and society, as you endeavor to translate the Christian message into postChristian-speak.
_____________________________________________
Play Time
1.      How do you befriend a person who is in pain and/or angry?

2.      To the best of your recollection, what is the Christian Gospel?
a.       Now find someone who is NOT a Christian and ask them what it is.
b.      Tell them your understanding of the Gospel. Ask for their feedback.
3.      Interview people, Christian and otherwise, about the statement- The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. What did you learn?
4.      Ask people if they have overriding principles that govern their actions. Learn.
5.      How are your overriding principles apparent in your actions?
6.      Given that throughout history the Christian faith has adapted to fit into every people group, culture and era around the world, what do you think of the idea of a postChristian Gospel? Is it opening Pandora’s Box?
7.      To what extent is our message a mind-to-mind transfer of information leading to a decision to follow Christ? To what extent is it a heart-to-heart thing leading to an encounter with Christ that can be explained later?
8.      In what circumstances is a problem-solving model of the gospel more appropriate? In what circumstances is a fulfillment model more appropriate?
9.      How do you discover the presuppositions and assumptions a person holds about life and the Christian interpretation of life?
10.  How simple is the Gospel? How expansive could it be?
11.  How are you doing at being in the world, but not of it?
12.  Where do you have a tough time bein’ green?

NEXT TIME~ AFTERTHOUGHTS: my best ideas come to me in the shower
…mostly green,
Gary

Framing a postChristian Gospel: talk’s cheap…, action’s everything

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It is tantamount to interweave action in the postChristian gospel. The apostle James writes,

 14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

–James 2:14-18

     Given the present-day imbalance between Western wealth, emerging Chinese wealth, and the poverty of Third World countries this writer must insist that our postChristian Gospel, our “good news” include a definitive Christian presence and immersion in the midst of our world’s tough situations. These run the gamut from local poverty and homelessness to national insurrections, global inequities and human indignities. Unless individual Christians and the Body of Christ in the West, in all her various forms (churches, parachurch organizations, missions, social services, home groups, etc.) are willing to take their place alongside of other non-Christian agencies, in concerted, cooperative enterprises to care for our world’s impoverished, ill-treated, and subjugated masses, the “good news” of Christ’s salvation will seem all talk, no action. Nowhere in our Scriptures are we called to withdraw from our world, except for times of fasting and prayer. Instead, we are commanded to be involved in our world as active participants in its daily endeavors. To this end Jesus prayed to the Father on our behalf in John 17—

     15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

     Christ wants us embedded within our communities to reflect who He is to those around us. This is the context for our verbal message— our lives demonstrating the Truth and character about Jesus Christ for living in front of our families, neighbors, and work associates.  Then, we must invest ourselves in national and international efforts to bring justice and financial assistance (homes, wells, grain, cattle, etc.) to those in need; all-the-while, “enfleshing” Christ’s commandments.

     “Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”  (Isaiah 58:6-7)

     If our postmodern/postChristian world is ever to grasp the importance of our “good news” its context must be the holy lives of Jesus’ followers lived out in community, both inside and outside the church. Truly, we who claim the Name of Jesus Christ do not have the option to withdraw from this present society, except for prayer, rest, and rejuvenation in His Holy Spirit.

     Not of this world…, absolutely!  But…, definitely in this world.

NEXT TIME~ Framing a postChristian Gospel:  it’s not that easy bein’ green part 7.

Embedded…, & active,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis