Lese Majesty Notre Dame Cathedral

notre dame
(Photo credit LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

     This is the image that blazed across our local newspaper in Colorado Springs this morning. Like many of us, it pierced my heart. I’m not that much a religious person, but I am a genuine Christian, one who doesn’t strap his faith onto the rest of his life; rather one who integrates his faith into everything he does.

     What struck me about this picture, being part art historian, is the juxtaposition of the alter, the cross, the statue of Mary holding her son Jesus, with the total devastation that lay at their feet. What a depiction of our present world’s quandary.

     Within less than 3 days of this tragedy, almost one billion dollars has been raised to rebuild this Parisian landmark. Pledges have poured in from across the world, from small churches in Arkansas, to major European conglomerates, to individuals, to tycoons, to common folk.  This incredible generosity bespeaks of the love and honor that people held for this global landmark— this personification of Paris. As one Parisian said,

 “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations.” [https://wnep.com/2019/04/15/first-photos-show-damage-inside-notre-dame-cathedral/]

May God bless all those who are contributing to the restoration of this majestic icon of Western Civilization!

     But what of the ruble that lay at the foot of the cross, at the feet of Jesus? These are the 850 year old oak beams that held the roof of the cathedral, now devastated and burned. What can replace them? Surely not more oak beams. But what?

     In so many ways this is an image of our postChristian world. A billion dollars will easily repair the cathedral, but what of the lives of people who have lost faith in their church, in their personal relationship and trust in God? What of them? What will become of them? A billion dollars doesn’t come near to rebuilding or restoring, their faith.

     I put it to you that genuine Christians around the world have a responsibility to reexamine their faith in the God of the universe who has created and who will restore all things to an greater glory, even greater than this glorious Notre Dame. We have the responsibility to repair and rebuild the faith of so many who have lost faith in Christ in these pluralistic and often convoluted times.

     So as we contribute to repairing this magnificent cathedral, may we also spend some time, and money, rebuilding others’ lives, to honor God, in Christ Jesus. May this tragedy remind us again of our mission to bring this broken, charred world to the offer of a new life in the Lord who sustains it all— Jesus Christ!

A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully.
[John 10:10 CEV]

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

Gary

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BUT..3- Becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t need a but

presmedalfreedom“Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something.”  ~Dorothy Sayers

     The image for this article is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to American citizens (and others) who have made a substantial contribution to the shaping and preservation of our American heritage and to the world. Recipients in recent history have been- Walt Disney, Bruce Springsteen, Ellen DeGeneres, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, and Bill Gates.

     None of these men or women said “no” when they were told it couldn’t be done. They just did it. We need to emulate their perspicuity and perseverance. Too many of us give up midstream; or worse, we dream but never start.

     What are the characteristics of people who just do it? Who make no excuses? For one, they stick to it! Take Elon Musk:  he has found so many ways to fail that he has probably lost count; but he keeps at it. On a personal note, I used to say that I had failed so many ways that I had raised failure to an art form. Elon Musk stuck to it; so did I. And so do a lot of you. Keep it up!

     Another characteristic is listening to criticism, especially creative criticism. You know what to do with the negative critics. No you don’t. Actually, listen to them; listen to lots of people. One mouth, two ears…, remember? You want all the creative input and creativity you can get.

     Then there’s regrouping and starting over when you realize you’ve been heading down the wrong line of development. Don’t be ashamed; be smart.

     Psychologists tell us that the key to successful, long term relationships is humility. This is also true of anyone who seeks solutions rather than making excuses. One of our Board members recently designed reorganization for her business that eliminated her division. That’s creative, gutsy, and reeks of humility. She made no buts about it. She just did it.

     She could do it because her character gave her a base for such courage. If we are to become people that have no buts, we must pay dedicated attention to nurturing not only our skills, but our moral character and spiritual selves as well. Never doubt that your life has a spiritual dimension that calls for your attention. It is the basis for everything else you do. From the song in the movie, Saving Sarah CainTURN UP THE MUSIC, “make peace with God and make peace with yourself.” That’s good advice and as good a place to start as any.

     There is so much more to becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t make excuses, but I will end these contributions with just one more— build bridges, don’t burn them. Too many of us burn our bridges behind us, or in front of us. Christians are especially good at building walls between one another; and the world outside. Christ never intended it to be this way.

NEXT— Butt-Out!

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

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

Offering Christ in a postChristian culture-My best ideas come to me when I’m driving

38efe6cac2e33ac00ea6285093a3f67b

You know how it goes. You finish something, then you finish it again— similar to the “here’s my first final draft” submission scenario of so many doctoral theses. This first last entry will set forth practical ideas so you won’t simply put it aside and do nothing. First, to deal with the realities of this major cultural shift to a postmodern/postChristian society, I’ll suggest some personal characteristics which you will need to integrate, with some degree of wholeness, into your life and livelihood.  Then I’ll lay out more general observations to keep in the back of your head as you move about, surrounded by a postChristian/post-moral population. Please, as you read this blog, know that these recommendations are only applicable if you are serious about relating to the emerging set of people we presently refer to as postmoderns.  I prefer to describe them aspostChristian, or even as post-morals.

     First, you will need a little patience. It takes time to understand paradigm shifts and how they affect everything. It takes time to gain an eagle’s eye perspective on your own culture, community, and personal heritage. You almost need to have an out of body experience, to be able to fly over your world like an eagle to truly see yourself, in this place & time. When you step back a bit and observe, even your own self seems different; and in many ways, people today are different. Flash observations just do not work.

     We have to learn to live alongside people who are increasingly different from ourselves. Don’t jump to conclusions after one encounter with people outside your own social group; people have arrived where they are in life over long, hard roads; some roads, quite far from your own path. Take time to win the right to allow people to trust you with their road’s story, on their terms, on their turf. Some time ago, I met with an ALPHA group. We had met together before, but never quite like this— one Australian, two Iranian Muslims, and four Chinese students from Beijing (all in their late 20s–early 30s). Our small group fell into a discussion of the differences between being raised in a Christianized society (America), a Muslim society (Iran), and an atheistic society (China). The Muslims were convinced that Islam was the one true religion because it was the most recent, which meant that it was the most complete, incorporating all previous religions into it. The Chinese, not-quite-atheists were brand new to the idea of a God even existing. How could God be Jesus if Jesus came to earth? It was an exciting evening of interchange, disagreement, and friendship as each person was able to speak without fear of recrimination or evangelistic attack. No one had to win. As the only Christian in the group, I was honored to watch our Lord begin to work His miracles in these people. I just needed to be there, modeling honest, transparent Christian faith, speaking the Truth in love. It was not a time to whip out a Gospel outline and proceed to read through it; it was not a time to maneuver the conversation around to Christian things. It was rather a time for me to be still and to listen for the voice of God’s Holy Spirit coming out of these curious individuals. I was amazed at the genuinely Biblical images and ideology they espoused without even knowing it. Then I just had to wait. As said earlier, God is in control; we don’t have to be. New expressions of faith evolve naturally with time and generational transitions[i]; so learn patience.

     On the other hand, as Christians in a rapidly evolving society, we do not have a lot of time to adapt to our changing world. It used to be that paradigm shifts occurred about every 200-500 years. When the printing press enabled merchants to carry information (as well as their wares) across Eurasia those shifts accelerated paradigm change to about every 40-50 years.  With the dissemination of communication technology that figure is accelerating even more today. What communicates our faith today will have to change or update not every 20 – 30 years, but every 5 years.  George Barna, in BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century,[ii] says that, at best, we have no more than 3-5 years to catch up before things shift again. Then, we need to surpass the culture in breaking ground for the next shift to follow.[iii] “If you can see the future coming,” says Barna, “it’s too late.”

     NEXT time, in the first-last-entry, I’ll leave you with some observations about how to immerse yourself in our new postChristian world, and how to fall in love with her people. Seriously.

Writing one final EMPulse in this series…, maybe,

Gary

[i] “Generational Dominance” refers to the overall influence any particular generation, or subculture within that generation, exerts over a regional or national culture in general.

[ii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001.

[iii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001. p.20.

Clueless Christianity: EMPulse #13 

heart-in-hands “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

~Matthew 11:28. (NIV)

Clueless Christianity: EMPulse #13. A Christian Message to a postChristian Heart:

it’s not that easy bein’ green”. [Part 2…, of many]

We’ve taken quite a long hiatus to seek God in our Advent series. It is now time we return to our primary thrust of offering Christ to the postChristian Heart.

Let’s start by examining some of the shifts from our present assumptions to the mindset of our postmodern/postChristian world.

Summarizing the Gospel:

~the gospel-made-simple, since 1949.

Historically, the Christian message has always contained at least four ingredients—

  1. There is a God in the heavens who has created us and loves us; He wants us to worship Him.
  2. We have rejected God’s love for us as well as His call for us to worship Him; this rejection we know as sin.
  3. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was sent to earth, voluntarily, to pay the penalty for our sin and rebellion against our Creator.
  4. Belief in Jesus Christ, coupled with repentance, will result in our forgiveness and salvation from certain punishment for our sin and rebellion. And we get to go to heaven.

Or, more popularly—

  1. You have a problem—you are a sinner.
  2. We have a solution to your problem—Jesus Christ
  3. Agree with our solution to your problem—Believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior (as opposed to being just a church member).
  4. Your problem will be solved— Then you will be saved from eternal damnation in hell and go to heaven.

The difficulty postChristian people have with either of these formulations is that they no longer hold a presuppositional platform in their thinking process. These historical Christian Truths rest on certain assumptions once widely understood in both Modern and preModern times. They are now lost to thepostModern/postChristian mind.

It might surprise you that this gospel was designed in 1949 in post WWII and based on a sales model of the Fuller Brush Company and the Hoover Vacuum Company.

These were the assumptions and presuppositions of the vast majority of Christians worldwide, but especially of those in the Second and Third Worlds—  Europe, colonized Africa/India, and the West, North America. These assumptions, the core values of the Christian faith, are now obliterated amidst the milieu of skeptical pluralism in postModern/postChristian societies.

ØThe Gospel in Limbo: the loss of a Christian conscience

The assumptions of postModern/postChristian philosophy are no simple matter to collect due to their very nature. For if you start with the assumption The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth (Paul Feyerabend, 1924-1994), which postmodern philosophers posit, it becomes somewhat impossible to state what is and what is not in describing it. Nonetheless, with special thanks to Mathematical Physicist Dr. Milo Wolff, the assumptions of postmodernism might be as follows—

     The current Postmodern belief is that a correct description of Reality is impossible. This extreme skepticism assumes that;

a) All truth is limited, approximate, and is constantly evolving (Nietzsche, Kuhn, Popper).

b) No theory can ever be proved true – we can only show that a theory is false (Popper).

c) No theory can ever explain all things consistently (Godel’s incompleteness theorem).

d) There is always a separation between our mind & ideas of things and the thing in itself (Kant).

e) Physical reality is not deterministic (Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, Bohr).

f) Scientific concepts are mental constructs (logical positivism, Mach, Carnap).

g) Metaphysics is empty of content.

h) Thus absolute and certain truth that explains all things is[i]

To put it another way, the assumptions of postmodernism in regards to Christianity might be—

  1. There is no single theory, be it scientific, philosophic, or religious, that can explain everything. (Read- Christianity does not have the corner on Truth.)
  2. All accepted assumptions about our values, philosophies, religious beliefs, or scientific discoveries must be reexamined and challenged.
  3. Religion, though once important to explain mystery, is of no further use.
  4. Karma— payback is sweet. What you give out is what you will receive.
  5. Individual, pragmatic values are more important than group systems.
  6. The tenets of the Christian faith are, at best, mythical, relying on unreliable and unverifiable historic documents.
  7. Personal Christian experience is most likely a projection of wishful thinking, culturally delimited by experience and religious exposure.
  8. Individual beliefs are not binding on anyone else.

No matter how you slice it, the assumptions of postModern thought cut across and thoroughly reject the historical formulations of the Christian faith.  They leave, literally, no room for any reformulation of Christian Truth in their “mindset.” Truly, we are two ships passing in the night.

NEXT TIME~ A Christian Message for a postChristian Heart part 3.
Framing a postChristian Gospel: opening Pandora’s box

Offering a postChristian mind its Heart,

Gary

Making a Difference

jfk quoteHappy New Year!

     There’s a line in the movie The Greatest Showman, that came out Christmas 2017, which stuck with me. It’s actually a quote from P.T Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman in the movie.

 

“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”

     Too many of us, trying to fit in, actually merely blend in. We become part of the background while others step forward. We react to what is going on around us rather than initiating actions that will matter.

     In the progression of history, we are living in a hiatus, a time between times. If you think of time as a series of phases and transitions, we are in a transition, about to enter into some new yet-to-be-defined reality. What a great time to be alive! We get to write the definers of the next age, of the next paradigms of human perspectives.

     The great thing about transitions is that we cannot turn back; we must forge ahead.

     Sadly, too many of us want to live in the past. We’ve entrenched ourselves in the belief that the past was more secure, more stable, safer. It is change, the new, that is to be feared. Really!?! This is why our schools & colleges should require a course in HISTORY, no matter what your major. We have lost our way.

     Christians have taken the sports mantra No Fear and turned it into a tee-shirt— Fear not… . [Isaiah 41:10] Yet we Christians seem more afraid to face change, to face the future, to face our world’s fluctuating foundations and values than anyone. What’s with that, anyway?!?

     The genuine Christian should not strive to fit in, to blend. Rather, to make a difference in the world; from the lives of those around them, to the world arena. Let’s step forward and be counted.

     So instead of New Year’s Resolutions, make action plans; instead of setting personal goals, set people goals. Who will you help? Who can you love like Jesus? Who can you pass on your wisdom to? And don’t tell anyone. Just do it.

Make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ a consideration of postChristian apologetics