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

Advent – LIGHT! The Christ Candle

Advent wreath      It’s Christmas Eve. Our family lights the fifth candle— the Christ Candle! It is known as the Candle of Light because of the light that Jesus’ birth has brought into the world.

      For Starr and me lighting this candle is the seasonal reminder that we are to be the light of the world, especially in this time of such spiritual darkness. We believe that Christ came into this world to restore us to God and to make us messengers of His grace, love and forgiveness.

      Too often in our witness we dwell on the darkness within us and our need to have it exposed to the light. We forget that the Light does its own illumination and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We are simply to be messengers of the Light, proclaiming that we can be made whole again; we can be reunited with the God who made us to make a difference in this world for His glory. For Christmas IS all about Him.

      But in another sense Christmas is also about us. Christ came to this earth to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God and to make our restoration [read salvation] possible.

      What a great privilege we have!

      Take time over the next day and a half to reread the Christmas story. Try to place yourself in the troubled dark times that Mary and Joseph lived in. Feel the jostling baby in your womb (women only); feel the discomfort of the journey, and the disappointment of finding no rooms available in your own home town. Then, conceive giving birth in a family animal stall. A feeding troth for a cradle.

      And then all heaven breaks loose! The emotions Mary and Joseph must have experienced could barely be imagined.

      We live in the wrong kind of “light” this Christmas season; too many twinkling lights on our trees, too many festive decorations all around us. Wonderful though they are, they can distract us from the True Light that we celebrate at this time of year; all the more important that we become Light to those around us. Clarification is the natural companion of Light.

      So, if you can grab any moments of peace and silence in our noisy culture this Christmas Eve, remember why our Lord came in the fullness of time to bring salvation to all mankind. Maybe you will capture a glimpse of the role you are meant to play in this great scene.

Merry Christmas!
Gary

NEXT …on a personal note

Advent – PEACE! The Anticipation Candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!
Gary

NEXT ADVENT 5— The CHRIST Candle

Untenable

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

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

NEXT ungrateful at Thanksgiving

The Interior Castle

default  Beside Holy Scripture a good deal of my personal spiritual life has been shaped by the Saints who wrote of their journeys of faith and discovery. One such person is Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She was a Spanish noblewoman within the Carmelite tradition of the Catholic Church (Protestants were forming throughout her lifetime) known for her mystical faith and writings. She was not prone to writing until she was directed to write by the head of her Order. One of her best known works is The Interior Castle, where she describes the chambers of the human heart as a series of Mansions through which we move in growing closer to Christ.

  1. The Mansion of Humility & Grace
  2. The Mansion of the Practice of Prayer and Growth
  3. The Mansion of the Exemplary Life
  4. The Mansion of Prayer of the Quiet, where the supernatural and natural meet
  5. The Mansion of Prayer of Union, where the soul is completely possessed by God
  6. The Mansion of the Bride & Groom, where the soul would receive more favors, but also afflictions
  7. The Mansion of Spiritual Marriage between Christ and His Church.

     Where would you find yourself in Teresa’s Interior Castle? In many ways, even at this stage of my life, I would place myself in the Mansion of Humility & Grace, needing a great deal of both. In other ways I am firmly planted in #4, the Mansion of Prayer and Quiet, wherein the supernatural and Natural worlds blend.

     Most certainly I am not in the Mansion of Prayer & Union, where my soul is completely possessed by God; although I am most definitively striving for that.

     It must be also noted that I more likely than not skipped over the Mansion of the Exemplary Life entirely. For this, I hold much regret. But I am not dead yet.

     The most encouraging aspect of this delineation is that it helps me measure where I am in my journey to holiness, in my journey to become more like Jesus. It was penned almost 500 years ago. Maybe you might write one in a more contemporary vein?

     My journey has been one of service, suffering, joy, and celebration. May our Lord grant you one of similar combination.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

NEXT—  untenable

“ad astra per alas porce”

lucky-pig-1843071_960_720     When John Steinbeck was in college he was told by one of his professors that he would become a published author when pigs fly. He liked the insult so much that he opened each pf his subsequent books with the phrase— ad astra per alas porce. “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

     Steinbeck would not be deterred from what he was designed to do by the critical comments of one person. It was as if the comment had steeled his resolve to prove his professor wrong.

     It amazes me how so many of us give up so easily. One negative comment, one rejection, one disappointment, and we throw in the towel. How did so many of us get this way? Is it our educational system? Our family’s disapproval? When I was a young teen I could do nothing right in my father’s eyes; I couldn’t even cut the grass right!

     Since those days I’ve learned to rise above the negative comments of my friends. [Albeit, some negative commentary should be heeded.] We all need to answer to a higher calling; one where we live up to our abilities and to the levels of accomplishment that God has designed us to achieve. This is not an easy practice to incorporate into our daily mindset. We are quite content to base our self-worth on the belittling of others. I knew I wasn’t good enough. Really?!?

     For the nominal Christian, words like “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” [Philippians 4:13], or “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] seem to have lost their thrust. Our fear of failure has crushed them to the ground. Have we ceased to believe what is true?

     If there is one thing genuine followers of Christ need to do in this present generation it is to regain their sense of adventure in their Christian lives. We need to truly trust God and take the risks our faith requires. There is no time left to continue in a Let’s wait to see what happens attitude. And the only way I know to learn faith is to step outside of our comfort zone into the uncomfortable. This will be a different step for all of us. For extroverts, they probably won’t even know they’ve done it. For introverts, it could be terrifying.

     Nonetheless, our Lord calls us to it. What is our Christian faith without the faith part? Mere social alignment with a religious institution. Yeah…, that’s meaningful!

     Our Christian faith could be so much more exciting if it were not mere religious attendance.

Flying with the pigs,
Gary

The Fear of the Lord

the-fear-of-the-lord2The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  Proverbs 9:10

     We have very little understanding of the fear of the Lord in our era. If anyone does think about it, an image of an awe-powerful God sitting on a throne on Mt. Olympus comes to mind. He is the awful, powerful God lording his power over us. For most of us, that is ancient myth, Greek fable, and not a real reality. Nor do we rarely give a thought to a real Satan, a roaring lion, prowling about seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)  Our world has moved beyond such myths.

     Nonetheless, should we, in some way, fear the Lord? For those who live outside our faith, the answer is yes. But what about us who have placed our lives in Jesus’ hands, should we fear our Lord?

     It might be noted that we do have a way of constantly stepping outside of the perimeters of God’s protection for us. I would dare say that if we continually stray from the Truth and the practice of the Christian life we have something to be concerned about.

     The question is not Am I saved? Rather, it is— Am I abiding within God’s grace and living by the principles of the Christian faith laid down in Scripture? Not that our outward actions necessarily reflect an inward reality, but they do go a long way toward clarifying what is important to us.

     So, the real question then becomes, Where is your heart? What is the general direction of your passion, your direction in life, how you use your time and how you spend and give away your resources? “Where your heart is…” (Matthew 6:21) These things are measurable, not measured by deeds-done alone, but by inspiration and devotion. These are the internal qualities the drive us toward God. To not have them makes us mere actors in a play. Play-acting the Christian life is always an alarm for fearing God.

     You can run… .

     Besides, a HEALTHY fear of the Lord is a good thing, especially if it draws us into the presence of the Holy One. C.S. Lewis gives us a wonderful image of God. “he’s not a tame Lion, you know.” Who doesn’t approach a Lion with some healthy fear?

     Or, maybe gaining a deeper knowledge of God through Scripture and silence does produce a proper fear of him. Hummm?

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

NEXT— “ad astra per alas porce…”.