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

Tenacity and Disruptions – Consider What I Say

jesus2bpraying “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]

     Thinking, thinking, thinking. We do a lot of that in our evangelical enclave. We want to get things right. We want to think Biblically; from studying the Bible, to theology to worship to communication. Even Paul the apostle encourages us to consider what I say….  He must have had some sense that what he was writing carried some weight with Timothy.

     I wonder if the people I’ve taught over the years still consider the things I have said. Then again, do I still listen to the voices that come into my life? I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

     Heeding what others say to us, taking it to heart, may be just the way our Lord is driving home His point of what He has designed us for. His guidance comes in many forms— first, of course, is through the revelation we know as the Bible. That is inspired by God and binding on all humanity for all time. But the second, specific to us individually, may come from a consensus in a meeting, a whisper from your wife or husband as you nod off to sleep, or even through a little child in your neighborhood.

     Our Lord helps us understand His divine revelation and His personal guidance through many means. Do not try to tie Him down to our boxes of form and focus. He is full of surprises! I once heard the voice of God coming through an 11-year-old boy I was chatting with in a hallway at First Baptist Church, in Amherst, MA. Wasn’t looking for it, no buildup to it in our talk: just Boom! I don’t think he ever knew.

     When our Lord gives us understanding He also expects us to do something with what we now know. Has God been speaking to you about anything new through Scripture, or a non-descript 11-year-old boy, or someone else? Take heed. For as understanding comes, so does our responsibility to act.

     I end with a warning. Never put yourself in a position where you cannot hear your Father speaking to you. Stay immersed in Scripture. Have your “God’s-voice antennae” always fine tuned and ready to listen. [See I Samuel 3; Samuel, the Lord, & Eli.]

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being a Christian in a postChristian world.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Getting Dirty

download    “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]

     Farming takes up millions of acres across our planet. It also grabs the heart of many men and women who could not imagine living in a city. They love the early mornings, the hard work that leaves dirt under their nails and sweat on their brow. At the end of the day they rest with a sense of accomplishment. At the end of harvest they are rewarded with fruits of their labor being sold at markets around the world.

     The Christian life is much like this. There are seasons of intensity when we cultivate our world to make it ready for the return of the King. We study our Bibles with concentration, we learn the power in prayer, we give ourselves to those who have no idea of what the Christian message of live and forgiveness is all about.

     But we must also take breaks from our interactions to refurbish our souls. We need time alone with God, time alone with ourselves, those we love, and a mountain retreat or a sea-breeze blown beach. It is not wrong to rest from our labors. Our souls need it. It is wrong to rest when we have done nothing to extend the message of Christ in our world.

     Christians in other areas of our world have observed how lazy Western Christians have become; how much we are prone to entertainment worship and feel-good faith. It is time we examine ourselves to see if any of these accusations apply to us…, and then to correct it.

     Ask yourself— How much do I enjoy talking with God? Listening to Him? Am I a joyful giver? Do you give at all? Do I love normal people? (Read non-Christians.) How do they know I love them? What are their names? How many friends do I have who truly know me?

     Our salvation is NOT based on what we do. But if there is little evidence in your life that you are living up to the precepts of our Lord’s principles for living…, well?

     It’s time we get our hands dirty in the real struggles of life. Ours, and others. Farming is dirty work, but what it produces provides nutrients for us all.

Honor God, honor people…, get it done.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— thinking, thinking, thinking.

Tenacity & Disruptions-Winning the Prize

Tom_Brady_and_his_offensive_line

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]

     Winning. For some of us, Christian & otherwise, that’s all there is. In sports, business, the church, or everyday relationships. God knows this. There is nothing wrong with winning; but contrary to Vince Lombardi, it is NOT the only thing. All athletes know that winning must be achieved only when they abide by a set of common rules.

     The same is true of the Christian life. No matter your culture, the rules of the Christian faith apply to all. Simply stated— Honor God, honor people, make a difference. More specifically—

      There is a God in the universe who wants to give us everything He has. He simply asks us to give Him everything we have; all our self-centeredness, our rebellion, and our arrogance. He wants us to admit we’ve been wrong in our rebellion against His right over our lives. He’s even provided a resolution for the chasm we’ve created between us. The Person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our rebellion.

      Do you want to claim the death of Christ as the paid-penalty for your rebellion? That’s His question for all of us. If your answer is YES, then you get to live your life according to His rules, not your own. Then you get to win, guaranteed.

      Now that’s good news!

      If you are not so much into sports, let alone winning, then you are probably unconsciously living your life by your own rules. Learning to live by someone else’s rules may be a tough shift for you. But can you imagine that the God of the universe, who sets the rules, might know a little more about what they should be than you do? Humm.

      If each of us compete by our own rules winning becomes a matter of personal interpretation; but that’s not really winning is it? The God of the universe, our Father, wants us to live according to His rules, not our own. Remember, His rules are actually perimeters for our protection to live in this world the way He intended..

Honor God, honor people…, go for it!
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— get dirty

tenacity & disruptions: entangled

2957791455_5ef26bed52_bYou 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]

     Entanglements. We all have them. At work. At home. With kids. In church. In our neighborhoods. Life gets messy. Then it gets messier. After that, it unravels. Inner, and possible outward, chaos ensues. If you’ve lived long enough, your life can become a disheveled web of over-commitments.

     So what’s to be done?!?

     The image in our passage is that of a soldier becoming disengaged from all the entanglements of civilian life. He is in the army. The only one he must please is his commanding officer. Therefore all the commitments in his civilian life must go. That’s what the service is.

So, some questions—

  • What entangles you in your everyday life? How will you detangle yourself?
  • What must change so you will please our heavenly Father?

     We all have this tendency to over commit to too many things. All we seem to do is run, run, run. Some of us don’t have one night off a week. That’s too much. You need time to rest, to breathe, to sit down with your spouse, have a good glass of wine, and simply talk with each other.  R e l a x.

     As a side note, some of us are even to busy to pray. That’s too busy. If we are so over committed that we do not have time to spend with the One we love something is seriously out of kilter. God loves you and wants to spend time with you. And you’re going to say no time for you. Really!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— winning the prize

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

Tenacity & Disruptions

disruption_680  For some time now, since the mid-1800s, I’ve been immersed in the letters of Paul to Timothy; especially 2 Timothy. Ergo, we are going to enter into a series of considerations on 2 Timothy 2. I’ve titled this series Tenacity & Disruptions, for, as you know, we are often interrupted in our Christian journey by things that draw us away from our focus and our faith. So…, let’s get started.

     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. [NASV]

     So, let’s get started. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It should be obvious that there is a prior relationship between the writer, Paul, and Timothy. It is a close one too. Son, Paul calls him. The first thing Paul directs him to do is be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Why? There are so many disruptions in the Christian journey that Timothy, like us, needed to be reminded to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

     Our tendency is to be strong in our own strength. One of the banes of our lives is that we are quite capable of getting things done on our own with little to no dependency on our Lord. We are perfectly able of operating on our own without any reliance on the grace God has provided. I, for one, am most prone to this weakness. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Christian life, it is having to have faith.

     What about you? Is it difficult for you to find your strength in our Lord’s grace? Or are you quite capable? Is it possible you can handle everything in your world because you haven’t put yourself in a position where the only thing left for you is to rely on His grace?

     Too many of us don’t trust God with the BIG stuff in life. We’ve become calculating Christians, where we’ve counted the cost so many times that we miss opportunities to join God’s miracles of grace in everyday life. Try stepping out in faith a little more over the next few days. You’ll be amazed at how our Lord will surprise you as you live in His grace. Tenacity, remember?

Happy New Year!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.