Challenging Challenges: Isolation

     Having just survived the COVID19 Pandemic (2019-2021) the world is faced with many Challenging Challenges. One of the strangest is a propensity for many of us to remain isolated.

     Oddly, the Pandemic was good for me. It isolated my wife and I within the cloister of our home. I wrote more, prayed for others more. And pondered my ancient question— What is God designing me for in this next phase of my life?

     There are a myriad of facets to consider: vision, strength, age, concentration, dreams, networks, support teams, spiritual disciplines, Starr, and numerous others. For me, I work best in context and conversation with other people. Give & take, argument, debate, sharpen my wits to produce better solutions about life.

     But I still need times of isolation for contemplation and reflection. These Colorado mountains offer great expanses to draw nearer to the mind of God.

     As followers of Christ, we dare not continue in a stance of isolation while our world is struggling to reboot. They need us. In Matthew 5 we are called to be the salt and light of this earth (13-16). Salt preserves: light clarifies. We cannot do that if we cloister in our churches or hide in our homes.

     Later, in John 17:13-19, Jesus prays to his Father that He should NOT take us out of this world. Rather, that we should be protected from evil. Considering we are postPandemic I do not believe continued isolation is an option for any genuine follower of Christ. Like I said, these people need us.

     For the sake of people’s redemption we need to reenter the warp ‘n wolf flow of our society. We need to be involved in the lives of the people around us. Even virtually! But not exclusively.

     Fear is Christ’s enemy. We need to overcome our fear and join in His ongoing mission to those He has chosen to place in our path.

    So where are you struggling with re-engaging? What keeps you in isolation?

     Get out there and enjoy the miracles our Lord has for you to discover.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  same ol’ , same ol’ .

Challenging Challenges: Making our Relationships Count

   Ok, Ok…, after you’ve stopped laughing at the photo let’s think about this.

How do we make our relationships count?!?

It’s one of the greatest challenging challenges of our era. Yes, divorce rates have dropped; but that’s only because people aren’t bothering with marriage so much anymore. Or, as one of my friends put it “I done with letting the law dictate my personal relationships.” Long term commitments are predicated on What’s in it for ME?

     As a genuine Christian I want to challenge this present mindset in direct opposition. At a reception after the wedding I heard the father of the bride comment “Everyone knows the words don’t mean anything anymore.” Mind you, this was at the reception, immediately following the wedding service and the exchanging of vows.

     Seriously?!? I was truly offended.

     Let me offer you some of what I’ve learned that makes a relationship count.

1.       Psalm 15 admonishes us to Swear to our own hurt and do not change. (v4). That means keeping our commitments, come hell or highwater. For my part, I’ve done that. You?

2.       Betray no one. It builds a track record of distrust. Not smart. Let your YES be Yes; and your NO be NO. [Matthew 5:37] Remember the KISS Principle?

3.       Immerse yourself in building up other people. It will make a difference in who you become.

4.       Love with all the kindness and compassion you have!

5.       Always forgive first! Especially when you know you’re right. It’s about the relationship, not the argument.

6.       Invest in things that matter. Not so much gifts, though they can be super nice. Rather, experiences that build up others.

7.       When our kids were growing up we would always tell them, “If you assume the higher position, there’s only one direction you can go. If you take the lower position, there’s only one direction you can go.” ‘Nough said.

8.       So many training courses today encourage us to be a servant of all if we are to rise in this world. Our Lord tells us, simply, to be a servant of all. ‘Nough said again.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Reframing Our Faith

Challenging Challenges: Cancer

     

OK, let’s get on with it. Yesterday I had my first treatment for cancer, prostate cancer, that has spread to the bone, to be precise. Today, it doesn’t seem that any side effects have kicked in. Praise God!

      This is uncharted territory for both of us. Then again, that is what Starr and I have given our lives to most of the time. Forging creative ways to be Christians in secular society, thinking deeply about the communication of the Christian message to an increasingly naïve, broken, and angry world. Moving the Gospel format from a Problem-Solving Model to a Fulfillment Model was a shift some are still not comfortable with.

     And many of our friends are still shocked that after 40 years in New England we moved to Colorado. We seriously love living by our beloved mountains. Few of our East Coast friends realized how much they were a part of our soul.

     This cancer certainly qualifies as one of life’s Challenging Challenges. On one hand, we are quite aware of the seriousness of this situation. On the other, we, I have utter confidence in the God we love that He is in absolute control. There is a great assurance and inner peace that goes with that. For those who have just this life, it makes no sense.

     Frederick Nietzsche, one of my distant influencers [who most Christians thought was attacking our faith], once said that “those who danced were thought to be completely mad by those who could not hear the music.”  I find the Christian life to be much like that in front of the normal people around us. They march to a different drummer. We follow a path of total dependence on the God of the universe who has called us to Himself. And we like His music.

         I often say in jest God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. You know I mean exactly the opposite. For once you put your trust in the God of heaven & earth, your need to control the world around you falls into the proper perspective.

     At the end of John’s gospel, chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter repeatedly if he loves Him. Finally, Peter replies in desperation, “Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you.” Jesus’ reply—

Feed my sheep.

     Our Lord is always asking us the same question. Do you love me? Will you continue to make a difference in My Name?

     Even with cancer?!? Yes, even with that.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

Challenging Challenges – What’s Worth Dying For?

One of favorite novels of all time is Charles Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES. In it he describes the horrors & inequities of the French Revolution (1789-1799). But it is also a story of love and nobility. Without getting too deeply into the plot, Sydney Carton switches places with Charles Darnay so that he is the one who is executed by guillotine, thus saving Darnay. In Dicken’s novel his last words are—

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

     So the question we each need to think about is— What’s worth dying for?  

     Julius Caesar’s vision for a Roman Empire led to his murder. Jesus’ proclamation that He was God led to His crucifixion. Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence led to his assassination. Martin Luther King Jr’s cry for racial justice also led to his assassination.

     Let’s tighten the question. What, who, would you die for?

     I would die for my wife, our children, my friends, and, if necessary, even a stranger. I would die for my faith in Christ.

     But maybe this is the wrong question. What’s worth living for? might be more to the point. What you would live for you would also die for, of course. But how you live is as important, if not more so, than what you would die for.

     Some challenges— Are your beliefs serving a higher calling? A greater purpose? Do you live with a purpose? Or do you simply wait for whatever comes along?

     Are you guiding those around you? How? Are you leaving behind a legacy, a reason for the next generation to come alive? How are you training younger believers to live their faith in their way in their culture?  All followers of Christ are called to do this.

     What’s worth dying for? I would hope you would have a long list.

Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friend.

      ~ John 15:13

     In these crazy days, please, think about what you’re living for: and what’s worth dying for. If it is just yourself, you might want to reconsider that.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Cancer

Challenging Challenges – Fighting God

Nooooo! Not the Greek God of Thunder. Definitely NOT Chris Hemsworth. THAT would be a simple feat.

     Fighting the real God of the Universe is somewhat more of a challenge. Actually, it’s just a plain bad idea. Stupid too.

     But far too many of us do it consistently. We reject His principles for living; we reject His perimeters of protection; we fight His offer of salvation; and we reject His offer of manifold gifts and blessings. What is wrong with us?!?

     This is a fight we cannot win that has dire consequences. But fight on we do!

     We truly believe God will take away all our fun, box us in to become a charming, conservative package, and make “nice” people out of us. Yet, seemingly, we seek to return to our barbarous pillage & plunder days, adhering to no code but our own, if it’s even a code at all.

     There are some advantages in fighting God. We get to write our own principles for behavior, based on what we want. We get to live outside His perimeters of protection for us and sin boldly. We are free to deny His offer of salvation and place ourselves above all others with, supposedly, no consequences for our actions. We are free to define our own happiness, snubbing any and all miracles He might want to grant us. Is this what you really want?

     However, we are all still called to make a difference for good in this world. We are encouraged to bring peace between desperate factions. And we are summoned to love other people. So what do we really gain by fighting God? He is our one reliable source of strength and safety. Are our individual rights, our personal freedom able to protect us as much as He does?

     I often ask people What is God designing you for in the next phase of your life?  Do you know?

     Or this question from James 4:1-3 [erv]

Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don’t get them. So you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God. Or when you ask, you don’t receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.

     Isn’t it time for each of us to take time to examine our own wars with God? Seriously, what is worth fighting God for?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What’s worth dying for?

Challenging Challenges – White Blindness

In recent days (and years), we have seen an increase in racial challenges to white autocracy. It has not been a pretty picture: but it has been a good thing. For too long have white people, especially in the South, turned a blind eye to the black issues that we have created.

     This EMPulse will try to speak into some resolution to this systemic problem.

     First, some review of white attitudes toward black people over the past 175 years is in order.

·         Slaves-property/profit. Negros were seen as property, somewhere between farm animals and human beings, fit only for what they could produce.

·         Freed-a blight & problem. By the late 19th century blacks were seen as a blight on society. Human, but dirty and immoral.

·         Repressed- uneducated, persecuted. The industrial revolution in the early 20th century kept them uneducated. They were persecuted in their poverty.

·         Rising presence- cannot be ignored. By mid century Black people became a rising presence in white dominated America; treated still as inferiors, tolerated by the white establishment.

·         Societal acceptance- almost. With the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and the clarion voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., white-America was forced to adapt to an intelligent vocal minority that knew that this national prejudice what not what God intended in creation.

·         Latent systemic prejudice. Within the first two decades of the 21st century, there arose a chorus of voices from the black communities across America that enough is enough! White repression, especially from local police, has grown out of control. A few bad cops, and possibly an undercurrent of resentment, gave impetus to a swelling outcry against police brutality. And, of course, disproportionate racial response within Black America.

     So, here we are, 5 months into the 21st century. We have NO resolution, NO solutions, and little understanding of the local and national scheme of things on either side. Personally, I do not believe that any white man has the ability to put himself in a black man’s shoes. The historical/social differences & distances are too great.

     What can we do to correct, or at least address, the inequities, prejudice, hangings, burnings, murders, discriminations and ostracizations of these past 175+ years?

     To look to government, local or national, to correct these injustices is vacant expectation. Do any of us really believe they know how?

     To let the people work it out on their own terms hasn’t worked out so well either. Look up the Tulsa (OK) race massacre on May 31-June 1,1921, or, the Rosewood Massacre in Levy County, FL; or the police repression of the Freedom Movements of the early 60s – late 70s.

     The only solution is for genuine Christians is to take up their cross and follow their Lord to repentance and faith. To sit before our Lord and examine our own hearts in terms of our hidden prejudices is a good place to start. Remember what our Lord calls us to—

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:39-41

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:28.

     I grew up in Baltimore in the 1950s-60s. To say it was a dangerous, tense time between whites and blacks would be academic. I lived it. I had some truly great friendships with a couple black guys that were frowned upon by my white friends. It was a hard time in my life. And I would do it the same way all over again to live out the gospel in their midst.

Honor God, honor people, of all races, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Fighting God

After There’s Nothing Left: Silence

      What is the point in talking (writing) about soul silence? Isn’t the point to do the opposite— to simply stop talking, writing, doing! To STOP! And to be open to listen to what the Lord God of the universe has to say to you.

Our lives are constantly filled with noise; not just planes and trains and automobiles, but interruptions to our every waking moment. Staying connected to our cell phones, tablets, smart-watches, laptops, Switch, PlayStations…, and the all commanding Internet, has become the bane of the human spirit. We’re always “on,” always connected to noise and the draw of the electronic marketplace. We need things that 10 minutes ago we had never heard of, let alone wanted. We just WANT.

Many of us have fallen into the habit of constantly asking God for things; healing, resolution, forgiveness, mediation, financial security, individual guidance, etc. Sometimes I fall prey to this marketplace approach to God myself. I am not proud of it. Too often am I caught up in this world of things. My soul needs to be silent before God to listen, to hear what HE has to say, to me, individually, alongside what He has already revealed to us in Scripture. There is a great depth of meaning to be considered in “Be still, and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10]. I am as driven to accomplish as many things as the next guy. But I must force myself, my soul, to be silent. In silence I learn: in busyness I get things done, but I do not renew my soul. Thus—soul silence.

I truly need a spiritual retreat. ASAP. I need to spend significant time alone with God. My brain (and my mouth) is always running. One of the hardest things I do every day is to fall asleep at night. I cannot “shut-off.” Sure, I keep a stack of 3×5 cards and a lite-pen next to my bed; just in case I have an idea that calls me from a deep sleep at 3:00 a.m. But then it is difficult to get back to sleep again.

If I cannot even shut down my brain at night how am I ever going to be able gain enough fortitude and composure to be silent before God?

Soul Silence is something, at least for me, that must become a goal, a concerted effort to come apart from all that calls me to responsibility and productivity (ok, and frivolity) and to calm my soul before the Lord God Creator. I am not a quiet person by nature. My wife, Starr, says I am too BIG. In public settings she often will squeeze her two fingers in a secret sign between us, meaning, “Be smaller.” Hummmm. For her, being silent before God is a way of life; for me, not so much. I worship God through music, blasting praise as loud as society will allow me without getting arrested. I worship BIG, like the rest of me.

So I am learning to be still and know that I am God alongside many others, maybe you. Kudos to those who are already there. For me, silence is work.

Honor God, honor people, & be quiet,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left—Learning Silence

After There’s Nothing Left: The Incredible Lightness of Being

      In 1988 the movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being was released. It was a love story, of sorts; a sad one, to be sure. But the title lends itself in our understanding of depression and the importance of soul clarity. Contrary to the beliefs of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists, clear sight does not flow out of the depths of despair. Rather, it comes with the forgiveness and the freedom experienced in the releasing of your soul, the cleansing of your life of all the grime and evil that has taken up residence. Clearing-out of all such added weight of depression and despair frees the soul to a level best described as an incredible lightness of being.

      This is not to say that some of life’s residual grunge will not cling to you. It will. And you will be tempted to return to it at times. (Remember the dog-to-the-vomit metaphor.) But as more muck is shed, the lightness of your being is able to rise above the din of your past to see your future more clearly. Of course, this can only be attained if you decide to discard the muck. Soul cleansing is no one-time event. You will find yourself doing it throughout your life’s journey.

      If you sense a loss of perspective and clarity along the way, it may be time for some de-mucking again.

      For a clear Biblical framework of soul clarity, I would refer you to 2 Peter 1:1-11.  In this one paragraph we find the sequence of characteristics that must come into play if we are ever to see things clearly. Please read this paragraph with some diligence and inquisitiveness—

 From: Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.   Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

[New American Standard Bible, 1963-71]

This sequence—  faith + moral excellence + knowledge + self-control + perseverance + godliness + brotherly kindness + love = clear vision and long range sight. This sequence will naturally lead to soul/whole clarity. Why? Because you have regained a sense of purpose and are making a difference.

 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A lot of soul-searching must proceed the stillness of a heart resting in itself, in God, and in the confidence that you are doing what you are designed to do.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— silence.

After There’s Nothing Left: Digging Through the Dirt

Shovel in Dirt

         Scrutinizing who you are as a person will create a richer point-of-clarification of who you are to yourself and to those around you.

        This point-of-clarification happened to me somewhere between ages 38-40. My wife and I had just gone through some of the most devastating experiences of our lives— the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a livelihood, the loss of close friends and coworkers. Add to that my impending surgery for TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorder), which turned out to be very painful, and you can imagine our distress and discouragement. We were at the bottom of our lives. It became apparent that I had given up on living any kind of productive, useful, (let alone) creative life ever again.

      But, somewhere in the latter portion of my 39th year of life I got mad, really mad— at myself and at the world around me. I fought every corner of myself, and a few other nay-sayers, to make a difference in this world. Again. What happened next astounded even me. My wife and I founded NEEDinc. Initially an evangelistic ministry that “tailor made” an evangelistic approach more suitable to our New England environment and culture.

      I was alive again! My soul refreshed, my vision clear, my purpose rising ahead of me. I committed myself and all that we had to this new venture of training Christians to make sense of evangelism in the new, emerging postModern/postChristian world.

      Soul Confession behind me, I began digging in the dirt clarifying what I was all about. For Soul Clarity involves a focus on a future path, of how and where to expend energy. It asks questions like—

What am I designed to do in the next phase of my life?

Where does God want me to spend my strength to make the most difference?

      Everyone will come to a point in their journey where the question of what NOT to do is as important as what TO DO. Options DO change as wisdom increases and strength diminishes. Again, seeking the perspective of others who know you seems an advisable path.

      Having founded and incorporated NEEDinc, we next constructed a Board of Directors. From Day One, NEED’s Board of Directors has provided me with consistent guidance that has kept me on the straight & narrow. Ok, not so straight, definitely not narrow, but definitively on a path which fulfilled the Mission of NEEDinc, and suited God’s design upon me, my strength level, and a course of action that kept me on track. Thank God for the critiques, criticism, caring, and cautions of friends!

      For the only ways to clarify what you are designed for is—

  1. To take risks, in fear & faith.
  2. To listen carefully to the advice and criticism of those who know you best. (Including testing.)
  3. Assess whether what you believe about yourself is proven accurate in the evaluations of your efforts.
  4. In the affirmation that comes directly from the God who created you.

      Soul Clarity works in two ways: first, to wash clean all the junk that has clouded your vision for so long; and, second, to grant you clear vision and long range sight. (2 Peter 1:11). Still, I must add that you will not continue to see things clearly if you clutter your purpose or cloud your vision with peripheral projects. There are many good and great things you can do. But what is the ONE THING you MUST do, no matter what? THAT is the question. Or, that is THE question we all must answer if we are to have a purpose for our existence.

      Some lingering depression may still be there; but it will be couched in a revitalized purpose.

Digging deeper,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— the incredible lightness of being.

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – ’twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse;

      This past Sunday we celebrated the fourth Sunday in Advent by lighting the Peace candle on our dining room table.

      This tradition is a good reminder that Christ came into this world to bring peace to all. In a very real sense He has passed that privilege on to us. So as we sit around a Christmas tree of sing Christmas Carols, let us all re-commit ourselves to being peacemakers in this world. Christmas is not about us, even though we give wonderful gifts to one another. It’s about the Lord God of the universe coming to this planet to inaugurate a new beginning for us all.

      So remember, the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, it’s probably because we are all so dead tired from decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, or remembering that one thing we forgot. We need to take a breather and quietly reflect before our Christmas trees what is the reason for the season.

  • It is walking within our world because He came to do the same.
  • It is genuinely loving the people around us because He first loved us.
  • It is committing to sacrifice…, again.
  • It is giving to the homeless, the sick, the elderly, and those less blessed than us, like He did.
  • It is bringing hopefaithjoypeace…, and Christ to those who do not have a clue.

      The night before Christmas could be a time of recommitment to those things that should truly matter in your life. It should be a time to count your blessings and to bless others. It should be a time when you finally shut down, take a deep breath, a sip on some eggnog, and thank God for the life you have lived thus far.

      We will be doing so; come join us…, wherever you live.

      For there certainly is more to come.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the space between us