Advent – Candle of Faith

The Second Candle in Advent represents FAITH. So few people have faith in anything these days. Faith in government is shot, faith in marriage vows has all but vanished, faith in a God who has our best interests at heart has failed all over the globe. We have truly descended to become a faithless generation.

Well, except for faith in money. We truly believe that money, lots of it, more of it, will save us. At one of the URBANA Mission Conferences I recall Rev. John R.W. Stott, then chaplain to the Queen, recounted a story of officiating at the funeral of a wealthy English Lord. A friend of his, a Dowager, leaned into him to ask, Vicar, how much did he leave? Rev. Dr. Stott wisely responded My Ladyship, he left it all!

Faith in money is foolish.

  In my cancer treatments, I am putting a lot of faith in my doctors. [I think I have four at present.] I am out of my element when it comes to radiation therapy. I have little choice but to put my faith in their training and treatment plan.

  It is much like that with Christian faith. There is little we can do to save ourselves. That was left to the Son of God as He poured out His life on a Roman cross. People often ask me if I am assured of my salvation. My response is that I do not have to be…, that rests in my Father’s hands. For the most part I enjoy being a Christian and living by the principles and precepts Jesus has laid out for us in Scripture. But then there are times when living the Christian life becomes quite difficult, especially inside the Christian community. Other believers can be so unforgiving and judgmental at times.

  So faith, our faith, needs the context of personal trial and error, where it has been tried and tested and proven under fire. Personally, I wish it were not so, but it is.  “   for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” [James 1:3 ESV] And I’ve never been good at tests.

  Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855] proposed that faith is like throwing yourself back into the darkness and finding that there is a God there to catch you. Well, I’m not so sure that is a great definition of faith. We have too much verifiable evidence from historical accounts and subjective validation that our faith has been proven over and over again.

  Can faith be explained away by skeptical and “rational” argument? Well, yes. But not without prejudice. Can the miracles of our faith be challenged? Of course. But they are not so easily dismissed. Too many eye-witnesses.

  Can the internal validation of faith be brought into question? Absolutely! But you would be hard pressed to argue with millions and millions of Christ-followers spanning 2,000 years of history that they were WRONG.

  So when you question your faith, or have doubts, remember the myriads of believers who went before you. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, banished from their homes, their communities, judged and exiled from their homes and countries, and, more so in our era, ignored. Yet I have often found in my life that people are hungry for what Starr and I have— an abiding peace in times of uncertainty, a stability they cannot attribute to financial security, and a life-joy that drives them crazy.
  So get an Advent wreath and light ‘er up! Consider where your faith lies.


  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Shephard’s Candle— JOY

No Thanks

     It’s been a hard year. Hard to find things for which we’re thankful. Yet here we are— at Thanksgiving 2021.

      In our lives, we’ve both had covid, I have cancer, race relations and government conflagration have never been in such a rage, and our economy isn’t anything to rave about. Except negatively.

      So…, how can anyone be thankful? Here are some of my reflections.

·         Our world is not engaged in any full-scale wars. Praise God!

·         Climate change is finally being addressed (somewhat).

·         The natural beauty of this world still amazes us. [although some snow might be nice.]

·         COVID19 is not devastating the world as the FLU did in 1918-1919.

·         God still surprises us with His unexpected miracles.

·         The US economy is still resilient.

·         Starr & I are mostly healthy. Although afternoon fatigue afflicts both of us.

·         Ministry continues to glorify Christ, with some modification.

·         My 14-year-old Volvo is running in top-notch shape.

      Still, life has gotten a tad strange, hasn’t it? I do not believe we can define the new-normal quite yet. But the old normal is indeed gone.

      So here is my challenge to all of us. We are the ones to define the new normal under the principles that Jesus Christ has given us. Honor God, honor people, make a difference. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” [~James 1:27 ESV]  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  [Colossians 3:17 ESV] 

      Are these things hard to do in times such as these? Yes! Remember the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in Lord of the rings?  “I wish it need not have happened in my time, said Frodo. So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.”

      We all live within the strictures of our times. May we, who hold the name of Jesus dear, rise above the fray and chaos, and offer thanks to God for all He has given us. So, instead of no thanks…—

      Happy Thanksgiving!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being Christian at Christmas

Jerks-for-Jesus… revisited

     It’s not that they were evil or unkind; they were merely afraid and judgmental, wanting to protect their own faith and that of their families. Any true believer could not have friends who were in the world. This turned our witness in this world into commando raids, followed by a regrouping and a debriefing session back in the safety of a Christian conclave.

     I judged this model of evangelism and condemned it. I was wrong.

      These were simple people in postwar America who wanted to escape the horrors of man’s hatred of man.

      Unfortunately, this pattern dragged into the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s to become a format for the evangelical sector of Christians in our country. Forty years later, it still holds sway over some expressions of our faith.

      Today, in these early decades of the 21st Century, true followers of Jesus cannot be afforded the safety of cocooning within our fortresses of Christian fellowship. Our world has lost any historical understanding of the nature of our faith; and the media seems only interested in reporting the aberrations. And there are many.

      Might I suggest we adopt the example of our Lord Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

      If Jesus could forsake the glory and safety of Heaven and take on the form of common man, can we do any less?!? Our mission is to this world, to those around us, to those He has placed in our path. We do not have to go very far to find the mission our Lord has created for us. But we DO have to come alive to the consciousness that it is there.

      The waitress, the banker, the business associate, the neighbor, the sales-person, the little league coach, the golf partner, the fellow mountain climber risking their life right beside (or below) you, the biker, fellow soldier, the auto repairman, the barber, er, stylist, the insurance agent, the backyard football fanatic, your kids, others peoples’ kids, or even your agnostic angry relative. Really, they’re just not that hard to find.

      All Jesus wants us to do is to make time for them in our over-packed schedules and to love them. It will feel intentional at first; but once you fall in love with the people God has placed in your path, you will never do evangelism again. You will simply be drawn to draw them to your Savior & Lord.

      Oh, yeah, the Jesus model.

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel for people who know nothing. Pt.1.3  

Finding God: Pulling It All Together

     Everyone’s journey to find God is different. The way you were brought up plays a big role in the process. Life experiences. Tragedies. Disappointments. Even those amazing moments where you could proclaim— ‘I DID IT!’

     But there comes a time in our search for God when it feels like the shoe is on the other foot. When you’ve exhausted all your avenues of find God and the path comes to a WALL.

     In my journey I studied philosophy for 3 years, trying to live by the precepts of each path. I tried to live by the teachings of other religious leaders— Mohammed, Buddha, the Torah, Hari Krishna…, all to great travail. In truth, I knew God wanted me, Jesus, specifically. So I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction; trying to escape the God Who, I learned, sought me.

     I hid in philosophic debate, academic prowess, theater, romantic relationships, and cross-country adventures. The end of my 3½ attempted escape all culminated in a prayer of “I give up. I cannot fight you.” sitting under the alter in an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan. My new life in Christ was inaugurated at about 3:00 a.m. that morning. No one was more surprised than I.

     My fledgling days as a new Christian brought new attitudes and actions into my daily routine. The biggest realization that dawned on my soul was, in all my efforts to find God, God was actually looking for me; boxing me in at every turn to draw me to Himself.

     So in your own search for god/God, don’t be too surprised when you find yourself leaning in a certain direction, on a path you had not previously intended to follow; irrespective of your religious background, cultural heritage, or academic pursuits.

     Pulling it all together, God is not some academic exercise that we postulate and create in our image. He is an amazing entity who resides outside this created realm. It is His to judge, to direct, to condemn, and to salvage. Do you really want to be on the wrong side of history when He comes to take what is His? Do you want to remain on the fence, waiting to see how things go, how things turn out, before His arrival?

     One of the greatest challenges of our time is a fear of commitment. Be it personal relationships, business commitments, or decisive decisions of any kind we hedge our bets. Something better might come along. Might?!? So we never fully commit to anyone, anything. This is not a good idea.

     Our God is a God of promises. He’s not messing with your life to screw you over.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— “When you’re going through hell… .” — Winston  Churchill.

Finding God: What are you looking for? A Guide

  As I wrapped up the initial What Are You Looking For? I realized that some procedural guidance might come in handy. So here is your GUIDE on how you might proceed.

1.       What have you done in life that you truly enjoyed? Earliest memory? Something that still lights you up?

2.       As you look back, what have been the tipping points in your life? You know…, those events or experiences that changed you.

3.     What difficult experiences have you had that make you shy-away from certain situations even today?

4.    How readily do you trust people?

5.    On a 1 – 10 scale, how likely are you take risks?

6.    What scares you, overwhelmingly? [beside these questions]

7.    How far into the future do you feel safe in planning?

8.    What are your wildest dreams? What dreams are you actually going for?

9.    Who can you talk with about this stuff? [buy dinner]

10.   What legacy would you like to leave behind? For family? For your community? For the world?

       In my arena of influence, I try to project what we need to do NOW to make a difference in the future. I know, I know, it’s a bit prophetic on my part. But I really enjoy dreaming the future, preempting problems, and creating things that others haven’t thought of yet. Fortunately, there are now many others who have joined the ranks of culture prophets and dream outside the box. Bill Edgar, Dick Keyes, and Richard Peace come to mind.

       One more thing to consider— How much do you rely on God in Prayer? To exclude Him in your processing is a grave mistake made by too many of us. He has a perspective on everything. Including you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take.

                                        ~Proverbs 3:5-6.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Conquering the Chaospt. 4.

Finding God: What are you looking for?

    The history of the telescope can be traced to before the invention of the earliest known telescope, which appeared in 1608 in the Netherlands, when a patent was submitted by Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker. Although Lippershey did not receive his patent, news of the invention soon spread across Europe. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepieceGalileo improved on this design the following year and applied it to astronomy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telescope


    The telescope was and is one of the greatest instruments for searching the heavens or peering across the cities to find our what’s on the other side. But to answer our question— What Are You Looking For? we need to turn our gaze inwardly, to explore our hearts, our minds, and our soul.

     Might I direct you to consider some of these questions as you explore—

1.       Why is there anything?

2.       Did a God create all there is? Or did it always exist? Or did it evolve from some primordial ooze?

3.       Why do you exist? Not just because you were born…, but what is your purpose(s) in being on this earth?

4.       Why do you seem to have a moral compass? A sense of right & wrong? Is it merely cultural?

5.       Do things just happen? Or do you sense some behind-the-scenes plan? Can you recalculate as you grow?

6.       What is that One Thing you want out of life more than anything else?

7.       What is the One Thing you must do before you die to make a difference? To leave a legacy?

8.       If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

9.       If you could change anything in your own life, what would it be?

10.   What else matters that you want to effect?

     Yes, I’ve pondered all these questions more than once; and come up with different answers as I’ve grown and changed through my experiences and perspectives on life. “Is Jesus Christ truly God incarnate and has He genuinely granted me a place in His Kingdom by His side?” is one question I roll around on an almost weekly basis. Faith is not a solid thing: it is a dynamic organism.

     If you believe you have all the answers, then you haven’t discovered most of the questions. When I was young in my Christian faith, I had all the answers…, just not all the questions. The Westminster Confession of Faith grounded me in Truth. But it left out some things— miracles, individual revelations, calling, spiritual intuitions, and, forever that bugaboo, gut feelings.

     So when I ask What are you looking for? I’m right there beside you, wondering about so many things myself, even though I am basically established, my Christian faith is still that…- faith.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for? Pt.2 



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