PHASES #6, Disillusion

    Remember the first time someone told you there wasn’t a Santa Clause? No, wait. Maybe I shouldn’t have put it that way. Do you remember the time someone mentioned in passing that there just may be a possibility that Santa Clause might not be “real,” in some sense of the word?

Doesn’t matter, does it. The thought was implanted in your brain. It left the Santa Clause Question open to further pondering.

How about the first time someone challenged you about your faith in Jesus. Told you that it was all just a made-up story; from Creation on…, just a story. Your feelings of elation and freedom were simply a product of your up-bringing or social religious input. Or maybe it was when you couldn’t answer someone’s question? Did that start to make it all untrue for you?

How about the time you prayed that someone you loved would be healed by God…, and they died. Or was it you studied other religions or philosophies and found them just as intriguing? Or maybe a broken relationship?

For many of us, things come up in our walk of faith that disillusion us. We doubt. We question whether it is all true; that is, if the stories in the Scripture we revere are all factual accounts of history, of redemption?

Often, instead of leading to sincere, serious inquiry, this disillusionment leads to cynicism; a cynicism of the worst kind. We try to drag others into the abyss of our despair to wallow in doubt along side us. O joy!

Some even leave the faith because of their disillusion. This saddens me. I am sure some gave Christianity a try, and it didn’t work for them. But most who leave do so because being a Christian did not live up to their standards of peace and/or perfectionism. If you think Christians should be, or are, perfect, don’t join us. We are a people in process who do not have all the answers and often get lost along the way.

In a rich relationship with Christ, as in any love relationship, there will be ups & downs; times of disappointment, and even despair; times of joy and sorrow. And if I tell you that in the end it will all make sense, that really doesn’t help much, does it.

What I can attest to is a God who is full of surprises. When your faith is low…, surprise! He does something to totally wreck your world and turn it right-side up again. If you constantly doubt your faith, or whether you are truly saved…, let me assure you, if you are hungry to be with Christ, long to learn more about Him, and even enjoy spending time with other Christ Followers, you are still on the right path. Accept the freedom and forgiveness Christ has granted you and GET ON WITH IT! (… more on this later.) 

Disillusioned? Sometimes, sorta…, but mostly—  not anymore,

  Gary

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Phases #5 Distractions

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Welcome to the Christian life!

Throughout history we have tried to label each period of time to help us gain perspective on here we are today. [~from an American point of view.]

 

 

·         Classic and Postclassic eras, Central America (200–1519
·         Early Intermediate, Mid-Horizon, Late Intermediate, Late Horizon
·         Baroque (New World, 1600–1750)
·         Spanish hegemony (Americas, 16th century – 1820s)
·         Reconstruction era (United States, 1865–1877)
·         Gilded Age (United States, 1875–1900)
·         Progressive Era (United States, 1890s–1920s)
·         Information Age (United States, 1970–present)
·         Modern age
·         Postmodern age

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Americas ]

To this auspicious (capricious?) list allow me to add a descriptor for our present era— the DISTRACTION AGE. From the magnitude of assaults throughout our INFORMATION AGE Western cultures have learned to tune out yet one more piece of data, one more set of facts or figures, one more piece of evidence, pro or con, about something, anything. ERGO…, the DISTRACTION AGE.

Pick a movie, a TV show, a paperback novel, they are all examples of our desire for the trivial, the fantasy. Not ALL such leisure activities are mere distraction: some actually enhance our life’s goals; that is, if you even think in life-goal terms. Most of us simply get up, get ready for work, work, eat dinner, watch anything on TV and go to bed. REPEAT. It’s no wonder we seek something to distract us. Did you see that bear?!?   What bear?

Similarly, there are periods in our Christian walk of faith where we get distracted. Sometimes, they are the guileless distractions that most of us need just to stay sane. But some of us make the Christian journey extremely intense. There is something to be said for those who understand that their sins are truly forgiven. There is also something to be said for those who devote their lives to prayer & fasting.

But for many of us, certain distractions are cleverly woven into our lives by our Lord’s adversary. Call it what you will, evil, the devil, Satan, Belzebub…, it all stems from the same source.

Remember what our Lord said in Scripture? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  [John 10:10-29, NASB] To kill, steal, and destroy. That bastard! [Seems more appropriate a descriptor than simply the devil.]

It is a misreading of Scripture to believe that we are to concentrate on the things of God 24/7. We have to eat, sleep, work, care for our own and for others. The point is that we delight in Christ and his work on the Cross…, and not to be distracted by marginal activities. Major assualts, however, must be confronted with ferocity.

Simple suggestion: try reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the date every morning. That should recommend some wise perspectives for living throughout your day. Then read the chapter of the Psalms that corresponds with the date each evening. In this way you can reflect on your day, morning and evening through God’s eyes. [And, yes, I know there are 150 Psalms. You work it out.]

 Delighting, less distracted,

Gary

Phases #4 Discipleship

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PHASES— #4, Discipleship

    Welcome to the Christian life!

The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin  discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.

To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.

Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—

1.      Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.

2.      It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?

3.      It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?

4.      Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.

5.      You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.

 

Growing in grace and forgiveness,

  Gary

PHASES #3, Delight

gary davis, christian, delight, discovery, life           Welcome to the Christian life! Can’t you just taste that cheesecake with strawberry topping and drizzled chocolate?!? And that huge scoop of cookies ‘n cream ice cream! Yeah…, me too. No? Go ahead…, take a moment to taste it. Yes, now.

            The first days of freedom and realization in the Christian life are like that. You can just taste your whole body smiling. The Delight phase, at least the initial one, is pure hot fudge! My first days as a Christian were a complete Lightness-of-Being. After 3 years of fighting and running from God I gave up; it was as if a tremendous weight that was pressing me down had been lifted off me. I was finally free.

            There is an peculiar sense of peace, of inner-grinning-joy that overcomes you when you realize you are forgiven and set free before God. If there were any subjective evidence of regeneration in Christ, as God’s grace is extended to us, it would be this internal delight.  This inward quiet peace that has a warming, soothing effect.

            Still, for many of us, when we lose our joy and return to a more settled Christian life, we wonder what happened. Let me see if this helps. Remember your first kiss? And the next and the next and the next? Of course you do. Well, as your relationship with Christ develops and deepens, those kisses take on a richer meaning beyond mere passion. They become symbols of your mutual commitment to one another. Your passion morphs into something far more powerful than initially.

            The same is true within your Christian faith. The passion is still there; but it manifests itself differently. It expresses itself in worship, longer times in prayer, and acts of grace to others. Its language takes on more practical and private expressions.

            Now, all this being said, it was a surprise to me that, as I aged, my original passion returned. And it did so within a much more informed, educated, experienced faith. It is a far deeper delight than I might have imagined.

            So as you move through the various Phases of your Christian life, and maybe recycle a few, keep in mind that it isn’t over ‘till you’re dead. You’ve got a few more Phases to grow through.

Reveling in the new reality!

  Gary

Phases #2 Deliverance

  prism_by_arcanic_salvation-d56e33z         Welcome to the Christian life!

            Today’s postChristian mindset generally rejects any concept that places humanity in second place; it disdains the idea that we owe anything to any higher power, be it God, our Creator, or a superior alien life form. Sadly, it is the opposite that is true reality.

            Chaos theory is more likely to govern our state than the myth of human progress. Technology is not God— really. It is helpful: but it does not order the ebb & flow of the universe. It will not deliver us from our downward spiral into inhumanity, decadence, and self-destruction. For that we need a deliverer.

            Remember those first days and months of your new found faith in Christ? Whether you grew into it within the Church or arrived at the realization that He had redeemed you suddenly, your consciousness that you had been delivered from your sin, your rebellion, your rejection of God’s demand for your life elicited a deep breath of relief.

            You were no longer the same. You had been delivered from yourself and all the evil within you and around you through the work of Christ on the Cross. Your debt to God had been paid! You had been offered deliverance and you accepted it! Not a bad deal— you gave Christ everything you had, everything He rightfully deserved…, and He gave you everything He had. Zowie!

            The reality is that through our ancestors’ rejection of God’s claim on their life we all had inherited their rebellious proclivity. Historically, this has been called “sin.” We generally know it as breaking God’s lawThe Law— set in place to safeguard us from stepping outside of the perimeters of His protection…, and from breaking God’s heart. He had created us out of love; and we told Him to simply leave us alone. We could manage on our own; independent from Him, our Creator.

            He knew we needed deliverance from this myth. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our rejection— death. Now, Christ offers us His love and forgiveness. Deliverance!

            Something truly worth celebrating!

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 

~Galatians 4:4-7 [New International Version]

You’ve been delivered; celebrate!
  Gary

PHASES- #1, an Introduction to the Christian life

            Welcome to the Christian life!

stoning_of_st_stephen1625oil_on_oak_panelmusee_des_beaux-arts_lyons“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”–Tertullian

       In the first few centuries, Christianity grew quickly. By AD100, it had become mostly Gentile and had begun to break from its Jewish origins. By 200, the faith had permeated most regions of the Roman Empire, though Christians were mostly in the larger urban areas (Gaul, Lyons, Carthage, Rome). By 325, an estimated 7 million were Christians with as many as 2 million killed for the faith.”http://www3.dbu.edu/mitchell/anceint_christian_martyrdom.htm

The Martyrdom of Stephen, (only 36 at the time of his death) spurred many “Christ Followers” to deeper understanding of the cost of their salvation. Is this what you’ve sighed up for?

Throughout these next few months I will set forth the various Phases of the Christian life, as I see them. Granted, there are many more, or fewer; this is only one early 21st Century writers perspective. Enjoy.

Here is my list of the Phases of the Christian life we will explore.

1.      Deliverence 6.      Discouragement
2.      Delight 7.      Decisions
3.      Discipleship 8.      Dedication
4.      Distraction 9.      Deliverence (again)
5.      Disillusion 10.  Delight

For now, let’s start with the admission that if everything in your life of faith is static, solid, and unchanging, you are not growing in your newfound faith. You are pretending or hiding or deceiving yourself. The Christian life is not a static, once-for-all-time thing. It is a fluid work of art in constant flux.

Get used to it.

Much love,

Gary

Learning to Love…Again

dr gary davis, love, hurt, relationships, clueless, christian, learning to love again

    “It hurts like hell; and then, one day, it doesn’t.”

-Ari Eastman’s mother.

From I PROMISED YOU

I WOULDN’T WRITE THIS.

 

Learning to love again takes everything you’ve got. You have to relearn trust, transparency, touch, and to risk speaking truth. You have to remember love is more giving than taking; that people are not perfect; that flaws and faults always come with the territory.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” [1 Corinthians 13:11. NKJV]

Learning to love again is a matter of maturity, fortitude, and determination. It does not “just happen.” It is a decision based on ongoing healing and forming new relationships. It is time to take a chance with new experiences that confirm trustworthiness. It is involves making a commitment to dropping your protective shields and allowing another to know you more fully. It is an adult thing to do. Children simply get mad or sullen, but only for a time. Some adults I have known never move beyond. They wallow in hurt, spite, and revenge. They never forgive, or forget. Somehow, they fester vile to feed their anger; what they do not realize is that this venom is slowly poisoning them from within, like a cancer. Let it go!

To overcome your fear and bitterness, your isolation, you will need to awaken these 4 qualities—

  • Trust (risk). We live in community, not separation.
  • Faith. More likely than not relying on God is a much better idea than stubborn independence.
  • Heart. Activating your passions, your emotions, and fear are worth the risk. Learn to feel again.
  • Commitment. Make a decision to commit is stepping out of your comfort zone. You will have to do it sooner or later. To NOT decide, to NOT commit is a decision to die.

Failure to embrace these 4 qualities will leave you in emotional and relational limbo, encased in the darkness of your soul. It will take work to emerge from your cocoon a new butterfly rather than rotting within a decaying caterpillar shell.

Learning to love again will take real effort on your part. Do not love simply as a response to someone else’s love for you. Initiate love from within. Sponges in the ocean have little more function than to suck up the impurities around them. You are not a sponge.

Again, love is a give and take, not the other way around. You must be proactive, not passive.

This concludes our series Learning to love, maybe again or for the first time. Where would like us to go next?

Awaiting with baited breath,

Gary