Challenging Challenges: An Inability to Trust

     Most of us would agree that trust is essential to human nature and human relationships. And, of course, to the affection and affinity we share with man’s greatest friend— our dog. What is it about dogs that draw us to them? What is it about us that draws them to us? Frankly, I don’t care. There’s just something special in the relationship between a human and their dog that is beyond description. A codependent bond not to be broken or challenged.

     So, when someone seems to exhibit an inability to trust other people, red flags should go off in our EQ [Emotional Quotient].

     There are many reasons people lose the ability to trust. Betrayal probably ranks up there at the top. Being used is another. Long-term insecurity contributes to a fear of trusting. So does fear of living. Another is loss; loss of love, loss of a life. Loss of interest in living (very dangerous).

     The challenge is twofold— Do you want to trust others again? and How do you get there?

     Some pain cuts so deeply that you truly doubt you will ever be able to trust anyone again. It’s not that forgiveness is impossible, although sometime even that takes time, if it ever comes at all. But trusting again…, that’s another issue altogether.

     The process of trusting starts with a softening of your heart. A hard heart holds a grudge, plots revenge, seeks to destroy the other person (group). Then, it is a decision— a commitment to trust God and let your heart be open to trust again. I’m not saying this is simple. It is not. But it’s a start.

     There’s a principle in the Christian Scriptures that reads

Do not let the sun go down on your anger. [Ephesians 4:26]

Easy, no. Necessary, yes. Cleaning out resentment and bitterness is a necessary component toward learning to trust again. Ask me how I know.

     If you decide to NOT trust again you will miss out on success, joy, sorrow, relationships, and the risks involved in claiming an incredible life. Personally, I’d rather take the risk of trusting again than wallowing in self-pity, isolation, and emptiness.

     God did not design us to live alone. It’s not good for people. We need one another. Granted, some of us would rather curl up with a good book than engage people at a social gathering. My wife is the former: I, the latter. The ingredient to our success has been the commitment we made to each other at our wedding and the prior commitment we made to honor God in our relationship. It hasn’t always been easy. But after 50 years of marriage (June 5th) we’ve got a few things figured out.

     I would encourage you to learn to trust again. It will take work, eventually, forgiveness, and a new commitment to live your life to the fullest. Plus, you may just smile a bit more. And, get a dog.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – Adventures in Advent

First three of five candles lit on an advent wreath

      Adventures in Advent! Wow!?! Where to start? Mary & Josephs’ journey from Egypt. No place at a guest house to stay…, except in the attached stable. Angels singing! Shepherds showing up. More Angels! Milk from a cow?!? Probably not.

      Moving along. Getting through 2020. Surviving COVID (sadly, not for all.). A “fascinating” Presidential election; which is now over…, right?!? Holiday traffic. More or less. Flying. In an airplane. Restaurants. “Business as usual.” NOT. Our booming economy! [Or have I spoken too soon.] Christmas Shopping. Making Jeff Bezos excessively wealthier.

      Whoa, partner. This is flustering even me as I write. Let’s get off the horse for a moment.

      Around our ranch we try to slow things down by using an Advent Wreath and Candles. I’ll reference a great link to their story Here. But here’s a quick synopsis of what the candles represent.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting.  
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace— He came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent pure light and victory.1

Maybe it’s time we reconsidered all the hustle and bustle around this Christmas season and focused our attention on the grand scheme of the Incarnation— of the Lord God of the Universe coming to our planet to draw it from its disastrous path of self-destruction and back to its roots— God the Father.

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— ‘twas the night before Christmas  

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.

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

Advent #4 Peace

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Merry Christmas!

      The angels declared to the shepherds “…peace among those with whom he is pleased.”  Yet, those were not peaceful times in Israel. The revolt of the Maccabees had been crushed. Roman invaders had set up their own “parallel” government; and there were weekly executions of rebellious Jews. How could these times ever be considered peaceful? Still, the angels proclaimed PEACE!

      An odd announcement for those times. And ours. Taking the world as a whole, there is not a wide dispersion of peace abounding. Just glance at your news-feed. Scan your own life; peaceful? Yet it was in such times that the Lord God Creator of the universe chose to enter our realm. [“in the fullness of time, God sent forth his son ”] To this day there still remains evidence of His arrival— us. Yes, us. Christ birth, life, and death have done all that is necessary to open the way for us to be restored in a relationship with our Creator. One question we need always ask of ourselves is— Do our lives bear evidence of His coming?

      Another question— Do you think your life would change for the better in a relationship with God? Or, is a relationship with God really matter that much?

      These are not a trick questions; so, here’s another.

      Do you think your life might carry more peace within, in a relationship with God?

      I’ve always felt less-than-fully-human when I move outside my own relationship with the God who made me. Like half of me is missing. Identity crisis.

      In Romans 12:8 we learn that “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all.” This peace, between individuals, political factions, and governments, is only possible if it emanates from a heart of peace.

      This Christmas, seek this kind of inward peace that it might flow throughout our world.

Be peace,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ Christ!

OF PASSION & PROPOSITIONS: growing a non-balanced faith

6874balance_scale     When I was in the final stages of producing my doctoral dissertation I ate out a lot. Escapism, most likely. During one such luncheon at Panda East, a Chinese restaurant in Amherst, MA, I opened a fortune cookie which read— Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without passion. I thought of some of the great names throughout history for whom this proverb has proven true— Hammurabi, Moses, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Christopher Columbus, Albert Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan— all were driven by passion and tenacity to accomplish something beyond themselves.

     Yet, the church in North America seems driven by balance— balance in life, in our families, in faith, in our behavior— moderation in all things, no rocking the boat. Straight-forward, rational explanations of life should suffice to renew the mind and focus our resolve. It is almost as if being out of balance, or slightly extreme in any way, is viewed as the real threat to the church and to the stability of our individual faith.

     But if Truth is primarily personal (though certainly not exclusively), found in the Person of Jesus Christ, there are some very critical implications for us that impact our Christian lives, balanced or otherwise, and how we exhibit our faith to others. This will probably flip me from the frying pan into the fire, but it is time we examined belief and emotion in light of Scripture. After a great deal of scrutiny, I must admit that I do not find a lot of only believe-ism in the Bible.

     In many churches across America, there are large banners running across the front or the back of the sanctuary— TO KNOW CHRIST AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN. Now hear me out on this one. I find no fault with this banner. But I do find it curious that it seems to be all about the knowing. It is assumed that everything else will flow out of that, even the “making him known” part. There are many churches that excel in fulfilling the first part: teaching their members to know a great deal about their faith.  But I find very few exerting much effort in training their members to fulfill the second part: making Him known (to those outside the church). Most sorrowfully, our interface with those outside the church has become solely an effort to pass on the information about Christ, rather than any genuine immersion in the lives of normal people.

     Why is this? I fear it might be due to our fear of the outside, or, much worse, a simple desire to remain in control. If we learn anything in our walks of faith it must be that God is in control…, not us. I’ve often wondered if the failure of our evangelical culture in the West to be part of our culture is that we fear being out of control.

     We need to learn to grow a nonbalanced faith: one where God is in control, where we don’t have all the answers, in which our passion for people, and for our Lord, takes over our whole being. For reference, I point you to an account of the revival of religion in Northampton in 1740-1742 as was reported in “The State of Religion at Northampton in the County of Hampshire, About 100 Miles Westward of Boston.” The letter was published in The Christian History, January 14, 21, and 28, 1743, written by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, [ http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/jeaccnt.htm ].

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era:  it’s a generational thing.

Balancing my faith on one foot…, now the other one; whoops,

  Gary

Beyond Love Games-Accessing the Power of Christ

Love games, christ, christian, clueless, powerBEYOND LOVE GAMES: accessing the Power of Christ

To move Beyond Our Love Games we need to access the power of Christ. This is both simple and not so simple. If you are not a Christian, bear with me.

Love Games arise from fear: fear of being known, fear of being wounded, of being betrayed…, again. Genuinely trusting another person, especially with the person behind the wall that you have built, can be a frightening thing. Because personal revelation and exposure can be used against you.

This is just as true for Christians as anyone else. So, we hide too. We have just as many phobias and insecurities as anyone else; we live in the same world of hate, anger, risk, duplicity and sorrow as everyone else. Accessing the power of the God who lives inside us is an unfathomable resource when life’s little Love Games come knocking. So stop what you are doing, breathe, take another sip of coffee (or tea), and muse over these ideas.

  • Read vast amounts of Scripture. Like, Genesis, or I & II Samuel, maybe a Proverb-a-day (there are 31); or, all four gospels—over and over. This should get you thinking outside your worry-box. At the very least you’ll become quite familiar with large chunks of Scripture.
  • Try praying where you do not ask for anything. Just listen. Shut up and simply listen for God. [Note- He does not always speak at your bidding. Keep listening.]
  • Start living your life as if you are a forgiven sinner; for so you are. Stop confessing your sins over and over; you are wallowing in them. Dig your way out of the sludge (notice that Hand reaching out to you) and leave the muck & mire behind. No need to dredge them up so you can feel bad about yourself. As Elsa sings in Frozen— “Let it go!” Christ has. You will still sin: and you are forgiven.
  • Put God to the test. God will stand by His Word and stay with you through the Love Games. If you find yourself exhibiting forgiveness, strength-in-pain, a calm resilience, and a heart-felt peace, then you can be sure He is behind it. If not, you are working too hard at doing your Father’s job in your life. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.
  • Try worshipping the Lord with more than your mere mind. Arouse your passions to join with your mind in worship. Our faith is just as much a heart encounter as it is a cerebral engagement. Don’t be fooled that a one-sided faith is a balanced faith. It isn’t. Besides, you need a little imbalance in your faith—it keeps you on your toes.
  • Worship together with other Christians. Here’s a good place to practice—

Hillsong: When I Lost my Heart to You

  • Cease striving. Stop fighting God. He is not sitting up there trying His best to ruin your life. He wants to fulfill it. Give Him room to work His miracles in His way…, not your way.

Keep in mind that accessing the Power of Christ is not a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Its warranty runs out when you stop using it.

Now get on your knees and seek the Father.

NEXT DISCUSSION:  How Love Games Destroy Relationships.

 Empowered,
  Gary