Growing Moldy

   Being molded by God is not the most pleasant thing in the world; though it is necessary if we are ever to be useful to the God Who made us. Our Lord is shaping us for…, whatever.

     Often I ask people, Christian and otherwise, “What is God designing you for in the next phase of your life?” Some people don’t think God has anything to do with their life. I tell them “I hope you’re right.” And I walk away bewildered at their blindness. There’s just too much evidence that God is molding us, whether we acknowledge it or not.

     If our Christian life will become what we want it to be; we will not grow into what our Lord wants us to be. And…, we will become moldy, yucky Christians— not molded by our Lord. Just moldy.

     Moldy Christians do little more than turn a whole Body into a festering infection on their surrounding church of believers. Yuck!

     And they are not easy to identify or get rid of. You can identify them as they talk a good talk but do little to bolster and build up those around them. Avoid them.

     Mold. Wrong kind.

     Make sure you are the kind of Christian who builds up others, who brings peace and forgiveness wherever you go. Someone who comforts and cares for those who mourn. Especially those who do not know Him.

     What our world needs, desperately, are people who bring the arms of Jesus to wrap around those in pain.

     What our world needs are genuine followers of Christ that embody kindness, love, acceptance, and honesty.

     Moldy Christians do not feel like Jesus. We feel like inconsequential Christians. All of us Need to be a little more like Jesus…, a little less like me. [Thank you Zach Williams.] Yes, even within our own quirky personalities.

     Finally, please, do NOT turn into one of those finger pointing, judgemental Christians we all hear about. We are being shaped to be healers, comforters, mourners, partiers, and worshipers. Servants.

     Please, become who God is forming you to be…,  not some pathetic little mass of pity and complaint who no one wants to be around. Moldy Christians are neither attractive, or life-giving.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Ukraine

Being a Christian in a postChristian context

If you do not know that we are in a postChristian world, please crawl out from under your rock. Even Pauxatawney Phil crawled out a couple days ago and supposedly saw his shadow, [I, for one, do not believe he could have clawed his way through 3’ of ice hard snow to see anything. Except more snow.]

 First we doubt God exists. Then we question whether Jesus is actually, or fully, God. Then we believe ALL religion is a fabricated fantasy of human. So, what are we left with? We proclaim that we, mankind, are the creator and ruller of all the universe.

 But, seriously, when we remove God, especially a God-Creator, from the equation, what else, beside aliens, is left but…— us?!?

 Very few people have any sense of a need for forgiveness, restoration, new life, or vibrant living. Some, just want to get by. Others, want to stay below the radar. But there are those who strive for success, only to find it somewhat satisfying. They are all, or some, of the finest people in the world. But they are lost within themselves, with no safety hook to give them an anchor.

 How much they need genuine, loving, transparent Christians in their lives is incomprehensible. Jesus said we are the light of the world. If ever there were a time when we who follow our Lord need to come alongside of successful/silent people in this world, it is Now.

 Do we merely need to express our faith in an updated flavor past the 1950s one-size-fits-all? Again, move the Groundhog aside and crawl out of your cave. It’s 2022. NOT 1922, or 1970. How do people hear the Christian message today? And, do you really know what “the Gospel” actually is?!? Tell me. Tell me so a truly clueless postChristian can understand it in their context.

 Better yet, ask a genuine “normal” person what they think Christianity is all about. You will be unpleasantly surprised. FYI, most of us never bother to ask. We just start in with our speil.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being alone

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

Advent – Candle of Hope

 Advent Candles & wreaths are meant to draw our thoughts to the coming of the Christ child. Traditionally, they are four candles, representing Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Sometimes a fifth candle is added, the Christ Candle, placed in the center, to commemorate the coming of our Lord Jesus.

      In these COVID19, racially tense, Capital Riots, school shooting and economic inflationary times, not to mention our political oppositionalism, these five candles can draw us apart from the immediate concerns of this world and give us some Godly perspective on everything going on.

      The first candle, the Hope candle is also known as the Prophets candle. Those who prophesied the Coming Christ who would draw all men to His salvation and new life. In these present days there doesn’t seem to be that much hope floating around. Too many people I see are in some level of depression, deep within their own agony with little hope of ever recovering. Others despair over the plagues covering our globe or attacking their own

families. And still others struggle with borderline poverty, broken relationships, sickness, and family deaths. Could it get any worse?!?

      Well, yes…, especially for those who follow Christ. Genuine Christians have always been marginalized and singled out for social and governmental discrimination. Why? Our principles for living go against the powers that be in almost all societies. We can accommodate, blend, acquiesce, concede our place in history to deconstructionism, or live under ideological intimidation; but we can never back off from our commitment and resolution to love and honor Jesus Christ.

      To do so would disavow our faith, bring shame on His works, and deny that we have any hope in these convoluted days.

      So, how do we have hope in these troubling days? Psalm 42 comes to mind first…—

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvationand my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,    a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock:
 “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
 [ESV]

        Hope is as close as our bended knees.

      MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Faith in Uncertain Times

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: Our Own Mortality

     When we’re young we rarely think about dying. Unless a friend is suddenly taken in an auto accident, or by cancer, or some extreme medical situation. These are rare, but poignant, reminders that, someday, we will all meet our Maker. Or, if you are an atheist, you will simply cease to exist. Or you’re just not sure about all this morbid stuff.

     Look at the health and beauty industry. We do all we can to prolong our life AND our beauty. For some of us…, it works. But for most, no matter how much moola we sink into ourselves it just doesn’t matter. We will get old (some, not so graciously) and we will die.

     For most people there is a great fear of death that shrouds our every breath. When my wife and I were engaged we had to go visit her dying grandmother. She lived for another 39 years. Some people live dying: others will die living life to the fullest.

     So why does death, and the reality of our own mortality, plague us? For one, it is the ultimate, final equalizer. The question we each need to answer is— Is death it? or, Is there something else? Beyond. Only a few of us have ever escaped this eventual actuality. Some have passed over and returned, with various stories of afterlife.

     For genuine Christians, there truly is an afterlife. For others…, well!?! The question then is— where? More explicitly, where we will join God, our Lord Christ, His Spirit, and a myriad of friends and followers? Or hell, which will be…, well, hell.

     Our mortality can be either a question of termination, or a matter of transition. Personally, I do not need a heaven to be rewarded for the joy of serving the God of the Universe while on earth. I see it more as frosting on the cake. Mind you, I love frosting. But I don’t need it to honor our Lord while in this life. The joy of being his servant is enough.

     The real question is one of termination! How can we grow, raise families, make a difference, and just have all that simply come to an abrupt END? THAT’s what doesn’t make sense.

     By logical sequence there must be some form of continuation beyond this present life. Our life doesn’t end. It continues. The only question is where and to what purpose.

     So, how do you see your own mortality? Or should I say, your immortality? Do surprises lie ahead? Or do you look forward to a transition into something totally wild!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Making our Relationships Count

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

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: An Intermission: The space between us

     This will be the last Intermission offering, so I thought I’d draw you to ponder the space between us. There are many distances to consider— here are a few.

  •  Physical space— Since we’ve moved to Colorado, we’ve come to see how much our friends in New England have meant to us. Though we stay in touch with a great number of them it is sad we don’t see as much of each other as we would wish. Sometimes, this makes Colorado a very lonely place. And although we’ve made new friends here, New England is still in our hearts.
  • Spiritual space— Within the Christian world we often speak of being on the same page. Though united in Christ, we still seem to find reasons to separate from one another. This need not be the case. When we each stand before God on that great day of judgement we will all be asked the same question— What did you do with my Son and his friends when you were on earth?

“For there is one Lord, …, “ (Eph. 4ff)

We need one another if we are ever to make an impact for our Lord and be stalwart against the attacks of our adversary.

  • Political space— After this last election year I believe we all need to put a little space in terms of political differences. Politics has defined us more than our faith. This must end. Donald Trump was never our savior, nor is Joe Biden the antichrist. Jesus Christ is the One who establishes Kings and governments and removes them as He sees fit. Do any of us truly believe politics will save us?
  • Heart space— We’ve wept over a lot of people and terrible situations in 2020. Lost friends, social violence, political radicalization, and COVID. My heart has been broken too many times, as has yours, I’m sure. I’ve been torn between serving and giving more and throwing my hands up in forlorn disgust. My heart needs space.

Still, the space between us has drawn my heart to deeper prayer for you, and a richer love for you, our friends, near & far. For now, we have a longing that is hungry with anticipation. We really want you to come to our “ranch” after this whole mess clears up.

      As 2020 finally comes to a close and we all look forward to a somewhat better 2021, we need to be as close to one another as we can. The prediction for a rough COVID winter ahead should not dissuade us from love and serving each other and those around us. It’s what Jesus did; it is what we must do.

May you have the Greatest 2021 ever!

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

After There’s Nothing Left: an intermission – Caring

It was a simple act. On a bitter cold, windy day a store employee was helping me load some groceries into the trunk of my car. As I thanked him, I offered him one of those wrapped little Life Saver mint. But his response poured out with gratitude. He wondered if anyone noticed the kind of work he did in this bitter weather. There was hardly anything I could do that would be smaller than this stupid Life Saver.

      It’s curious sometimes when such small acts of caring put such a smile of thankfulness on peoples’ faces. Now, whenever he sees me, he gets a big grin on his face…, and holds out his hand for the expected mint.

      Caring for people is so easy. Just think outside yourself. What do they need? What would they appreciate? What would make a big difference? A small difference. One of my friends left a $100 tip on a $65 meal. He was celebrating having just earned $1 million for the year, so far. It was the beginning of March.

      The difficult part is thinking-outside-our-little-self-absorbed-boxes. Putting other peoples’ needs before our own is critical in laying a foundation of caring. After a while, we don’t even notice that we are sacrificing; because it no longer becomes a sacrifice. It’s just the right thing to do.

   Allow me to propose some simple, yet significant, unexpected acts of caring.

  • Pay for someone’s gas at the pump.
  • Cover the meal for the table next to yours, without telling them.
  • Pay somebody’s rent.
  • Instead of trading in a car for a new one, give it away (unless it’s a clunker).
  • Pay for the groceries of the woman in front of you at the grocery check-out. The one with the screaming kids in tow.
  • Give more away. 10% is a minimum. Try 15%, 0r 20%. Off your gross.
  • Think Random-Acts-of-Caring.
  • LOVE…, expecting nothing in return.

      There! That should get you started.

      Oh…, and do I have to mention?!  Merry Christmas!

Honor God, honor people, show you care,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— caregiving