After There’s Nothing Left: What Forges Forgiveness?

forging, forgivenessThe title of this subsection is not merely titled for the sake of alliteration. Rather, it is a serious question around a quite somber difficulty for many, many people. Forgiveness. In general, people find it difficult to forgive; conversely, unless in a court of law, to receive forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is something that is forged, like a steel blade tempered in the fire, heated to the point of meltdown, then hammered to utility on an anvil. Finally, it is sharpened to perfection at the hand of a master sword-maker. So also is forgiveness. It does not simply show up. It goes through testing, hammering, reheating, reworking, and sharpening. Then, when its work is accomplished, it becomes one of the most powerful spiritual weapons anyone might possess. The admission that you are forgiven, truly, by the Lord God Creator of the Universe, is to realize that you can risk your life more than you ever deemed possible. To be forgiven is to be empowered by God to make a difference. (It is also quite a countermeasure against depression and defeat.)

      There are a myriad of aspects to forgiveness that could be considered here. But I will limit our discussion to only five. Here are the first two.

Forgiveness for Others

      Though we are admonished to forgive those who have wronged us it is not quite as simple as that. Some of those wrongs have wreaked havoc with our lives, our livelihood, our families, and our financial security. Forgiveness often takes quite an extended period of time. Here then, again, is the matter of trust. Can we ever trust the other person(s) again? That is a much larger issue. Mix in a reality that some people who have wronged us believe they have done NO wrong: they believe they were righteous and right in their pronouncement of judgment upon us. They were justified in what they did or said. Can/should we forgive those who have not come to repentance before us, let alone before the God of the Universe?

      It is extremely hard to forgive others…, especially if you believe they are in the wrong. Conundrum.

      I believe forgiveness of others can only be fête accompli thru true humility and contrition; a willingness to take the lower place, even if the other party or person is clearly in the wrong. This is not to say that your forgiveness is ignorant of the facts. Rather, it chooses to take the subservient position for the sake of resolution, of restitution.

      At times, it may be the case, that you are unable to extend forgiveness to another. This is usually reflective of a long-standing, deep-seated pattern of being betrayed or hurt by others who did not seek your forgiveness. Or, it could also mean you are just so mad at present, that you are still out for vengeance and/or revenge. Seriously, not quite healthy all the way around. Nonetheless, you need to deal with your anger/grief and come to a point of genuine, heartfelt forgiveness…, no matter how long it takes. It rests on you to take the higher ground. If you cannot, or will not, forgive, how will you ever receive it from others? How will you receive it from God?

Forgiveness from Others

      There isn’t one of us who hasn’t hurt another person. Accidentally, thoughtlessly, casually, or intentionally, we all have inflicted wounds on one another. Some wounds we inflict are intentional. Retaliation. Revenge. Reprisal. And we know we are doing it. If there ever were an instance of moving over to the dark-side, this would describe it; the deliberate act of hurting another.

      But our confusion arises when the one we have wronged comes to forgive us. What will we do?

      It comes down to an issue of individual arrogance. If someone offers you forgiveness the implication is that you have done something wrong. Of course, if this is true…, you don’t want to be reminded of it. If you DO receive their forgiveness, then you find yourself in an awkward spot. You’ve received forgiveness, admitting your evil intention, and now… what? Feels squeamish, doesn’t it.

      May I suggest that you admit your wrongness and simply say “thank you.” Or, “Thank you. I hope you can forgive me. How do we move beyond this?”

      Inversely, if you cannot receive forgiveness, how will you ever extend it to other people?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

[note: you may never come to a place of forgiving another person without the assistance of the God who made you. It sounds trite, but I have found that the bond I have with Jesus Christ has done more to enable me to forgive another person than I imagined possible.]

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness for myself, for God, and from God

After There’s Nothing Left: flat-2-fantastic faith

Sistine Chapel      As promised, here some of the things I am doing to restore my faith from flat to vibrant. These actions have made a major difference in both recovering from depression and restoring my soul.

1.       Interfacing with a diversity of people. Surrounding myself with only like-minded friends would never expand my understanding and acceptance of them. I learn from those who are of a different mindset, a different culture and temperament. Maintaining this balance in my life seems to reinvigorate me; it draws me to a place where the earth and its peoples come into clearer perspective. I regain a sense of mission in life and what my role is in the grand scheme of things. (That’s why I still have to get above 14,000’ at least once a month.)

2.       Seeking more times of solitude. Please note that I am a genuine extrovert. Though significantly tempered from earlier in life, an extrovert in every sense of the word— grabbing life by the bal…, er horns and going for it! Ergo, solitude, for me, is difficult, yet critical. I tend to end my days earlier (usually with a wee dram of fine single-malt Scotch), pondering if I had made any difference this day, as its hours and minutes tick away. God willing, I have.

      If you are primarily an introvert, you need not heed this advice. It is true that you need solitude as much as us extroverts. But you also need to get out more and engage with God’s creation in the lives of others. And I’m not sure the single-malt Scotch would be a good idea for you; unless you are with someone.

3.       Furthermore, I read the Bible differently now. I read it not so much for content, or information, or to support a theological position; rather, I read it to see and sense how Jesus moved.  I track his movements, not topologically, but relationally. How did he interface with people? How did he meet them on their own grounds, in their own life situations, and reveal himself to them? Why did they respond the way they did? Why did he use questions and metaphors (parables) so much? Why was he cryptic on some occasions and not on others? What pushed him to seek time alone with his Father? And an especially important question for me— How did he love people, no matter their cultural diversity?

      In a way, I enter into the text of Scripture to feel its pulse as much as I used to analyze it for its content and truth. In my book CLUELESS CHRISTIANITY, I have a chapter subtitled “-the non-propositional nature of Truth.” If you enter into the times and culture, the life-situations and heartbeats of a text, you will see what I mean. When Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the life.” he wasn’t kidding. He was shocking.

4.       I pray differently too. Though I have special times for deep, concentrated confession, worship, and intercession, I have also learned to “pray without ceasing,” as it were. That is, I arise each morning in an attitude of prayer (…er, after coffee) and maintain it throughout the day. This often becomes difficult, to say the least. It is often interrupted by lust or laziness, hunger, counseling, that guy who just cut me off, or writing (like now). But the attitude of constant prayer, that is, an open channel between myself, and Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, is always, ALWAYS open. I do not believe I have ever had a simple two way conversation with anyone where the Spirit of God was not involved in the discourse in some way at some time. I’ve also learned to keep quiet in prayer. I now wait for God to speak. That’s important, and takes time.

      Granted, this three-way-open-prayer exchange has some side effects. We always have to listen, even if ever so briefly, to that funny little voice in the back of our head, before we respond to the person in front of us; which, of course, is a good thing for an extrovert. On the down side, having an open channel to God on an ongoing basis does ruin our enjoyment of sin. It truly, really, just is not as much fun as it used to be. This too may be a good thing for us…, and for me.

5.       Finally, I have been listening to astute Christian leaders from around the world [Ian Montgomery- Peru (now Vermont), Vaclav Havel- Czech Republic (through his writings), Phill Olsen- South Africa (now stateside), and Leonard Sweet, (Rings of Fire)] who can feed my soul. It would not be an understatement to admit that there are many men and women around the world who have a more significant grasp on Scripture, on the interface between the Christian faith and our world’s cultures, and on their own lives, than I will ever have. Thanks to the Internet I can now access many of them as I drive, sit in my study, or in front of my fireplace on a cold winter’s morn. I have learned that I know very very little. Thus, I avail my mind to learn from others, some of whom I find myself in cordial and vast disagreement. But that’s OK. My faith is being challenged, probed, assaulted, and fed. Thus, it is moving from flat to fantastic. Hopefully, by the time I am finished writing this book (yes, these EMPulsi are coming out in book form…, hopefully before I die), flatness of faith will be a thing of the past for me. That would be nice.

      Simply put, we need a faith that is Alive! Vibrant! and Full of Life! We need to live as if we are truly forgiven; for, in fact, WE ARE!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Things that Keep Me from Fulfilling God’s Design.

After There’s Nothing Left: Deterrents to Soul Rest

bricksIt will come as no surprise that there are deterrents to soul rest. Deterrents— work, people distractions, hindrances, impediments, problems, complications, barriers, and hurdles— all of which must be addressed if you are determined to enter a time of soul rest. No one is more responsible to provide for your soul rest than you; no one will push you into it; no one can make you want it. Albeit, they might point out to you that you are desperately in need it, it is still up to you to carve out the time and space to make it happen.

You may face seemingly insurmountable obstacles that will call your attention elsewhere; good, meaningful, productive things. But they are not what you should be doing if your soul is in need of rebuilding and refreshment.

Furthermore, do not discount the spiritual realm of restraints to your soul rest. There is a constant background war going on for the right to destroy your soul and drag you into hell to serve as an amusement for true evil. And you do not have to wait for the afterlife— it can happen just as easily in this life. You cannot stop feeding your soul, stop caring for it, let it become overwhelmed, exhausted, and depleted. You will be surprised at just how simple it is to slip into this darkness.

Our Lord God reminds us in I Peter 5:8 to—

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASV)

Do not disregard the possibility that you have a target on your back with our adversary’s arrows are ready to release.

Soul Rest is imperative for anyone seeking to make a difference in western society or in the troubled emerging nations of this planet. For it is the foundation of maintaining a healthy, balanced, realistic and wholistic perspective on our individual role in the work of Christ among the human race. One of our adversary’s most effective maneuvers is to wear us down through meaningful service to those around us, especially within church walls. Our job is to be wise enough to see when enough is enough. You and I are quite expendable in the grand scheme of things. Soul rest extends that expendability just a little longer.

Know your place.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Soul Reflection part 6  

After There’s Nothing Left: resting your mind, body, & emotions

lonely-feeling-wait-tranquility-royalty-free-thumbnailAspects of Rest— (mind, body, physical, emotional, a person in community)

How do you rest your mind? How do you rest your body? What about your emotions, your sense of individuality, and your social relationships? Let’s look at these various aspects of Rest individually—

  1. RESTING YOUR MIND.Resting your mind does NOT mean you stop thinking! God forbid! Unless, of course, that is all you do, 24/7. Resting your mind may involve reading in a genre totally different from your normal sustenance. Try a science magazine. Racial justice, or political speculation? Switch to fiction, fantasy, or even a sports magazine. While we’re at it…, obsessed with sports? Take a breath…, w-a-l-k a-w-a-y! (This may require medicinal, medical, or mental assistance.)  Delving into an area of thought totally foreign to your field of interest can free your mind to make connections you might otherwise miss. Tunnel-vision will  creep into all our ways, given enough time.

There is a field of study known as Synectics. Ever hear of it? It is the application of the principles of one field of study to the problems faced in another field of study. Getting outside your box, resting your mind, may be just the thing the doctor ordered. Most of us never grow inside our own boxes; we just think we do. To have our field-of-focus sharpened it is absolutely necessary to be a part of something of a totally divergent character. Like bridge design & ocean surfing, or homemaking and marksmanship.

  1. RESTING YOUR BODY. Ceasing all exercise is not the answer. Curtailing, moderating, working on another body part, etc., are much preferable to becoming a couch potato(e). Besides, any sudden STOP in exercise can have serious consequences for your overall health. For some of us, exercise is what keeps us going, gives us stamina, makes us strong. It is an intrinsic part of our everyday routine. We would feel sluggish without it. But for others, exercising can feel like a hundred pound albatross draped around our neck, dragging us to exhaustion. For this latter person, starting an exercise program might be the way to rest their body. Lack of exercise is not rest; nor is it sloth. We do not rest our bodies by stopping. We rest our bodies by balancing feeding, what we put into it, with exertion, what we ask of it. But I will never discount the value of just lying on some tropical beach in the Caribbean waiting for that pineapple drink thing with the umbrella in it. Just don’t lie there too long.
  2. RESTING YOUR EMOTIONS. Resting the emotions is simpler for some of us than for others. Some of us barely allow our emotions near the surface of our daily lives; thus, forcing them deeper within. They still churn away, to be sure: we may be aware of it— we may not. Some of us do not want to be in touch with our emotions. Too unruly; easier to merely retain them on the surface and maintain our inner composure. But that can only take you so far. In my work as a counselor I have witnessed those moments when deep emotions have been exposed for the first time: amazement, anger, elation, Ah-ha!, rage, sorrow, collapse, restoration…, all come to expression in one form or another to connect a person’s inner world with their outer world. People leave my office with a new sense of resolution about them. Not that everything is, in fact, resolved; but it has turned a corner. I love corners.

Resting your emotions involves giving up resentments, past wounds, and that inner tumult that wracks your heart on a regular basis. To a quite serious degree, if you are to rest your soul, you must bring some degree of resolution to those things that churn & turn within. In the Bible, God admonishes us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)  So, do what you can; but be advised that some of the resolution you seek may never come. Then, you must learn to live with it. That is the stark reality.

  1. RESTING YOUR PERSON IN CONTEXT. All of us live in a context; that is, we have a rubric of relationships that we classify in various categories— home, family, work associates, “buddies,” girlfriends, fellow sports enthusiasts, computer nerd groups, gamers, fellow Christians, etc.  We do this to manage our relationships, to keep them straight…, and to keep them separate.

There are also some people in our life who fit into these quite extreme categories.

  1. Truly Special People. These people are always there for us. OR, They have influenced us is significant ways. We need them in our lives; and we most definitely want them there.
  2. Quite Exasperating People.  These are people who want you to always be there for them. You are not important— they are. Given the opportunity, they will drain you of every ounce of your energy…, and then they will ask for more. Unless they are paying you, avoid this lot! You have neither time nor enough strength for them.

[For a more exhaustive delineation I refer you to Gordon MacDonald’s Restoring Your Spiritual Passion. It’s not easy to find.]

      Resting your Person-in-context involves a separation of yourself from some, if not all, relational communities for a time of aloneness. We ALL are so over-contexted in this hyperventilated life-pace we try to maintain.  Be still…, remember?

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 4, more Unpacking Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left-Starvation, Isolation & Unfulfillment

isolation-3155603_960_720  Although there are many more causes of depression, I will consider but three more here. Then we must move on to some practical solutions for the things that bleed us dry.

8.  Soul Starvation

As your soul continues to be drained of strength, Soul Starvation sets in. Your exhaustion turns to a relentless sense that you will never get back to who you once were. You will never find the emotional/spiritual resources you need to recover from this passionless, vacant life. You are starved for life, friendship, feeding, and a fresh start. But this continual stagnation of your spirit constantly adds to your emptiness and the exhaustion of your soul gets worse and worse.

  1. Isolation

      This, then, leads to Isolation. Not that you cut yourself off from your family, your work, or the rest of society. You continue to participate, sometimes as though by rote, in the daily rhythm of life, but within your soul you are intolerably alone. You are a shell. You are either in cover-up mode, intentionally living behind a façade, or have dropped out of the stream of life altogether. Even though you know this is not good for you, you do it anyway. It’s just easier.

      For when your soul is completely exhausted you have little strength to live, to do anything, let alone to intermingle with friends. Isolation, for some, sadly, leads to remorse. Thoughts of suicide enter their plans of coping with this incessant agony. Your agony is a denial of anyone who cares for you enough to make a difference, even the God who made you.

  1.  Unfulfillment

      The final cause of depression I will mention is Unfulfillment. We settle for less than we know who we are or what we can accomplish. Again, we become a shell— of who we once were, or of who we believe we can never become. (There are certainly many more causes of depression, but these are the ones I have found, in my experience, to be the most destructive of a person.)

      When we are young the world lies before us, wide and beautiful, full of love and wonder. I, like you, had dreams of what I would DO with my life. As I grew into my 20s and 30s those dreams were honed and clarified. I was ready! Of course, the organization for which I worked did not have the same dreams that I did and we had a very sad parting-of-the-ways. It was at that point I learned I would have to fight to bring my dreams to reality. Incidentally, what I dreamed as a youth had little to do with the scope of what I am doing today. I simply did not have enough life-experience to dream that big. That has changed.

      For what seemed like an eternity, my dreams were on the back shelf. I was unfulfilled. My mind was bursting with ideas and energy within; and I was told to wait. Finally, at age 40, I stopped waiting and drew my dreams off the back shelf and put them into action. It was risky, scary, challenging, and exciting! I regretted waiting ‘till I was 40 to begin my fulfillment stage.

      Living a life of unfulfilled aspirations, truly, inextricably, leads to soul exhaustion and depression. “Doing the next thing,” only creates a drudgery that epitomizes exhaustion.

      If your life is presently in an unfulfilled stage, and has been there for more than a year, it is time you started thinking about shifting to another reality; one, wherein, you have a greater sense of making a difference. NOT to do so is to allow one more cause of soul exhaustion to govern and defeat your spirit.

     Soul Exhaustion is a serious component of depression. There are many contributors and causes that can be identified. What we’ve considered so far is only a first step in dealing with this depletion of spiritual, emotional, and physical loss. The rest of this book (er, these articles) will offer some ideas, and some encouragement, on overcoming your own depression and living the life that God intended you to live.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Solutions— Getting some rest.

everest15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
 (ESV)

     O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? This is the question for which we have sought an answer over the past five weeks. For this last installment considering the solutions raised in Psalm 15, I’d like to zoom in on the last phrase— He who does these things shall never be moved.

      The only other place in the Bible that this phrase is used is in 2 Peter 1:10. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” Is the implication in both places that we shall never sin…, again? No. Never stumble, never move, yes. For our primary focus in life is set on the mind of Christ and what He desires for our lives.

      Then again, look back over the previous solutions in both sections, Psalm 15 and 2 Peter 1-10. I do try to live up to these solutions and to put them into practice. They form a great code to live by. Do I often come to a place where I have attained this level of commitment to God? Not exactly. How about not even close.

      Two of the things I’ve always cherished about our Christian faith are (1) that the goals of pleasing God are always just beyond my reach, giving me something to aspire to. The other thing (2) is that our faith in Christ provides us with a direct access to God the Father with no prerequisites or conditions to approach Him. He is simply there for us— as a father, a friend, a deliverer, a place of safety, or rest. He is also there when we need a swift kick in the butt.

      Remember the story of the Footprints in the sand? When the traveler saw only one set of footprints Jesus explained those were the times when He carried us. In my case, and maybe in yours, that’s not the case. For me, when only one set of footprints were there, Jesus explained that they were the times when He dumped me into the surf and said Sink or swim, buddy!

      Our Christian journey is a constant warp & woof between being buoyed along in the arms of our Savior and learning to stand on our own in the struggles with the darkness that is in this world. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference and proceed with discernment…, and decisiveness.

      Never shaken, never moved.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Disruptive Technologies & Innovation

Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

skull-demonic-fingers-satan-1565457-pxhere.com
15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
     [He] who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
      How often does my heart turn to the dark side? To inwardly seek revenge, retribution, retaliation?!? Years after claiming Christ’s grace as my own I still seek to lord something over another, to seek my own pleasure, to gain notice for success. I, who claim to be in service of the God most high, still seek a place in the sun. How often have we spoken in a derogatory way about our fellow Christians? How often have we questioned the integrity of others just to look good ourselves?
      God forgive me. And us.
      O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who indeed! Our world calls this slander, and there is no place for it among us. Confession is good for more than just the soul. It is good all the way ‘round.
      Our neighbors, likewise, deserve our respect and protection. When Starr and I lived in Amherst, MA, we knew all our neighbors, so did our kids. Everyone had a key to everyone else’s house; we shared a community 22’ ladder, show blowers, power washers, tillers, ropes, and garden vegetables. And there were no fences. Where we live now is all fences. Building our community takes a little more work, but we’re getting there.
      This pandemic has provided us with great opportunities to serve those around us. How could we ever do evil to those we love who live next door? Still, I understand not all neighborhoods are like ours; but we could try to make them that way.
      A reproach against a friend enforces the previous two phrases to mark the seriousness of accusing someone of a serious deed. If this happens to you, there better be an uncontestable proof that the criticism is true. If it is true, own up to your failures. If it is not, you must stand your ground and rebuke your accuser. Gently, quietly.
      Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? Indeed! Certainly few. By the qualifiers set forth so far, none of us would make the cut. But thanks be to God! All has been provided for us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!
      Unlike every other religion in the world, our God has provided a way for us to approach Him without proving ourselves. He paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of His rule over our lives. HE is our provision at the entrance way of heaven, to be received by our Father!
      Welcome home, son. Welcome home, daughter.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
 
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT– Making the Cut

Prayer from The Lutheran Prayer Book

empulse lutherIN TIME OF PESTILENCE.

    O Lord God, the giver of our health, it is only of thy mercy that we have so much health continued after the manner in which we have lived. And oh how just were it with thee utterly to take away that health from us which we have so greatly abused, to a forgetfulness of thee and wantonness against thee!

    How justly mightest thou smite us with sharp and noisome diseases, which our nature most abhorreth; to hurry us out of the land of the living, and put a sorrowful end to our wretched days! But, O thou Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble, regard not our ill-deserts; but remember thy own tender mercies and gracious promises; and take pity on us, and turn away this plague from us.

        Put a stop to the raging pestilence, and say to the destroying angel, “It is enough;” that we may not be afraid of the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday: but, with calmness in our minds and gladness in our hearts, may serve thee faithfully and cheerfully all our days, and devote our spared lives, which we have begged at thy hands, and our health and every mercy, to thy honor and glory, through the strength and the righteousness of thy dear Son, our most compassionate and prevailing Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

~Benjamin Kurtz, The Lutheran Prayer Book of 1860

      This prayer in times of pestilence should need no further clarification. “Nough said.” Nonetheless, forgive me if I engage your minds a bit further.

      The times were not that different in the 1860s than they are today. Japan was experiencing enormous changes as their Meiji Restoration reshaped society. In Latin America, the Paraguayan War was the bloodiest in the region’s history. The American Civil War raged from 1861-1865 brought death on both sides (North/South) with the introduction of mechanized weaponry. Malaria plagued the construction of the Suez Canal, killing thousands. These were perilous times in the world, as they are today.

      This Coronavirus is devasting our ways of life. With over 1,000,000 cases worldwide, and almost 60,000 deaths worldwide, this is a major pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century. We are ALL affected by it. It is time we give ourselves to wisdom in our actions and prayer in our spirits.

      The attitude of this prayer pointed true Christians to look to Jesus’ tender mercies and gracious promises. It pleaded to Put a stop to the raging pestilence and say It is enough! And then called us to neither be afraid of the terror by night nor the arrow that flies by daybut with calmness in our minds and gladness in our hearts, may we serve thee faithfully and cheerfully all our days.

      Would to God that this could be our manner and mindset today.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Making the Cut: Psalm 15

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.

Untenable

ropeun·ten·a·ble  /ˌənˈtenəb(ə)l/  adjective
1. (especially of a position or view) not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection: “this argument is clearly untenable”     – Oxford Dictionaries
     Over these past few weeks I have been reading and listening to lectures by Peter Boghossian, author of How to Have Impossible Conversations [DaCapo 2019]. Dr. Boghossian is a professor at Portland State University who argues that we are done with Culture Wars 1.0. We are now entangled in Culture Wars 2.0.
 “The rules of engagement relate to how we deal with our disagreements. In Culture Wars 1.0, if an evolutionary biologist gave a public lecture about the age of the Earth based on geological dating techniques, creationist detractors would issue a response, insist that such dating techniques are biased, challenge him to a debate, and ask pointed-if unfairly loaded-questions during the Q&A session.
“In Culture War 2.0, disagreements with a speaker are sometimes met with attempts at de-platforming: rowdy campaigns for the invitation to be rescinded before the speech can be delivered. If this is unsuccessful, critics may resort to disrupting the speaker by screaming and shouting, engaging noise makers, pulling the fire alarm, or ripping out the speaker wires. The goal is not to counter the speaker with better arguments or even to insist on an alternative view, but to prevent the speaker from airing her views at all.” https://americanmind.org/essays/welcome-to-culture-war-2-0/
     This shift to Culture Wars 2.0 is a new playing field for the Christian. We will not even be allowed a platform to offer our values. We will be shouted down. So where does this leave us in the marketplace of ideas and the public forum? Trying to present a meta-narrative about ultimate destinies and Truth has been eliminated from the discussion. There is no discussion.
     So, now what?!?
     Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) once said
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister. All the Friars should preach by their deeds. This eventually was condensed to Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words. Though it is impossible to proclaim the gospel without words the point is well taken.
     Like our Lord Jesus, our actions must supersede our explanations. Offering the love of Christ may often lead to the question Why are you doing this? Sometimes I explain my faith; sometimes I simply reply, because it is right.
     We have entered a new phase in the battle for the hearts of men. When we are informed in advance that we will not be allowed to speak. We are not there yet, but it is coming.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

NEXT ungrateful at Thanksgiving