Challenging Challenges – What’s Worth Dying For?

One of favorite novels of all time is Charles Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES. In it he describes the horrors & inequities of the French Revolution (1789-1799). But it is also a story of love and nobility. Without getting too deeply into the plot, Sydney Carton switches places with Charles Darnay so that he is the one who is executed by guillotine, thus saving Darnay. In Dicken’s novel his last words are—

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

     So the question we each need to think about is— What’s worth dying for?  

     Julius Caesar’s vision for a Roman Empire led to his murder. Jesus’ proclamation that He was God led to His crucifixion. Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence led to his assassination. Martin Luther King Jr’s cry for racial justice also led to his assassination.

     Let’s tighten the question. What, who, would you die for?

     I would die for my wife, our children, my friends, and, if necessary, even a stranger. I would die for my faith in Christ.

     But maybe this is the wrong question. What’s worth living for? might be more to the point. What you would live for you would also die for, of course. But how you live is as important, if not more so, than what you would die for.

     Some challenges— Are your beliefs serving a higher calling? A greater purpose? Do you live with a purpose? Or do you simply wait for whatever comes along?

     Are you guiding those around you? How? Are you leaving behind a legacy, a reason for the next generation to come alive? How are you training younger believers to live their faith in their way in their culture?  All followers of Christ are called to do this.

     What’s worth dying for? I would hope you would have a long list.

Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friend.

      ~ John 15:13

     In these crazy days, please, think about what you’re living for: and what’s worth dying for. If it is just yourself, you might want to reconsider that.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Cancer

Challenging Challenges – Fighting God

Nooooo! Not the Greek God of Thunder. Definitely NOT Chris Hemsworth. THAT would be a simple feat.

     Fighting the real God of the Universe is somewhat more of a challenge. Actually, it’s just a plain bad idea. Stupid too.

     But far too many of us do it consistently. We reject His principles for living; we reject His perimeters of protection; we fight His offer of salvation; and we reject His offer of manifold gifts and blessings. What is wrong with us?!?

     This is a fight we cannot win that has dire consequences. But fight on we do!

     We truly believe God will take away all our fun, box us in to become a charming, conservative package, and make “nice” people out of us. Yet, seemingly, we seek to return to our barbarous pillage & plunder days, adhering to no code but our own, if it’s even a code at all.

     There are some advantages in fighting God. We get to write our own principles for behavior, based on what we want. We get to live outside His perimeters of protection for us and sin boldly. We are free to deny His offer of salvation and place ourselves above all others with, supposedly, no consequences for our actions. We are free to define our own happiness, snubbing any and all miracles He might want to grant us. Is this what you really want?

     However, we are all still called to make a difference for good in this world. We are encouraged to bring peace between desperate factions. And we are summoned to love other people. So what do we really gain by fighting God? He is our one reliable source of strength and safety. Are our individual rights, our personal freedom able to protect us as much as He does?

     I often ask people What is God designing you for in the next phase of your life?  Do you know?

     Or this question from James 4:1-3 [erv]

Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don’t get them. So you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God. Or when you ask, you don’t receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.

     Isn’t it time for each of us to take time to examine our own wars with God? Seriously, what is worth fighting God for?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What’s worth dying for?

Challenging Challenges – White Blindness

In recent days (and years), we have seen an increase in racial challenges to white autocracy. It has not been a pretty picture: but it has been a good thing. For too long have white people, especially in the South, turned a blind eye to the black issues that we have created.

     This EMPulse will try to speak into some resolution to this systemic problem.

     First, some review of white attitudes toward black people over the past 175 years is in order.

·         Slaves-property/profit. Negros were seen as property, somewhere between farm animals and human beings, fit only for what they could produce.

·         Freed-a blight & problem. By the late 19th century blacks were seen as a blight on society. Human, but dirty and immoral.

·         Repressed- uneducated, persecuted. The industrial revolution in the early 20th century kept them uneducated. They were persecuted in their poverty.

·         Rising presence- cannot be ignored. By mid century Black people became a rising presence in white dominated America; treated still as inferiors, tolerated by the white establishment.

·         Societal acceptance- almost. With the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and the clarion voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., white-America was forced to adapt to an intelligent vocal minority that knew that this national prejudice what not what God intended in creation.

·         Latent systemic prejudice. Within the first two decades of the 21st century, there arose a chorus of voices from the black communities across America that enough is enough! White repression, especially from local police, has grown out of control. A few bad cops, and possibly an undercurrent of resentment, gave impetus to a swelling outcry against police brutality. And, of course, disproportionate racial response within Black America.

     So, here we are, 5 months into the 21st century. We have NO resolution, NO solutions, and little understanding of the local and national scheme of things on either side. Personally, I do not believe that any white man has the ability to put himself in a black man’s shoes. The historical/social differences & distances are too great.

     What can we do to correct, or at least address, the inequities, prejudice, hangings, burnings, murders, discriminations and ostracizations of these past 175+ years?

     To look to government, local or national, to correct these injustices is vacant expectation. Do any of us really believe they know how?

     To let the people work it out on their own terms hasn’t worked out so well either. Look up the Tulsa (OK) race massacre on May 31-June 1,1921, or, the Rosewood Massacre in Levy County, FL; or the police repression of the Freedom Movements of the early 60s – late 70s.

     The only solution is for genuine Christians is to take up their cross and follow their Lord to repentance and faith. To sit before our Lord and examine our own hearts in terms of our hidden prejudices is a good place to start. Remember what our Lord calls us to—

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:39-41

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:28.

     I grew up in Baltimore in the 1950s-60s. To say it was a dangerous, tense time between whites and blacks would be academic. I lived it. I had some truly great friendships with a couple black guys that were frowned upon by my white friends. It was a hard time in my life. And I would do it the same way all over again to live out the gospel in their midst.

Honor God, honor people, of all races, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Fighting God

Challenging Challenges – Anger

     The greatest cause of conflict between individuals, political factions and people groups is anger. I, WE, have to be right! And we have to win. Ever since the Fall man has sought to control man. In rage we have endeavored to dominate those around us, their lands, their people and this earth. And we do it with all vitriol and anger.

Over the centuries millions have died from our rage and anger. It seems we cannot control our tempers. Getting mad turns to madness, and madness to obsessive wrath. Look at any world history; often, it will not be a review of our accomplishments; it will be a history of tribal and global warfare & conquests— then, accomplishments.

     How do we, as followers of Christ, deal with this madness?

     First, unless we live in a highly controlled environment with little contact with anyone outside our control, we will, at one time or another, get angry. It might be at an incredibly poopy diaper, a teenage frustration, or a political change, somewhere along the line something, someone, will get to us and light our ire. We need to admit this!

     Second, prayer and counseling may help or hinder. In prayer we often bury or disguise our anger as a spiritual issue which needs to be cast aside. Good luck with that. Through counseling you may learn coping methods to calm or sublimate your anger. Or, counseling may just serve as a good way to talk yourself through it. Depending on the kind and depth of your anger these paths may or may not help.

     I have known some people who have lived their whole lives in anger. And they do not want help. Be careful around this kind of person. Their fuse may ignite with the slightest irritation.

     Third, consider just dropping it, letting it go, giving up on any resolution whatsoever. You already know it’s seething inside you, eating away at your soul. At times there just are no answers…, only moving on. I hate this: but sometimes there is no resolution. But, there is always forgiveness.

     Still, if you insist on holding onto your anger keep in mind that your desire for payback, revenge, whatever, will slowly destroy all the rest of you. I watched this with my own father; it was not a pretty picture. And, yes, I’ve had my anger issues too.

     When Scripture admonishes us “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” [Ephesians 4:26] it is not a mere suggestion. It is a principle and a command to wrap up your day and let go of those incessant goading’s of our Adversary go by the way. And yes, they will ruin your night’s sleep if you let them ruminate within your soul.

     Stop it! Let it go.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— WHITE BLINDNESS

Challenging Challenges: Regrets

regrets

  Let’s see… . What are some of the things we do, or don’t do, that we later regret?

·         Irrational fears; being afraid of something, of someone.
·         Being insecure about something.
·         Losing my cool.
·         Not going for it. The RISK Quotient.
·         Putting myself first.
·         Not offering forgiveness…, first.
·         Or…, never seeking forgiveness.
·         Never admitting wrong.
·         Living behind a façade.
·         Standing forth for what is RIGHT.
·         Sacrificing.
·         Withholding love.
·         … & many, many more.

     What are some of the regrets that you carry with you? Some cannot be resolved, but some can be resolved. What are some creative ways you might bring about a resolution of some of your regrets?

1.       If in the last 2-3 years, go to the person or group and seek forgiveness in person.

2.       On the other hand, if you were the one offended, just let it go.

3.       If you regret what you did, seek forgiveness within reason.

4.       Some regrets from your past will just have to take their place in your history. There will probably be no resolution. Again, just let it go.

     Too many of us drag painful memories along with us in case we need to call on them as weapon in some future argument. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for new life and new growth to take place in your life. It drags you into an abyss of anger and resentment.

     Neither are options for genuine followers of Christ. Seeking forgiveness is. So is offering it. The time for forgiveness for past-wrongs is well overdue. If we are the recipients of God’s FORGIVENESS & mercy shouldn’t we extend that to those who done us wrong?

     Remember this conversation between Peter and Jesus? [Matt. 18:21-22]

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother or sister who sins against me?
 Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, 
I tell you, not seven times,
 but seventy-seven times.

     We all carry regrets with us; things we have done, things we could have done, things done to us. For all and any, Jesus’ directs us to forgive. AND forget.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— ANGER

After There’s Nothing Left: The Incredible Lightness of Being

      In 1988 the movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being was released. It was a love story, of sorts; a sad one, to be sure. But the title lends itself in our understanding of depression and the importance of soul clarity. Contrary to the beliefs of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists, clear sight does not flow out of the depths of despair. Rather, it comes with the forgiveness and the freedom experienced in the releasing of your soul, the cleansing of your life of all the grime and evil that has taken up residence. Clearing-out of all such added weight of depression and despair frees the soul to a level best described as an incredible lightness of being.

      This is not to say that some of life’s residual grunge will not cling to you. It will. And you will be tempted to return to it at times. (Remember the dog-to-the-vomit metaphor.) But as more muck is shed, the lightness of your being is able to rise above the din of your past to see your future more clearly. Of course, this can only be attained if you decide to discard the muck. Soul cleansing is no one-time event. You will find yourself doing it throughout your life’s journey.

      If you sense a loss of perspective and clarity along the way, it may be time for some de-mucking again.

      For a clear Biblical framework of soul clarity, I would refer you to 2 Peter 1:1-11.  In this one paragraph we find the sequence of characteristics that must come into play if we are ever to see things clearly. Please read this paragraph with some diligence and inquisitiveness—

 From: Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.   Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

[New American Standard Bible, 1963-71]

This sequence—  faith + moral excellence + knowledge + self-control + perseverance + godliness + brotherly kindness + love = clear vision and long range sight. This sequence will naturally lead to soul/whole clarity. Why? Because you have regained a sense of purpose and are making a difference.

 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A lot of soul-searching must proceed the stillness of a heart resting in itself, in God, and in the confidence that you are doing what you are designed to do.

Honor God, honor people, & be a pain in Satan’s ass,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— silence.

After There’s Nothing Left: Digging Through the Dirt

Shovel in Dirt

         Scrutinizing who you are as a person will create a richer point-of-clarification of who you are to yourself and to those around you.

        This point-of-clarification happened to me somewhere between ages 38-40. My wife and I had just gone through some of the most devastating experiences of our lives— the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a livelihood, the loss of close friends and coworkers. Add to that my impending surgery for TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorder), which turned out to be very painful, and you can imagine our distress and discouragement. We were at the bottom of our lives. It became apparent that I had given up on living any kind of productive, useful, (let alone) creative life ever again.

      But, somewhere in the latter portion of my 39th year of life I got mad, really mad— at myself and at the world around me. I fought every corner of myself, and a few other nay-sayers, to make a difference in this world. Again. What happened next astounded even me. My wife and I founded NEEDinc. Initially an evangelistic ministry that “tailor made” an evangelistic approach more suitable to our New England environment and culture.

      I was alive again! My soul refreshed, my vision clear, my purpose rising ahead of me. I committed myself and all that we had to this new venture of training Christians to make sense of evangelism in the new, emerging postModern/postChristian world.

      Soul Confession behind me, I began digging in the dirt clarifying what I was all about. For Soul Clarity involves a focus on a future path, of how and where to expend energy. It asks questions like—

What am I designed to do in the next phase of my life?

Where does God want me to spend my strength to make the most difference?

      Everyone will come to a point in their journey where the question of what NOT to do is as important as what TO DO. Options DO change as wisdom increases and strength diminishes. Again, seeking the perspective of others who know you seems an advisable path.

      Having founded and incorporated NEEDinc, we next constructed a Board of Directors. From Day One, NEED’s Board of Directors has provided me with consistent guidance that has kept me on the straight & narrow. Ok, not so straight, definitely not narrow, but definitively on a path which fulfilled the Mission of NEEDinc, and suited God’s design upon me, my strength level, and a course of action that kept me on track. Thank God for the critiques, criticism, caring, and cautions of friends!

      For the only ways to clarify what you are designed for is—

  1. To take risks, in fear & faith.
  2. To listen carefully to the advice and criticism of those who know you best. (Including testing.)
  3. Assess whether what you believe about yourself is proven accurate in the evaluations of your efforts.
  4. In the affirmation that comes directly from the God who created you.

      Soul Clarity works in two ways: first, to wash clean all the junk that has clouded your vision for so long; and, second, to grant you clear vision and long range sight. (2 Peter 1:11). Still, I must add that you will not continue to see things clearly if you clutter your purpose or cloud your vision with peripheral projects. There are many good and great things you can do. But what is the ONE THING you MUST do, no matter what? THAT is the question. Or, that is THE question we all must answer if we are to have a purpose for our existence.

      Some lingering depression may still be there; but it will be couched in a revitalized purpose.

Digging deeper,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— the incredible lightness of being.

After There’s Nothing Left: Feeling Like a Failure

my-failures    So many people constantly struggle with guilt. I am not one of them. Mostly. Through years of rejection, depression, trial & error, and simple stubbornness I have somehow overcome my sense of failure and risen to a place of significance. Well, in some circles.

  When I listen to people who constantly struggle with a sense of failure I can barely fathom the depths of their sense of worthlessness. It must be terrible to never feel good enough, to feel always judged and condemned by either God or others…, or both. I wonder how people live who struggle with guilt all the time; so little joy, so little lightness-of-being. Only weight. There was a time in my life when I made so many mistakes that I felt like I had perfected failure to an art-form. Not that I no longer made mistakes; only now I’ve learned from them; and I do not let them weigh on me as much.

      I’ve learned to distinguish between a sense of failure and real failureReal failure must be admitted and addressed, especially if you are the cause behind it. Personal failure in relationships is tragic. Most people find it quite difficult to own up to their complicity in the breakdown of a relationship. It is just too painful. Some people simply get angry and blame everything on the other person. (Isn’t that helpful?) Their insecurity leaves deep scars across far too many lives. Real failure requires fortitude and maturity to first acknowledge and then to correct if it is possible. In some instances, this is not possible: in others, it remains open to the one who failed to come clean and seek reconciliation and resolution. Real failure has consequences. Never doubt that: do something about it.  [Please note—you may need help.]

      A sense of failure, usually has its birth through multiple failures, real or perceived. Though it is possible to feel like a failure and withdraw into a shell from the very first moment, it is not typical; it takes at least two or three close-together events to drive a person into a personal cloister of private self-doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a sense of failure is significantly different than actual failure. When I was in my teens I felt like a total failure. It didn’t matter that I was a fashion model and drove a Volvo; I felt undesirable. It didn’t matter that my SAT scores were 686 & 782; I never showed them to my parents because I thought they meant a D and a C. I felt stupid. I felt I was a failure and that is how I lived. I was an ugly, insecure, scrawny 134 lb. failure. Throughout most of my college career I continued in this vein until it dawned on me how much more the other guys were studying— and I wasn’t. Hummm!?! My sense of failure slowly turned into “Well, maybe not so much.” What a revelation!

      One of my seminary brothers, during lunch, in a conversation with someone else, simply remarked “God don’t make no junk!” he probably never knew I overheard his comment; but that comment mulled around inside me and took root. I wasn’t junk. The God Creator of the universe had made me. Therefore, I did not have to be a failure. Neither do you. Remember, FAILURE simply means you have not discovered what you are designed for yet. Remember— “The only BIG risk in life is not taking any.”

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Resentment and Forgiveness…, on my part, pt.9

After There’s Nothing Left: Physical exhaustion, fear, deep wounding

isolation-1685765_1280 These next three causes of depression may not be as obvious, yet they are at least the most common. Remember, you do not need to exhibit all of these symptoms to be depressed.

5. Physical exhaustion

            A fifth obvious cause of soul exhaustion is physical exhaustion. When you have no energy for the simple tasks of daily living it does not take long for spiritual exhaustion to set in. This is true of me; this is true of you. When our strength is sapped, so also is our soul. The naïve solution of “Get some rest.” is just not enough. So much more is involved— exercise, diet, attitude, and plain old sweat & perspiration. Without physical strength and stamina, it is virtually impossible to prevent your soul from melting into exhaustion; and that leads to depression.

  1. Fear

Fear grips us. It transcends every other emotion and governs our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a somewhat temporary (or not) sense of exhaustion. Long term fear dissipates our energies and leaves us in a state of anxiety about anything new. This is the worst kind of fear. Seek help from a professional counselor for this one. It is more than spiritual— it is truly evil. Prayer also helps. Fear is a major contributor to overwhelming depression.

  1. Deep Wounding

Unless you are an incredibly young child, there are probably none of us who have not been deeply wounded. It’s just life. Dating disappointments, family difficulties, teenage angst, husband/wife conflicts that get nasty, divorce destruction, judgment or dismissal from gainful employment, to name just a few. [Sadly, there is even betrayal within the Body of Christ.] But no matter the source, ALL cause deep wounds that take a great deal of time to heal— if at all, if ever. Deep wounding is one of the most devastating causes of soul exhaustion. It can fracture your soul for years, leaving you to carry on with little to no strength, causing you to hesitate in trusting God, who made you for sustenance, rejuvenation, rest, and restoration. This kind of depression can only be met with God’s help.

              If not addressed, these causes will turn your face away from God to focus on yourself. This, in turn, leads to resentment. You have to blame someone else. But our Lord is a source of recovery and deliverance. He offers life when all seems lost. Give God some room to work His miracles in your life, and in others.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Starvation, isolation, unfulfillment.

After There’s Nothing Left- over Commitment and no Commitment

images (1)[Reminder: These are excerpts from a book I started writing in 2012 because it was the end of the world.  You do remember 2012?]

Building on my life experiences (see the last EMPulse) let’s start an examination of some of the causes of Depression.

Here are the first two—

  1. Over-Commitment.

Having multiple things going on in your life at any given period can lead to soul exhaustion. Granted, some of us can juggle more balls than others. Some of us have even acquired the knack of juggling a bowling ball with a flaming torch and an active chainsaw (mostly working mothers). But whatever your level of multi-tasking, we all are inevitably capable of reaching a point of over-commitment with too many irons in the fire. We DO so much that we have little time to care for ourselves, in body, soul, or spirit.

Do not take this cause of soul exhaustion lightly. Though you may pride yourself in your ability to multitask, it can leave a thorough feeling of left overs at the end of a day. Nothing left, for your family, for friends, for God, or for yourself.

Over-Commitment means nothing gets done completely right, let alone thoroughly. Not to mention the physical toll it takes on our bodies and the exhaustion it leaves behind. Over-committing ourselves has a way of bleeding us dry.

  1. NO Commitment

The other side of the coin that reads “Over-Commitment” is “NO Commitment.” Being uncommitted to anything is just as capable of deflating your soul as over-commitment. A lack of commitment denotes a hesitancy about life, about a timidity in relationships, that breeds some degree of mistrust in you as a person. In July 2012, I published an article with the seditious title of “Draw a Line.” It was seditious because it challenged people to “draw a line in the sand!” to “Take a Stand.” To let your yes be YES and your NO be no. Too many of us want to keep our options open, to hedge our bets, or to wait for the next best thing.

As a result, we shy away from commitment to, well, just about everything else; jobs, apartments, relationships, anything…, with the exception of our own individual wants and desires. I become the center of my universe! Everyone and everything is peripheral; it is there only for my utility and pleasure. Even you are tangential to my being.

It does not take too much imagination to see how no-commitment to anything except one’s self can lead to soul exhaustion and depression. If everything is a one-way street, with everything flowing into YOU, your capacity to remain self-indulgent will become satiated. You will grow fat with yourself and it will be quite difficult to shed the excess self-bloated baggage. Your soul descends into lethargy and languishes in a kind of affluent isolation. Dead, but not dead. Mostly.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Imbalance & Deception