The Gospel in Context

      Although we in the West too frequently assume that our Gospel can be summed up neatly in a four-point outline that is not necessarily true for much of the rest of the world. If we are honest with ourselves, four-point gospel outlines are no longer appropriate here either. They assume too much background knowledge on the part of the hearer. It is no longer there.

      It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi as saying Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. Whether he said this or not, the saying has a point. WORDS alone are not the gospel. ACTIONS must proceed, accompany, and follow its explanation.

      More recently, we had The Wordless Book, where the black page represented our sin, the red page pointed to Jesus blood shed for us, the white page depicted our cleansing from sin, purity, and the gold page our reward in heaven. Sounds great if you’re a white evangelical American Christian, right. Great for children.

      But if you are an African black man, the booklet represents something quite different. Black is the color of life. Red is the color of white man’s warfare. Gold is what the war and bloodshed is all about. And White is the color of Death. So much for The Wordless Book as a tool of explaining the gospel.

      The Gospel of Christ is always bounded by at least four qualifiers— the Scriptures, the surrounding culture, the personality of the presenter, and its accompanying acts of kindness and love. If we do not take into consideration ALL of these factors, then our offer of Christ as Lord and Savior will be out of context for those we want to draw to Him.

      Another concern we must take into account is our own heart. Do I love this person? Do I know how to love this person? Sometimes I think that the language of romance is more appropriate to evangelism than any formatted presentation. Is my heart into this stuff? Or is this just another academic practice of the Christian agenda?

      Some years ago, when we were looking for a good definition for evangelism, the phrase to love the hell out of a person rose to the surface— theologically and practically. It just seemed to make sense.

      Missionaries throughout history have been spurred on by their passionate love for a people who they knew very little about; yet, somehow, grew to love them with the sacrificial love of Jesus. Are you there? Or is evangelism still simply about commando-raids into our evil culture?

      I pray that God will break your heart for one, two individuals and you will fall in love with them and want them to have what you have. Not heaven, but heaven here in earth— a tight meaningful relationship with the God who made them— Jesus Christ.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— working on it

Finding God: What are you looking for?

    The history of the telescope can be traced to before the invention of the earliest known telescope, which appeared in 1608 in the Netherlands, when a patent was submitted by Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker. Although Lippershey did not receive his patent, news of the invention soon spread across Europe. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepieceGalileo improved on this design the following year and applied it to astronomy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telescope


    The telescope was and is one of the greatest instruments for searching the heavens or peering across the cities to find our what’s on the other side. But to answer our question— What Are You Looking For? we need to turn our gaze inwardly, to explore our hearts, our minds, and our soul.

     Might I direct you to consider some of these questions as you explore—

1.       Why is there anything?

2.       Did a God create all there is? Or did it always exist? Or did it evolve from some primordial ooze?

3.       Why do you exist? Not just because you were born…, but what is your purpose(s) in being on this earth?

4.       Why do you seem to have a moral compass? A sense of right & wrong? Is it merely cultural?

5.       Do things just happen? Or do you sense some behind-the-scenes plan? Can you recalculate as you grow?

6.       What is that One Thing you want out of life more than anything else?

7.       What is the One Thing you must do before you die to make a difference? To leave a legacy?

8.       If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

9.       If you could change anything in your own life, what would it be?

10.   What else matters that you want to effect?

     Yes, I’ve pondered all these questions more than once; and come up with different answers as I’ve grown and changed through my experiences and perspectives on life. “Is Jesus Christ truly God incarnate and has He genuinely granted me a place in His Kingdom by His side?” is one question I roll around on an almost weekly basis. Faith is not a solid thing: it is a dynamic organism.

     If you believe you have all the answers, then you haven’t discovered most of the questions. When I was young in my Christian faith, I had all the answers…, just not all the questions. The Westminster Confession of Faith grounded me in Truth. But it left out some things— miracles, individual revelations, calling, spiritual intuitions, and, forever that bugaboo, gut feelings.

     So when I ask What are you looking for? I’m right there beside you, wondering about so many things myself, even though I am basically established, my Christian faith is still that…- faith.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for? Pt.2 



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 – 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

After There’s Nothing Left: Soulfood – Learning silence

     Many people will eat whatever is set before them; I’m too picky. Thus has a mindless obesity taken over our land. The same seems true for many followers of Christ. They eat whatever soul-food is set before them, with little thought for its quality, character, or value. They suck it down, often devoid of spiritual, Biblical nutrients, and then wonder why their lives are in a constant state of depression and dissipation. Biblical Junk-Food. Faith-Fluff.

      What my soul needs is the kind of food that rebuilds strength, balances the needs of the many with the fulfillment of Christ’s resolve for the rest of my life. I am a persnickety eater. I hardly remember ever dining on Christian mush or platitudinous slop. Nor do I find spiritual food to be equated to intellectual erudition. Feeding the mind, my mind, is not equal to feeding the soul, my soul.

      My soul is fed as I remain still & silent before God. My soul is fed in those serendipitous moments when I happen upon those magical-works-of-God in process (phrase intentional) and find that I was already integrated into them all along. My soul is fed when I make a difference in another person’s life, male or female, old or young, Christian or otherwise.

      Three resources for my SOUL FOOD at present come from three unlikely sources— first, from the books I write— Clueless ChristianityEMPulsive ThoughtsWhen there’s Nothing LeftThe Whiskey Chronicles. They tear at my own soul and drive me to Christ. (If you’ve ever tried to write anything, you understand.) And second, through a fairly obscure man of God in Colorado Springs— Josh Lindstrom, one of the pastors of Woodman Valley Chapel. And he doesn’t even know it; he doesn’t need to. But he has fed my spirit more than anyone over these past 3½ years.

      Third, when we lived in Massachusetts, a man half my age entered my life— Bill Hodgeman, the new pastor (since 2015) at The College Church in Northampton, MA. He has been there just over 6 years so far. He has a grasp of Scripture and culture like few men I have met in my travels. He is a surprise gift of God to me.

      So I ride this underlying current rummaging around for more kinds of soul food I have yet to identify. Here is what I am finding so far—

  1. Seeking Silence opens a window for surprise treats from the Lord. I am not particularly looking for anything; but tasty morsels of His majesty suddenly fall into my mouth and I am full of His presence once more. Yum!
  2. My Emotions become more open to God as I worship Him. This is not a “renewing of your minds…. It a releasing of my spirit into His Spirit which clears the way for Him to feed me once again. The odd thing is that I am worshiping Him…, yet I am the one who is being fed.
  3. Prayer is a form of soul food for me. It is the time when I am the most vulnerable before God. It has become a time when my ongoing conversation with the Lord gets down and dirty, mixing praise with pleading, confession with deeper commitments, and an openness between the Father and me that is dangerously transparent— for me. It is a frightening thing to be an open book before God.
  4. People are another source of food for me. No, not eating them, but listening for God’s voice in them through our conversations and interactions. I can never forget the time I heard God speaking to me, feeding my soul, through a someone whom I was supposed to be counseling. Totally not what I expected. God is full of surprises… .
  5. The writings of certain authors are also soul food for me. The works of Alan Loy McGinnis, Henri Nouwen, David Rupert, C. S. Lewis, Herman Dooyeweerd, Leonard Sweet, and Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch also feed my soul. But these are mere starting points providing spiritual energy for the journey ahead. They provide meat as my sustenance; but I still need dessert.
  6. This is where I relish God’s provision of soul food— in the dessertFor me, this involves spending time with my friends who do not know Christ as their God. God invigorates my soul within through the banter, the congenial or combative conversation on the surface that draws any one of them closer to understanding and accepting the life God the Father is offering them through His Son Jesus Christ. For me, evangelism is not an endeavor, a chore, an obligation of the Christian life, it is food for my soul. Probably, it is the primary reason I enjoy the company of healthy (or not-so healthy) “normal people” so much. They renew my soul and strengthen Christ’s Spirit within me; and my prayers gain more of an eternal context, rather than merely daily problem solving. And, since God is the author of salvation I simply have to show up and enjoy what He is doing!

      So what feeds your soul? Do you know? Do you know where to find it again? You need to know where your sustenance will come from in those times of spiritual leanness, when you’ve lost some spiritual depth and context. You know the times— you just can’t seem to find your way around in your faith anymore. And, if I might suggest, (my mother would kill me) start with dessert. It just tastes better and enhances your appetite for the meat (vegetarians forgive me) of your spiritual appetite.

Honor God, honor people, & learn to be quiet,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— soul love.

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

First three of five candles lit on an advent wreath

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— ‘twas the night before Christmas  

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission: Letting Go

2020 has been a year of hardships and sadness for too many of us around the world. Some of us have been through the horror of COVID19 and lived to tell about it. Others…, not so much. We’ve had to learn to let go of them. And, yes, it was painful.

     And it’s not over yet. There is more pain to come. And more sorrow. And more death.

     With this cheery intro I want to direct you to a question— What is it you need to let go? Decide now. Then hang on to what is more important, most precious, and most loved.

      But what if…? How will you handle it if your wife, your husband gets COVID? Or one of your kids? What if someone you love dies? These are serious questions in serious times.

      The issue, I believe, comes down to this. What do you have to rely on in these unstable economic days, in the uncertain times of COVID and death?

      It often seems that we hang onto things far too tightly. I’ve found that what I thought I needed when I was younger, I realized later I only wanted. Then as I matured (stop laughing) the things I thought I wanted I didn’t want, or need, at all.

      It’s all about relinquishing that desire to have MORE. MORE. Isn’t it time we all thought of a little sacrifice? Of giving to those in need.

      I’ve often tried to imagine the conversation that must have taken place in heaven prior to Jesus’ birth on earth. “Now as you descend to earth, my Son, you will be greeted by cows, and ox, and chickens. There will be a few humans there as well. Obviously, Joseph and young Mary, your mother. A few shepherds will trickle in throughout the night.

      “They will find you in a barn-like lean-to, lying in an animal feeding trough on a swath of hay, which I will prevent them from eating.

      “For the next 30 or-so years you will learn to work with your hands. Following which you will begin your short 3 year ministry to draw people back to Me. Most of your own kind will reject you. Actually, they will hand you over to their conquering overlords to be executed.

      “But not to worry…, I have a greater plan for you, and for them.

      “Now get going.”

      I wonder if Jesus had a hard time letting go?!?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the Adventure of Advent