Offering Christ in a postChristian culture-My best ideas come to me when I’m driving

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You know how it goes. You finish something, then you finish it again— similar to the “here’s my first final draft” submission scenario of so many doctoral theses. This first last entry will set forth practical ideas so you won’t simply put it aside and do nothing. First, to deal with the realities of this major cultural shift to a postmodern/postChristian society, I’ll suggest some personal characteristics which you will need to integrate, with some degree of wholeness, into your life and livelihood.  Then I’ll lay out more general observations to keep in the back of your head as you move about, surrounded by a postChristian/post-moral population. Please, as you read this blog, know that these recommendations are only applicable if you are serious about relating to the emerging set of people we presently refer to as postmoderns.  I prefer to describe them aspostChristian, or even as post-morals.

     First, you will need a little patience. It takes time to understand paradigm shifts and how they affect everything. It takes time to gain an eagle’s eye perspective on your own culture, community, and personal heritage. You almost need to have an out of body experience, to be able to fly over your world like an eagle to truly see yourself, in this place & time. When you step back a bit and observe, even your own self seems different; and in many ways, people today are different. Flash observations just do not work.

     We have to learn to live alongside people who are increasingly different from ourselves. Don’t jump to conclusions after one encounter with people outside your own social group; people have arrived where they are in life over long, hard roads; some roads, quite far from your own path. Take time to win the right to allow people to trust you with their road’s story, on their terms, on their turf. Some time ago, I met with an ALPHA group. We had met together before, but never quite like this— one Australian, two Iranian Muslims, and four Chinese students from Beijing (all in their late 20s–early 30s). Our small group fell into a discussion of the differences between being raised in a Christianized society (America), a Muslim society (Iran), and an atheistic society (China). The Muslims were convinced that Islam was the one true religion because it was the most recent, which meant that it was the most complete, incorporating all previous religions into it. The Chinese, not-quite-atheists were brand new to the idea of a God even existing. How could God be Jesus if Jesus came to earth? It was an exciting evening of interchange, disagreement, and friendship as each person was able to speak without fear of recrimination or evangelistic attack. No one had to win. As the only Christian in the group, I was honored to watch our Lord begin to work His miracles in these people. I just needed to be there, modeling honest, transparent Christian faith, speaking the Truth in love. It was not a time to whip out a Gospel outline and proceed to read through it; it was not a time to maneuver the conversation around to Christian things. It was rather a time for me to be still and to listen for the voice of God’s Holy Spirit coming out of these curious individuals. I was amazed at the genuinely Biblical images and ideology they espoused without even knowing it. Then I just had to wait. As said earlier, God is in control; we don’t have to be. New expressions of faith evolve naturally with time and generational transitions[i]; so learn patience.

     On the other hand, as Christians in a rapidly evolving society, we do not have a lot of time to adapt to our changing world. It used to be that paradigm shifts occurred about every 200-500 years. When the printing press enabled merchants to carry information (as well as their wares) across Eurasia those shifts accelerated paradigm change to about every 40-50 years.  With the dissemination of communication technology that figure is accelerating even more today. What communicates our faith today will have to change or update not every 20 – 30 years, but every 5 years.  George Barna, in BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century,[ii] says that, at best, we have no more than 3-5 years to catch up before things shift again. Then, we need to surpass the culture in breaking ground for the next shift to follow.[iii] “If you can see the future coming,” says Barna, “it’s too late.”

     NEXT time, in the first-last-entry, I’ll leave you with some observations about how to immerse yourself in our new postChristian world, and how to fall in love with her people. Seriously.

Writing one final EMPulse in this series…, maybe,

Gary

[i] “Generational Dominance” refers to the overall influence any particular generation, or subculture within that generation, exerts over a regional or national culture in general.

[ii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001.

[iii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001. p.20.

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Learning to Love-Introduction

There’s really nothing quite like being in love, is there? Being loved, and loving, builds us in ways that nothing else can.

     We live in a culture where love has been lifted up to the highest pinnacle of experience…, and then we complicate it with sex, romance, and shattered relationships. We’ve lost something— a depth of love and any ability to love another selflessly. It’s always about me. Genuine love should be about the other.

     We need to learn to love again— with a rich love, a deep love. I’m not talking simply about romantic love…, but a love that is empowering— for our wives, husbands, our parents, our children, neighbors, and our workmates.

     Love cannot be merely a word or a feeling: it must be an attitude toward living, an underlying approach to everyone around us. Only then will we begin to grasp the wild stability found in selfless love.

     So if you’ve been hurt by love, or simply forgotten how to love, I invite you to join me over the next 6-7 weeks in this discussion about love. Invite your friends into the discussion too. Great fun lies ahead.

~ Dr. Gary Davis

[ALL OF THE STARS, Ed Sheeran—  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkqVm5aiC28 ]

Some of the facets of love we will be discussing are—

  • Learning Love. What are the different kinds of love? Why does love even exist? To what extent does loving and being loved affect our lives? And what are the effects of NOT being loved, or NOT loving other people.
  • Love Games.  What are they? Why do we play them? What do they do to our relationships?
  • Your Personality and Love. Your individual personality has a lot to do with your interactions with other people. It influences how and who you love too.
  • Love Hurts. Surprise! Giving love that expects nothing in return can lead to deep wounds. How do I recover from them? Giving love expecting something in return is even more dangerous. How are we to recover from love’s life discouragements? Learning to love again is one of the most difficult challenges we will ever face.
  • Trust. Loving anyone involves a measure of trust that lets go of personal protection and says My life is in your hands. How do we learn to “trust?” What are the ingredients of trust?

More issues will probably arise as we move through our discussion. There’s no right or wrong here; only open, honest options for us to knock around.

 Let’s make love an action verb,

Gary

St. Patrick, the man, not the myth


Sr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christian, St PatrickSaint Patrick
 (Latin: Patricius, Irish: Naomh Pádraig) was a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. When he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.

“He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked and no link can be made between Patrick and any [particular] church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish monastery system evolved after the time of Patrick; but the Irish church did not develop the diocesan model that Patrick and other early missionaries had tried to establish. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster would imply that he lived from 378 to 493, dying on March 17th, and ministered in modern day northern Ireland from 433 onwards.” (Wikipedia)

Patrick understood people; he understood Ireland. Instead of confronting the native Druid religion, Patrick incorporated their worship of the sun into the Christian faith as worship of the Son. He used their bonfire celebrations as part of the Easter celebrations. He used the ancient Druid symbol of Spring, the Shamrock, to explain the three Persons of the Trinity— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He endeavored to build a community of believers, a parish structure, rather than the pyramid hierarchical structure he had experienced in Rome.

Patrick knew the importance of blending the worship of Jesus Christ with the warp ‘n woof of daily life. He understood people have roots in their culture and communities…, and needed roots that would reach far deeper to the God who made them. So he brought Christ to them in a language and culture that they already knew.

So, when, and if, you reach out to God, try to do so in a way that is fitting with your culture, your language, in your community. You’ll be amazed at how well Jesus understands you already. You’ll still be Irish, or Ghanian, or Jewish…, but different.

Er-in go bragh (look it up.)

Gary

Christmas Eves Past

Christmas Eves Past

My earliest memory of Christmas Eve is when I was nine years old. We visited a small Methodist church in the Maryland countryside. Snow blanketed the fields and roads outside, warm bodies and overcoats squished tight together in the pews inside. The sanctuary heat was cranking. My parents squeezed us into the fourth row from the back, on the left; it was tight.

The Christmas Eve meditation wasn’t all that appealing to this nine year old. But following the message, each child in the congregation was called forward, by name, to receive a Christmas gift. But I was an unknown visitor; who was I? No one knew I was even there.

Imagine my surprise when the guy upfront called my name “Is there a Gary Davis here?” I made my way forward wondering how anyone here knew my name, let alone could have bought me a gift. I returned to my seat and opened my gift; it was something I had actually wanted. WOW!

That was the first time God truly grabbed my attention.

We’ve had many Christmas Eves since then. Like the one where I could hear my dad struggling to assemble my first bike ($@&*%!); or the lavish late night dinners at Miller Brothers’ or Haussner’s Restaurant in Baltimore. They are wonderful memories.

Later, my wife Starr and I created Christmas Eve miracles and magic for our family. Many persist to this day, filled with light, graciousness, and blessing to all. But we would always hang onto a few moments of silence for just us, and the Christ Child. But it all started, for me, in that little country church when I was nine.

Throughout my life God has captured my attention in many ways. I have never become used to it. It is always unexpected and amazing. To this day I am still surprised by God for the everyday provisions He drops in my lap, let alone for the miraculous and the magical.

What have your Christmas Eves held for you? Mine have not all been so memorable; some have been terrible, truly terrible. Maybe yours have been like that too; but not all. Some have been truly wonderful.

This Christmas Eve, be open to God grabbing your attention, surprising you. It may be something you need to.

Merry Christmas,

Gary