Phases #4 Discipleship

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PHASES— #4, Discipleship

    Welcome to the Christian life!

The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin  discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.

To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.

Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—

1.      Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.

2.      It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?

3.      It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?

4.      Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.

5.      You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.

 

Growing in grace and forgiveness,

  Gary

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Why Jesus became human

 nativity, Jesus, love, lightThis is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:18-24

This historical description of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth have been recorded in the Christian Bible for anyone to read. But the WHY of Christmas is a much more panoramic story. It starts with the beginning of time itself. Time, along with this fantastic universe were brought into being for us. That’s right—us. And the Lord God Creator said it was good.

In the early days of our livelihood, life was idyllic, if not busy. God had set our ancestors with the task of naming the animals; a.k.a.- imbuing them with their core characteristics. Busy, busy. Then there was that first garden to plant, till, and harvest. More busy. Forget about clothes. Who had the time anyway!

We did, however, find the time to cross the one line God had drawn in the sand—Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The rest is history.

Why did Jesus become human? To become one of us. To suffer the punishment we deserved for crossing the line with God. And in so doing we can be reinstated in a relationship with our Creator.

Why is it this way? I don’t know. Make something up. Most people don’t even believe this much. So we’ve turned the celebration of Jesus’ birth into a cultural economic bonanza for marketing and consumerism. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas celebrations. I love giving gifts. [Ok, I love receiving them too.]

So I will celebrate in the Christmas spirit right alongside the rest of our culture! But I will also celebrate a more quiet one (or maybe not so quiet), remembering the great gift that God the Creator gave us, Jesus Christ: the way back to Him.

Merry Christmas!
  Gary  &  Starr

Moving Like Jesus

Jesus, sandal, feet, path, walk, shoes, Gary Davis, clueless, christianSome time ago I stopped studying Scripture, at least the Gospels, for what they said about Jesus, and started examining how Jesus moved. I became passionate about where he walked, who he met, the nature of each encounter, his encounters with the religious leaders of his day, and how he dealt with the growing throngs of people who constantly wanted to see more, hear more, and eat more fish.

His empathy with people who were suffering, for those who were Roman, Samaritan, leper or lame he was always the same— a kindness with tangible results. With some, he challenged their ways; with others, he barely interacted at all…, but granted their request when he saw their faith. He was a prophet with power moving among real people with personal, physical needs. And he granted them forgiveness for their sins. Interesting.

There are many books written on The Marks of a Christian, or some such topic. In recent days we have had need to distinguish between “Christians” and “genuine Christians.” Give this list of Marks of a Genuine Christian some consideration.

  1. A genuine heart for God & People. Too many Christians in the West have lost their heart for God. We have replaced compassion for people and focus on Christ with comprehension and knowledge. Knowing Scripture and theology is not inherently wrong; not until it crowds out our love for God and his people. Systematic Theology is no replacement for heart-felt love and action.
  2. Sacrifices for the empowerment of Others. If you are a genuine Christian you will sacrifice your time, energy, and resources for other people. It is the natural out-working of a believer’s love for his Lord. Sacrifice is no sacrifice at all if it is done in love and compassion.
  3. Walks the Roads of Scripture. To balance compassion we must comprehend the breadth and depth of God’s Word on a daily basis. Dr. Cornelius VanTil once said we are to think God’s thoughts after Him. To do that we must learn to enter into the context of Scripture and live alongside her characters from Abraham to Jesus to John.
  4. Walks Among those Who Know Nothing about Genuine Christian Faith. There is no greater way to gain a passion for people than to walk among them, to hear their anger, their rage, and to cry with them in their pain. You want to know what normal people think of Christianity? Spend time with them, drink with them, celebrate with them. Ask them.
  5. Has a Passion for Prayer. “Prayer” has become a flat, non-content word within Christian circles today. What prayer is, truly, are conversations with the God who created you and seeks your best. He seeks company, even though there are times when we really do not want to talk with him. A genuine Christian will desire deep meetings with God, regular extended times of prayer; then, he will be quiet and wait for that still small voice of God in the whisper of the wind. Unless you are me, of course; the Father uses a 2×4 with me; and that’s just to get my attention.
  6. Safe, and Speaks Truth Graciously. A genuine Christian is a person of safety. People are drawn to him because they feel safe. He does not judge: that is a matter for God the Father. He knows when to speak, and when to remain silent. He knows that Truth, real Truth can be quite freeing…, or also extremely painful. His calling is to walk graciously in this world to bring the safety and Truth of God to it.

To be sure, there are many more marks of a genuine Christian. And my list is cursory at best. But do give it some consideration. “To what extent are these things true of me?” What marks me as a genuine follower of Christ to the people in my world? How do I move among them?

For what it’s worth,

Gary
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After the Resurrection

Dr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christianity, Jesus, Tomb, Resurrection, waiting           Goin’ fishin’.” In essence, that is what Jesus’ closest disciples opted to do after His crucifixion. It was over. But Jesus asked them to wait— to wait for 3 more days. Three days of asking— What went wrong? What do we do now? Why wait to get on with our lives?

Have you ever felt that emptiness that follows the death of someone close to you— a mother, a dear friend, a child? It’s an emptiness that has no resolution, no closure; just a, flat, raw, void. It does pass; eventually.

Then the resolution to keep-on-keeping-on sets in; one foot in front of the other; another day to face. And you do it with a big hole in your life.

Sometimes it feels like Christ’s Church is still waiting. Waiting for something to happen. We say we’re looking forward to our Lord’s return, but we hardly live like it. We’ve established a new-normal. Faith without vibrancy, expectation, or longing—a settled faith that gives little regard to Christ’s commission to “make disciples” and to declare that He has conquered death and opened the door of heaven.

In too many ways, we have established a wrote-religion. You know what I mean— it’s what we do on Sundays. Same thing— week after week.

Isn’t it time somebody tackles our boredom and shakes things up a bit. Jesus certainly did. Ask yourself these questions—

  •   What difference is my faith making to people outside the church?
  •   What challenges me to make a difference?
  •   What can I do to overcome my uncomfortable feelings when I am surrounded by normal people?
  •   How can my life matter to others?
  •   What do I need to do to change?

The Resurrection took the Jesus’ disciples by surprise. May He surprise us still, today. Be afraid!

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

My coming out

Dr, Gary, Davis, NakedPastor, coming out, honesty, Jesus, Clueless, Christian
@nakedpastor

My Coming-Out

            No, no, not that kind of “coming-out.” Something much more basic. But WHY now? Well…—

Over the course of EMPulse releases I’ve received numerous questions asking, “Who are you?” My kids would tersely answer, “Dad’s weird.” Nonetheless, I believe it is time for a tad more revelation about— me.

I am Gary West Davis, son of Earl Carlton Davis & Florence Adelaide Davis, brother to Carol (Norton) Davis, (a fact she regularly denies). I was born in inner-city Baltimore in the days when my dad worked for the railroad, my mom, for the new Social Security Administration. I, like all the other kids, joined a teenage gang. No big thing; we were all in one.

When dad received an appointment from President Eisenhower to head up a Congregational Sub-Committee on the Future of the Maritime Seaways we moved to the Baltimore suburbs so he could commute to D.C. more easily. For the first time in my life I experienced a suburban high-school. THAT was a real eye-opener. I could even go the bathroom in school without fear of being beaten up by a rival gang. Nice.

It was during these days in HS that I began to be concerned about our society, the world situation, and my place in it all. So I joined The Young Socialist Society (read Communist Party). I did things in those days of which I am not proud. But I wanted to make a difference. I wanted social change.

At the same time I was investigating the Christian faith, mostly because of the cute girls I found at church. But I turned my back on God when an overly-pious friend told me that real Christians don’t go to movies. He was clueless! I left the church for the next 3 years.

It was during my studies in Philosophy at college when I again confronted Christianity on an intellectual level. After 2 years of trying everything under the sun, I had no more arguments against the Christian life-philosophy. I gave up with the words,“I give up! I can’t fight You.” Thus began my life-long discovery of what this Christian thing, and the rest of life, is all about.

During my 3 years in seminary a local pastor took me on and challenged me on every aspect of my life. Fortunately, he was ruthless and didn’t put up with any of my crap. Thank God.

Today, after five graduate degrees, I find myself a writer, a trans-cultural communications consultant, and a counselor helping people get from A to B. Through it all I have pursued life with a passion that few have the privilege to do so. And it’s far from over!

I have THREE CORE VALUES. First, my relationship with myself; my personal integrity. I maintain it with great gusto. Second, my relationship with my family; my incredible wife, Starr, and my two kids, Joshua and Bethany, and now their families. And Third, my relationship with the God who made me— Jesus Christ. My devotion to Him is not up for discussion. [Yes, philosophically, some doubts remain; but only concerning certainty vs. certitude. Experientially, it’s a whole other story.]

So as you read any future, or past, EMPulse releases, remember that I am a man of passion, of relationships, especially when it comes to those in need, and of a deep devotion to my Lord. I still love single-malt Scotch, Volvos, and giving monthly gifts to my wife. So ends my coming-out; for now. More dirt later.

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Control Issues

Clueless, Christianity, Christian, Book, Dr, Gary, DavisControl Issues— re-basing the basics. This may sound funny, but I’ve often wondered if this propensity to want things nailed down theologically (beliefs), and the commiserate fear of emotion wasmore a reflection of many men’sdesires to preserve control over life’s myriad situations. Not control, in an exclusively bad sense, but control for its own sake, for some men’s personal sense of safety and identity. Often, as I enter into conversation with a pastor or someone I have just met, I find myself in a kind of out-of-body experience where I look down on the conversation from above and try to find the answer to a question— “Where does this person feel safe?” If you really want to get to know a person, try to discern where they feel safe. If you examine the last 400 or so years of Western Christendom you will find that there was an intense desire to nail down as much as possible theologically. Some nailing was definitely needed as the Church had become almost indistinguishable from the world around it. But after 400 years, the nailing seems to have become an obsession. The Roman Catholic Church is the one true church; the Church of Christ is the one true church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the one true church, the Mormons are the one true church. Why is it we have this drive to claim that we alone are right? Calvinism is the only complete theological construct: Dispensational theology has the corner on the End-times and the expanse of human history. Why is it that we have come to believe that our theological construct, our theological position on baptism, the Second Coming, or church government must be the most right one!? Could it be that these are issues of control? It may well be more than that; maybe it’s control for the sake of a personal, positional sense of safety. Most of us do have a keen sense of self-preservation built into us. When it comes to the church, maybe it is some men’s need for personal/positional safety that underlies the need to be in command. Controlling belief, which is quantifiable, and thus measurable, is easier to manage than human emotion. But fear of emotion because it is an unreliable reflector of an inner reality is as crazy as believing that making a statement about one’s beliefs is more reliable. In reality, it is the combination of our heart and mind that explicate this Christian condition within an individual. But there is one ingredient more— action.

When I was in the midst of my teens I remember my mother saying to me “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.” I know she was probably quoting her mother, but her point was obvious. In the office where I work we have all kinds of little witticisms that remind us of what we are trying to accomplish. One of these quips is— Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. In many churches I find that is exactly what we do … we talk a lot. Remember THE DECADE OF EVANGELISM? 1990-2000. Of course you don’t. Why? What happened in 1990? We discussed whether the last decade of the century really began in 1990 or 1991. And what happened in 1991? 1992? 1993?  Very little. The Decade of Evangelism just faded away. All talk, not much action.

To this writer there seems to be a tremendous emphasis in the church on understanding what you need to believe and very little emphasis on DOING anything with it. This is an imbalance; but it is not the kind of non-balanced faith I am talking about. If anything, Christians are a long way down the road in clarifying, refining, honing, and re-clarifying what it is we believe.  It just has not seemed to translate into very much action. Especially any that has any positive influence on the lives of those around us— those who are unaware that we are followers of Christ, those who have never seen a Bible (let alone opened one), and never darkened the door of a church. It’s time we revisited Jesus and read the stories about how He lived, where He spent His time, and how He related to those with whom He came into contact. Consider Jesus in two situations—  one where He is teaching, and another as He faces one of life’s typical conundrums— the conflict between completing a task…, and being side-tracked along the way. First, an example of Jesus’ teaching.

 1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 5Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

 7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

~ Matthew 5: 1-16

Look at the setting in this passage of Scripture. It is outside, on top of a mountain, or at least on its slopes. It was probably warm, scenic, serene. Now look at Jesus’ style. It was not a “lecture hall.” Jesus was not debating or setting forth an argument. He was with those who trusted Him and would listen to what He had to say. And what did He do? He spoke to them where they were in life— poor in spirit, sorrowful, timid about life, hungry for God, in need of mercy, and so on. He was addressing the weak and painting a picture for them of what it would be like to make a difference in the lives of their friends and in their society. He gave them hope, He gave them a challenge to be the light of the world. To be bold—  to shine!

The next scene is quite different. Jesus had just crossed a lake when He was approached by Jairus, a trusted leader of the people. It went like this—

21 Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. 22And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” 24So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him.

25Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

29Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”

31But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, “Who touched Me?”‘

32And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

35While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

~ Mark 5:21-43.

Jesus had set his course toward the house of Jairus. Yet this ostensible interruption by an insignificant woman gives us more to consider than the simple completion of a task.  [I’ve often wondered…, was this planned? Hummm.]

I’ll not attempt extensive analysis of these passages, but taken together, they bring to light two seeming extremes in Jesus’ way of communicating. The Matthew passage contains the opening lines of Jesus’ SERMON ON THE MOUNT. In this passage Jesus is teaching. He is reviewing some of the life-principles that God has designed to give people hope when things no longer make sense. Remember, Judea was suffering under Roman occupation during the time of Jesus’ life. There were many Jews who were imprisoned and executed, so the cultural mood was somber, frustrating, fraught with anger and despair.  Jesus’ message offered hope of the most compassionate kind. At the end of the Matthew section, Jesus uses three images to remind His followers what they should be like— the salt of the earth, a light on a lamp-stand, and a city built on a hill. If you would allow me a digression …, those who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ are to be salt to preserve life and add flavor to it; we are to be light, to clarify the way to God; and we are to be like a city built on a hill that cannot be hidden, so as to provide a haven for hope and a goal to be reached.  How did Jesus envision that others would see these things in us? Through the sense of safety and stability that grows in us when we accept what God offers us—

  • Are you poor in spirit, discouraged—you will come alive in heaven.
  • Do you mourn at the loss of loved ones—you will know God’s comfort.
  • Are you timid, afraid—the earth is yours.
  • Do you hunger for righteousness within—it is yours!
  • If you’ve shown mercy—it will be granted to you as well.
  • Are you pure in heart—seeing God is your great gift.
  • Do you bring peace between warring peoples—you will be seen as my sons, says the Lord.
  • Are you being persecuted for Christ’s sake—great is your reward.

Do these words bring you hope, today, as you read them? Then you can understand some of what Jesus’ first followers felt as they heard them. There was hope. His teaching made sense, even though it meant being merciful to those who had raped your daughter or executed your father. How else are people going to see that followers of Christ are different other than through our lives and in the ways we wrestle with life’s common hardships?

Prophet…

Prophet, do you have something to say that is compatible with life?

           Most of us arrive at various tipping points in our lives where it is time for us to change, time for a shift in who we are and how we live. We need to re-think everything about ourselves, from the kind of work we do, to our relationships, to our life perspectives. Or at least we should. We need to ask ourselves some very basic questions about life—

1.      What am I all about?

2.      Is this what I want to be about?

3.      Well, if not this, then what?

4.      Then, what do I need to do to get started?

It is at these tipping points when we most need the perspective and insights of others. It is also at these points in life when we are most vulnerable to the most persuasive voices. There are men and women among us with prophetic voices that are able to guide us along a healthy path to fulfill our journey with meaning and a sense of completion.

But there are also false prophets who just want a following; they claim to have an edge on the truth, special insights into your life that you should follow. They can be health guru’s, business advisors, life coaches, spiritual advisors, or simply good drinking buddies you listen to…, 8 beers in. Really!?!

How do you determine if your particular brand of prophet, or consultant, counselor, advisor, knows what they are talking about?

1.      Listen carefully; then get a second, or third, or fourth opinion.

2.      Scrutinize their lives to discover if they are taking their own advice, living by their own principles.

3.      To what extent are they considering the risks you will be taking based on their advice?

4.      To what extent are they coming alongside you? To what extent sending you out on your own?

Finding a voice to trust is no simple matter. It involves a good bit of trial and error—especially error. In my formative days I played with the Bible with some degree of philosophical skepticism and child-like disbelief. The whole thing seemed no more than fanciful stories. Except for the stories of Jesus—his stories seemed compatible with life the way I saw it around me. His stories seemed to fit life; my life. Thus, my conversion to the Christian faith was prompted more by philosophical investigation than anything else.

If Jesus were asked then, or now, “Prophet, do you have anything to say that is compatible with life?” he would more than likely not answer. Rather, he would continue teaching the principles God had sent him here to teach and live a life that backed up his claims, leaving his credibility to our discretion.

For what it’s worth,

Gary