Advent – The Christ Candle

Over time, many Western traditions added a fifth candle to the Advent Wreath— The Christ Candle. One solitary candle, in white, surrounded by the other four in the center of the wreath. This candle represented the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

  Mary, having just given birth, probably did not feel like  celebrating; and the mid-night visit from the shepherds seemed a bit confusing, and unexpected. Joseph must have been even more bewildered, not to mention exhausted, at these astonishing events.

  Significant variations of the celebration of Jesus’ birth have evolved over geographies and centuries. In this world pandemic era we are challenged with even more issues.

1.       Now, we are discouraged from gathering together in large groups.

2.       Now, we are encouraged to wear face masks… while trying to sing.

3.       Travel is discouraged because of COVID Omicron.

4.       Lodging is always a challenge. … not to mention the price has gone up.

5.       And Jesus is just as hard to find today as He was then.

      Add to these rough considerations the reality that you might contract COVID and not be here in February. Intriguing times.

      Nonetheless, we must light the Christ Candle on Christmas Day. For us, it is a declaration that all the ills of this world cannot diminish, tarnish, or stain the incredible significance of this historical occurrence. The Lord God of the Universe chose to humble Himself and become one of us. I’ve never quite grasped the magnitude of this life changing incident. How could our Father have ever come up with this course of action?!?

      Consider all the world-changing events that have taken place throughout history. What solution would you have designed to solve the estrangement between God and His creation? Creative doesn’t begin to describe this incredible unconventional solution. ‘Tells you something about the nature of God, doesn’t it!?!

      “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above… .”

      This Christmas Day, try to find some time where you can sit and ponder this marvelous revelation— the sacrifice of God to draw us back to Himself. The entrance of the Son of God into this earthly realm. Jesus.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

As Jesus Christ was sent into this world to redeem us, so now He sends us into this world,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— New Year’s Resolutions— What were they last year? Hummmm?

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: What Forges Forgiveness?

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

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

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

Forgiveness for Others

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness from Others

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

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

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

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

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

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

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

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

After There’s Nothing Left: 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.

of cubes & chaos- paradigm positioning 2 mass murder in America

These past two weeks in America we have seen what could be our new reality. Our government seems to have fallen to its lowest common denominator in extreme language, on both sides, to devastate anyone not on their side. Four mass murders have been carried out from Texas to Ohio and two in California. Seriously.

     WHAT IS GOING ON?!? Civil values in our country have taken a nose dive into deepest hell. And no one seems able to stop it. Not uncivil conservatives: nor socialistic liberals. Lots of promises, little action. After your initial reaction of surprise and shock, a search for meaning and solutions should be rolling around in your head. Seriously?!?

     I don’t know about you but I am heart-sick by all the killings, the rhetoric, and the mutual-hate practices in our country. What can we do?

     Nothing—  That appears to be the wait-and-see answer. I’ve never been a wait-and-see kind of person. I want to make a difference in this world. Think globally: act globally! Think locally: act locally. Our Christian enclave no longer has the luxury of sitting back and waiting…, waiting…, waiting.

     What used to be seen as acceptable civil values has shifted from the center to the edge. Any Judeo-Christian impact hasn’t been dominant in North America, or elsewhere, in quite some time. Yet many of us pretend it still holds some sway over the powers-that-be, the culture at large, world politics, and local manifestations. It may appear to be so, but Christianity’s influence on our world has become shallow, just-a-show-on-the-surface. Our deep values no longer even go that deep for the majority of American Christians, let alone others.

     One perspective I read summed up our new world cultural paradigm as “Anyone, Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.” [Big Blue Gumball]

     Three comments—

  1. It’s not all that new.
  2. Time for Christians to stop pretending.
  3. Why are we so afraid of getting involved?

     It’s time for genuine Christians to take a stand for the principles our Lord taught us when he was on earth. They still hold true; they still make sense. Yes, we are in a new paradigm of anti-religion, anti-Christian ideology. But our faith is neither Liberal nor Conservative. Jesus Christ owns our allegiance.

     Now let us, individually and corporately, get up and get moving. Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. I’m all in!

NEXT—  Paradigm Positioning 3: stepping up our game.

Phases #4 Discipleship

caravaggio-emmaus-750pix

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

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
__________

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