After There’s Nothing Left: flat-2-fantastic faith

Sistine Chapel      As promised, here some of the things I am doing to restore my faith from flat to vibrant. These actions have made a major difference in both recovering from depression and restoring my soul.

1.       Interfacing with a diversity of people. Surrounding myself with only like-minded friends would never expand my understanding and acceptance of them. I learn from those who are of a different mindset, a different culture and temperament. Maintaining this balance in my life seems to reinvigorate me; it draws me to a place where the earth and its peoples come into clearer perspective. I regain a sense of mission in life and what my role is in the grand scheme of things. (That’s why I still have to get above 14,000’ at least once a month.)

2.       Seeking more times of solitude. Please note that I am a genuine extrovert. Though significantly tempered from earlier in life, an extrovert in every sense of the word— grabbing life by the bal…, er horns and going for it! Ergo, solitude, for me, is difficult, yet critical. I tend to end my days earlier (usually with a wee dram of fine single-malt Scotch), pondering if I had made any difference this day, as its hours and minutes tick away. God willing, I have.

      If you are primarily an introvert, you need not heed this advice. It is true that you need solitude as much as us extroverts. But you also need to get out more and engage with God’s creation in the lives of others. And I’m not sure the single-malt Scotch would be a good idea for you; unless you are with someone.

3.       Furthermore, I read the Bible differently now. I read it not so much for content, or information, or to support a theological position; rather, I read it to see and sense how Jesus moved.  I track his movements, not topologically, but relationally. How did he interface with people? How did he meet them on their own grounds, in their own life situations, and reveal himself to them? Why did they respond the way they did? Why did he use questions and metaphors (parables) so much? Why was he cryptic on some occasions and not on others? What pushed him to seek time alone with his Father? And an especially important question for me— How did he love people, no matter their cultural diversity?

      In a way, I enter into the text of Scripture to feel its pulse as much as I used to analyze it for its content and truth. In my book CLUELESS CHRISTIANITY, I have a chapter subtitled “-the non-propositional nature of Truth.” If you enter into the times and culture, the life-situations and heartbeats of a text, you will see what I mean. When Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the life.” he wasn’t kidding. He was shocking.

4.       I pray differently too. Though I have special times for deep, concentrated confession, worship, and intercession, I have also learned to “pray without ceasing,” as it were. That is, I arise each morning in an attitude of prayer (…er, after coffee) and maintain it throughout the day. This often becomes difficult, to say the least. It is often interrupted by lust or laziness, hunger, counseling, that guy who just cut me off, or writing (like now). But the attitude of constant prayer, that is, an open channel between myself, and Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, is always, ALWAYS open. I do not believe I have ever had a simple two way conversation with anyone where the Spirit of God was not involved in the discourse in some way at some time. I’ve also learned to keep quiet in prayer. I now wait for God to speak. That’s important, and takes time.

      Granted, this three-way-open-prayer exchange has some side effects. We always have to listen, even if ever so briefly, to that funny little voice in the back of our head, before we respond to the person in front of us; which, of course, is a good thing for an extrovert. On the down side, having an open channel to God on an ongoing basis does ruin our enjoyment of sin. It truly, really, just is not as much fun as it used to be. This too may be a good thing for us…, and for me.

5.       Finally, I have been listening to astute Christian leaders from around the world [Ian Montgomery- Peru (now Vermont), Vaclav Havel- Czech Republic (through his writings), Phill Olsen- South Africa (now stateside), and Leonard Sweet, (Rings of Fire)] who can feed my soul. It would not be an understatement to admit that there are many men and women around the world who have a more significant grasp on Scripture, on the interface between the Christian faith and our world’s cultures, and on their own lives, than I will ever have. Thanks to the Internet I can now access many of them as I drive, sit in my study, or in front of my fireplace on a cold winter’s morn. I have learned that I know very very little. Thus, I avail my mind to learn from others, some of whom I find myself in cordial and vast disagreement. But that’s OK. My faith is being challenged, probed, assaulted, and fed. Thus, it is moving from flat to fantastic. Hopefully, by the time I am finished writing this book (yes, these EMPulsi are coming out in book form…, hopefully before I die), flatness of faith will be a thing of the past for me. That would be nice.

      Simply put, we need a faith that is Alive! Vibrant! and Full of Life! We need to live as if we are truly forgiven; for, in fact, WE ARE!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Things that Keep Me from Fulfilling God’s Design.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Consider What I Say

jesus2bpraying “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Thinking, thinking, thinking. We do a lot of that in our evangelical enclave. We want to get things right. We want to think Biblically; from studying the Bible, to theology to worship to communication. Even Paul the apostle encourages us to consider what I say….  He must have had some sense that what he was writing carried some weight with Timothy.

     I wonder if the people I’ve taught over the years still consider the things I have said. Then again, do I still listen to the voices that come into my life? I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

     Heeding what others say to us, taking it to heart, may be just the way our Lord is driving home His point of what He has designed us for. His guidance comes in many forms— first, of course, is through the revelation we know as the Bible. That is inspired by God and binding on all humanity for all time. But the second, specific to us individually, may come from a consensus in a meeting, a whisper from your wife or husband as you nod off to sleep, or even through a little child in your neighborhood.

     Our Lord helps us understand His divine revelation and His personal guidance through many means. Do not try to tie Him down to our boxes of form and focus. He is full of surprises! I once heard the voice of God coming through an 11-year-old boy I was chatting with in a hallway at First Baptist Church, in Amherst, MA. Wasn’t looking for it, no buildup to it in our talk: just Boom! I don’t think he ever knew.

     When our Lord gives us understanding He also expects us to do something with what we now know. Has God been speaking to you about anything new through Scripture, or a non-descript 11-year-old boy, or someone else? Take heed. For as understanding comes, so does our responsibility to act.

     I end with a warning. Never put yourself in a position where you cannot hear your Father speaking to you. Stay immersed in Scripture. Have your “God’s-voice antennae” always fine tuned and ready to listen. [See I Samuel 3; Samuel, the Lord, & Eli.]

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being a Christian in a postChristian world.

BEYOND WORDS: Take 5— a Culturally Sensitive Faith

Oddly enough, cultural sensitivity is one of the least considered factors for Westerners when it comes to the expression and communication of our faith. We seem to have a built-in blind spot in recognizing cultural nuances and their effect on our faith.
For example, we used to use The Wordless Book in gospel presentations. BLACK= Sin, RED= Atonement, WHITE= Purity or Salvation, GOLD= Heaven, and GREEN=Life. Simple, isn’t it. But in most African cultures Black= Life, Red= War, White=Death, Gold= Greed, and Green= Life. One point in common. See the issue? Fortunately, most of us don’t use this simple device any longer.
The point is that the surrounding culture affects our expression of faith and its communication more than we think. To not be aware of these tones of difference opens the door to opening our mouths and inserting our feet. Yes, both of them.
In our postChristian world it would be like telling a person that God loves them when they have no concept of an external reference point. Of some man in the sky who has an opinion about their life, let alone “loves them.”
Developing sensitivity to cultural differences has become tantamount in the practice of our Christian faith. We must learn to adapt our faith to blend with the language formats of the culture in which we live. Otherwise, we will come to believe that people are rejecting the claims of Christ when they are actually rejecting our own insensitive manners.
Do you want to know the first rule of growing a culturally sensitive awareness? It’s a simple principle- Shut-up! One mouth; two ears. LEARN TO LISTEN! STOP TALKING. OBSERVE!
We need to learn what it means to BE a Christian in another culture than our own. And did I mention that also includes most of Western Culture- Europe, definitely, and most of Canada and the U.S. as well. We do not speak the same language of those around us. Our mindsets are radically different.
For what it’s worth,
  Gary