Brrr…

  In training Christians to get in touch with our faith I often ask How does your faith feel? Too many of us have lost the emotional aspect of believing: it has become too cerebral, too focused on what is Truth and worried about how we are going to explain it.
   For a long time, I wondered if we had lost the heart of our faith to the mind of our faith. I’m still not sure we haven’t.
   In the early to mid-twentieth century, the liberal/evangelical dichotomy threatened to annihilate the whole gospel of Christ. Then the Pentecostal/Conservative split threatened to divide the emotive faith from the declarative faith. This, in turned, doubted our mystical faith as questionable, at best.
    It seems that any form or expression of faith that isn’t precisely in line with ours is to be held in suspicion. Brrrrr. Have we grown that cold and solidified in our faith as to prescribe the Holy Spirit’s work through history and across geography as to nail Him to the cross as well? Is our faith as temporally and geographically constrained that our God cannot do a new thing?!?
   Read any of C.S. Lewis Science Fiction trilogy? Is salvation for this earth alone?!? Imagine your faith in the grand dance of the miraculous cosmos. Kind of wild, huh!
   So now we arrive at a juncture where tight defining of faith is critical. Too many nuances have replaced traditional Biblical theology with doubt and distrust.
   We have gone too far. Whether liberal or conservative we have lost the heart of our faith to the right or to the left. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a political rallying point. It is the way out of all our divisions and political positionings.
   Jesus Christ ALONE stands as the focal point of history. He is not a tool of any personal or political position. Stop playing with fire.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]
   So let’s try this— youtube.com/watch?v=H2tOgCDohQk
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

The Gospel for People Who Know Nothing – pt.2

  

What we are facing is the new blank mind of people around the world losing their ability to imaging our gospel. It is not good news to them. It is the memory of European and American oppression. Throughout history Christian aggression and suppression have been the purveyors of our Christian faith.

      In America, the decline of Christian influence can be followed through the founding deists, separatist Puritans, our own Civil War, and two World Wars. Interspliced with seasons of revival meetings and a deeper divide between what we profess and how we live.

      How did we come to this?  

      Scripture speaks of people who have a form of godliness but deny its power. [2 Timothy 3:5] Since the close of the American Revolution (Colonial Revolt) our evolving country has given credence to a deity and its influence over land. But it has been more a matter of lip-service than reliance or acclaim. God is a convenient Deity. To counter this casual reference schools of higher learning were established to teach a more indepth understanding of God and His Word: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, to name a few.

      Overtime, they lost their cutting edge regarding our basic faith. Other “schools of higher learning” also shed their Christian moorings and limited their focus to the sciences, arts, and more practical concerns. It is not yet clear whether our nations colleges and universities will again respect the role and substance that Christianity provided for their foundations. But at this point they are primarily turning out well educated students with sparce knowledge of the Christian faith. A blank-mind. They know little, nothing, of our faith.

      What can be done about this?

      First, let’s admit that Christians have lost the culture wars, at least in America and Europe. Then we need to move on to construct wise courses offered alongside university courses, hopefully for credit, to educate genuine followers of Christ along side of any who want to learn the truth about our faith. Parachurch groups (IVCF, Cru, & Navs, etc.) have made some inroads; but now they are being challenged by antiChristian administrations across this country.

      Next, we need to uPgrade our Sunday schoolsand adult education in churches to address these objections to the claims of Christ. No more sweet bible stories or flannelgraphs about Jesus.

      Finally, and probably not really finally, we should enter into conscious service and love to those around us. Truly caring for their sorrows and hurts. Not as a ploy for the gospel, but as the gospel itself. Our job is to be salt and light, not condemnation, doom & gloom. It is God who will give them life: not us.

      We just need to walk in their midst and be light. Clear representatives of what genuine Christianity is all about.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel in context

PHASES- #1, an Introduction to the Christian life

            Welcome to the Christian life!

stoning_of_st_stephen1625oil_on_oak_panelmusee_des_beaux-arts_lyons“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”–Tertullian

       In the first few centuries, Christianity grew quickly. By AD100, it had become mostly Gentile and had begun to break from its Jewish origins. By 200, the faith had permeated most regions of the Roman Empire, though Christians were mostly in the larger urban areas (Gaul, Lyons, Carthage, Rome). By 325, an estimated 7 million were Christians with as many as 2 million killed for the faith.”http://www3.dbu.edu/mitchell/anceint_christian_martyrdom.htm

The Martyrdom of Stephen, (only 36 at the time of his death) spurred many “Christ Followers” to deeper understanding of the cost of their salvation. Is this what you’ve sighed up for?

Throughout these next few months I will set forth the various Phases of the Christian life, as I see them. Granted, there are many more, or fewer; this is only one early 21st Century writers perspective. Enjoy.

Here is my list of the Phases of the Christian life we will explore.

1.      Deliverence 6.      Discouragement
2.      Delight 7.      Decisions
3.      Discipleship 8.      Dedication
4.      Distraction 9.      Deliverence (again)
5.      Disillusion 10.  Delight

For now, let’s start with the admission that if everything in your life of faith is static, solid, and unchanging, you are not growing in your newfound faith. You are pretending or hiding or deceiving yourself. The Christian life is not a static, once-for-all-time thing. It is a fluid work of art in constant flux.

Get used to it.

Much love,

Gary

Still sleeping…but half awake

cat, asleep, awake, gary davis, christianity, thinkingMany genuine Christians in this postChristian era still do not comprehend the extent to which the influence of the Christian message has lost its hearing in Western Culture. The mighty dollar is the new God of choice. Power is the new religion; whatever it takes to stay alive or succeed is the practice of faith.

Christianity has lost sway over people’s lives, government decisions, and general morality. What genuine Christianity is flourishing here is doing so outside the mainstream cultural inclinations. But we are not at odds with our culture; we have been subsumed within its values so fully that we are barely noticeable; unless, of course, one of us tries some lame-brained stunt to get noticed in the name of Jesus. Thus do we verify our culture’s judgment that we are irrelevant to anything that matters.

We are still sleeping when it comes to understanding what normal people genuinely think of us; if they think of us at all. To be fair, though, some of us are waking up to the reality that we are in the minority; at least in American culture (referring to the US). Most Christians in the USA still need to come to grips with the realities of the cultural changes and blurring-of-the-lines that has taken place. Do you want to know what people think of us?!? Ask them. Take time to build rich relationships with people around you who never, EVER go to church. Do you want the truth, or do you want to stay asleep…, in a permanent daze?

Let’s wake up and get involved in the lives of those who sit just on the fringes of our lives, who need Jesus.

Honor God, honor people.., make a difference,

  Gary

Beyond Words: Take 4 – A Personality Specific Faith

Larson personalityIn this edition of Beyond Words let’s look at how your personality filters your faith.

My wife is sitting across from me just opening a medium-size bag of M&Ms. Different colors on the outside and consistently the same within. Very much like our world’s Christ-followers. Sometimes, even with a few nuts thrown in for variety.

Not all Christians are alike. Not all expressions of our faith are alike. Not all people are alike. Kind of like stating the obvious, isn’t it.

Yet within the decreasing influence of Western Christendom we try to maintain a boring sameness in our faith as is impossible. The reality of divergent races, cultures, and personalities should be obvious. We are all not one. We are a complex multiplicity of beings with a common commitment to Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, we live in an era where some really smart people have done some deep research on the different kinds of people we are. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Myers began their research in 1917, which culminated in the Myers-Briggs (Personality) Type Indicator Test in 1956 (MBTI). You can take a simplified FREE version of the Test here—

https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

The observable reality that we each have a distinct personality is a great gift from God. For Christians, it means that the gospel can take on different shapes and nuances across a broad spectrum of races, cultures, and divergent personalities. We don’t all have to be the same. Even better, none of you have to be likeme. [Phew!]

You see, when God created us He intentionally built into us divergent dispositions to reflect the majesty of His glory. Thus, we are NOT all the same; nor should we be. If we were, it would be an admission that people are unilaterally boring and that the Lord God Creator of the universe is, in fact, not all that creative.

The myriad of different cultures and human personality traits is proof of exactly the opposite. Therefore we should also expect a plethora of different kinds of Christians— quiet, contemplative, sensitive, exuberant, and nuts. This must be so because the majesty and diversity of the Trinity imprints upon us, not in a manner to rob us of who God has made us, but to empower us within our specific personality design. What a gift!

So, get used to being you, trying to offend as few as possible. You have been designed the way you are for a reason; find out what it is.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Beyond Words-Take 2- Faith Factors

 

One critical question needs to be asked when desiring to connect the Christian Message with people living outside the confines of the Christian bubble. Namely— What are the key elements that determine the expression and communication of our faith in a postChristian society? As a reminder, we can no longer “just give them the gospel.”The gospel” simply has no cultural pinning in a world so long removed from its Christian roots. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words—

communication circles

In the next few EMPulses we will explore these 6 elements in more depth. For now, let us open a cursory unpacking of these ingredients.

First, to express and/or communicate our faith in this postChristian society we must establish a Biblical Mindset within our own practice of faith. Just going to church, saying the right words, and memorizing a few Bible verses conveys only s surface-faith to others.

Next, we need to understand that our faith is Personality Specific. Our personality filters our faith to fit who we are and who we must become. We must not squeeze ourselves into a faith-box. You cannot be like me or any other Christian. You must be you.

Thirdly, our Christian faith is Culturally Sensitive. We dare not continue to import a western faith into a postChristian Europe, emerging Africa, or a diverse Asia. One of the distinctives of our faith is that it fits into the heartbeats and lifestyles of the host-culture. Yet, in our Western, North American patchwork of cultural blends we must here, too, learn to be culturally sensitive.One size, or shape, does not fit all.

Fourth, as we offer people a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must remember that they must hear His offer of life in their context. “The Gospel” must be heard in their life context. Therefore, in many ways, the Gospel is Receiver Determined. How do they see the Christian faith? It is our task to express our faith in ways that they can respond to and receive Christ’s life into their own.

Fifth, the expression and communication of our Christian faith should be Community Networked. First, we should be networked within a healthy group of fellow believers who have a similar passion for the normal people around us. Second, our faith communication should be networked among those God has placed in our path. No need for commando raids or “debriefings” afterwards. We need to immerse ourselves into the lives of those around us who have no concept of the Christian message. [Warning: you may just come to love them.]

Finally, we, as genuine Christians, need to become more aware of the Holy Spirit of God within. We need to become Spirit Attuned. For we do not offer a person merely the Truths about Jesus, we are offering them Jesus Christ himself. We need to attune our spirits to be in line with God’s Spirit and also in tune with the lives of the people we have come to love. We cannot sense the work of Christ in the lives of others until we clean up our own inner-selves. No wonder God works in spite of us so much of the time.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

 

 

Beyond Words Reconsidered – Take 1

Gary, Davis, needinc, amherst, christian, books, At the same time the BEYOND WORDS BOOKSHOP opened in Amherst, Massachusetts, I was developing a training course for Christians on the nature of the gospel, titled, coincidentally, BEYOND WORDS. Since they were about as humanistic as they come I took my course into them and asked if they would display my brochures. When they found out what it was about we all had a good laugh and the brochures were set up on the checkout counter by the register. Let’s just say that the first time we held the course it was, er, fascinating.

That was 25 years ago. Today the course has morphed into something far more expansive, fun, and exciting. But the thrust still concerns the nature and offering of our Christian message to the normal people of this culture. I use the phrase normal people because “Christian” no longer describes nor defines the majority of individuals in Western culture.

The next few installments of EMPulse will re-address our understanding, expression, and communication of the Christian message, the Gospel. This Take 1 concerns itself with the problems we face as our society loses its Christian memory and assumptions.

For the last ½ century we have boiled down “the gospel” to what we believe a person needs to know in order to become a Christian. Knowledge can no longer be the extent of our message to them. We are now engaged in a battle to verify what we say we believe through our involvement with peoples’ hurts, needs, and failures.

We dwell in a society that no longer holds to an agreed concept about the existence and nature of God, an understanding of a definition of sin (other thangetting caught), a knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ, and the ramifications of belief on/in Him. Nor do we dare assume they sense a need for any kind of God in their lives. The thought of needing an external reference point to guide their life-principles sounds weird to them. We need an expression of the gospel that goes beyond words, that challenges minds and touches hearts.

Asking people to “believe on Jesus and you will be saved” is loaded with so many subcultural assumptions that it has become a non-content phrase.

It’s time we reassessed the nature and content of the Christian message for this antiChristian world. To ignore the misgivings in our culture toward Christian cluelessness would be a grave disservice to our Lord Jesus.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

The (real)First Step

The first step in bringing people to faith in Christ is to get to know them. BUT before that, we need to understand how they see is. One of the ways I find out what people think about us it to ask them.

Here’s a video of just such conversations.

So when you leave your computer/phone, immerse yourself in the lives of your friends and workmates. Start by ASKING questions like:

1.What do you enjoy most about your life?

2. What is the most fun thing you’ve ever done?

3. What was it like growing up?

4. What has been your experience with Christianity, good and bad?

5. Describe your religious beliefs now. What does your spirituality offer you that Christianity does not?

6. To what extent do your beliefs influence your decisions and life motivations?

7.What problems do you have with the Church and/or Christianity?

8. How do you feel when a Christian tries to convert you?

9.How would you like Christians to treat you?

10. If you could change anything about the church, christians or Christianity what would you change?

11. How do you know that you are loved by someone?

Then after you have won the right to be heard, (maybe months or even years later) tell them about the God who created them, who loves them and who wants to give them everything He has to offer. Tell them about the God who offers his forgiveness to them for all the times they dishonored him. Tell them about the God who wants to make them WHOLE persons again.

 

 

 

Formidable Force

Malala Yousafzai, Formidable, Force, Courage, Brave, love, Forgiveness                 “Love is a Force more Formidable than any other. It is invisible— it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”

~ Barbara De Angelis

Formidable Force.

What do you think of when your mind searches within for a symbol of Formidable Force? My first thoughts were of a Roman Phalanx, the Mongols, the USS Nimitz, and even the U.S. Congress— all formidable forces to be reckoned with. Each held/holds power in their own way— mostly military. But there are other more formidable forces in our scope of existence to which we must always give heed. Gravity comes to mind, first. Here are some others—

1.      Nature— There’s nothing like a change in the weather change your plans. Rain kills picnics: floods destroy: hurricanes (rain with wind) kill people. Then there is our place in the Universe— do we know what role we are to play in the grand scheme of things?

2.      Multi-Media Communications— It started meekly with the telegraph, then the telephone, then radio & TV; now, it’s out-of-control. The myriad forms of communication and entertainment available would have been deemed demonic a century ago. They weren’t, of course; but do they border on mind-control now? “Binge Watching” of TV shows has taken over more than one generation. Will we be known as the watching generation? A formidable force indeed!

3.      The Wielding of Power— Those in authority use it; by the grace of God, may they use it properly. Power always seems to usurp power. I remember a saying of former Secretary of State George Schultz— “Never give authority to someone who cannot live without it.”   Point taken.

4.      Revenge— For some people, and nations, it is the driving force behind their existence. They will not be placated.

5.      Love— Love seeks to give, to for-give. It offers the arms of embrace and friendship. Forgiveness and reparation. It may be buffeted, but it can rarely be destroyed.

6.      A corollary of Love is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an aspect of Love, enacted upon to correct a wrong done. But if we refuse to forgive are we not also denying ourselves love? It is impossible to love without forgiving:  it is equally impossible to receive love when your heart is full of anger.

Thus does our discussion come down to these 3 questions—

1.      Are you a formidable force in this world? If so…

2.      What kind of formidable force are you?

3.      How do you face the formidable forces in your world, in your life?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

 

Mostly Pure

Clueless, Pure, Garrison, Keilor, Mostly, Pure, Christian, Dr, Gary, Davis, NeedincIf you’ve ever driven ‘cross country on Saturday night you might have tuned-in to PBS’s PRAIRE HOME COMPANION, a weekly broadcast of Garrison Keilor, onetime resident of the ill-fitted Lake Wobegone, and modern satirical comedian.

The show is “sponsored” by the fictitious product “Powdermilk Biscuits,” whose slogan is “Made from whole wheat raised in the rich bottomlands of the Lake Wobegon river valley by Norwegian bachelor farmers; so you know they’re not only good for you, but pure … mostly,” which “give shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Heavens they’re tasty and expeditious.” Powdermilk Biscuits has its own theme song, sung by Keillor every week. And NO, I’m not going to sing it for you.

It has always been fascinating to me how something can be “mostly pure.” I question this every time I read the ingredients listed on our food products. “Mostly pure?!?”  I think. What does that mean? I also think of it at funerals when people speak of the deceased as “a good man.” It’s the reflection in their voice that gives me pause— like they’re trying to convince themselves of it.

Defining anything as mostly pure causes me to wonder if we even know what pure actually is anymore. A girl who is a virgin is defined as pure as she approaches marital status. “Pure 100% Virgin Olive Oil” makes me curious about what the other olive oils are. Are they like Dove Soap— “99.99% pure. It’s almost as if being described as pure is derogatory, especially if you are a young lass. I mean, who wants to marry someone who is still a virgin!?! Really.

Our culture doesn’t seem concerned with being pure in any way whatsoever, whether it be sexually, morally, politically, or in family and business priorities and commitments. Why is that?

Here are just four causes for our loss of concern for purity

1.      We’ve become jaded. Thanks to modern media we can learn everything about anybody. It’s on the Internet, in the Tabloids, and on Headline News. We’ve grown accustomed to our public figures, be they politicians, athletes, or celebrities, being “dirty” in some way. And we simply accept it.

2.      It’s all about winning. UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders has said “Winning isn’t everything: it’s the ONLY thing!” (1950) Win at all costs, by skill, cheating, trickery…, whatever. Just win!

3.      Our base concern is the Bottom-Line. Making money is the only thing that matters. Screw anybody, just to make a buck. Remember the Wall Street broker’s answer to the question?  “How much money is enough?”  “More! That’s why lawyers are brought in to arbitrate an agreement. It is assumed that both parties will write the contract in their favor exclusively. Purity and fairness never come into the equation.

4.      A total abnegation of personal and corporate (not to mention governmental) Integrity. We no longer have a problem with disguising a lie as a truth, or with omitting certain data to make ourselves look better. Pragmatism has supplanted personal integrity in unfathomable ways.

To change this cultural-life pattern is no simple task. But we must start (yes, again) to correct our ways before God and our fellow men & women. Might I suggest we start with our own lives and relationships, and then press on to demand some degree of personal integrity and purity from our cultural leaders? 99.99% is sounding pretty good. Mostly pure!

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary