Getting from Here to There: what to do, what to do? #1

 wandiligong_mazeIn many ways this EMPulse is what you’re really looking for in this series.  For those interested in the shift from a Modern worldview to a postModern/postChristian worldview you are well aware that we have analyzed this shift to death. Between George Barna and George Gallup we have compiled enough statistics to fill a barn. But understanding is not the issue. It’s what to DO about the shift that is the real issue. That is what this section will address. What follows are some simple things you can do to change, adjust, adapt, cope, whatever— first, on an individual level, and then, [Part 2] corporately as a Body of Christ. On the one hand, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and on the other hand, we have entered into a new phase in history. An entire generation has been born in the West with no Christian history, no Christian memory or experience whatsoever. Any semblance of “Western Christian culture” is fading into oblivion as a forgotten archeological relic. Let’s begin… .

 Paradigm Pioneers Get Shot First: ~don’t be too quick to sign up!

            First, a warning! You need to understand that as someone who is concerned, frustrated, or even angry at Christianity’s seeming inabilities to adjust to a new set of cultural rules, you will not be a popular person, especially with the powers that be. True Christian leadership within this postModern mentality is what is desperately needed. We’ve all seen those SUCCESS sections in Flight magazines—  you know, the ones with motivational posters to put up in your office. [You can find another series at the website www.despair.com that offers a truly different slant on motivational posters.] The one I find most germane to being a paradigm pioneer depicts an eye-level bright green lawn, with one blade of grass standing taller than all the rest. The caption reads— Remember…, it’s the tallest blade of grass that gets cut first. Get the picture? Ask yourself— “Are you more interested in a position of authority, where you are respected within the Christian matrix, or are you convinced that you want to lead the way in reshaping our faith in this emerging postmodern/postChristian world?”

If you find yourself in the latter position, then you must adjust your self-perception to a new reality— YOU are a target. To be sure, ALL Christians are targets…, it’s just that some are more selected targets than others; they are the tallest blades of grass. If you are sure, then rest assured you will take the first shots. The sad thing is that the shot is more likely to come from the back— not from enemy lines. Christians across North America have long valued their own comfort and safety over frontline battle. If you do find any comrades-in-arms you will probably find them on the fringes of faith. Outfielders, without whom the ball game would be lost.

            But every new wave of the Spirit of God always starts with committed, called, set-apart men and women of vision, courage, and risk. In short, any changes or ideas to be implemented in the Christian community must be initiated by people like you. It’s up to you. Are you up for it? If so, you will not find yourself alone, but you will find yourself scarce. Such are the postmodern/postchristian prophets—  you, a Christian paradigm-pioneer. You will be the first to take the shot. If this sounds like fun to you, keep reading.

            Another preemptive move must be addressed before we tackle the practical stuff. Your spiritual health and your spiritual perception are the primary armor you will need to do battle in a postChristian context. Do not even attempt to pioneer anything without a firm grounding in personal cleanness and righteousness before the Lord God. Leadership in postChristian times is always a matter of sticking your neck out. This has been true throughout the history of the church. So…, let’s go.

  1. Express your faith through life experiences. Realign your faith to balance experiencing God with understanding God. Western Christianity in the Modern era has swung the pendulum of understanding to the extreme. Faith is about belief and theology more than it was about life. But faith is really more akin to trust and risk than it is related to understanding. Remember, TRUTH is first personal, in the person of Jesus Christ; then propositional, explaining the life of faith. Like Jesus, we need to learn to think of our faith as stories, metaphors, and experiences ofah-ha! Faith is a journey, not an outline. Make sure your beliefs are in line with the teachings of Scripture; then spend more time in solitude, in prayer, and immersed in a world that doesn’t have a clue.
  2. Learn to speak the language of YOUR culture. Every subculture has its own language pattern. Football has its nickel defense, fullbacks and wishbones; computer geeks talk about Clouds, TCPIPs, i9s, i10s, and now interdependent devices. We Christians have our pre-mills, post-tribs, and supralapsarians. Notwithstanding, we need to learn the nuances and innuendos in the language of our surrounding culture. We need to learn to express our faith in a language pattern that they can understand.  They may not agree with it, but we need to express it so they can comprehend it. Remember too, that Christian expressions of faith are generationally delimited with little crossover to younger generations. Ask your Christian teen to translate “the Lordship of Christ” into their generational mindset. You’ll see.
  3. Let go of your sin. The greatest roadblock to Christians living out our faith is our own sinfulness. Until Christ comes back our sin will be ever with us. On one hand we are forgiven through the work of Christ; on the other hand, we still find ourselves wallowing in the guilt of confessed, even forgiven sin. This is in no way a healthy dilemma. We need a genuine trust in Christ, sins forgiven, new beginning in progress, a done deal! Then we need to get on with life as if our sins are actually forgiven. The reality is they actually ARE!
  4. Learn to love. If letting go of sin frees the Christian for living in a postChristian era as if those sins were actually forgiven, then learning to love makes that life come alive. This may sound quite simple for virtually any Christian, but it is not. All of us have become more cautious and guarded in our love lives; so much so, that we generally withhold love because it’s simply safer that way. And so the greatest of Christian virtues becomes our greatest matter of concern and risk. But isn’t that what the Christian life is about anyway? Risk! I cannot imagine any other model for Christ’s love for the world than for it to be exhibited through us. Because love is a definitive corollary of safety. More than anything else, postChristians crave safety— safe places, safe people, safe activities.
  5. Lose the intensity [you don’t need to win]. A lot of western Christianity in the modern era has become pretty intense. Intense about theology, intense about denominationalism, intense about appearances, intense about proper relationships, etc. People who aren’t Christians see it and conclude that Christianity isn’t for them— too intense, too judgmental, and too narrow. We Christians seem to feel safest when we have as much as possible nailed down, quantifiable and definable. I wonder if God intended us to spend more effort defining our faith than in living it out among those who truly need to see Him in us? We don’t need to win. He has.
  6. Don’t do everything, give God some room to work. If any attribute characterizes everybody in these early years of the twenty-first century it is busyness. Most of us are over-worked, over-booked, over-committed, out-of-time, frantic fanatics about squeezing as much into life each. You are probably reading this EMPulse as you fall asleep. And, you are t-i-r-e-d! One foot in front of the other… .

   Or, is there another way? Try not doing so much. Breathe more. Slow down, cut some commitments (even for your kids), and take a hike. Throughout all life there are growth-plateaus where our bodies and minds must come to rest.  Are you moving so fast that you must slow down to even hear God? Please, for Jesus’ sake, STOP! Let your spirit catch up to your body. Pressurized postmoderns need to see that kind of tranquility, that kind of s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s, and that kind of trust in our God.

  1. Open a conduit to Christ—  keep it open. This sounds so simple, yet, in a compartmentalized society we tend to pigeonhole even our relationship with God. We go to church, rather than being the church. We have times of prayer, but then manage our life as if God has little to do with it.  Instead, let me propose to you that we learn to pray without ceasing, in a sense. Our Lord is always ON, always THERE. Why not merely shift the direction of your conversation from horizontal, with whomever, to triangular, with whomever, and with God? This pre-positioning of God in our midst makes much more sense than getting ready to come into His presence. I admit that coming into His presence is nothing to be taken lightly. Nonetheless, we are, in actuality, never out of His presence. Ever!

I actually wonder if God didn’t create prayer solely for our benefit, for our sense of connection, communication, and closeness to Him?

NEXT TIME~ Reinventing Church:  

 Gary
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perspicuous


perspicuous 
per-SPIK-yoo-uhs, adjective:

  1. Clearly expressed or presented; lucid.
  2. Perspicacious.

Perspicuous stems from the Latin perspicere meaning “to look or see through.”

[http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perspicuous]

One of the primary barriers to clear communication is our own inability to be clear, to express our thoughts and ideas clearly, to be precise & lucid, when describing or defining something. Our culture has grown lazy with words; thus the constant query, you know what I mean? Or, the abbreviated— um. The average high school vocabulary level is between 6,000 – 45,000 words. College graduates up that to 50,000 – 75,000 words. Post-grads use between 75,000 – 120,000 words.

[http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/how-many-words-in-the-average-persons-vocabulary/] [http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/]

[note:  William Shakespeare (1564-1616) used approximately 30,000 words; he invented 600 words in Hamlet alone, and introduced over 20,000 words into the English common vocabulary.]

Our inability to explain or describe things accurately has numerous effects on our society. For one, we are unable to convey the most important experiences in our lives due to our limited vocabulary. Another effect is our decreasing ability to simply say what we mean, or to write what we mean. Don’t believe it? Check t he norml email and tri to fil in th blanks. And do not try to blame it on spel checkr. We are in the era of LOL, TMI and acronyms for everything. C?

But a more serious problem arises out of our seeming lack of skill with clear communication; that being—  our inability to 1) clearly define what we see in another person’s life, and 2) to accurately see into our own lives. A paucity of precise words naturally leads to difficulty in defining our perceptions.  We must resign ourselves to a mere sense about another, rather than a rich comprehension of who they truly are. Inversely, a lack of words to define what we want to say limits us from knowing and describing our deeper selves. In critical moments, this produces an aggravating frustration within us. We simply cannot put our finger on who we are, or where we are in life, or what describes us in our deeper, core level.

Let’s go back to the Latin roots of our word— perspicere; “to look or see through.” If we remain lazy about delving deeply into ourselves, how will we ever see through the walls of protection erected by those around us? Maybe if we started being deeply honest with ourselves, possibly bouncing our insights off of a trusted friend, we would be granted the gift of being able to see more clearly into the lives of others.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

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

a curious Bible

The Christian Bible is a curious thing. Most people in Western & Latin cultures have one; that is also true for much of the African continent. Many claim that it is the revealed Word of God, inspired by God, inerrant and infallible. Defending these beliefs about the Bible (short of a circular argument) becomes virtually impossible, historically and rationally, given our current culture’s proclivity for self-creating truth.

At a Christmas party in our home we gave small bibles wrapped with a chocolate bar as party favors. One particular person took the chocolate, but lifted the Bible with two fingers as if it were a dead rat to be disposed of in the trash can. That was almost 30 years ago. Today, I would never consider even offering a Bible as a gift in this postChristian mélange.

Oddly, even giving a Bible to a Christian can be a like pearls before swine. Why? They rarely get used. Read, occasionally, yes; but truly used in contemplation or study? Rarely. Why? Genuine Christians carve out very little time to learn about the Bible. It’s just too much work. Unless it’s a Bible video download to an iPad. Or there’s always the History Channel’s version. “That was easy.”

In the same way that many of us want an easy faith so also do we want an easy Bible.  Seriously, what is so difficult about God’s revealed Word, 66 individual treatises (some say more), written by 40 authors, over 1,500 years of written history, spanning 4,000-10,000 of remembered history and then some?!? Then passed down in over 900 English translations alone, across widely diverse cultural perspectives, reinterpreted and oft misapplied by countless of our forefathers over the past 2000 years. I mean, where could there possibly be any difficulty in understanding its message?

No wonder so few of us read it deeply, Christian or otherwise. It just takes so much effort. I want a simple, sound-byte faith: so do you. So don’t concern yourself with the difficulties in understanding the complexities of the Bible. Leave its richness and depths to the scholars. “Just give me Jesus.”

Really!

Just give me an intelligent faith that leaves the Bible in its own history, utilizing its history & principles to guide me to God and to live an honorable life before God and men. Selah…, means pause.

Maybe it’s not the Bible that is curious: maybe it is us.

Have a nice week,

Gary

…the glass is half-full

…the glass is half-full

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, perspective, resources, focusYou know the lines— The glass is half-full. The glass is half-empty. Or, the engineering version— Someone made the glass too large. It’s a pint-sized metaphor of life, of one’s perspective on life. It questions whether we see life as optimists (half full), or as pessimists (half empty); or as engineers, who don’t talk in metaphors— it’s a design issue & has nothing to do with perspective. Maybe they are the realistic ones after all.

Personally, I have never cared whether the glass was half full, half empty, or designed wrong. Just drink it! Sometimes life will appear half empty. Drink whatever is there! You’ll need the nourishment it brings to raise the next glass. And when your life feels half full, you’ve only taken in ½ of what you need to complete the tasks God has set before you; be they corporate planning, child rearing, relationship resolution, or overcoming some personal dilemma. Drink the rest of the glass! You are only half way to getting done what is important in life. Actually, pour another glass: you’ll doubtless need that one too.

Some of us get so hemmed in by our perspective that we forget to take advantage of the resources sitting right on the table in front of us. Drink! Drink in the counsel of friends, professionals, spiritual directors! Drink in the refortification of the love offered you by so many of those around you! Drink of your own insights & discernment; you are not a useless blot of DNA! Drink in the empowerment and protections offered you by the God who made you!

There is a story in the Judeo/Christian Scriptures that takes place in the Judean Fall (Oct.-Sept.). The Feast of the Lord (Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles) was being celebrated to remind the Jews of God’s bounty in the Fall Harvest. For seven days a Priest would walk around the Temple. On the eighth day he would take a golden pitcher, draw from the water of the Temple Fountain, go to the Temple Laver (wash bowl) and pour out the water while facing West in a symbolic gesture of thanks and praise to God. It was on this eighth day that Jesus approached the golden pitcher before the priest arrived. He emptied it, outside the Temple, in front of all the people, and said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

So, instead of focusing on whether you feel optimistic (up), or pessimistic (down), at this moment, why not drink fully of what God has set before you? I hear He has good taste in wine too.

 

Have a nice week,

Gary