The Christian Way?

dr, gary, davis, highway, christian, way, politics, religionIf you’ve ever driven across this nation’s highways you know that at times roadmaps, GPS, and Road Signs, and actual roads seem to be at odds with one another. My proof for this? LA. ‘Nough said.

The same convoluted mess can often be found among the many theological/political roads the Church has followed over the last two millennia. Os Guinness puts it well in his book RENAISSANCE (2014).

“Whenever God has not given us clear and authoritative instructions as to how we are to conduct our lives, we are free to pursue our own solutions within the guidelines of the principles God has given us. But that means that our best solutions will always be a Christian way of doing things. They are not the Christian way.

 “In light of God’s principles, we can say that certain ways of doing things that contradict those principles are not Christian, but we can never say that one way alone is. In that sense, there is no one ‘Christian economics,’ any more that there is one ‘Christian retirement plan,’ one ‘Christian political party,’ or one Christian anything… .

 “This caution applies equally to our attitudes to cultures. Doubtless all Christians have their favorite periods of Christian history; which to them represent the golden age of faith. The Orthodox prize the age of the early Fathers. Catholics talk reverently of the medieval world and ‘the great age of faith.’ Protestants elevate the Reformation and its ‘recovery of the gospel and the Scriptures.’ Evangelicals take great pride and courage from the First Great Awakening and its potent combination of the preaching of the gospel and the spawning of myriad social reforms. And Pentecostals and charismatics hard back to the Azusa Street revival and its triggering one of the greatest and still continuing missionary advances in the history of the Christian church.

 “Yet all these periods were at best more or less Christian, and today their flaws, their blind spots, their unintended consequences could be enumerated along with their undisputed blessings.” (122-123)

Navigating one’s faith journey along today’s spiritual and ecclesiastical highways is just as fraught with individualistic potholes and theological blind spots as in previous generations. Do not be so presumptuous as to assume my way is best.

Constantly return to the Scriptures in the context of fellow believers to learn afresh the principles God has given us live healthy lives before him.  Let me leave you with this—a line from a song written by Hillsong United, sung by Taya Smith. “I touch the sky…, when my knees hit the ground.”

 

You have my prayers,

Gary

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I Fear

It is horrible to imagine that some of us live in a constant state of debilitating fear. Some of our fears may be based on past experiences so traumatizing that they defy words. Other fear is so deeply embedded in our past that we do not ever remember its roots: it’s just there. Some people believe fear is actually here, right now, waiting to walk through that door, or when the phone rings, or in a chance encounter. Some of us fear future events—some founded, some dreaded, some, only imaginary.

Many of us carry fears that are irrational phobias; fear of flying, heights, being enclosed in a small space, spiders, of men, of women. They are fears with little basis in the real world—but they are real enough to those who have them. And that is real enough to affect how we live and move every day.

Of course, few of us are like Nik Wallenda, casually strolling through life as if it were a tightrope over Niagara Falls. We’re somewhere in between—taking calculated risks, pushing forward with fear and trepidation. And rightly so; it’s a cruel world out there. Everywhere! Dangerous.

Fear can often be conquered through trust. Where do we place our trust? What constitutes a safe, person, a safe faith, a safe place? A platoon leader, a counselor, a drinking buddy (or, someone for tea), home? There are so few places of safety these days; even fewer safe people. All of us, no matter the extent of our fear, need to establish a relationship with someone with whom we are safe. We need safe places as well. A safe faith is for those who know they are secure in the God who made them, no matter what. The fear is still very present; but somehow it is different for people of faith.

 The only way to overcome fear is to face it (preferably with your safe friend), head-on or gradually, and begin to establish a trust in the God who has made you. Deep fears are the hardest to conquer with trust; but if you are not pushing against them, and laying them before the God of the Universe, they will conquer you. Do NOT let them. You are made of better stuff. You need not do it alone, either. There is always a God in the heavens who calls you—

So do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

~Isaiah 41:10

‘Nough said,

Gary

the fact of the matter…

Reference— A fact (derived from the Latin factum) is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is, whether it can be proven to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable experiments… . Fact is sometimes used synonymously with truth, as distinct from opinions, falsehoods, or matters of taste.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fact#Fact_in_history]

Facts are slippery little things. For example, what is a historical fact, an emotional fact, a legal fact? Whole fields of philosophy are devoted to the study of facts- Ontology (what is actually there), and Epistemology (how we know things). For instance, because something can be stated as True, does is make it True? God is a giraffe with butterfly wings, or, there is no God, or, the earth once had two moons, or, Beatrice loves me. Does she, really? How do you know any of these statements are True?

The fact of the matter is that too many of us create facts to fit our beliefs, our way of life, our preferences—  in morality, interpersonal relationships, and in business practice. Too many of us simply believe that facts are predicated on our individual, personal preferences. Can you hear that? Think a minute. This is probably the most implausible fact of all! What happened to real reality?!?

Then there are the issues surrounding religious facts— miracles, the historical writings of religions and their founding, the verifiability and reliability of people like Abraham, Jesus, the Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao Tsu, Gandhi. What’s a body to do? How do you determine which religion is “true?”

Which brings us to one final question—  What if…? What if the fact of the matter actually does lie in an otherworldly, spiritual realm that contains Ultimate Truths? How do we blend the supernatural with what we believe about this natural realm? Maybe there is more to “religious facts,” than we want to acknowledge. This clearly calls for further, deeper investigation and discussion. Contact me.

There now…, haven’t I mussed up your mind for the day?!?

Have a nice week,

Gary

compliance

Remember when you were a child and your parents forced you to pick up your room? You did it…, but you were not happy about it. As you grew up you were forced to do homework; you couldn’t just play sports, you had to try out for them (as if you weren’t good enough); you had to take tests that measured your memory of what you had been taught (not, in contrast, of what you had learned), and then more tests that determined your later life-expertise. These tests usually were administered on a Saturday morning. You r-e-a-l-l-y were not happy about that. On the surface you were compliant: but within, you were seething in your own little, private rebellion.

Carrying this duality into adulthood results in a duplicitous character. A courteous Dr Jekyll on the outside— Mr Hyde lurking just below the surface. If not addressed this dichotomy creates a façade that veils your true self. First, others sense something that makes them feel uncomfortable around you. As time continues, you forget your true self and become the façade— you are known as that courteous, gracious person who always places the needs of others above his/her own. But deep down within your being, resentment and anger are festering. But by then you are no longer aware of it. You simply act out of a sense of duty, of commitment to the task, of compliance.

Until one day…, one event…, one person triggers those years of repression and duplicity…, and you explode. Hopefully, not on someone you love, but on someone who loves you AND comprehends what is going on.

Living a tranquil, compliant life, while roiling waters fume and foment within can take its toll on anybody. It will wear down your spirit, exhaust you physically & emotionally, and corrupt your soul. Get help! Find an insightful friend, a wise psychologist, or a minister/priest. This is a serious situation that will not naturally resolve itself. Even bring it before a holy, mighty God and cry out for Help!  Many people before you have come to this point and done just that. Do you think God turned them away?

 

Have a nice week,

Gary

crossroads geese


It was a fresh, sunny October morning so I decided to take my morning coffee outside to soak in the morning warmth. Numerous gaggles of Canadian geese flew over; a typical passage for this time of year in New England, their southern migration heralding the approach of those wonderful, hot chocolate &fireplace snuggling Winter months.

A wave of bewilderment overwhelmed me as I followed two migrating flocks traveling in opposite directions, crossing one another. Stranger still was my confusion as I realized they flew, one, east to west, the other, west to east. Hummm!?! Maybe some were French Canadian Geese? Were some American covert operatives geese? Confused, I came to their rescue, “Hey, fellas, SOUTH is that way!” flapping my arms in the general direction. To no avail.

The metaphor was clearly obvious. Too often we follow a leader (or candidate) with little understanding of the direction they are heading. They are (seem) genuine, affable, pleasant, and cordial. Their words carry weight; they speak the truth. They are funny. They must be trustworthy, we conclude. Then we learn something about them that give us pause; that makes us question our original perception of them. We become hesitant, wondering what else might be hidden just under the surface of such a congenial façade. Have we misplaced our trust? We’re still flying straight, right? Then why are those other geese heading in the opposite direction? Do they know something we do not?

How does this happen?

  1. It happens when we place our trust in people without asking the right questions up front.
  2. It happens when we follow our leaders with our hearts, leaving our heads behind. We hold such implicit trust in them that we turn off our critical faculties and stop thinking. We just follow.
  3. It happens when we turn a deaf ear to other people who think differently. We do not listen to them. Different voices breed confusion, and that leads to thinking, reconsidering. TMI.
  4. It happens when we allow the deception to continue for so long that it becomes the truth, whether it is so or not. Majority rule.

So it is we find ourselves in this present culture listening to different voices gaggling “Follow me. Follow me.” when both may be heading in the wrong direction, as are many others. Thus have the masses come to be ruled by those who speak well, sound good, and are likable. Thus is the case when we suspend our God given ability to think and ask specific questions of those who lead us…, or who desire to lead us.

Ask questions! And, again,  Hey, South is THAT way!

Have a nice week,

Gary

BESA

How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger? This is the question addressed by film makers Norman Gershman & Stu Huck in a documentary released the last weekend of July at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival— BESA: the Promise. The film tells the story of Albanian Muslims who saved the lives of more than 2,000 Jews during World War II. They did not hide them in basements or attics; they took the Jews into their families, gave them Albanian names, and sacrificed their lives for them in some cases.

The question arising from their actions is a clear WHY? Why would Albanians, Muslims, shelter Jews, at the risk of their own lives, during the Nazi occupation of their country? The answer is “besa.”

Besa is a part of the Albanian Code of Honor, embedded throughout their generations. It is usually translated faith, with a reflection on personal honor to keep a promise, at any cost. In their Moral Code (the Kanuni of Lekë Dukagjini), they have a saying “Shqiptaret vdesin dhe besen nuk e shkelin” (Albanians would die rather than break honor). One Albanian interviewed said he would rather sacrifice his only son than break an honor— besa.

The Albanian idea of besa should be acclaimed and lauded among all nations. A documentary of how the Albanian Muslims sheltered German Jews and made them part of their families is long overdue. BESA: the Promise is a must see film for all— Jews, Muslims, Christians, even atheists.

It would be a disservice if I did not leave you with at least two points to ponder—

  1. Would you lay down your life for a stranger?
  2. To what extent does a code of honor influence your decisions and actions?

We have a saying at the company where I work—

Honor God: honor people. Make a difference.

‘Nough said,

Gary

terrified

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, fear, terrified, suicide, life, insecure,Far too many people around our planet survive their days in petrifying terror. Whether due to the horrors of war, abusive families, or constant failures, they have become a class of human beings who dread life. Their intense fear fossilizes them into a dormant state of seclusion from life’s activities, people, and society. Eventually, they lose any accurate connection with true-realityand cocoon themselves within their ever shrinking world. For some, it is just too much to bear and they execute the ultimate separation from their fear. They end their life.

Terrorized people are oft categorized as recluses, hermits, most fourteen year olds, monks, ascetics, and those with paranoia and/or phobias. We think of these people as mentally ill; and some probably are. They range from insecure youths to the executive offices of corporate and governmental leaders: they are among the under-dogs and the privileged. The common fear they possess knows no rank or race. It is a soundless terror eating away at their soul.

Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting The Scream, depicts his own horror in a moment of realization that death awaits us all. He too lived a life of constant terror, bordering incessantly on insanity. Even though his works have received international acclaim as some of the finest examples of Expressionist Art, Munch ultimately isolated himself from the world outside in his estate at Ekely (Skøyen, Oslo) where he died at age 80. Throughout his life he remained deeply obsessed with morbid pietism and psychoneurosis. “The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.” [Prideaux, Sue (2005), Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven: Yale University Press, p.2.]

It is often impossible to overcome such a deeply rooted sense of dread. Nonetheless, there are many who have overcome being terrified of life and reentered the land of the living. How?

  1. Some have gotten angry. Tired of this life-sucking way of living they finally got mad enough to fight back. They fought themselves; a fight never easy of enjoyable to wage. Until you win. (Note- they often had to fight other peoples’ perceptions of them as well.)
  2. Many have admitted their inability to beat this agony alone and sought the support of others. No man is an island. Seeking another’s support takes an active decision to trust. Trust is indispensable in defeating terror. It is a risk that must be taken.
  3. They did not give up after every falter or failure. THEY DID NOT GIVE UP. But they really wanted to.
  4. Many have turned to God in prayer. Whether you view prayer as truly talking to the God of the universe or not, prayer seems to elicit some form of cleansing, healing, and peace. Personally, I actually talk to Someone. What bothers me is when God talks back.
  5. They rejoiced as pieces of pain were lifted from their souls. Small victories.
  6. Some, whom I have counseled, also danced and sang. This self-therapy surprised me. In some way it freed their spirits to soar above the terror and gave them new perspectives on it.

Living a continuously terrified life is not a life. It is an inner death sentence being carried out long before actual death. May God grant you His power to speed you on your journey to new life!

Have a nice week,

Gary