The Whiskey Chronicles 10 – Fear

       I was just a kid— maybe 10-11. On that fateful. hot July day I heard the familiar ring of the Good Humor Truck coming down our street. I grabbed some change from my mom and bolted out the door.

       As I waited for the boy in front of me to happily grab his ice cream cone, a big dog came out of nowhere and snapped at my feet, growling.

       I was terrified.

       The Good Humor Man dove into his truck and came out with a baseball bat, swinging at the dog for all he was worth. I was still petrified and stood there in terror. After he had beaten the dog off me I fell into his arms and sobbed in fear as to what had just happened to me. The FREE toasted-almond ice cream cone really was a great elixir to me. Salvation!

       As Christians, there are many of us who tremble in fear at the world around us. When it comes to explaining our faith we absolutely panic. Forget the joy and excitement over telling others about our faith, we generally freeze-up and cower.

       We are afraid of getting it wrong, of messing up, of forgetting something. Sadly, where we should be giving God room to work, we are more concerned for our own public image, being a perfect witness, or being successful in leading someone to faith in Christ.

       The good news is that we can’t mess this up! If God is at work, He will draw the other person to Himself exactly the way He wants to. If He is NOT at work, then there is no way you can force conversion onto this person. So, lighten up!

       Your FEAR is more a matter of social patterning, implanted ideas from a petrified church, and stupid training than it is a work of God. So lighten up! Give God some room to work His miracle of salvation. You’re not in charge anyway.

Do not fear.
I am with you.
For I AM
Your God.
       ~Isaiah 41: 10.

       Later on in this book, we will return to FEAR. Not our fear, but to that of those considering Jesus. In the last century we did a lot to turn peoples’ hearts away from even considering our faith as a viable foundation for living life. We have much to rectify.

Loving God; loving people…, and bringing the two together! ©
Gary
NEXT— THINKING in FACETS of Faith, NOT in OUTLINES

Road Map Here

The Whiskey Chronicles 9 – Challenges Christians Face

       In 2006 John Stott wrote a book titled ISSUES FACING CHRISTIANS TODAY. Although many of those issues persist to this day, it should serve as a reminder to face the rising issues in our own day, 2022. Some seem ever to be with us— plagues, racial violence, wars, growing poverty, government inequities, and the like. But there are issues we personally face on a daily basis— grief, poverty, family breakdowns, insecurities, personal failures, loss of faith in anything, death, and all of its ramifications.

       As an introduction to this section we need, we must, decide what our stance will be as genuine followers of Christ. Some questions… .

1.      Will we engage our society, and those we know, in these confrontational conditions?

2.      Will we, instead, form cloisters of community that withdraw from our world?

3.      How will we give an answer of our faith to the increasingly clueless people we know in a way that they can understand?

4.      How will we serve and love those who think we are clueless or crazy or just plain irrelevant?

5.      How can we contribute to our culture(s) in gracious, creative ways?

6.      What do we do when we are ignored?

7.      How can we prepare to face persecution… and death?

8.      How can we learn to love people who hate us?

9.      What if they go after our children?

10.   How can we overcome fear?

       There are, I know, many more issues we must grapple with; but you get the point. We have been facing a more belligerent society for at least 75 years in America. It will get worse for us. When? How? Who knows?

       I don’t want to sound like a Doom-Sayer, but we are heading for an era where the Christians will not know the freedoms and acceptance we do presently. Don’t believe me? Look at history. Or look at our own Scriptures—

For a time is coming

When people will not endure

Sound teaching.

They will follow their own desires

And look for teachers

Who will tell them whatever

Their itching ears

Want to hear.

       ~ 2 Timothy 4:3.

or,

… and you will be hated by all

For my Names’ sake.

But the one who endures the end

Will be saved.

Matthew 10:22.

       Most of us are not ignorant of what is to come. Few of us are preparing for it.

       I remember back in the 1950s and ‘60s Americans were building bomb shelters for our families. There was little concern for the family next door. It was all about PROTECT OUR OWN! Even fine Christian people were stock-piling food…, for ourselves. This felt so anti-Christian to me I could barely believe what was going on. Gun sales were UP then as well.

       But this is today. What challenges will we, as genuine followers of Christ, encounter?

Loving God; loving people…, and bringing the two together!

Gary

NEXT— NO POINT OF CONTACT

Road Map Here  

The Whiskey Chronicles 8 – No Other Name

One of the hardest things for people to face when considering the Christian faith is the fact that it claims to be exclusive. Of course, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and, to an extent Judaism, also claim to be exclusive. Inside each of these religions there are further sub-groups that claim exclusivity.

       However, the world at large ignores Jesus’ claim that No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) Most people believe that finding our way to God matters very little. Our faith appears quite narrow to those outside it. It makes Christians seem arrogant and repulsive in the halls of academia and civil discourse. It is as if we have chosen to exclude ourselves from normal society.

       To be sure, many Christians have chosen exactly this route. Not of the world: not in the world. And they are proud of their isolationist position. They argue that their stance is to protect their children and to abstain from all evil. The problem with this thinking is that it contradicts Jesus’ instruction to be in the world, but not of it (John 17:15). How will our world learn that there is no other Name if we withdraw from the people around us?!?

       Still, our Christian faith does claim that the only way to God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to love Him, is through the sacrificial atonement in payment for our sins (rebellion) through Jesus against a Holy God. This theme runs throughout our Scriptures as the Red Thread of Redemption.

Creation, Fall, Redemption, Fulfillment

       Therefore, it is quite true that Christianity claims to be the one true religion. That there is no other God-of-the Universe save Him. And He is Jesus Christ, in equal relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

       Now, I will be the first to admit that I do not understand all this. The Trinity of the Godhead has also puzzled me most of my life. But more than that, Our Christian faith claiming to be the Only Way to God seems way too exclusive and restrictive. Yet it is exactly what our Holy Scriptures declare.

       As a thinking, educated man, I find this hard to swallow. So I must conclude that my problem is with the God who said this, and the Holy Scriptures, where it is revealed. I may wish it were not the case; but when Scripture proclaimes it so, and 2000 years of Christian history have affirmed it, who am I to object?

       Many of us believe that mankind (humankind for those offended) is the pinnacle of all Creation, or Evolution, however you would have it. We are the final determiners of all moral and existential experiences. In my thinking, this is even more arrogant than asserting that there is a God in the heavens that holds that position.

       Or, put more crassly, Who the hell do we think we are?!?

       It is far more reasonable, far more rational, to believe in a Supreme Being that created all that there is and maintains some form of governance over it than to place ourselves at the top of the food chain.

       Now to postulate that the Christian faith is the only way to God is a matter of much study, and/or a faith that is bestowed on us as a gift from above. No one can “prove” the existence of God. It is a matter of evidence, trust and faith. Yet, in my personal experience, I have found my faith substantiated through faith and evidence, both subjective and objective. Our faith is not simply a shot-in-the-dark kind of thing. It is backed up by a great deal of historical evidence and study.

       Yet it must come down to the question of evidence, trust, and believing.

       There is no other name under heaven by which anyone can stand before God other than that of Jesus Christ. But in this postChristian era that has become more and more difficult. Multiculturalism (which has always been with us), keeping-our-options-open, hesitency to commit to anything, and a fear of being over-written by some external set of definers have all caused people not to put all their marbles in one pot.  Therefore, our postChristian society has never truly investigated Christianity and has very little understanding of our Christian faith. And when we assert that there is no other name by which we can be saved, our secular society can only stand in skepticism and surprise.

       So, when you encounter resistance and rejection, be prepared for it. Our faith is not very popular these days.

       We will return to this idea in later chapters.

Loving God; loving people…, and bringing the two together!

Gary

NEXT— CHALLENGES CHRISTIANS MUST FACE (a new beginning)

The Whiskey Chronicles 7 – The Gospel Re-Imagined

For almost 75 years we have used what is known as a problem-solving model of the gospel. You have a problem; we have a product that will solve your problem; buy our product; and your problem will be solved. Simple, straight-forward, and to the point.

       But what if a person doesn’t follow that line of reasoning? What if they are not so much a linear learning student, but a visual, or auditory, or kinesthetic learner? A four point, linear-sequential explanation of our message doesn’t communicate.

       The Christian Message in an illiterate society might better be communicated through storytelling, or art, or personal expression. The simple gospel simply isn’t that simple anymore. We need to learn to express Christ’s message of Redemption in different ways— not just one way. A visual gospel by culture. Verbal story telling. A gospel expressed in movements and shape and art.

       Then again, the forever-context for the gospel is love. Our message will never be understood unless it is covered in genuine love and graciousness.

       Still, the challenge remains— what would our message look like, feel like, sound like, if we moved it out of its linear explanations?

       Some years ago a young Ethiopian college student came to our home and asked if she could become a Christian. Why would you want to do that? Her reply? Because I’ve seen how you two love each other and I want what it is you have. Wow! The content (explanation) of the gospel followed its expression in the love she saw between Starr and me.

       Francis of Assisi is famous for giving us Preach the gospel everywhere you go, and, if necessary use words. He understood that the Christian faith is more than merely words. And its expression must be more than meager words. It must be expressed and received in the mindset of each individual, in their culture.

       We need to become keen observers of the world around us. Of the people around us. We have never lived in a monolithic society. To assume so would be naïve on our part. So it would be amiss to assume that anyone can understand the gospel in our cultural context. They need to understand it in their context.

       We must re-imagine the gospel in the contexts of the various peoples and cultures around us. One size no longer, and never has, fit all. We are probably more diverse now than at any other time in human history.

       Let’s reframe our message so it can be grasped by more people in more ways. Multicultural.

       And cradled always in the arms of love.

Loving God; loving people…, and bringing the two together!

Gary

NEXT— No Other Name!

The Whiskey Chronicles 6 – the Distance Between Us

    It is hard to imagine that over 2,000 years Christians have perfected the art of avoiding other people, normal people, “non-Christians,” like the plague. During the early phases of our faith we were actually at war with other people; Christians killing Jews, Jews killing Christians, Christians killing Romans. Romans definitely killing Christians. What a great beginning.

       Then came the Muslims and our Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land. Again, not the best witness in our history.

       Then followed the 15th century Inquisition, and 17th and 18th century denominational wars; Christians killing each other. No comment.

       Today, in 2022, the evangelical fear of other people is excessive. We don’t even know how to talk to normal people except for trying to convert them This is NOT how Jesus taught us to relate.

       When we do talk about our faith it is with words that are foreign to both their vocabulary and their thinking. Words have referents. The words we presently use to communicate our faith are out of sync with the increasing biblical illiteracy of this generation; not just those under 30, but even with those over 50.

       “Houston, we have a problem.” Serious problems.

       The distance between us is not that great. But we further separate from one another other by “cocooning” (Faith Popcorn) within our own circles of safety, our communities of faith, and constructing strawmen of what each other are like. This is nuts.

       Find common ground with other people, whether it be at our kids baseball games, our graduate schools, our work, or neighborhood gatherings. Isolation is no longer an option.

       Sadly, I have too often found that I enjoy being with my normal friends and neighbors more than I enjoy being with my fellow Christ followers. It should not be this way.

       In John 17:15 our Lord asks the Father, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  We walk through evil days, as throughout all history. Yet we are still called to walk among wonderful, angry, broken, lost, vicious people as images of Christ.

       Why? Jesus did.
 
Loving God; loving people…, and bringing the two together!

Gary

NEXT— The Christian Gospel Re-Imagined: Resident Aliens

The Whiskey Chronicles – Common Grace

One of the most incredible surprises of God is his gift of common grace. Basically, common grace is a blanket of protection that—

·       Keeps God from destroying us all for our constant rebellion and stupidity before Him.

·       Extends to us His blessing so we don’t kill each other but instead live in as much peace and cooperation as possible.

·       It is also a vessel holding Truth and favor for all peoples.

       Normal people have no sense that this is holding them together, and back from being their worst. People simply move along with their lives with little concern for the turmoil and conflicts all around us. The recent COVID19 pandemic put a crinkle in our style, but hardly a dent in the overall functioning of our society or the world.

       In the same ways that our world recovered from two major wars in the last century, we will, we must, recover and press forward to a healthier and more peaceful common good. If we do not… !

       Our world’s peoples rarely consider God’s restraint in all this. He is simply not a factor to consider. The Christian belief that He has His hand on/in everything is a non sequitur. He is simply not there.

       But what if they are wrong? Small miracles throw us off. Bigger miracles are harder to explain. We fight attributing them to any Supreme Being.

       Divine Intervention is definitively discarded.

       I must object Not so fast. Because we cannot empirically verify an event or act does not mean there was not a cause beyond our abilities to KNOW. Oh, we’ll find a scientific explanation for this later. Maybe.  

       Albert Einstein, quoting Bruce Cameron, observed Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Things that cannot be counted does not mean they are not there and have an influence on our everyday life.

       This is God’s Grace underpinning and infiltrating of everything we know; or…, don’t know. Just because we cannot see it or sense it does not mean we can discount it and it’s effect upon us. Grace permeates every aspect of our lives. Sometimes we become aware of it.

       So when those little miracles or Big Miracles enter our realms of existence, maybe we should not be so swift to write them off.

       On a personal note, I have been the recipient of many expressions of grace. As I often say God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. For is you trust Him, He will surprise you even more. In His grace.

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

Gary

NEXT— The Distance Between Us  

The Whiskey Chronicles-No Point of Contact

Road Map Here  

   When sitting under the teaching of Dr. Cornelius VanTil I learned that there was no point of contact between the Christian mind and the secular mind. Philosophically this is most probably true. But on a more practical, human experience level, this couldn’t be further from the Truth.

       We are all created in the Image of God. We reflect His character and His appearance. Not exactly sure how that works with the diversity of peoples and races and faces. But we “look like” our Creator: all of us.

       Then, there is something called common grace that extends to all of His creation. It’s what keeps God from destroying us in an angstrom of a second. Our rejection of his mark upon us has dire consequences. We do not do well when we deny or reject it.

       We put our lives at risk when we go beyond his perimeters of protection for our us.

       We may have no point-of-contact with the secular mind but most certainly do have common experiences with the men and women around us.

       Have children? Then you cannot believe that humanity was created basically good. Cute, maybe; but good?!? Not a chance.

       Have teenagers? End of argument. Married? ‘Nough said.

       We have innumerable things in common with common man. So how can anyone say we have no point-of-contact with normal people?!?  [Sorry Dr. VanTil.]

       Spiritually, in beliefs, in our life’s goals…, absolutely; there is no point-of-contact. But when we move outside of Life’s Ultimate Questions, we have so much in common. So much.

       As Followers of Christ we have a foundation to deal with all the insanities and intricacies of life. They are just as hard to face for Christians as other people would face. Coming alongside each other in life’s messes forms a bond that lasts a lifetime.

       If there were any place in reality where genuine Christians are needed it is in the anguish, the tragedy, the helplessness of other people’s lives. So let’s not be isolated Christians, insulated from those around us. We need to be genuine points-of-contact between our Lord and the world of diverse peoples around us, and around the world.

       ‘Nough said.

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

Gary

NEXT— Common Grace  

The Whiskey Chronicles- What Normal People think of Christians

Road Map Here

       As we begin our journey thru the twists and turns of today’s complex cultures, we do need some directions about how to proceed. Knowing what normal people think of us is an absolutely crucial starting point.

       This begs the question— So, how can we learn what normal people think of us and our faith?

       If I might be obviously crass, simply ask them. Why have we not thought of this before? We make so many assumptions about them, you might think they do the same about us. Well, not so much. Normal people rarely think about us or our beliefs. And why should they?

       Our perspectives on reality, relationships, and daily life events are different. Don’t misread me here. We love, we laugh, we hurt, we enjoy sports, or reading, or solving the impossible problems of some people. We have many similarities in our lifestyle and interests.

       But when it comes to beliefs, we part company. Most people do not develop a framework through which to filter life. They just live. And enjoy living! There’s nothing like a good cold beer, friends, and a baseball game at the end of the week.

       Christians always seem to have an agenda when we talk with people. Like we need to drive home a point about our faith or get you to sign on the dotted line. What we really need to do is spend more time in prayer for people. Talk is fine, but prayer gets things done.

       Yet when I spend time with people they are perplexed about Christians’ intensity, our drive, our desire to draw them to agree with us. Do we trust God for their lives? It doesn’t seem so.

       What they need to see more than anything else is our love, our caring, our sacrifices, and our willingness to accept them for who they are right now, at this moment. When Jesus walked our roads He was known as a safe person to be around— mostly. We need to become safe people for those around us.

       In many ways, safety is one of the basic foundations of our message. We want to make it safe for people to be around God. (more on this later). During the Middle Ages Christians would build structures (monasteries, convents) where people could come for protection, food, prayer and shelter.

       Is our time any different? The context for our message in our time is a safe place, a safe person, and a safe activity. People understand less about our faith now than at any other time in history. We truly need to show them our Lord in everything we do.

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

Gary

NEXT— No Point of Contact

THE WHISKEY CHRONICLES – the road ahead

       In the early years of our marriage Starr and I would always take our vacations in the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. About 5 years into our marriage we tested ourselves to see if we could find our way to Jackson Hole, WY.

       Since we had traveled those roads before it was an enjoyable adventure. We arrived safe & sound at our destination— no mishaps or detours.

       The road we travel today, between the Christian and secular cultures, is not so easily navigated. The old roadmaps to guide us just do not apply anymore. New roads have been built over the old. The New England saying You can’t get there from here, is more appropriate that ever.

       So this entry into our adventure will lay out some of the issues & obstacles we will encounter as we build bridges to connect ourselves with normal people.

       Don’t panic, this is the menu on our plate. Some offerings will be more appealing than others. But it’s a BIG menu, like those roadside cafes you find all across New Jersey. 329 choices, No descriptors. Ask your waitress. So here we go.

Menu

THE WHISKEY CHRONICLES—  what normal people think of Christians ©

A Normal Person’s View of Christians & Christianity.

Assumptions About Each Other.

No Point of Contact.

Common Grace.

“The Distance Between Us.”

The Christian Gospel Reimagined. Resident Aliens.

No Other Name.

Challenges Christians face.

1.      No point of contact

2.      Fear

3.      Thinking in outlines instead of facets of faith (stories, experiences, functionable Truth)

4.      Simple gospel— complex multicultural positioning [3D Gospel]

5.      Learning to love

6.      Learning to listen

7.      No joy in life

8.      Cloistering/cocooning

9.      Deep prayer a mystery

10.    No expectation that God will work his miracles

Challenges Normal People face

1.      Do not know any genuine Christians

2.      Fear/disgust

3.      Foreign concepts

4.      Inaccurate, inappropriate, or unintelligible information

5.      Ships passing in the night mindset

6.      No sense of need for religion, Christ, let alone salvation

7.      Salvation from what? (C S Lewis quote)

8.      Happy the way I am

9.      I’m OK…, you’re out of your mind

10.   Anger over Race

The Value of Single Malt Scotch

Giving God Room to Work

Looking for the Threads of God

Afterthoughts…, my best ideas always come to me in the shower  

     OK, long list. But all of these issues are tantamount to clear up any disparities in our encounters between our faith and the precepts that guide other peoples’ lives.

     So let’s get on the road and find our way together.

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

Gary

NEXT— Laying out our roadmap

The Whiskey Chronicles- Intro

       I know, I know. Questionable title. Seriously!

       But before you go all wacko and judgemental, Let me give you a little history behind this series.

       This was originally supposed to be a book. Then I realized that the majority of books have a life-span of about two years. So now it is a blog release under our Website— CluesslessChristianity.org.

       It all arose when I was sitting in a booth in my favorite New England restaurant in the Lord Jeffery Inn— 30Boltwood.  I was with a Christian brother and his wife when a gentleman at the bar turned and asked us, “You think Christianity has something to offer? That’s rich?!?”

       I asked If I buy you another whiskey can I ask you what you mean? What ensued was a two hour conversation about faith and the role it plays in our faith and in this world. I noted that two drams in I was getting some incredibility transparent revelations about what this gentleman thought about Christians and our Christian faith.

       I wished I’d had a recorder. Well, the next time, I did. I started setting up 4:00 p.m. meetings with various Normal People [Those whose beliefs were more common than ours] in the Pioneer Valley. Eventually, this practice spread beyond our “Happy Valley across the US and Canada.

       Oddly, I noticed that God was using my intimate whiskey tête-à-têtes as an opening to learn what others think about our Christian faith, [& some of its followers] and to give me a chance to talk about our faith.

       Over the following years I have enjoyed many conversations with normal people everywhere I go.

       I hope you will stay tuned in, and learn and be encouraged as we think through the conversations we need to have with those we know who. Those who, more & more, have no clue about the nature and effects our faith might have on their lives.

       This is going to be fun!

Gary

NEXT— Laying out our roadmap