The Whiskey Chronicles 21 – Inaccurate, Inappropriate, & Unintelligible

       One of the issues I have with our Christian message is that it too often comes across as inaccurate, inappropriate, and unintelligible. The general problem in Europe, Asia, China, South Africa, Canada, and the United States is that our message is being presented in such a manner that it does not relate to the normal peoples of these cultures. We are religious freaks to most normal people. All of us.

       And we speak a language that is totally unintelligible to them. We tell them that they are sinners; and that has no point of reference for them. Hitler, maybe; but not us.

       And we choose the most inappropriate times to bring up our faith and their lack of faith. [Birthday parties and celebrations are NOT the time.] Seriously, who do we think we are?!? We just don’t get it!

       Then our understanding of their life and world is, for the most part, completely out-of-touch. We make assumptions about what non-Christians believe, the way they live, and what they think of us without ever asking them directly. We hold an inaccurate estimation of our pagan brothers & sisters that adds to the rift between us. Thus, my position of the importance of a dram of Single Malt Scotch. [More on that later.]

       We need to make more of an effort to walk in their world, in their successes and struggles, than we have been. Without Judgement! God is their Judge. We are not. We are their fellow beggar telling them where we have found bread.

       At the very least, we should walk alongside them, in the gutter, in the Board Room, in the prison, in the restaurant, in the supermarket, in our neighborhoods. This is imperative.

       Our job is not only to point them to our Lord. It is to be their companion as we travel the road together.

       Learn their language. Do not judge it. Listen to their struggles. Do not judge them. Hold their hearts in your hands. Do not crush them. Celebrate like crazy with them wherever we can! Do not hold back.

       And invite them into your lives, into your struggles and celebrations. Be REAL with people. Kill the nice Christian façade.

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

Gary

NEXT— we are like ships passing in the night— our constant mindset

New Years 2023

New Years Eve by the Fire

       It’s late. I’m sitting by the fire next to our Christmas Tree remembering so much of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this past year.

       I entered 2022 with a final radiation treatment for cancer. A year later, it seems that I’ve beat it. Praise God!

       In many ways I have new eyes to see. Not just new lenses in my eyes, but personal/spiritual eyes as well.

       Our Lord has been honing and refining me through extended times with Him. A lot of my arrogance-of-accomplishment has been ripped away; polishing continues. My personality has also been tempered to become more like Christ’s. We extroverts have a tough time with that.

       One thing that has helped with that is Christmas. Every year, especially in these recent years, the miracle of Christmas— that the God of the Universe would take the form of a helpless baby to be born to a 16 year old out-of-wedlock Jewish girl, in a backwater town in an insignificant Roman province in an era with little considerable technology, is still a miracle to me.

       I had become a Christian after trying to live various philosophies of life when I was in college. To say I was a basket case would have been obvious. For two years I struggled to find any other explanation of life, save the Christian one. But the only belief system, the only existential, reasonable I constantly returned to was Christianity. Thus, 60 years later, it is the only adequate faith I have found that fits reality best. Wow!

       So as you and yours enter 2023, inspect your faith. Does it answer life’s most difficult questions? Does assist you in making daily decisions? Does it provide you with a basic rubric for living? Is it still reasonable? Reliable? Realistic?

       Have you updated your faith to meet the challenges our culture today? Or are you still in the same ‘ol, same ol’ format of faith formed for the late 1940s and early 1950s?

       These are the meanderings of my mind as I welcome in 2023. What a fantastic way to start a new year! Do with them what you will. I’m going to bed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!

Gary & Starr

 www.cluelessChristianity.org

Image Credit-  Gary Davis

The Whiskey Chronicles 21 – Foreign Concepts

Formerly, most Christian communication was based on common ground. People had a basic comprehension of the Christian faith that we relied upon in presenting our gospel to them. That is no longer the case.

         It’s wiser in our era to assume that people, in America and worldwide, have little to NO understanding of the basic tenets of the Christian worldview. We have lost our voice to those around us. We are no longer seen as part of the solution; we are considered part of the problem.

         Many of my friends think our world would be better off if all Christians would just go away.

      Over the last 50 years western culture has seen the introduction, the invasion, of foreign concepts to the general public. Our universities, once closely tied to our faith, have turned their backs on Christian beliefs. If anything, Christianity is mocked and dismissed in schools of “higher learning.”

      Personally, I like having all these foreign concepts welling up from the grass roots. But too many Christians still cling to that ol’ time religion, the way it used to be, semi-annual revival meetings, the simple gospel, etc. If it is true, that 85.33% of our world is considered Developing Nations then the same percentage still needs our Christian message on their level. But for the other 15% of wealthy, dominant countries, our gospel must be couched in a format and language appropriate to their level of society.

      For that culture, our culture, we must offer an intelligent, well formulated Christian message that considers the hodgepodge of foreign concepts that our society has been exposed to. The simple gospel communicates little to nothing to this postmodern, postChristian world.

      We cannot offer a Third World gospel to a postChristian humanity.

      I gave my wife Starr a greeting card with two ships passing in the night on the cover. We didn’t have enough time for each other. The inside of the card simply read— We’re like two ships passing in the bathroom. Far too often we are like two faiths passing in our culture; one Christian, one totally unaware of who we are and what we believe. And in many ways our cocooning has lost any understanding of who they are in their own world as well.

      In postChristian America, as elsewhere, our rich faith has also become a foreign concept within our society. WE are the outsiders trying to break through the barriers that surround us.

FINAL THOUGHTS

1.       Get to know your healthy pagan neighbors.

2.       Go out with the boys (for that drink?) after work.

3.       SHUT UP! Listen.

4.       Play in their world.

5.       Use this Christmas to love on them.

6.       YOU throw the New Year’s Eve Party. Provide the Asprin.

7.       We need to love the hell out of these people. OK?!?

      Christianity has become the foreign voice in modern culture, worldwide. Get used to it. What we formerly designated as pre-Evangelism must now be incorporated into the context of what we are trying to say.

      Then again…, has it ever been otherwise?

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

Gary

NEXT— inaccurate, inappropriate, or unintelligible information

The Whiskey Chronicles 22- Fear & Disgust

       Another issue normal people face when considering our Christian faith is the disgust they have with the uncovered activities of many Christian leaders and the practices of too many Christian organizations. We are not a church without spot or blemish.

       People expect more from a group that claims to know the God of the universe in a pure and personal way. They expect more from Christian leaders who cut corners, who play the edges of the gospel, and live lives that are less than reputable.

       No wonder people are skeptical of the veracity and practice of our faith. What we confess that Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the life, but that doesn’t match the way we live. So we come across as duplicitous to too many people. I’ve been guilty of this myself— this conflicting nature. For that, I am truly sorry. I apologize. Please forgive me.

            The onus remains on us to live lives that lift up our Lord Jesus. But our people are not yet fully redeemed. We are an imperfect people, struggling to be transformed by the indwelling Christ. Regrettably, too many of us have been poor representatives of the God we serve. And people outside our faith stand ready to point that out and condemn our failures.

       We need to ask ourselves— What do we need to change in our behavior so people will be less disgusted with us and our faith in Christ?

1.      For one, we need to live reputable lives— not lives that bend the rules or distract from the purity of life that our Lord has obtained for us.

2.      Then…̶̶  we need to strive to live lives of sacrifice. For example, most of us give to causes we believe in within the scope of our budget. But should we not also set aside some money for emergency giving? People often have special needs that arise unexpectedly. What if we could have a Special Needs Fund (SNF) ready to give to people on the spot?

3.      I know I’ve said this before but I believe it so important to learn to love people as the foundation of the Gospel. All the outlines or presentations we design are nothing without a context of love. So the question we must answer is— Can we love people the way our Lord loved them, with no condemnation?! This implies that we put aside our own peculiar prejudices and attitudes about them. They are not a perfect group of people: neither are we.

4.      We need to take down our own masks that hide the work of Christ within. We tend to put on a good face for people who don’t understand our faith. On the contrary we need to display out real selves, as Christians, with all our warts and failings. Why are we so afraid to be more transparent in our faith?

5.      We need to learn to lead lives that are covered with prayer; not prayer as a passing fancy, but prayer that is a passion. Western Christians are not very passionate about much anymore. We must develop passionate lives that exude the praise to our Lord. Sedate, moderate Christianity will accomplish little in a volatile society.

       If people are disgusted with us, even fearful, we need to change the ways we live to reflect more goodness toward life, and love for those around us.

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

Gary

NEXT— foreign concepts

The Whiskey Chronicles 19- Do Not Know ANY Genuine Christians

       One of the major issues normal people face is that they don’t know any genuine Christians. They may know some, but the Christians have not made their faith evident to them. Or, their faith is not evident to other people in general.

       Most normal people are not simply going to pick up a Bible and start reading. In our biblically illiterate society that could be disastrous They are more likely to be attracted to someone they believe is a Christian and talk with them about what they see. The problem we face today is that our Christian faith is not all that distinguishable. Christians do not readily talk about their faith. Many cannot even articulate it clearly.

       Too many Christians do not lead very Christian lives. We are not known for being a loving people. We are not known for being overly sacrificial, let alone giving freely to those in need.

       So, it has become somewhat difficult to identify the true Christians in our society.

       Then there are the caricatures of Christians we seem to have everywhere. I’ve met them: so have you. Sadly, so have many others who now want nothing to do with our faith because of them.

       What would be the marks of the genuine Christians within our society?

1.      Giving. Constantly! Everywhere and to as many people or services as possible…, and not just to Christians services. Paying someone’s mortgage/rent for a month.

2.      Feeding people. Constantly. Everywhere and to as many people as possible. Volunteering in Soup Kitchens is only the tip of the iceberg. Or should be. My wife makes a wicked chili con carne. I’ve perfected the art of grilling steaks. Any takers?

3.      Sheltering the homeless. Working in a Shelter. Founding a Shelter. Giving a homeless couple temporary housing where you live. OR, a couple nights in a motel in bitter cold weather.

4.      Having and making a guest room always available in your home/apartment.

5.      Performing daily acts of simple kindness.

6.      Being loving in ways that the other person feels loved. Sacrifice!

7.      Supporting causes that promote world peace and local reconciliation.

8.      Funding global hunger relief.

9.      Being mediators in our society and between people we know.

10.   Striving to give our message a context.

       People may not think that these activities and characteristics are sourced from Christian beliefs. That may take a good bit of verbal intercourse. But they will never seek our Lord without some of these demonstrations of Christ’s love for them being present.

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

Gary

NEXT— Fear & Disgust

The Whiskey Chronicles 18 – No expectation God will work

       One of the saddest commentaries on Christians in this era is that too many of us have lost any expectation that God still works. His days of making a difference in our world are past.

       We certainly don’t expect Him to drop any of His miracles on us. Not today. We may admit to anomalies in science and medicine on occasion, but it is certainly not the norm to attribute any of these to divine intervention.

       ALL can be explained.

       Since I’ve been in junior high school medical and scientific professionals have been dismissing miracles with the trite We’ll find an explanation someday. For this is one of those things we leave to the work of God. Even when they may not believe in God? [Robert Wright, The Evolution of Religion; “Religious responses to reality are generally explained by game theory and evolutionary psychology.”]

       Christians in the West generally do not believe in miracles. Why is that? Many who are on the more Calvinistic side believe the miraculous gifts ceased with the closing of the writing of the Canon. This position, to this writer, seems to be a quite arbitrary conjecture. The church throughout history has seen the workings of the Spirit of God across both cultures and geographies that have no connection.

       Yes, God works His miracles. Everywhere.

       Why, in our present world, do we believe we need to have a rational or scientific explanation to dismiss any work of God?!? Simply, we do not believe our Lord is still at work in this postModern world. A completely irrational postulation!

       If you’ve traveled our world to any degree, you will hear of and observe God’s work. It is accepted as normative in just about every society…, except in the West. We rule out miracles a priori.

       By example, on a mission in Mexico, an American pastor was asked to pray for healing for a 14 year old boy whose leg was 8” to short and club footed. With great embarrassment our pastor friend placed one hand on the boy’s shoulder and his other hand on his twisted leg. As he began to pray the boy’s leg grew to full length and straightened.

       Our minister friend was dumbfounded. He had just been part of a miracle…, that wasn’t supposed to happen in our day.

       Throughout our lives, personally. my wife and I have been involved in miracles. We’ll never get used to it.

       So when next you find yourself involved in one of God’s miracles that are no longer supposed to exist…, don’t be surprised. God is most definitely still at work in ways we surely do not understand.

       DO NOT try to confine the God of the universe to our limited, puny perspectives.

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

Gary

NEXT— NEW SECTION Challenges normal people face

The Whiskey Chronicles 17 – Deep Prayer a Mystery

On the north wall of my study hangs one of my favorite paintings of all time. It is St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata. Painted by Jan von Eyck around 1428-1432, it depicts St. Francis in such deep prayer that he received the stigmata, the actual wounds of Jesus Christ— when He was nailed to the cross.

               Whether this actually happened is not the point. The point is this— that Francis was known as a man of deep prayer.

               This begs the question of us. What is your prayer life like?

               I refrain from wondering whether it would ever be to the depth of St. Francis. Our society moves far too fast for that.

     But do we, as 21st century Christians, set aside enough time to enter into deep prayer? It is not an easy thing to do. So much becomes us to remain immersed in normal, human concerns.

     Yet if anything is necessary for God to work His miracles through/in us it is the holy task of coming apart from our world for a time of deep, worshipful prayer. There is no substitute for it. NO substitute.

     Too many of us have lost any ability to pray at all. It has been relegated to the status of filler in our faith and service. As was the case in many colleges & universities in the sixties, chapel service was mandatory. One chapel speaker grabbed me like no other. He stated emphatically that Prayer is NOT the preparation for the battle. Prayer IS the battle. From that moment on I started to change my attitude and practice of prayer.

     Drawing aside for a couple of hours, or days, of prayer must be central to our faith. Otherwise, we will never engage those around us with the power of the gospel. It will, instead, remain mere words, mere explanation of facts.

     We must become intrinsic vessels of Christ that hold His Truth deeply entrenched in every fiber of our being. Anything else would be a meagre transmission of data. This is not the gospel. The gospel must engulf us fully if it is to engage the hearts and souls of others.

     In every sense of the word, WE ARE the Gospel.

     One of my favorite quotes from Francis [now attributed to another.] is Preach the Gospel at all times…, when necessary use words. This cannot be accomplished without a basis in deep prayer in ourselves.

   So, please, fellow Christ follower, give yourself over to secluded times of friendship with our Lord. It is exactly what each of us need. It is also what our pepole need in us if they are ever to see Jesus in us. Prayer is the presence and practice of Jesus Christ in us, flowing to others.

     In deep prayer…

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

Gary

NEXT— no expectation that God is at work

The Whiskey Chronicles 16 – Cloistering & Cocooning

 An unconscious practice many Christians don’t know they have is that of cloistering and/or cocooning. With the first, we huddle within our own tribe. It’s not a conscious act; it is normative to any affinity group with a common interest. Reading clubs. Baseball teams (and their fans). Fantasy football, C.S Lewis aficionados. Mountain bikers. Prayer groups. Dinner parties.

              We hang with people who are like us, who have common interests. Affinity groups.

              The other inclination of many Christians is, what Faith Popcorn termed, cocooning. We hide out within our own little perimeters of safety, a cocoon, to protect us from those outside our common-interest group. The world “outside” can be a scary place for many followers of Christ. So, when not with fellow Christians, we tend to hide in our own, safe, world, venturing out only to go to the bank or to go shopping.

         We very much keep to our own or stay alone. It’s safer that way.

         Unfortunately, this is not the road God has designed us to trod. He made us to intentionally live and move among those who have no clue what our Christian faith is all about. More and more I meet great people for other people. But very few Christ followers couch their faith in the context of loving this world. Instead, we tend to avoid people in the world, like we could be stained or somehow have our faith tainted by them.

         How absurd!

         Christians are just immerging, or are trying to come out, of a century of isolationism. Protectionism. Our connections to this world have been limited to commando raids, timid witnessing, and assumptions about nonChristians dreamed up in a church think-tank pondering an outreach program.

         May I suggest that it is time we shed our cocoons and emerge as warrior-butterflies! Ready to declare the incredible glories of our God in an increasingly forlorn world. This world needs us.

         Are you ready to spread your wings?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel,

For it is the power of God for salvation

To everyone who believes… .

Romans 1:16 ESV

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

Gary

NEXT— deep prayer — a mystery

The Whiskey Chronicles – Learning to Listen

One of the most difficult practices most of us forget is our need to listen. Most people will pour out their soul to you if we just give them a chance to speak. The problem at hand is that we want to get our point across, first. All of it.

       In education etiquette, and education theory, it is called testing-for-learning. A good communicator will always pause and ask Did that make sense to you?

       I have someone in my life who I call and he immediately starts talking…, about himself. How someone can start talking, seemingly without ever taking a breath, and never give the other person a space to talk is beyond me. His record is an hour forty minutes; then a So, how are you? I’m too exhausted to answer. Fine.

       Christians are just as guilty of this sin as many other people. We just keep talking, believing if we can fill the room with our point of view people will cave in to the gospel and its barrage of truths. Really.

       One of the key ingredients in communication, especially when explaining our gospel is an Italian principle I was reminded of from The Godfather movie franchise. Shut-up a you face! We need to shut-up and listen to the other person’s point of view.

       We may think we’ve gotten our point across clearly. But how do we know?!? Simple. ASK.

       This is not rocket-surgery. It is simply courtesy. Politeness. Showing interest. Learning.

       Do we trust God so little that we think we have to get His point of view across, presented in a complete logical-sequential package? There is a basic principle in Christian communication— Give God some room to work. We dare not ignore this principle in favor of our own words.

       So. Some suggestions.

1.      Our message is built on relationship. BUILD one as a context..

2.      Shut-up a you face.

3.      Ask questions.

4.      Give people a chance to think, to respond, at their own pace.

5.      Don’t cram the Gospel into someone’s life.

6.      Again, give God some room to work. We don’t have to seal-the-deal. That’s God’s work.

       Always keep in mind that the rich context for our words is LOVE. Do you actually love this person? Or is your love merely a pretense for their conversion? Not a good idea.

       Finally, remember that God is at work. If He is not at work, all our explanations and presentations will fall of dumb ears. He is the initiator and convincer of our faith. Follow Him into conversation. Look for the threads of God woven throughout a person’s life. He is probably at work in peoples’ lives long before we show up.

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

Gary

NEXT— No joy in life.

Road Map Here  

The Whiskey Chronicles 13 – Learning to Love

 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I Cornithians 13

     Oh, that it were that simple. But it isn’t. Too many of us guard our love. Husbands/wives, parents/children, church members, power trips, turf wars, political games, corporate positioning and manipulation.

     Pick one. Or several. We’ve made it all about winning.

     We’ve even turned the Gospel into a set of conditions; “if then.”

     Hewlett-Packard’s marketing tagline a few years ago was “What if…?” Well, what if the gospel were a free offer of grace, a free offer of forgiveness, an unconditional gift from God that we could in no way pay back, or meet a certain set of criteria for acceptance?

     Well, it is.

     Somehow we’re turned the Christian message into a set of qualifiers with stipulations to receive God’s forgiveness and favor. Question— Is this how all your other relationships work? I will love you…, if? If you will give me your heart, if you will stop drinking, if you will be faithful, if you will trust me… . This may have to be true for many of our interpersonal relationships, and rightly so.

       It’s not that way with Jesus. Our westernized, twenty-first century conversions seem to be based more on what WE will do, rather than what He has already done.

       On our part we truly need to learn to love people again, like Jesus did. We need to let Christ’s love, grace and forgiveness flow freely through us.

       Has loving our lost world with Christ’s love become so complicated that we need to learn to love again? I dare say it has.  If only our unbelieving world would learn to receive Christ’s love as it is offered.

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

Gary

NEXT— Learning to listen.

Road Map Here