The Whiskey Chronicles 11- Facets of Faith

When Christians communicate our faith it is often in terms pieces of data. Facts transmitted as the core of what we believe. While the facts of our faith are critical they are not the underlying foundation. No.

       The underpinning of our faith lies in the actual person of Jesus Christ. To see Him as merely a man who dies on a cross to atone for our sins would be missing the point.

       The Christian faith is founded upon the entire life of Christ; how He lived, what He did with people, His surprising offers of forgiveness and restitution with God is where we can see the facets of our faith displayed beforehand in everything about Jesus.

       When He said I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly! (John 10:10.) He wasn’t kidding. It is sad that more people refuse His free offer of grace. In our present postChristian world there is barely even an understanding of what His life meant to us. He gave us LIFE! And too many of us refused it. Still do.

       I just don’t get it. The opportunity to have our rebellion against a Holy God obliterated is astonishing! Yet we refuse and clutch our own minuscule desires as if they are platinum. They are not.

       The facets of our faith are so much more than a simple summary of our faith. Our gospel should be a a glorious reflection of all that Christ was when He was with us. It is couched in His healing, His forgiveness, His compassion, and His passion.

       How we’ve come to offer His salvation in terms of acquiescence to simply a summary of data is a puzzle. Christ message of salvation is so much more than mere understanding. It is a heart/mind encounter that challenges our whole being.

       It is to experience His love and forgiveness in full. There are so many facets to becoming a Christian that any guide of how to become a Christian seems simply ludicrous to this writer.

       What about you? What do you think?

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

NEXT— Is there a simple gospel?

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 – 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

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

      Wondering if I have made a difference over these past 40 years, my mind wandered back to the first days of NEEDinc. Since those New England Evangelism Development, Inc. days began, our ministry has crisscrossed America, spanned the globe, and reconsidered the properties and presentation of what we call “the gospel.”

       We’ve become aware that the “gospel” is so much more than the transmission of a simplistic summary in four sentences. It has as much to do with God making it possible for us to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ as it does with our being forgiven by Him.

       In many senses our lives ARE the gospel.

       In those first days of NEEDinc we ran a tagline of Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together. We haven’t shifted from that original inspiration over these past 40 years.

       What has changed significantly is the culture surrounding our message. When I first became a Christian we were all about spreading the gospel. Then it shifted to immersing ourselves in the culture; learning to “share” the gospel in its various adaptations to the diverse cultures around the world.

       But for us at NEEDinc [now CluelessChristianity.org] it has always been about loving. In the West, Biblical Christianity has become far too cerebral, too theological, and divisive. What if we could all go back and start over with loving? Loving God, first. We’re not too good at that. Everything has to be quantified, analyzed, categorized.

       Loving God isn’t that complicated.

       But I have to raise the question— How do we love God? We think of service first; but does He? Feed My sheep. Of course. Still, what about our heart issues? Are there any feelings, emotions, senses involved in our loving God?

       We have so quantified our Christian faith that there is little room left for simply loving.

       For us, at NEEDinc, this has been an ongoing bugaboo, challenging the cohesiveness of our faith within an angry, broken world. We even created a definition of evangelism based more on the heart, than on mission. Our purpose is to LOVE THE HELL OUT OF PEOPLE. Think about it. This definition is both theologically and socially accurate. But that is a discussion for our next EMPulse— loving people.

       So, I ask you, how are you doing loving God these days?

Honor God, honor people, Make a difference!

Gary

Web: www.cluelessChristianity.org

Letting God Mold You

     “Get your hands off my life!”

     Most of us love to learn. Not all subjects, but we narrow down what we like and don’t like. [Math is something that has always driven me crazy.] We love to be taught by people who care about us and know what they are talking about.

     But I would go so far as to declare that most of us do not like to be told what to do. [Yes, even in the military. Get used to it.] Remember the first time you crossed your parents and found out that your actions had consequences?!?

     Being a Christian isn’t all freedom and forgiveness and we go our merry way. It’s not just about obeying God’s Law either. Think The 10 Commandments and all the other stuff.

     It’s about letting God mold you into what He needs you to be in this present time and in your particular situation. He did not merely draw you to Himself. He created you to fulfill a role in the great scheme of things—  The Great Dance!

     I think our Lord gets quite sad and disappointed when we choose to clutter our time with the little things, the trivial, the sidebars of our lives.

     Being sculpted by God is no simple task. First, He has to mix up our clay a little bit differently, making sure there are no sinister pockets hiding deep within. He has to make sure our clay is of the right consistency and cohesion able to withstand the more severe times of His hands supplanting ours.

     In my own time on the Potter’s Wheel it also seemed that there was a good degree of heat generated. I think the Lord found my substance to be a bit resolute, fighting the shape He was forcing me into. Grrrr. In the end it turned out that the problem was with me. I didn’t want to be shaped into His Image. I was just fine with my own image, thank you. I think most of us are just fine with our own selves, just the way we are.

     For the most part, though, I do not believe our own selves are all that pleasing to the God who wants to shape us to be so much more. Do you think you measure up? Me neither. How can we reject such goodness to settle for just our own stuff?!?

     Most normal people, and too many Christians, don’t like God dictating what they should and should not do. It’s unAmerican! It’s an insult to our discernment and judgement.   What… we don’t know what’s best for us?

In Christ our Lord,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Growing moldy  

Power to Overcome Ourselves

One of our greatest struggles in life is with ourselves. We let our moods, our disappointments, our life-situations defeat us in the most devastating ways.

     Friends or spouses try to help, but we rebuff their efforts. It is almost as if we want to wallow in our sadness, our forlorn isolation, our despair.

     Seriously, what is wrong with us?!?

     Well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it. We have lost ourselves and our definers of who we are. Worse, we have never thought about who we are. One foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. One foot in front of the other.

     Most of us have been there. Some of us are still there. We can’t seem to get past square ONE. Sadly, there are some of us who don’t want to face ourselves. Too many regrets, too many failures. “I’ll never overcome myself.” So we get stuck in the vicious currents of our own self-fulfilling prophesies. [Or, we give in and let our depression govern who we are and how we act.]

     “I can’t.” becomes our mantra. How about we go for “I can!”

     Inner fears are the hardest to overcome. Fear of failure, of rejection, fear of not being approved. Nobody sees these, but they are there. Sometimes just below the surface, waiting to crack…, or explode.

     Where can we find the power to overcome these demons?

     You do not have the power within you to defeat this. It is outside you. It comes from the source of your being— the God Creator Jesus Christ.

     May I sugest that you need to do is get %#&! mad at yourself. You were NOT designed to be like this. Do not turn to drugs, drink, or sex; but to a friend who will fortify your resolve and help you get you out of that pit.

     Second, create an activity what you really enjoy and get into it. [Unless it’s bank robbing.] For me, that’s writing books, posts, and articles that challenge people in their lives, or getting up high, above 14,000’.

     Third, get outside your misery. Adopt a new sport, learn to make kielbasa. In my depression when I was in graduate school I learned to play guitar. Surprised myself.

     Finally, find a genuine Christian who knows how to love people. You don’t need judgement, condemnation, or more “helpful” advice. YOU NEED A FRIEND. Hopefully, that person will help you untangle the threads of God woven throughout your life. I still struggle with this battle.

     We were created to be Whole Persons, not whining little creatures who let every attack or rejection plunge us into the spiral to the pit.

Why are you in despair, o my soul?

… and why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

For the help of His presence.

     Fight Hell and fight like hell! Just so you know, this is still a battle for me.  

In Christ our Lord,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  still thinking about it. 

Being a Christian in a postChristian context

If you do not know that we are in a postChristian world, please crawl out from under your rock. Even Pauxatawney Phil crawled out a couple days ago and supposedly saw his shadow, [I, for one, do not believe he could have clawed his way through 3’ of ice hard snow to see anything. Except more snow.]

 First we doubt God exists. Then we question whether Jesus is actually, or fully, God. Then we believe ALL religion is a fabricated fantasy of human. So, what are we left with? We proclaim that we, mankind, are the creator and ruller of all the universe.

 But, seriously, when we remove God, especially a God-Creator, from the equation, what else, beside aliens, is left but…— us?!?

 Very few people have any sense of a need for forgiveness, restoration, new life, or vibrant living. Some, just want to get by. Others, want to stay below the radar. But there are those who strive for success, only to find it somewhat satisfying. They are all, or some, of the finest people in the world. But they are lost within themselves, with no safety hook to give them an anchor.

 How much they need genuine, loving, transparent Christians in their lives is incomprehensible. Jesus said we are the light of the world. If ever there were a time when we who follow our Lord need to come alongside of successful/silent people in this world, it is Now.

 Do we merely need to express our faith in an updated flavor past the 1950s one-size-fits-all? Again, move the Groundhog aside and crawl out of your cave. It’s 2022. NOT 1922, or 1970. How do people hear the Christian message today? And, do you really know what “the Gospel” actually is?!? Tell me. Tell me so a truly clueless postChristian can understand it in their context.

 Better yet, ask a genuine “normal” person what they think Christianity is all about. You will be unpleasantly surprised. FYI, most of us never bother to ask. We just start in with our speil.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being alone