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 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

SWEAR…. to your own hurt

Handfasting ribbons hand woven by the bride's best friend
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photography by- jenniferwernethphotography.blogspot.com/

Decorations by Terri Lawson-
www.paper-gardens.com/

Ok, I’ve written about this before. Numerous times. But after a little over 25,000 posts I’m not going to do a word search to find them.

Psalm 15:1 asks a dual question—

Lord, who may abide in your tent?

Who may dwell on your holy hill?

The rest of the chapter gives the answer. Our concern today is with the latter part of verse 4.

He swears to his own hurt and does not change.

Not that this is anything new. This has always been a challenge to our species. But in our present era, it seems that “oaths” in general have no significance. They are just words. Words that are expedient for the moment. They have little context and no consequence.

         But it was not always so. After the Classical Period, in the Middle ages, between the 5th and and late 15th centuries, oath swearing was a serious matter. It was a code of honor that could not be broken except by death.

         How did we get to where we are today? Here’s a quick summary.

In a Christian world, words reflect reality.

In a postChristian world, words create reality.

After that, words ARE the reality.

Reference points, and meaning, are not obligatory.

Swearing an oath in “After that…” is merely a useful politeness to give some fake solemnity to an event.

         But this is not so before God. When we swear an oath before God, it binds us to what we have sworn for life. And eternity. Ignoring, forgetting, or breaking a promise to God is a serious matter. It has serious consequences for anyone who considers doing this.

         To swear an oath before God requires we DO NOT CHANGE in our commitment. We set our course and do not veer from it. Doing so does put our lives in danger. In danger to ourselves, and in danger with God.

         I’ve often defined sin as stepping outside of the perimeters of God’s protection. Watch your step. No one falls into sin: we plunge knowingly into its mire.

         In business relationships, marriage, friendships, and personal principles swear to your own hurt, honor your promises, and do not change.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Exuberant Faith! Wahoo!

Ukraine

  Again?!?

     The images coming out of Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian cities is heart wrenching. Three million (3½?) displaced or evacuated. Fathers torn from wives and families. Babies. Children. Destruction. Disruption. And unknown death.

     Such slaughter and brutality has not been seen since Myanmar, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Cambodia. The Second World War started with a grab for land and power. Germany invaded Poland. The First World War started with the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand. What prompted President Putin to start this one?  

     Greed…, and Pride.

     Vladimer Putin has always been obsessed with Joseph Stalin. He is intent in reclaiming lands that will restore Russia to its former Empire standing. No matter the cost to civilization, lives, or displaced peoples. His invasion of Ukraine harkens back to our relentless will to power. [Thank you Friedich Nietzsche. 1844 – 1900] Nazi Germany did the same thing when it invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939. We are obsessed with control and power.

     The flagrant use of power to annihilate an entire people has been the way of the world for millenia. In our day this tendency has been enhanced through the development of technologically advanced weapons of mass destruction. There seems to be no limit to our invention of more sophisticated weaponry to kill each other.

     How ARE Jesus followers across this planet to respond to these atrocieties? My thots… .

1.      Pray for Vladimer Putin. He needs to come under the authority of Christ just like the rest of us.

2.      Given what I’ve written above, pray this war doesn’t develop into WWIII.

3.      Anger at this war is right. This mass destruction of life and property is wrong before God.

4.      Seek to send aid to those caught up in this milieu. Especially those displaced. Or who mourn.

5.      Become a practical advocate of peace wherever your sphere of influence.

6.      God’s Church in Ukraine is doing so much to care for those whose lives have been shattered. Support them in any way you can. [Here is one example.]

7.      Be assured our God reigns, even if it does not seem so at the moment. Never loose sight of that. 

     Many times throughout human history it has seemed that the wrath of Hell has enveloped our world. So is God still in control? Absolutely. But because our ancestors brought evil into this world it will remain until Christ returns to end it. God help us all.

     In the mean time, we are responsible to correct as many ills and evils of humanity as possible. Yes, this war is a terrible thing. But only God honoring men and women can bring the peace of Christ to end it.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— A surprise!

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. 

When life hands you a lemon…, remember what God has made you.

Come on… . You know what you’re supposed to do. Make lemonade.

    What if the impact of the lemon was so great that it knocked you out of kilter? What if you’ve been hit by so many lemons that you’re tired of being hit by them; one after another, in unrelenting sequence. Beginning to bruise? Beginning to hurt? Tired of ducking? Or you never see them coming. You start to turn a little sour over it. Even bitter.

    If you cannot extricate yourself from the situation, what do you do?

    You might have to learn to adapt. To defend. For sure, to duck.

    But there is a point where you really want a bat to slam a few of those lemons back at their source. The reality is that we are targets. Anyone serious about honoring the God of the universe is a BIG target for the lemon arrows of our adversary.

    What?!? You thought this Christian life would eventually settle down to middle-American comfort? Only if you are no longer a threat to Satan and his hoards. Believe me. I Peter 5:8 is still right on target.  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

    Our faith is in constant battle with spirits who would destroy us. Feeling the love yet?

    The Christian life isn’t all peaches ‘n cream. There are a lot of destructive lemons headed our way. Our adversary, other people, friends, and our present-day culture are all at full throttle to destroy our faith in Christ. If you do not know this, you must be hiding out in a cave somewhere.

    I’ve found that our best defense, other than ducking or slinging a few lemons back, is to remember who you are and what our Lord Christ has done for us. He has placed inside you all the power of God the Father. AND, you are not alone.

    You have brothers and sisters in Christ that make up the great Fellowship to come alongside you in time of need, aloneness, or attack. Do not disregard them.

    So what to do about those lemons? As I said earlier, do duck, lob a few back; and remember What God the Father has made you. You are strong, you are not a wimp. Your sins have been forgiven and you have a sword of the Spirit [Eph. 6:17] to wield when things get testy.

    Remember…, our God is so full of surprises. Lemon Moody Foodies Be the surprises God has designed you to be.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Brrrrrr

No Thanks

     It’s been a hard year. Hard to find things for which we’re thankful. Yet here we are— at Thanksgiving 2021.

      In our lives, we’ve both had covid, I have cancer, race relations and government conflagration have never been in such a rage, and our economy isn’t anything to rave about. Except negatively.

      So…, how can anyone be thankful? Here are some of my reflections.

·         Our world is not engaged in any full-scale wars. Praise God!

·         Climate change is finally being addressed (somewhat).

·         The natural beauty of this world still amazes us. [although some snow might be nice.]

·         COVID19 is not devastating the world as the FLU did in 1918-1919.

·         God still surprises us with His unexpected miracles.

·         The US economy is still resilient.

·         Starr & I are mostly healthy. Although afternoon fatigue afflicts both of us.

·         Ministry continues to glorify Christ, with some modification.

·         My 14-year-old Volvo is running in top-notch shape.

      Still, life has gotten a tad strange, hasn’t it? I do not believe we can define the new-normal quite yet. But the old normal is indeed gone.

      So here is my challenge to all of us. We are the ones to define the new normal under the principles that Jesus Christ has given us. Honor God, honor people, make a difference. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” [~James 1:27 ESV]  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  [Colossians 3:17 ESV] 

      Are these things hard to do in times such as these? Yes! Remember the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in Lord of the rings?  “I wish it need not have happened in my time, said Frodo. So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.”

      We all live within the strictures of our times. May we, who hold the name of Jesus dear, rise above the fray and chaos, and offer thanks to God for all He has given us. So, instead of no thanks…—

      Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being Christian at Christmas

Finding God: Pulling It All Together

     Everyone’s journey to find God is different. The way you were brought up plays a big role in the process. Life experiences. Tragedies. Disappointments. Even those amazing moments where you could proclaim— ‘I DID IT!’

     But there comes a time in our search for God when it feels like the shoe is on the other foot. When you’ve exhausted all your avenues of find God and the path comes to a WALL.

     In my journey I studied philosophy for 3 years, trying to live by the precepts of each path. I tried to live by the teachings of other religious leaders— Mohammed, Buddha, the Torah, Hari Krishna…, all to great travail. In truth, I knew God wanted me, Jesus, specifically. So I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction; trying to escape the God Who, I learned, sought me.

     I hid in philosophic debate, academic prowess, theater, romantic relationships, and cross-country adventures. The end of my 3½ attempted escape all culminated in a prayer of “I give up. I cannot fight you.” sitting under the alter in an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan. My new life in Christ was inaugurated at about 3:00 a.m. that morning. No one was more surprised than I.

     My fledgling days as a new Christian brought new attitudes and actions into my daily routine. The biggest realization that dawned on my soul was, in all my efforts to find God, God was actually looking for me; boxing me in at every turn to draw me to Himself.

     So in your own search for god/God, don’t be too surprised when you find yourself leaning in a certain direction, on a path you had not previously intended to follow; irrespective of your religious background, cultural heritage, or academic pursuits.

     Pulling it all together, God is not some academic exercise that we postulate and create in our image. He is an amazing entity who resides outside this created realm. It is His to judge, to direct, to condemn, and to salvage. Do you really want to be on the wrong side of history when He comes to take what is His? Do you want to remain on the fence, waiting to see how things go, how things turn out, before His arrival?

     One of the greatest challenges of our time is a fear of commitment. Be it personal relationships, business commitments, or decisive decisions of any kind we hedge our bets. Something better might come along. Might?!? So we never fully commit to anyone, anything. This is not a good idea.

     Our God is a God of promises. He’s not messing with your life to screw you over.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— “When you’re going through hell… .” — Winston  Churchill.

Finding God: What are you looking for?

    The history of the telescope can be traced to before the invention of the earliest known telescope, which appeared in 1608 in the Netherlands, when a patent was submitted by Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker. Although Lippershey did not receive his patent, news of the invention soon spread across Europe. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepieceGalileo improved on this design the following year and applied it to astronomy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telescope


    The telescope was and is one of the greatest instruments for searching the heavens or peering across the cities to find our what’s on the other side. But to answer our question— What Are You Looking For? we need to turn our gaze inwardly, to explore our hearts, our minds, and our soul.

     Might I direct you to consider some of these questions as you explore—

1.       Why is there anything?

2.       Did a God create all there is? Or did it always exist? Or did it evolve from some primordial ooze?

3.       Why do you exist? Not just because you were born…, but what is your purpose(s) in being on this earth?

4.       Why do you seem to have a moral compass? A sense of right & wrong? Is it merely cultural?

5.       Do things just happen? Or do you sense some behind-the-scenes plan? Can you recalculate as you grow?

6.       What is that One Thing you want out of life more than anything else?

7.       What is the One Thing you must do before you die to make a difference? To leave a legacy?

8.       If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

9.       If you could change anything in your own life, what would it be?

10.   What else matters that you want to effect?

     Yes, I’ve pondered all these questions more than once; and come up with different answers as I’ve grown and changed through my experiences and perspectives on life. “Is Jesus Christ truly God incarnate and has He genuinely granted me a place in His Kingdom by His side?” is one question I roll around on an almost weekly basis. Faith is not a solid thing: it is a dynamic organism.

     If you believe you have all the answers, then you haven’t discovered most of the questions. When I was young in my Christian faith, I had all the answers…, just not all the questions. The Westminster Confession of Faith grounded me in Truth. But it left out some things— miracles, individual revelations, calling, spiritual intuitions, and, forever that bugaboo, gut feelings.

     So when I ask What are you looking for? I’m right there beside you, wondering about so many things myself, even though I am basically established, my Christian faith is still that…- faith.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What are you looking for? Pt.2 



Challenging Challenges: Our Own Mortality

     When we’re young we rarely think about dying. Unless a friend is suddenly taken in an auto accident, or by cancer, or some extreme medical situation. These are rare, but poignant, reminders that, someday, we will all meet our Maker. Or, if you are an atheist, you will simply cease to exist. Or you’re just not sure about all this morbid stuff.

     Look at the health and beauty industry. We do all we can to prolong our life AND our beauty. For some of us…, it works. But for most, no matter how much moola we sink into ourselves it just doesn’t matter. We will get old (some, not so graciously) and we will die.

     For most people there is a great fear of death that shrouds our every breath. When my wife and I were engaged we had to go visit her dying grandmother. She lived for another 39 years. Some people live dying: others will die living life to the fullest.

     So why does death, and the reality of our own mortality, plague us? For one, it is the ultimate, final equalizer. The question we each need to answer is— Is death it? or, Is there something else? Beyond. Only a few of us have ever escaped this eventual actuality. Some have passed over and returned, with various stories of afterlife.

     For genuine Christians, there truly is an afterlife. For others…, well!?! The question then is— where? More explicitly, where we will join God, our Lord Christ, His Spirit, and a myriad of friends and followers? Or hell, which will be…, well, hell.

     Our mortality can be either a question of termination, or a matter of transition. Personally, I do not need a heaven to be rewarded for the joy of serving the God of the Universe while on earth. I see it more as frosting on the cake. Mind you, I love frosting. But I don’t need it to honor our Lord while in this life. The joy of being his servant is enough.

     The real question is one of termination! How can we grow, raise families, make a difference, and just have all that simply come to an abrupt END? THAT’s what doesn’t make sense.

     By logical sequence there must be some form of continuation beyond this present life. Our life doesn’t end. It continues. The only question is where and to what purpose.

     So, how do you see your own mortality? Or should I say, your immortality? Do surprises lie ahead? Or do you look forward to a transition into something totally wild!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Making our Relationships Count