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

Growing Moldy

   Being molded by God is not the most pleasant thing in the world; though it is necessary if we are ever to be useful to the God Who made us. Our Lord is shaping us for…, whatever.

     Often I ask people, Christian and otherwise, “What is God designing you for in the next phase of your life?” Some people don’t think God has anything to do with their life. I tell them “I hope you’re right.” And I walk away bewildered at their blindness. There’s just too much evidence that God is molding us, whether we acknowledge it or not.

     If our Christian life will become what we want it to be; we will not grow into what our Lord wants us to be. And…, we will become moldy, yucky Christians— not molded by our Lord. Just moldy.

     Moldy Christians do little more than turn a whole Body into a festering infection on their surrounding church of believers. Yuck!

     And they are not easy to identify or get rid of. You can identify them as they talk a good talk but do little to bolster and build up those around them. Avoid them.

     Mold. Wrong kind.

     Make sure you are the kind of Christian who builds up others, who brings peace and forgiveness wherever you go. Someone who comforts and cares for those who mourn. Especially those who do not know Him.

     What our world needs, desperately, are people who bring the arms of Jesus to wrap around those in pain.

     What our world needs are genuine followers of Christ that embody kindness, love, acceptance, and honesty.

     Moldy Christians do not feel like Jesus. We feel like inconsequential Christians. All of us Need to be a little more like Jesus…, a little less like me. [Thank you Zach Williams.] Yes, even within our own quirky personalities.

     Finally, please, do NOT turn into one of those finger pointing, judgemental Christians we all hear about. We are being shaped to be healers, comforters, mourners, partiers, and worshipers. Servants.

     Please, become who God is forming you to be…,  not some pathetic little mass of pity and complaint who no one wants to be around. Moldy Christians are neither attractive, or life-giving.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Ukraine

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  

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

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

The Gospel in Context

      Although we in the West too frequently assume that our Gospel can be summed up neatly in a four-point outline that is not necessarily true for much of the rest of the world. If we are honest with ourselves, four-point gospel outlines are no longer appropriate here either. They assume too much background knowledge on the part of the hearer. It is no longer there.

      It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi as saying Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. Whether he said this or not, the saying has a point. WORDS alone are not the gospel. ACTIONS must proceed, accompany, and follow its explanation.

      More recently, we had The Wordless Book, where the black page represented our sin, the red page pointed to Jesus blood shed for us, the white page depicted our cleansing from sin, purity, and the gold page our reward in heaven. Sounds great if you’re a white evangelical American Christian, right. Great for children.

      But if you are an African black man, the booklet represents something quite different. Black is the color of life. Red is the color of white man’s warfare. Gold is what the war and bloodshed is all about. And White is the color of Death. So much for The Wordless Book as a tool of explaining the gospel.

      The Gospel of Christ is always bounded by at least four qualifiers— the Scriptures, the surrounding culture, the personality of the presenter, and its accompanying acts of kindness and love. If we do not take into consideration ALL of these factors, then our offer of Christ as Lord and Savior will be out of context for those we want to draw to Him.

      Another concern we must take into account is our own heart. Do I love this person? Do I know how to love this person? Sometimes I think that the language of romance is more appropriate to evangelism than any formatted presentation. Is my heart into this stuff? Or is this just another academic practice of the Christian agenda?

      Some years ago, when we were looking for a good definition for evangelism, the phrase to love the hell out of a person rose to the surface— theologically and practically. It just seemed to make sense.

      Missionaries throughout history have been spurred on by their passionate love for a people who they knew very little about; yet, somehow, grew to love them with the sacrificial love of Jesus. Are you there? Or is evangelism still simply about commando-raids into our evil culture?

      I pray that God will break your heart for one, two individuals and you will fall in love with them and want them to have what you have. Not heaven, but heaven here in earth— a tight meaningful relationship with the God who made them— Jesus Christ.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— working on it

Jerks-for-Jesus… revisited

     It’s not that they were evil or unkind; they were merely afraid and judgmental, wanting to protect their own faith and that of their families. Any true believer could not have friends who were in the world. This turned our witness in this world into commando raids, followed by a regrouping and a debriefing session back in the safety of a Christian conclave.

     I judged this model of evangelism and condemned it. I was wrong.

      These were simple people in postwar America who wanted to escape the horrors of man’s hatred of man.

      Unfortunately, this pattern dragged into the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s to become a format for the evangelical sector of Christians in our country. Forty years later, it still holds sway over some expressions of our faith.

      Today, in these early decades of the 21st Century, true followers of Jesus cannot be afforded the safety of cocooning within our fortresses of Christian fellowship. Our world has lost any historical understanding of the nature of our faith; and the media seems only interested in reporting the aberrations. And there are many.

      Might I suggest we adopt the example of our Lord Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

      If Jesus could forsake the glory and safety of Heaven and take on the form of common man, can we do any less?!? Our mission is to this world, to those around us, to those He has placed in our path. We do not have to go very far to find the mission our Lord has created for us. But we DO have to come alive to the consciousness that it is there.

      The waitress, the banker, the business associate, the neighbor, the sales-person, the little league coach, the golf partner, the fellow mountain climber risking their life right beside (or below) you, the biker, fellow soldier, the auto repairman, the barber, er, stylist, the insurance agent, the backyard football fanatic, your kids, others peoples’ kids, or even your agnostic angry relative. Really, they’re just not that hard to find.

      All Jesus wants us to do is to make time for them in our over-packed schedules and to love them. It will feel intentional at first; but once you fall in love with the people God has placed in your path, you will never do evangelism again. You will simply be drawn to draw them to your Savior & Lord.

      Oh, yeah, the Jesus model.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel for people who know nothing. Pt.1.3  

Challenging Challenges: ReShaping our Faith

Some years ago, a man argued with me that drums in worship were of the devil— especially the snare drum. Why? Because they were used in dance halls. It reminded him of women’s bodies shaking.

      Well, we’ve come a long way baby.

      Although the former Pentecostal movements of the 1940s-1960s may have gone too far, the pendulum has now sung the other way where many Christians are turning back to the rich liturgy of the 14th Century.

      Please consider this— that both have gone to the extreme in reformatting their expressions of faith to accommodate the worshiper.

      Over the years and through my travels I have observed that our Christian faith to be aligned to fit the expressions of the host culture.

      Latin American expressions of faith are different from many North American expressions. African expressions differ from Western and Eastern expressions. And Chinese expressions are as diverse as the country is vast.

      So, how do you express your faith, both within the church and out there, among normal people? I pray its’ expression is neither too archaic nor too avant-garde. Our faith should be communicated in the idioms and expressions of our host culture, no matter our geographic location.

      But ALL must have certain common concerns.

1.       A broken heart for the poor and needy.

2.       Proactive in seeing social justice done.

3.       A heart for God; not simply a head.

4.       A deep passion to draw others to the feet of Jesus.

5.       A love of life!

6.       A hunger to immerse ourselves in God’s WORD!

7.       A calling to involve ourselves in this neutral or aggressive pagan world around us.

8.       A deep longing to see God.

9.       Joy in being with God’s people.

10.   A practical prayer life that summons the power of God to intervene.

     However you reshape your faith, make sure these ingredients are contained in its new awakening.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Isolation