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  

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

After There’s Nothing Left: Soul Love

    Soul love is something both hard to define and something craved by every human being on this planet. It is the total love of one for the other; unrequited and free, without qualification or limit.

     Very few of us have experienced this kind of love. Stories and fables speak of it— Ruth & Naomi, Cupid & Psyche, Romeo & Juliet, Dr. Yury Zhivago & Lara. Young teens suppose they have found it. Newlyweds know they have. But what is it, really?

      Soul love is an unanswered love, one given expecting nothing in return. Many relationships fail because of “expectations” placed on the other to perform, to return an expected love demanded by the one giving love. This is not soul love. It is a business contract. A deal. A love not based on the emptying of ones-self, but of requiring recompense. Genuine soul love expects nothing in return. It loves with impunity, with no thought of compensation.

            Though most of us have been loved by another by at least one person in our loves, I have known only two soul loves, soul mates. One is my wife Starr, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.” Except for the death do us part part, we have weathered & faced many storms; probably more to follow; but we will face them together as soulmates.

      The other soulmate in my life has been with me longer than Starr. Since my sophomore year of college, in March as I recall, I have lived with someone who has never left me, who has loved me no matter how I have treated him. Someone who has never changed even though I have floundered and risen to fame numerous times. And, yes, you have guessed it— it is the God who created me, Jesus Christ.

      It is an odd thing to know you have a daily, ongoing, safe relationship with the God of the Universe. But I am not unique; there are others around us who have this relationship. This relationship provides me with the richest of soul loves. And it makes loving other people as simple as having a cup of coffee, or tea.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

                                ~ Matthew 11:28 ESV

      In your life, may you find as great a source of soul-love as I have found in mine.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— sources of soul love.

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission: The space between us

     This will be the last Intermission offering, so I thought I’d draw you to ponder the space between us. There are many distances to consider— here are a few.

  •  Physical space— Since we’ve moved to Colorado, we’ve come to see how much our friends in New England have meant to us. Though we stay in touch with a great number of them it is sad we don’t see as much of each other as we would wish. Sometimes, this makes Colorado a very lonely place. And although we’ve made new friends here, New England is still in our hearts.
  • Spiritual space— Within the Christian world we often speak of being on the same page. Though united in Christ, we still seem to find reasons to separate from one another. This need not be the case. When we each stand before God on that great day of judgement we will all be asked the same question— What did you do with my Son and his friends when you were on earth?

“For there is one Lord, …, “ (Eph. 4ff)

We need one another if we are ever to make an impact for our Lord and be stalwart against the attacks of our adversary.

  • Political space— After this last election year I believe we all need to put a little space in terms of political differences. Politics has defined us more than our faith. This must end. Donald Trump was never our savior, nor is Joe Biden the antichrist. Jesus Christ is the One who establishes Kings and governments and removes them as He sees fit. Do any of us truly believe politics will save us?
  • Heart space— We’ve wept over a lot of people and terrible situations in 2020. Lost friends, social violence, political radicalization, and COVID. My heart has been broken too many times, as has yours, I’m sure. I’ve been torn between serving and giving more and throwing my hands up in forlorn disgust. My heart needs space.

Still, the space between us has drawn my heart to deeper prayer for you, and a richer love for you, our friends, near & far. For now, we have a longing that is hungry with anticipation. We really want you to come to our “ranch” after this whole mess clears up.

      As 2020 finally comes to a close and we all look forward to a somewhat better 2021, we need to be as close to one another as we can. The prediction for a rough COVID winter ahead should not dissuade us from love and serving each other and those around us. It’s what Jesus did; it is what we must do.

May you have the Greatest 2021 ever!

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – ’twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse;

      This past Sunday we celebrated the fourth Sunday in Advent by lighting the Peace candle on our dining room table.

      This tradition is a good reminder that Christ came into this world to bring peace to all. In a very real sense He has passed that privilege on to us. So as we sit around a Christmas tree of sing Christmas Carols, let us all re-commit ourselves to being peacemakers in this world. Christmas is not about us, even though we give wonderful gifts to one another. It’s about the Lord God of the universe coming to this planet to inaugurate a new beginning for us all.

      So remember, the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, it’s probably because we are all so dead tired from decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, or remembering that one thing we forgot. We need to take a breather and quietly reflect before our Christmas trees what is the reason for the season.

  • It is walking within our world because He came to do the same.
  • It is genuinely loving the people around us because He first loved us.
  • It is committing to sacrifice…, again.
  • It is giving to the homeless, the sick, the elderly, and those less blessed than us, like He did.
  • It is bringing hopefaithjoypeace…, and Christ to those who do not have a clue.

      The night before Christmas could be a time of recommitment to those things that should truly matter in your life. It should be a time to count your blessings and to bless others. It should be a time when you finally shut down, take a deep breath, a sip on some eggnog, and thank God for the life you have lived thus far.

      We will be doing so; come join us…, wherever you live.

      For there certainly is more to come.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the space between us

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – Adventures in Advent

First three of five candles lit on an advent wreath

      Adventures in Advent! Wow!?! Where to start? Mary & Josephs’ journey from Egypt. No place at a guest house to stay…, except in the attached stable. Angels singing! Shepherds showing up. More Angels! Milk from a cow?!? Probably not.

      Moving along. Getting through 2020. Surviving COVID (sadly, not for all.). A “fascinating” Presidential election; which is now over…, right?!? Holiday traffic. More or less. Flying. In an airplane. Restaurants. “Business as usual.” NOT. Our booming economy! [Or have I spoken too soon.] Christmas Shopping. Making Jeff Bezos excessively wealthier.

      Whoa, partner. This is flustering even me as I write. Let’s get off the horse for a moment.

      Around our ranch we try to slow things down by using an Advent Wreath and Candles. I’ll reference a great link to their story Here. But here’s a quick synopsis of what the candles represent.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting.  
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace— He came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent pure light and victory.1

Maybe it’s time we reconsidered all the hustle and bustle around this Christmas season and focused our attention on the grand scheme of the Incarnation— of the Lord God of the Universe coming to our planet to draw it from its disastrous path of self-destruction and back to its roots— God the Father.

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— ‘twas the night before Christmas  

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission: Letting Go

2020 has been a year of hardships and sadness for too many of us around the world. Some of us have been through the horror of COVID19 and lived to tell about it. Others…, not so much. We’ve had to learn to let go of them. And, yes, it was painful.

     And it’s not over yet. There is more pain to come. And more sorrow. And more death.

     With this cheery intro I want to direct you to a question— What is it you need to let go? Decide now. Then hang on to what is more important, most precious, and most loved.

      But what if…? How will you handle it if your wife, your husband gets COVID? Or one of your kids? What if someone you love dies? These are serious questions in serious times.

      The issue, I believe, comes down to this. What do you have to rely on in these unstable economic days, in the uncertain times of COVID and death?

      It often seems that we hang onto things far too tightly. I’ve found that what I thought I needed when I was younger, I realized later I only wanted. Then as I matured (stop laughing) the things I thought I wanted I didn’t want, or need, at all.

      It’s all about relinquishing that desire to have MORE. MORE. Isn’t it time we all thought of a little sacrifice? Of giving to those in need.

      I’ve often tried to imagine the conversation that must have taken place in heaven prior to Jesus’ birth on earth. “Now as you descend to earth, my Son, you will be greeted by cows, and ox, and chickens. There will be a few humans there as well. Obviously, Joseph and young Mary, your mother. A few shepherds will trickle in throughout the night.

      “They will find you in a barn-like lean-to, lying in an animal feeding trough on a swath of hay, which I will prevent them from eating.

      “For the next 30 or-so years you will learn to work with your hands. Following which you will begin your short 3 year ministry to draw people back to Me. Most of your own kind will reject you. Actually, they will hand you over to their conquering overlords to be executed.

      “But not to worry…, I have a greater plan for you, and for them.

      “Now get going.”

      I wonder if Jesus had a hard time letting go?!?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the Adventure of Advent

After There’s Nothing Left: an intermission – Caring

It was a simple act. On a bitter cold, windy day a store employee was helping me load some groceries into the trunk of my car. As I thanked him, I offered him one of those wrapped little Life Saver mint. But his response poured out with gratitude. He wondered if anyone noticed the kind of work he did in this bitter weather. There was hardly anything I could do that would be smaller than this stupid Life Saver.

      It’s curious sometimes when such small acts of caring put such a smile of thankfulness on peoples’ faces. Now, whenever he sees me, he gets a big grin on his face…, and holds out his hand for the expected mint.

      Caring for people is so easy. Just think outside yourself. What do they need? What would they appreciate? What would make a big difference? A small difference. One of my friends left a $100 tip on a $65 meal. He was celebrating having just earned $1 million for the year, so far. It was the beginning of March.

      The difficult part is thinking-outside-our-little-self-absorbed-boxes. Putting other peoples’ needs before our own is critical in laying a foundation of caring. After a while, we don’t even notice that we are sacrificing; because it no longer becomes a sacrifice. It’s just the right thing to do.

   Allow me to propose some simple, yet significant, unexpected acts of caring.

  • Pay for someone’s gas at the pump.
  • Cover the meal for the table next to yours, without telling them.
  • Pay somebody’s rent.
  • Instead of trading in a car for a new one, give it away (unless it’s a clunker).
  • Pay for the groceries of the woman in front of you at the grocery check-out. The one with the screaming kids in tow.
  • Give more away. 10% is a minimum. Try 15%, 0r 20%. Off your gross.
  • Think Random-Acts-of-Caring.
  • LOVE…, expecting nothing in return.

      There! That should get you started.

      Oh…, and do I have to mention?!  Merry Christmas!

Honor God, honor people, show you care,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— caregiving

After There’s Nothing Left: What Forges Forgiveness?

forging, forgivenessThe title of this subsection is not merely titled for the sake of alliteration. Rather, it is a serious question around a quite somber difficulty for many, many people. Forgiveness. In general, people find it difficult to forgive; conversely, unless in a court of law, to receive forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is something that is forged, like a steel blade tempered in the fire, heated to the point of meltdown, then hammered to utility on an anvil. Finally, it is sharpened to perfection at the hand of a master sword-maker. So also is forgiveness. It does not simply show up. It goes through testing, hammering, reheating, reworking, and sharpening. Then, when its work is accomplished, it becomes one of the most powerful spiritual weapons anyone might possess. The admission that you are forgiven, truly, by the Lord God Creator of the Universe, is to realize that you can risk your life more than you ever deemed possible. To be forgiven is to be empowered by God to make a difference. (It is also quite a countermeasure against depression and defeat.)

      There are a myriad of aspects to forgiveness that could be considered here. But I will limit our discussion to only five. Here are the first two.

Forgiveness for Others

      Though we are admonished to forgive those who have wronged us it is not quite as simple as that. Some of those wrongs have wreaked havoc with our lives, our livelihood, our families, and our financial security. Forgiveness often takes quite an extended period of time. Here then, again, is the matter of trust. Can we ever trust the other person(s) again? That is a much larger issue. Mix in a reality that some people who have wronged us believe they have done NO wrong: they believe they were righteous and right in their pronouncement of judgment upon us. They were justified in what they did or said. Can/should we forgive those who have not come to repentance before us, let alone before the God of the Universe?

      It is extremely hard to forgive others…, especially if you believe they are in the wrong. Conundrum.

      I believe forgiveness of others can only be fête accompli thru true humility and contrition; a willingness to take the lower place, even if the other party or person is clearly in the wrong. This is not to say that your forgiveness is ignorant of the facts. Rather, it chooses to take the subservient position for the sake of resolution, of restitution.

      At times, it may be the case, that you are unable to extend forgiveness to another. This is usually reflective of a long-standing, deep-seated pattern of being betrayed or hurt by others who did not seek your forgiveness. Or, it could also mean you are just so mad at present, that you are still out for vengeance and/or revenge. Seriously, not quite healthy all the way around. Nonetheless, you need to deal with your anger/grief and come to a point of genuine, heartfelt forgiveness…, no matter how long it takes. It rests on you to take the higher ground. If you cannot, or will not, forgive, how will you ever receive it from others? How will you receive it from God?

Forgiveness from Others

      There isn’t one of us who hasn’t hurt another person. Accidentally, thoughtlessly, casually, or intentionally, we all have inflicted wounds on one another. Some wounds we inflict are intentional. Retaliation. Revenge. Reprisal. And we know we are doing it. If there ever were an instance of moving over to the dark-side, this would describe it; the deliberate act of hurting another.

      But our confusion arises when the one we have wronged comes to forgive us. What will we do?

      It comes down to an issue of individual arrogance. If someone offers you forgiveness the implication is that you have done something wrong. Of course, if this is true…, you don’t want to be reminded of it. If you DO receive their forgiveness, then you find yourself in an awkward spot. You’ve received forgiveness, admitting your evil intention, and now… what? Feels squeamish, doesn’t it.

      May I suggest that you admit your wrongness and simply say “thank you.” Or, “Thank you. I hope you can forgive me. How do we move beyond this?”

      Inversely, if you cannot receive forgiveness, how will you ever extend it to other people?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

[note: you may never come to a place of forgiving another person without the assistance of the God who made you. It sounds trite, but I have found that the bond I have with Jesus Christ has done more to enable me to forgive another person than I imagined possible.]

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness for myself, for God, and from God

After There’s Nothing Left-Starvation, Isolation & Unfulfillment

isolation-3155603_960_720  Although there are many more causes of depression, I will consider but three more here. Then we must move on to some practical solutions for the things that bleed us dry.

8.  Soul Starvation

As your soul continues to be drained of strength, Soul Starvation sets in. Your exhaustion turns to a relentless sense that you will never get back to who you once were. You will never find the emotional/spiritual resources you need to recover from this passionless, vacant life. You are starved for life, friendship, feeding, and a fresh start. But this continual stagnation of your spirit constantly adds to your emptiness and the exhaustion of your soul gets worse and worse.

  1. Isolation

      This, then, leads to Isolation. Not that you cut yourself off from your family, your work, or the rest of society. You continue to participate, sometimes as though by rote, in the daily rhythm of life, but within your soul you are intolerably alone. You are a shell. You are either in cover-up mode, intentionally living behind a façade, or have dropped out of the stream of life altogether. Even though you know this is not good for you, you do it anyway. It’s just easier.

      For when your soul is completely exhausted you have little strength to live, to do anything, let alone to intermingle with friends. Isolation, for some, sadly, leads to remorse. Thoughts of suicide enter their plans of coping with this incessant agony. Your agony is a denial of anyone who cares for you enough to make a difference, even the God who made you.

  1.  Unfulfillment

      The final cause of depression I will mention is Unfulfillment. We settle for less than we know who we are or what we can accomplish. Again, we become a shell— of who we once were, or of who we believe we can never become. (There are certainly many more causes of depression, but these are the ones I have found, in my experience, to be the most destructive of a person.)

      When we are young the world lies before us, wide and beautiful, full of love and wonder. I, like you, had dreams of what I would DO with my life. As I grew into my 20s and 30s those dreams were honed and clarified. I was ready! Of course, the organization for which I worked did not have the same dreams that I did and we had a very sad parting-of-the-ways. It was at that point I learned I would have to fight to bring my dreams to reality. Incidentally, what I dreamed as a youth had little to do with the scope of what I am doing today. I simply did not have enough life-experience to dream that big. That has changed.

      For what seemed like an eternity, my dreams were on the back shelf. I was unfulfilled. My mind was bursting with ideas and energy within; and I was told to wait. Finally, at age 40, I stopped waiting and drew my dreams off the back shelf and put them into action. It was risky, scary, challenging, and exciting! I regretted waiting ‘till I was 40 to begin my fulfillment stage.

      Living a life of unfulfilled aspirations, truly, inextricably, leads to soul exhaustion and depression. “Doing the next thing,” only creates a drudgery that epitomizes exhaustion.

      If your life is presently in an unfulfilled stage, and has been there for more than a year, it is time you started thinking about shifting to another reality; one, wherein, you have a greater sense of making a difference. NOT to do so is to allow one more cause of soul exhaustion to govern and defeat your spirit.

     Soul Exhaustion is a serious component of depression. There are many contributors and causes that can be identified. What we’ve considered so far is only a first step in dealing with this depletion of spiritual, emotional, and physical loss. The rest of this book (er, these articles) will offer some ideas, and some encouragement, on overcoming your own depression and living the life that God intended you to live.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Solutions— Getting some rest.