The Whiskey Chronicles – Learning to Listen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       So. Some suggestions.

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

2.      Shut-up a you face.

3.      Ask questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary

NEXT— No joy in life.

Road Map Here  

The Whiskey Chronicles 13 – Learning to Love

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

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

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

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

I Cornithians 13

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

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

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

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

     Well, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

Gary

NEXT— Learning to listen.

Road Map Here  

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

More Tired

Photo by Marco Verch

In this sequel I want to raise the question— How can we fight this ceaseless exhaustion? This is no longer a Western problem. It’s worldwide. The Japanese are notorious for being workaholics; so now the rest of the world has stepped in line right behind them. We are ALL working our fingers to the bone.

       I’ve found some things that have worked for me I’d like to pass along to you. I hope they help. (I know this sounds like I am asking you to DO MORE. But this is not the purpose of the following list. It is a call to FOCUS. Who do you need to be as followers of Christ in this increasingly fracturing world?]

       Sooooo…

1.      Care about something. Anything. Deeply.

2.      Care passionately! All talk and no action isn’t good for any of us.

3.      Instill your passion in others. You won’t get very far taking it on alone.

4.      Join local and national communities that share your passion.

5.      Focus…, but be open to learn, to change.

6.      READ about the broad field of issues facing our nation and our world.

7.      What weapons will you need to overcome this lethargy?

       For me it’s always been about passion. When I was trudging through my dissertation, I came across a quote by Georg Wilhelm Friedrick Hegel [1770 – 1831].

Nothing great in the world

Has ever been accomplished

Without passion.  

I am a visual-kinesthetic. Doctoral dissertations are linear-sequential. I was very passionate about what I was writing. There were many times I simply wanted to give up. But I didn’t. Passion carried me through.

       We each have only so much time to address the agonies of our world. What will you tackle? When will you get started.?  Now would be a good time… .

       Now go take a nap to get ready!

Honor God, honor people, Make a difference!

Gary

Tired

       If we were to look at a cultural quilt of the United States, and even of the world, we would find that most cultures, politics, businesses, people groups, families and individuals could be described as tired. We’re tired of our political landscapes becoming even more vitriolic. We’re tired of culture strife & conflict. Tired of deceit in business and government. We want to feel safe in our families and communities again. We want to feel safe within ourselves.

       It seems as if our whole creation is groaning and in travail until our adoption as sons. (Romans 8:19-22) It is not like being sick. It is being sick. Our world, her nations, and powers are struggling with a long-term global sickness. To make matters worse, we, as inhabitants of this realm, aren’t doing so good ourselves. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually we are in deep $#&%.

       I will not belabor how we got this way. We just did. It is the history of the human race. The question we must face now is— How do we address or minister to the sicknesses that encircle our globe?

       First, we must press beyond this endless weariness that has taken over our daily lives. Someone needs to rise to the fore and declare— Enough is enough! Maybe we need a leader in each realm of our reality. We need someone in the political arena, someone is the spiritual field, and someone in international relationships.

       Are you that person? Maybe not on a world stage, but in the realms where you live and move and have your being. I am a firm believer that we can and should make a difference in whatever situation we find ourselves.

       That being established, allow me to add that I personally have felt the weight of global/local tiredness. At first, I thought it was the aging process. But that was only part of it. I am just as guilty of running way too fast, like everyone else. Thus, I am tired. And I can’t keep up with the younger set anymore.

       We need to write on our morning mirror STOP! Or at least SLOW DOWN. Either of these admonitions should be a reminder that we do not have mythical super human strength.

       Or maybe our mantra should be— I’m only human; I’m only human; I’m only human. True, some people are more A Types than C types…, but that doesn’t mean we should continue at this frantic pace.

       Be still and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10] Remember?!?

       I often wonder that the reason we cannot slow down is all the voices clamoring for our attention.

… to be continued.

Honor God, honor people, Make a difference!

Gary

Web: www.cluelessChristianity.org

The Glory of God in Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

~ Psalm 19:1.

  This past weekend Starr and I took 2½ days in Rocky Mountain National Park just outside of Estes Park, CO.

  The picture for this EMPulse is outside the full length window …., in our shower. Yes, it had a curtain for the faint of heart.

  We had not been in the Park in quite some time. So, this was a special time for refreshment and rest. The place we stayed, Romantic Riversong Inn, was perfect. What a great place to get away and come along ourselves again. The evidence for God’s handiwork was everywhere.

  Hiking and relaxing went hand in hand with the beauty of our rest. We need to do this more often.

  So do you. Even without a window in your shower.

  With all the tragedy and strife, the heartache and loss, in this world around us, . Survival of the fittest be damned! This world, this universe, is God’s marvel. When our telescopes can peer back in time and find His works there, there is no doubt that the universe is His grandiose reflection. Didn’t we just photograph a young star that was 12.9 billion light years away!!! Truly magnificent!

  But I’ll settle for these Rocky Mountains in the middle of Colorado.

  Need more evidence of His majesty? The human body. Healing, both Divine and otherwise. Invention. [OK, I love Volvos.] Gentleness, Love, Gracious sacrifice. Birth…, of humans, animals, and all creation!

  The puzzling part is that we focus more on the agony we create than the beauty God has made. YES, we must confront the results of the destruction in our world; both natural and made by us. But there comes a time when we should pull away from the woes of this world and remind ourselves of God’s beauty.

  Starr and I encourage you to get away and breathe fresh air. Mountains or beach are equally suitable.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Swearing… to your own hurt.

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!

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