The Whiskey Chronicles 17 – Deep Prayer a Mystery

On the north wall of my study hangs one of my favorite paintings of all time. It is St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata. Painted by Jan von Eyck around 1428-1432, it depicts St. Francis in such deep prayer that he received the stigmata, the actual wounds of Jesus Christ— when He was nailed to the cross.

               Whether this actually happened is not the point. The point is this— that Francis was known as a man of deep prayer.

               This begs the question of us. What is your prayer life like?

               I refrain from wondering whether it would ever be to the depth of St. Francis. Our society moves far too fast for that.

     But do we, as 21st century Christians, set aside enough time to enter into deep prayer? It is not an easy thing to do. So much becomes us to remain immersed in normal, human concerns.

     Yet if anything is necessary for God to work His miracles through/in us it is the holy task of coming apart from our world for a time of deep, worshipful prayer. There is no substitute for it. NO substitute.

     Too many of us have lost any ability to pray at all. It has been relegated to the status of filler in our faith and service. As was the case in many colleges & universities in the sixties, chapel service was mandatory. One chapel speaker grabbed me like no other. He stated emphatically that Prayer is NOT the preparation for the battle. Prayer IS the battle. From that moment on I started to change my attitude and practice of prayer.

     Drawing aside for a couple of hours, or days, of prayer must be central to our faith. Otherwise, we will never engage those around us with the power of the gospel. It will, instead, remain mere words, mere explanation of facts.

     We must become intrinsic vessels of Christ that hold His Truth deeply entrenched in every fiber of our being. Anything else would be a meagre transmission of data. This is not the gospel. The gospel must engulf us fully if it is to engage the hearts and souls of others.

     In every sense of the word, WE ARE the Gospel.

     One of my favorite quotes from Francis [now attributed to another.] is Preach the Gospel at all times…, when necessary use words. This cannot be accomplished without a basis in deep prayer in ourselves.

   So, please, fellow Christ follower, give yourself over to secluded times of friendship with our Lord. It is exactly what each of us need. It is also what our pepole need in us if they are ever to see Jesus in us. Prayer is the presence and practice of Jesus Christ in us, flowing to others.

     In deep prayer…

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

Gary

NEXT— no expectation that God is at work

The Whiskey Chronicles 12 – Is there a Simple Gospel?

      I became a Christian through studying and living various philosophies of life: both secular and religious— Western thinkers and Eastern mystics. To say that I had multiple personality disorder, not to mention semi-schizophrenic weirdness would be an understatement. But I learned that people come to Christ through various paths, not quite fitting our traditional evangelical pattern.

       Is there a simple gospel?  Hummm. Well, yes and no. Albert Einstein once said that we should strive for truth to be simple…, but no simpler. There are countless books and pamphlets written on the Simple Gospel.

       Over the years I’ve learned that our Gospel takes multiple forms. Sometimes it’s just a prayer of faith, in response to an encounter with Jesus. Other times, it can be a complex matrix of interconnected ideas and statements, when a questioner needs a more in depth explanation of the Gospel’s place in the grand scheme of things.

       It all depends on the context of the individual, or group, or forum, seeking a deeper understanding of what the message of our Lord Is.

       People who communicate our message in multiple cultural situations must deal with this constantly. Wycliffe Bible Translators face the nuances and meanings of our message in every culture. Actually, in our American Multicultural Conglomerate there are as many “contexts” for the Gospel as there are around the world.

       When theologian Carl Barth was asked this question he merely recited a children’s song— Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. In so many cases this may be all someone needs to explain Jesus.

       Today (2022), in North America at least, there is very little understanding of what Christianity is all about. In our population at large, very few people even attend church, let alone have any rich understanding of the genuine nature of our faith.

       The gospel is as simple or complex as it needs to be to draw people to the feet of Jesus for forgiveness and new life. Anyone who claims otherwise is either manipulative or ignorant. Our Lord calls us to be lovers of people and lovers of God. To reduce the message of Jesus Christ to mere words misses the point of our faith in Jesus completely.

       So much of our Christian message is simply to fall in love with people for the Gospel’s sake.

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

Gary

NEXT— Learning to love.

Road Map Here  

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

The Whiskey Chronicles 9 – Challenges Christians Face

       In 2006 John Stott wrote a book titled ISSUES FACING CHRISTIANS TODAY. Although many of those issues persist to this day, it should serve as a reminder to face the rising issues in our own day, 2022. Some seem ever to be with us— plagues, racial violence, wars, growing poverty, government inequities, and the like. But there are issues we personally face on a daily basis— grief, poverty, family breakdowns, insecurities, personal failures, loss of faith in anything, death, and all of its ramifications.

       As an introduction to this section we need, we must, decide what our stance will be as genuine followers of Christ. Some questions… .

1.      Will we engage our society, and those we know, in these confrontational conditions?

2.      Will we, instead, form cloisters of community that withdraw from our world?

3.      How will we give an answer of our faith to the increasingly clueless people we know in a way that they can understand?

4.      How will we serve and love those who think we are clueless or crazy or just plain irrelevant?

5.      How can we contribute to our culture(s) in gracious, creative ways?

6.      What do we do when we are ignored?

7.      How can we prepare to face persecution… and death?

8.      How can we learn to love people who hate us?

9.      What if they go after our children?

10.   How can we overcome fear?

       There are, I know, many more issues we must grapple with; but you get the point. We have been facing a more belligerent society for at least 75 years in America. It will get worse for us. When? How? Who knows?

       I don’t want to sound like a Doom-Sayer, but we are heading for an era where the Christians will not know the freedoms and acceptance we do presently. Don’t believe me? Look at history. Or look at our own Scriptures—

For a time is coming

When people will not endure

Sound teaching.

They will follow their own desires

And look for teachers

Who will tell them whatever

Their itching ears

Want to hear.

       ~ 2 Timothy 4:3.

or,

… and you will be hated by all

For my Names’ sake.

But the one who endures the end

Will be saved.

Matthew 10:22.

       Most of us are not ignorant of what is to come. Few of us are preparing for it.

       I remember back in the 1950s and ‘60s Americans were building bomb shelters for our families. There was little concern for the family next door. It was all about PROTECT OUR OWN! Even fine Christian people were stock-piling food…, for ourselves. This felt so anti-Christian to me I could barely believe what was going on. Gun sales were UP then as well.

       But this is today. What challenges will we, as genuine followers of Christ, encounter?

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

Gary

NEXT— NO POINT OF CONTACT

Road Map Here  

THE WHISKEY CHRONICLES – 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

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

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

SWEAR…. to your own hurt

Handfasting ribbons hand woven by the bride's best friend
wedding officiant -http://www.goddessweddingceremonies.com/

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!