The Whiskey Chronicles – Common Grace

One of the most incredible surprises of God is his gift of common grace. Basically, common grace is a blanket of protection that—

·       Keeps God from destroying us all for our constant rebellion and stupidity before Him.

·       Extends to us His blessing so we don’t kill each other but instead live in as much peace and cooperation as possible.

·       It is also a vessel holding Truth and favor for all peoples.

       Normal people have no sense that this is holding them together, and back from being their worst. People simply move along with their lives with little concern for the turmoil and conflicts all around us. The recent COVID19 pandemic put a crinkle in our style, but hardly a dent in the overall functioning of our society or the world.

       In the same ways that our world recovered from two major wars in the last century, we will, we must, recover and press forward to a healthier and more peaceful common good. If we do not… !

       Our world’s peoples rarely consider God’s restraint in all this. He is simply not a factor to consider. The Christian belief that He has His hand on/in everything is a non sequitur. He is simply not there.

       But what if they are wrong? Small miracles throw us off. Bigger miracles are harder to explain. We fight attributing them to any Supreme Being.

       Divine Intervention is definitively discarded.

       I must object Not so fast. Because we cannot empirically verify an event or act does not mean there was not a cause beyond our abilities to KNOW. Oh, we’ll find a scientific explanation for this later. Maybe.  

       Albert Einstein, quoting Bruce Cameron, observed Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Things that cannot be counted does not mean they are not there and have an influence on our everyday life.

       This is God’s Grace underpinning and infiltrating of everything we know; or…, don’t know. Just because we cannot see it or sense it does not mean we can discount it and it’s effect upon us. Grace permeates every aspect of our lives. Sometimes we become aware of it.

       So when those little miracles or Big Miracles enter our realms of existence, maybe we should not be so swift to write them off.

       On a personal note, I have been the recipient of many expressions of grace. As I often say God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. For is you trust Him, He will surprise you even more. In His grace.

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

Gary

NEXT— The Distance Between Us  

The Whiskey Chronicles-No Point of Contact

Road Map Here  

   When sitting under the teaching of Dr. Cornelius VanTil I learned that there was no point of contact between the Christian mind and the secular mind. Philosophically this is most probably true. But on a more practical, human experience level, this couldn’t be further from the Truth.

       We are all created in the Image of God. We reflect His character and His appearance. Not exactly sure how that works with the diversity of peoples and races and faces. But we “look like” our Creator: all of us.

       Then, there is something called common grace that extends to all of His creation. It’s what keeps God from destroying us in an angstrom of a second. Our rejection of his mark upon us has dire consequences. We do not do well when we deny or reject it.

       We put our lives at risk when we go beyond his perimeters of protection for our us.

       We may have no point-of-contact with the secular mind but most certainly do have common experiences with the men and women around us.

       Have children? Then you cannot believe that humanity was created basically good. Cute, maybe; but good?!? Not a chance.

       Have teenagers? End of argument. Married? ‘Nough said.

       We have innumerable things in common with common man. So how can anyone say we have no point-of-contact with normal people?!?  [Sorry Dr. VanTil.]

       Spiritually, in beliefs, in our life’s goals…, absolutely; there is no point-of-contact. But when we move outside of Life’s Ultimate Questions, we have so much in common. So much.

       As Followers of Christ we have a foundation to deal with all the insanities and intricacies of life. They are just as hard to face for Christians as other people would face. Coming alongside each other in life’s messes forms a bond that lasts a lifetime.

       If there were any place in reality where genuine Christians are needed it is in the anguish, the tragedy, the helplessness of other people’s lives. So let’s not be isolated Christians, insulated from those around us. We need to be genuine points-of-contact between our Lord and the world of diverse peoples around us, and around the world.

       ‘Nough said.

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

Gary

NEXT— Common Grace  

The Whiskey Chronicles- What Normal People think of Christians

Road Map Here

       As we begin our journey thru the twists and turns of today’s complex cultures, we do need some directions about how to proceed. Knowing what normal people think of us is an absolutely crucial starting point.

       This begs the question— So, how can we learn what normal people think of us and our faith?

       If I might be obviously crass, simply ask them. Why have we not thought of this before? We make so many assumptions about them, you might think they do the same about us. Well, not so much. Normal people rarely think about us or our beliefs. And why should they?

       Our perspectives on reality, relationships, and daily life events are different. Don’t misread me here. We love, we laugh, we hurt, we enjoy sports, or reading, or solving the impossible problems of some people. We have many similarities in our lifestyle and interests.

       But when it comes to beliefs, we part company. Most people do not develop a framework through which to filter life. They just live. And enjoy living! There’s nothing like a good cold beer, friends, and a baseball game at the end of the week.

       Christians always seem to have an agenda when we talk with people. Like we need to drive home a point about our faith or get you to sign on the dotted line. What we really need to do is spend more time in prayer for people. Talk is fine, but prayer gets things done.

       Yet when I spend time with people they are perplexed about Christians’ intensity, our drive, our desire to draw them to agree with us. Do we trust God for their lives? It doesn’t seem so.

       What they need to see more than anything else is our love, our caring, our sacrifices, and our willingness to accept them for who they are right now, at this moment. When Jesus walked our roads He was known as a safe person to be around— mostly. We need to become safe people for those around us.

       In many ways, safety is one of the basic foundations of our message. We want to make it safe for people to be around God. (more on this later). During the Middle Ages Christians would build structures (monasteries, convents) where people could come for protection, food, prayer and shelter.

       Is our time any different? The context for our message in our time is a safe place, a safe person, and a safe activity. People understand less about our faith now than at any other time in history. We truly need to show them our Lord in everything we do.

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

Gary

NEXT— No Point of Contact

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

Norman Rockwell Mosaic  "The Golden Rule"
United Nations Photo
https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/with/3311543811/

       We now come to the the final ingredient of why Christians exist in this mostly hostile modern postModern environment— bringing God and people together. Throughout history people have sought to find God and discover who we should be to Him.

       UNTIL these postmodern times.

       People, do not seek to find Him. They are not even sure He exists. Our search for meaningful relationships has shifted primarily to human relationships; especially sexual relationships.

       SEX seems to have replaced God as the primary foundation of all human interaction. Unbelievable!

              Of course, in mature relationships it takes its proper place alongside other concerns and values— mutual caring, sacrifice, functional practical realistic partnering. These aspects of relationship, and more, must retain a balance that always puts the OTHER first.

       It’s the same in our coming together with God. As human beings, we are designed to be in constant open relationship with the people around us: we are also designed to be in constant open relationship with the God who created us. If you don’t see this you need to go back to the drawing boards and your Bibles.

       More than that, you must believe that God, our Creator, put us here as part of His redemptive forerunners to bring this human race, these human societies & cultures to an understanding of the God who made them and gave His life for their salvation.

       THIS is the Christian Mission on earth. Nothing else.

       Our calling is to love God, to love people, and to bring the two together. It’s that simple.

       There is no need to memorize a gospel outline. Just walk into people’s lives and love Christ into them. When they are ready, they will ask about the hope that is in you. Or, more likely, “How do you deal with all the chaos and catastrophe around you?”

       They may not comprehend your answer; but you can clarify the work of Christ within you and watch Him work His miracles of redemption right before your eyes. God IS full of surprises.

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

Gary

Web: www.cluelessChristianity.org

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

Exuberant Faith – Wahoo!

It is true that the renewing of your mind is definitely an important prerequisite for our conversion to faith to be fulfilled. We have books and schools of thought, bible colleges, Reformed seminaries, more books and seminars that all help us to renew our mind.

But there is little out there to guide us in encouraging our spirit.

Contemporary Worship Services come close; but they’re not completely fulfilling in our daily lives.

We need more input to light up our spirits. Historical Christianity has always had misgivings about the role of emotion in our faith. “It cannot be trusted.” It is only our belief systems that provide a solid platform for us to rely upon. And measure.

So…, when did systematic theology supplant a passionate faith? The Apostle Peter wasn’t the most logical. Nor were the sons of Zebedee., nor the missionaries of the early church. There was just something different about them that attracted people to them…, & Jesus.

Could it be that they were excited over their salvation?!? Over being set free from the effects of sin on their lives? Could it be that they were filled with the Holy Spirit of God bubbling forth throughout their lives?

Solemnity has established a strong anchor within our faith. Yet there must also be a place for joy, for excitement, for overabounding faith.

When was the last time you were blown away at the work of Christ on the cross? That you were set free through His sacrifice? Forever!

Too many of us have equated decorum with worship. Why? I’m sure those first disciples were in no way excited about personal dignity. They had walked with Jesus Himself. They knew, firsthand, what the Savior of the world was truly like. He was energized about life and the LIFE He was bringing.

What’s not to get excited about.

Honor God, honor people, Make a difference,   WAHOO!

Gary