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 11- Facets of Faith

When Christians communicate our faith it is often in terms pieces of data. Facts transmitted as the core of what we believe. While the facts of our faith are critical they are not the underlying foundation. No.

       The underpinning of our faith lies in the actual person of Jesus Christ. To see Him as merely a man who dies on a cross to atone for our sins would be missing the point.

       The Christian faith is founded upon the entire life of Christ; how He lived, what He did with people, His surprising offers of forgiveness and restitution with God is where we can see the facets of our faith displayed beforehand in everything about Jesus.

       When He said I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly! (John 10:10.) He wasn’t kidding. It is sad that more people refuse His free offer of grace. In our present postChristian world there is barely even an understanding of what His life meant to us. He gave us LIFE! And too many of us refused it. Still do.

       I just don’t get it. The opportunity to have our rebellion against a Holy God obliterated is astonishing! Yet we refuse and clutch our own minuscule desires as if they are platinum. They are not.

       The facets of our faith are so much more than a simple summary of our faith. Our gospel should be a a glorious reflection of all that Christ was when He was with us. It is couched in His healing, His forgiveness, His compassion, and His passion.

       How we’ve come to offer His salvation in terms of acquiescence to simply a summary of data is a puzzle. Christ message of salvation is so much more than mere understanding. It is a heart/mind encounter that challenges our whole being.

       It is to experience His love and forgiveness in full. There are so many facets to becoming a Christian that any guide of how to become a Christian seems simply ludicrous to this writer.

       What about you? What do you think?

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

NEXT— Is there a simple gospel?

Road Map Here

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!

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

Being a Christian in a postChristian context

If you do not know that we are in a postChristian world, please crawl out from under your rock. Even Pauxatawney Phil crawled out a couple days ago and supposedly saw his shadow, [I, for one, do not believe he could have clawed his way through 3’ of ice hard snow to see anything. Except more snow.]

 First we doubt God exists. Then we question whether Jesus is actually, or fully, God. Then we believe ALL religion is a fabricated fantasy of human. So, what are we left with? We proclaim that we, mankind, are the creator and ruller of all the universe.

 But, seriously, when we remove God, especially a God-Creator, from the equation, what else, beside aliens, is left but…— us?!?

 Very few people have any sense of a need for forgiveness, restoration, new life, or vibrant living. Some, just want to get by. Others, want to stay below the radar. But there are those who strive for success, only to find it somewhat satisfying. They are all, or some, of the finest people in the world. But they are lost within themselves, with no safety hook to give them an anchor.

 How much they need genuine, loving, transparent Christians in their lives is incomprehensible. Jesus said we are the light of the world. If ever there were a time when we who follow our Lord need to come alongside of successful/silent people in this world, it is Now.

 Do we merely need to express our faith in an updated flavor past the 1950s one-size-fits-all? Again, move the Groundhog aside and crawl out of your cave. It’s 2022. NOT 1922, or 1970. How do people hear the Christian message today? And, do you really know what “the Gospel” actually is?!? Tell me. Tell me so a truly clueless postChristian can understand it in their context.

 Better yet, ask a genuine “normal” person what they think Christianity is all about. You will be unpleasantly surprised. FYI, most of us never bother to ask. We just start in with our speil.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being alone

Brrr…

  In training Christians to get in touch with our faith I often ask How does your faith feel? Too many of us have lost the emotional aspect of believing: it has become too cerebral, too focused on what is Truth and worried about how we are going to explain it.
   For a long time, I wondered if we had lost the heart of our faith to the mind of our faith. I’m still not sure we haven’t.
   In the early to mid-twentieth century, the liberal/evangelical dichotomy threatened to annihilate the whole gospel of Christ. Then the Pentecostal/Conservative split threatened to divide the emotive faith from the declarative faith. This, in turned, doubted our mystical faith as questionable, at best.
    It seems that any form or expression of faith that isn’t precisely in line with ours is to be held in suspicion. Brrrrr. Have we grown that cold and solidified in our faith as to prescribe the Holy Spirit’s work through history and across geography as to nail Him to the cross as well? Is our faith as temporally and geographically constrained that our God cannot do a new thing?!?
   Read any of C.S. Lewis Science Fiction trilogy? Is salvation for this earth alone?!? Imagine your faith in the grand dance of the miraculous cosmos. Kind of wild, huh!
   So now we arrive at a juncture where tight defining of faith is critical. Too many nuances have replaced traditional Biblical theology with doubt and distrust.
   We have gone too far. Whether liberal or conservative we have lost the heart of our faith to the right or to the left. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a political rallying point. It is the way out of all our divisions and political positionings.
   Jesus Christ ALONE stands as the focal point of history. He is not a tool of any personal or political position. Stop playing with fire.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]
   So let’s try this— youtube.com/watch?v=H2tOgCDohQk
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

Advent – Candle of Faith

The Second Candle in Advent represents FAITH. So few people have faith in anything these days. Faith in government is shot, faith in marriage vows has all but vanished, faith in a God who has our best interests at heart has failed all over the globe. We have truly descended to become a faithless generation.

Well, except for faith in money. We truly believe that money, lots of it, more of it, will save us. At one of the URBANA Mission Conferences I recall Rev. John R.W. Stott, then chaplain to the Queen, recounted a story of officiating at the funeral of a wealthy English Lord. A friend of his, a Dowager, leaned into him to ask, Vicar, how much did he leave? Rev. Dr. Stott wisely responded My Ladyship, he left it all!

Faith in money is foolish.

  In my cancer treatments, I am putting a lot of faith in my doctors. [I think I have four at present.] I am out of my element when it comes to radiation therapy. I have little choice but to put my faith in their training and treatment plan.

  It is much like that with Christian faith. There is little we can do to save ourselves. That was left to the Son of God as He poured out His life on a Roman cross. People often ask me if I am assured of my salvation. My response is that I do not have to be…, that rests in my Father’s hands. For the most part I enjoy being a Christian and living by the principles and precepts Jesus has laid out for us in Scripture. But then there are times when living the Christian life becomes quite difficult, especially inside the Christian community. Other believers can be so unforgiving and judgmental at times.

  So faith, our faith, needs the context of personal trial and error, where it has been tried and tested and proven under fire. Personally, I wish it were not so, but it is.  “   for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” [James 1:3 ESV] And I’ve never been good at tests.

  Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855] proposed that faith is like throwing yourself back into the darkness and finding that there is a God there to catch you. Well, I’m not so sure that is a great definition of faith. We have too much verifiable evidence from historical accounts and subjective validation that our faith has been proven over and over again.

  Can faith be explained away by skeptical and “rational” argument? Well, yes. But not without prejudice. Can the miracles of our faith be challenged? Of course. But they are not so easily dismissed. Too many eye-witnesses.

  Can the internal validation of faith be brought into question? Absolutely! But you would be hard pressed to argue with millions and millions of Christ-followers spanning 2,000 years of history that they were WRONG.

  So when you question your faith, or have doubts, remember the myriads of believers who went before you. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, banished from their homes, their communities, judged and exiled from their homes and countries, and, more so in our era, ignored. Yet I have often found in my life that people are hungry for what Starr and I have— an abiding peace in times of uncertainty, a stability they cannot attribute to financial security, and a life-joy that drives them crazy.
  So get an Advent wreath and light ‘er up! Consider where your faith lies.


  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Shephard’s Candle— JOY

The Gospel in Context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— working on it

The Gospel for People Who Know Nothing – pt.2

  

What we are facing is the new blank mind of people around the world losing their ability to imaging our gospel. It is not good news to them. It is the memory of European and American oppression. Throughout history Christian aggression and suppression have been the purveyors of our Christian faith.

      In America, the decline of Christian influence can be followed through the founding deists, separatist Puritans, our own Civil War, and two World Wars. Interspliced with seasons of revival meetings and a deeper divide between what we profess and how we live.

      How did we come to this?  

      Scripture speaks of people who have a form of godliness but deny its power. [2 Timothy 3:5] Since the close of the American Revolution (Colonial Revolt) our evolving country has given credence to a deity and its influence over land. But it has been more a matter of lip-service than reliance or acclaim. God is a convenient Deity. To counter this casual reference schools of higher learning were established to teach a more indepth understanding of God and His Word: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, to name a few.

      Overtime, they lost their cutting edge regarding our basic faith. Other “schools of higher learning” also shed their Christian moorings and limited their focus to the sciences, arts, and more practical concerns. It is not yet clear whether our nations colleges and universities will again respect the role and substance that Christianity provided for their foundations. But at this point they are primarily turning out well educated students with sparce knowledge of the Christian faith. A blank-mind. They know little, nothing, of our faith.

      What can be done about this?

      First, let’s admit that Christians have lost the culture wars, at least in America and Europe. Then we need to move on to construct wise courses offered alongside university courses, hopefully for credit, to educate genuine followers of Christ along side of any who want to learn the truth about our faith. Parachurch groups (IVCF, Cru, & Navs, etc.) have made some inroads; but now they are being challenged by antiChristian administrations across this country.

      Next, we need to uPgrade our Sunday schoolsand adult education in churches to address these objections to the claims of Christ. No more sweet bible stories or flannelgraphs about Jesus.

      Finally, and probably not really finally, we should enter into conscious service and love to those around us. Truly caring for their sorrows and hurts. Not as a ploy for the gospel, but as the gospel itself. Our job is to be salt and light, not condemnation, doom & gloom. It is God who will give them life: not us.

      We just need to walk in their midst and be light. Clear representatives of what genuine Christianity is all about.

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

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Gospel in context

Finding God: What are you looking for? A Guide

  As I wrapped up the initial What Are You Looking For? I realized that some procedural guidance might come in handy. So here is your GUIDE on how you might proceed.

1.       What have you done in life that you truly enjoyed? Earliest memory? Something that still lights you up?

2.       As you look back, what have been the tipping points in your life? You know…, those events or experiences that changed you.

3.     What difficult experiences have you had that make you shy-away from certain situations even today?

4.    How readily do you trust people?

5.    On a 1 – 10 scale, how likely are you take risks?

6.    What scares you, overwhelmingly? [beside these questions]

7.    How far into the future do you feel safe in planning?

8.    What are your wildest dreams? What dreams are you actually going for?

9.    Who can you talk with about this stuff? [buy dinner]

10.   What legacy would you like to leave behind? For family? For your community? For the world?

       In my arena of influence, I try to project what we need to do NOW to make a difference in the future. I know, I know, it’s a bit prophetic on my part. But I really enjoy dreaming the future, preempting problems, and creating things that others haven’t thought of yet. Fortunately, there are now many others who have joined the ranks of culture prophets and dream outside the box. Bill Edgar, Dick Keyes, and Richard Peace come to mind.

       One more thing to consider— How much do you rely on God in Prayer? To exclude Him in your processing is a grave mistake made by too many of us. He has a perspective on everything. Including you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take.

                                        ~Proverbs 3:5-6.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Conquering the Chaospt. 4.