The Whiskey Chronicles 22 – Ships passing in the night

 I once gave my wife a greeting card of two ships passing in the night. In reference to our busy lives, the inside simply read We’re like two ships passing in the bathroom. Too true.

     Applying this to our interactions with normal people we are much the same. Too many of us are simply oblivious to their need for our Lord. Oh, we know it to be true on a mental level; but that doesn’t often translate to a personal level. We are ships passing in the night.

     We spend our lives with people who have increasingly less and less comprehension of the Christian message of salvation, faith, and forgiveness than at any other time in modern history. In a sense we have entered a new Dark Ages for the Christian faith.

     It is true that most people reject the Christian faith. But now they reject it out of ignorance more than out of understanding. They do not reject the salvation of Christ out of disagreement; rather, they simply ignore it. We just do not take the time to understand their world enough to explain our faith to them in a format that they can understand and respond to.

     It rests on us to do the hard work of giving our message a context. Some of the areas we must consider are— language, reference points, past inaccuracies, trust, prior knowledge, prior misinformation, bad experiences with other believers, sad experience in the church.

       Then again, we constantly explain the facts of our faith without couching it in love. This is not the gospel. The offering of our Lord to someone always needs His embracing love as its cradle. Calling a person to repentance must have a framework of forgiveness. Why would anyone repent if there were no offering of forgiveness? Beheading certainly does not encourage one to repent.

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

Gary

NEXT— no need for religion, or Christ

Web: www.cluelessChristianity.org

The Whiskey Chronicles 21 – Inaccurate, Inappropriate, & Unintelligible

       One of the issues I have with our Christian message is that it too often comes across as inaccurate, inappropriate, and unintelligible. The general problem in Europe, Asia, China, South Africa, Canada, and the United States is that our message is being presented in such a manner that it does not relate to the normal peoples of these cultures. We are religious freaks to most normal people. All of us.

       And we speak a language that is totally unintelligible to them. We tell them that they are sinners; and that has no point of reference for them. Hitler, maybe; but not us.

       And we choose the most inappropriate times to bring up our faith and their lack of faith. [Birthday parties and celebrations are NOT the time.] Seriously, who do we think we are?!? We just don’t get it!

       Then our understanding of their life and world is, for the most part, completely out-of-touch. We make assumptions about what non-Christians believe, the way they live, and what they think of us without ever asking them directly. We hold an inaccurate estimation of our pagan brothers & sisters that adds to the rift between us. Thus, my position of the importance of a dram of Single Malt Scotch. [More on that later.]

       We need to make more of an effort to walk in their world, in their successes and struggles, than we have been. Without Judgement! God is their Judge. We are not. We are their fellow beggar telling them where we have found bread.

       At the very least, we should walk alongside them, in the gutter, in the Board Room, in the prison, in the restaurant, in the supermarket, in our neighborhoods. This is imperative.

       Our job is not only to point them to our Lord. It is to be their companion as we travel the road together.

       Learn their language. Do not judge it. Listen to their struggles. Do not judge them. Hold their hearts in your hands. Do not crush them. Celebrate like crazy with them wherever we can! Do not hold back.

       And invite them into your lives, into your struggles and celebrations. Be REAL with people. Kill the nice Christian façade.

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

Gary

NEXT— we are like ships passing in the night— our constant mindset

New Years 2023

New Years Eve by the Fire

       It’s late. I’m sitting by the fire next to our Christmas Tree remembering so much of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this past year.

       I entered 2022 with a final radiation treatment for cancer. A year later, it seems that I’ve beat it. Praise God!

       In many ways I have new eyes to see. Not just new lenses in my eyes, but personal/spiritual eyes as well.

       Our Lord has been honing and refining me through extended times with Him. A lot of my arrogance-of-accomplishment has been ripped away; polishing continues. My personality has also been tempered to become more like Christ’s. We extroverts have a tough time with that.

       One thing that has helped with that is Christmas. Every year, especially in these recent years, the miracle of Christmas— that the God of the Universe would take the form of a helpless baby to be born to a 16 year old out-of-wedlock Jewish girl, in a backwater town in an insignificant Roman province in an era with little considerable technology, is still a miracle to me.

       I had become a Christian after trying to live various philosophies of life when I was in college. To say I was a basket case would have been obvious. For two years I struggled to find any other explanation of life, save the Christian one. But the only belief system, the only existential, reasonable I constantly returned to was Christianity. Thus, 60 years later, it is the only adequate faith I have found that fits reality best. Wow!

       So as you and yours enter 2023, inspect your faith. Does it answer life’s most difficult questions? Does assist you in making daily decisions? Does it provide you with a basic rubric for living? Is it still reasonable? Reliable? Realistic?

       Have you updated your faith to meet the challenges our culture today? Or are you still in the same ‘ol, same ol’ format of faith formed for the late 1940s and early 1950s?

       These are the meanderings of my mind as I welcome in 2023. What a fantastic way to start a new year! Do with them what you will. I’m going to bed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!

Gary & Starr

 www.cluelessChristianity.org

Image Credit-  Gary Davis

The Whiskey Chronicles 19- Do Not Know ANY Genuine Christians

       One of the major issues normal people face is that they don’t know any genuine Christians. They may know some, but the Christians have not made their faith evident to them. Or, their faith is not evident to other people in general.

       Most normal people are not simply going to pick up a Bible and start reading. In our biblically illiterate society that could be disastrous They are more likely to be attracted to someone they believe is a Christian and talk with them about what they see. The problem we face today is that our Christian faith is not all that distinguishable. Christians do not readily talk about their faith. Many cannot even articulate it clearly.

       Too many Christians do not lead very Christian lives. We are not known for being a loving people. We are not known for being overly sacrificial, let alone giving freely to those in need.

       So, it has become somewhat difficult to identify the true Christians in our society.

       Then there are the caricatures of Christians we seem to have everywhere. I’ve met them: so have you. Sadly, so have many others who now want nothing to do with our faith because of them.

       What would be the marks of the genuine Christians within our society?

1.      Giving. Constantly! Everywhere and to as many people or services as possible…, and not just to Christians services. Paying someone’s mortgage/rent for a month.

2.      Feeding people. Constantly. Everywhere and to as many people as possible. Volunteering in Soup Kitchens is only the tip of the iceberg. Or should be. My wife makes a wicked chili con carne. I’ve perfected the art of grilling steaks. Any takers?

3.      Sheltering the homeless. Working in a Shelter. Founding a Shelter. Giving a homeless couple temporary housing where you live. OR, a couple nights in a motel in bitter cold weather.

4.      Having and making a guest room always available in your home/apartment.

5.      Performing daily acts of simple kindness.

6.      Being loving in ways that the other person feels loved. Sacrifice!

7.      Supporting causes that promote world peace and local reconciliation.

8.      Funding global hunger relief.

9.      Being mediators in our society and between people we know.

10.   Striving to give our message a context.

       People may not think that these activities and characteristics are sourced from Christian beliefs. That may take a good bit of verbal intercourse. But they will never seek our Lord without some of these demonstrations of Christ’s love for them being present.

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

Gary

NEXT— Fear & Disgust

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 16 – Cloistering & Cocooning

 An unconscious practice many Christians don’t know they have is that of cloistering and/or cocooning. With the first, we huddle within our own tribe. It’s not a conscious act; it is normative to any affinity group with a common interest. Reading clubs. Baseball teams (and their fans). Fantasy football, C.S Lewis aficionados. Mountain bikers. Prayer groups. Dinner parties.

              We hang with people who are like us, who have common interests. Affinity groups.

              The other inclination of many Christians is, what Faith Popcorn termed, cocooning. We hide out within our own little perimeters of safety, a cocoon, to protect us from those outside our common-interest group. The world “outside” can be a scary place for many followers of Christ. So, when not with fellow Christians, we tend to hide in our own, safe, world, venturing out only to go to the bank or to go shopping.

         We very much keep to our own or stay alone. It’s safer that way.

         Unfortunately, this is not the road God has designed us to trod. He made us to intentionally live and move among those who have no clue what our Christian faith is all about. More and more I meet great people for other people. But very few Christ followers couch their faith in the context of loving this world. Instead, we tend to avoid people in the world, like we could be stained or somehow have our faith tainted by them.

         How absurd!

         Christians are just immerging, or are trying to come out, of a century of isolationism. Protectionism. Our connections to this world have been limited to commando raids, timid witnessing, and assumptions about nonChristians dreamed up in a church think-tank pondering an outreach program.

         May I suggest that it is time we shed our cocoons and emerge as warrior-butterflies! Ready to declare the incredible glories of our God in an increasingly forlorn world. This world needs us.

         Are you ready to spread your wings?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel,

For it is the power of God for salvation

To everyone who believes… .

Romans 1:16 ESV

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

Gary

NEXT— deep prayer — a mystery

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 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