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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Must We Pray for Our “Leaders”?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I came across a post criticizing the present U.S. presidential administration, and sure enough, within the comments was one by a Christian well-trained, within our corporate church system, to be docile, compliant, subservient, and deferential to the dictates of men:

Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny

Christians, who talk about grace, love, and mercy, sure do follow, obey, and worship a lot of laws. Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny, courtesy Time Warner.

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“Christians are commanded to PRAY for our leaders, not criticize them!”

(This is the same sort of indoctrinated group thought that advocates public humiliation as an effective form of punishment, extols the virtues of paying prisoners $0.35 per hour to perform work for multi-billion dollar corporations, and insists that “the law is the law,” and no matter how draconian, must be obeyed.)

Generally, the verse in mind is 1 Timothy 2:1-2, so in light of what it says, (which at the outset, it’s important to note, is an “urging” and not a “command”) and a little bit of commonsense, let’s see what our obligations are about praying for our “leaders.”

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A Wealth of Leaders

1) We have too many leaders. Politicians are bad enough (although it might be noted that, in “free” countries at least, these “leaders” are supposed to be “public servants” “elected” by the “people”), but legalistic Christians pile them on: teachers, managers, bosses, judges, doctors, bureaucrats, and pastors — misguided Christians who worship authority teach that there are many, many human beings we must obey without question, in addition to pray rich blessings upon.

Those of us who disagree with the false emphasis upon hierarchical command as divine decree can start by getting rid of, mentally, discretionary leaders whom we’re not forced to serve, and any leader in a church — which is optional to attend — comes immediately to mind. Pop culture mass media may identify this name or that as America’s Pastor, but he has no dominion over the souls, minds, loyalty, time, and certainly not money, of God’s sons and daughters.

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Egalitarianism

2) Prayers are to be made for everyone. Unlike men, God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

3) We are not obligated to pray rich blessings upon people. Man-made leaders, most notably those in politics, finance, business, media, and (does anybody notice this?) religion, generally have more than enough when it comes to material blessings. Perhaps the best prayer for these people is that their material wealth and power not be a hindrance to them, and that, if the best way for them to seek humility, wisdom, and compassion is that those blessings be removed, then may they those blessings be removed.

Spirit of the Canyon inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite on rock in National Park by Steve Henderson licensed home art wall decor at art.com, allposters.com, amazon.com, icanvas, great big canvas, framed canvas art, and on the wall

God hears the prayers of all His children, so let all His children pray. Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at Great Big Canvas, AllPposters, Art. com, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon, and On the Wall

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4) We are not forbidden to criticize people. By very nature of their desire for power, those in leadership are poised to be talked about, excoriated, and brought to account for their actions. Indeed, in political systems which assert people’s freedom to choose their leaders, many promises are made, and it is foolish and shortsighted to not call lawmakers (and interpreters) to answer for those promises. (But Christians are taught not to.)

5) We pray so that those in power do not utterly destroy the world in which we live. “That we may live peaceful and quiet lives,” Paul says. This prolific writer, who lived under a brutal totalitarian regime that called upon its unwilling subjects to worship the emperor as a god, knew that a small bunch of nobodies — advocating the worship of the real God — had no earthly power against a system with no authentic checks or balances. The only real safety for ordinary people were limitations upon their leaders’ ability to inflict damage.

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The Prayer

So how do we pray for our political leaders? How about this:

“Dear Father, we pray for those who have the power to affect many lives with their actions. Do not let them enter into temptation, and strengthen their minds and hearts against the promise of money or power, in exchange for the decisions that they make.

“For those who say that they know You (and there are many of these), call them to obey Your words to love one another. Bring them to a state of humbleness and humility. Guard them from foolishness, greed, selfishness, pride, and a misguided desire to bask in the accolades of men.

“If they have been compromised by unwise decisions, give them the wisdom and strength they need to walk the path set before them, and protect those who are innocent.

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“For those who do not know you (including and most especially those who claim that they do), stay their hand, frustrate their plans, bring to ruin the structures and the webs that they create. Bring into the light the deeds that they do in darkness, and open the eyes of the nation’s people to see these deeds, understand the evil, and be awake to any lies that are being told.

“Awaken your people, God, and open their ears so that they can hear Your call.”

If this makes sense to you, then please pass it on.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. People who call themselves Christians must stop blindly accepting, promoting, believing, and obeying everything that they are told. Test the spirits (1 John 4:1), and do not follow those who are not from God.

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Posts complementing this one are

Should You Question Authority?

What Brave Looks Like

Not a Leader? Good! God Can Talk to You

 

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Fat Cat Christians — Why Do We Keep Feeding Them?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.” (Job 5:13)

Years ago, when my husband the Norwegian Artist attended a private, Christian school, one of the major benefactors of the institution dropped in for a visit.

Mia the Siamese Cat

So winsome, so charming, so adorable, but the cat does have claws, and she uses them when she’s crossed. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art

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“Dropping in” involved a limousine, with the first glimpse students had of the great man being his white, patent leather shoes. His wife, on the other side, was draped in furs and jewelry, and the duo exuded opulence, affluence, and the strong presumption of being admired, catered to, and fawned over. Which they were, at least by the chief officer of the school.

“How did this man make his money?” I asked my husband, 40 years later.

“He sent out letters to church people, asking for donations in exchange for his sending them a cheap, mass-produced item that he blessed,” the Norwegian replied. “People fell for it because he strongly implied that he had an ‘in’ with God, and if they didn’t follow through, God wouldn’t listen to them.”

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Interestingly, this con-man is still around, still selling cheap, pre-blessed, mass-produced items, and while he’s never made it as big as his national and international colleagues (book deals with major “Christian” publishing houses really help, as does a TV presence), he’s still cashing donors’ checks.

We Are Fooled, by Cunning Fools

“How can people be so stupid?” it’s easy to mentally blurt, especially when we’re convinced that we, ourselves, are not that stupid.

But one must never underestimate the power of religious coercion, and while some people (rightfully) scoff at the performance of the man in the white patent leather shoes, they may stop twice in a -Mart  or -Co store where a Botoxed face beams from a book cover, promising healing, freedom from anxiety, business success, or just plain old money. Deep down, we all battle a sense of insecurity that things don’t go swimmingly for us because we’re fumbling and stumbling around God, while these people obviously have an “in.”

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This is an easy attitude to fall into in a religious climate where we extol Prayer Warriors, those whose prayers are reportedly more effective than ours because they have learned the correct and accepted means of “praying through Scripture.”

ALL Honest Prayers Matter

Lady in Waiting inspirational original oil painting of young woman in shawl by seaside victorian home by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, and amazon.com

While we may wait for an answer to our prayers, we can be sure that the prayers were heard. God does not hear the prayers of some people more than He does the prayers of others. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.

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“Dear God, I’m hurting and confused and afraid,” apparently does not cut it with our Father. Like any savvy businessmen, we tell ourselves, He only deals with princpals, the cunning ones, and while we know — or should know — that mammon and power are not priorities with God, we can’t get over feeling that they are rewards, however, and those people who have both in significant quantity are extra, extra blessed — like Job, or Solomon.

But Job had his setbacks, and Solomon, for all his wisdom, behaved foolishly (1 Kings 11:9 tells us that “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord”). And while we think, “Big deal. Solomon still had his money and power,” 1 Kings 12:4, in which the assembly of Israel tells the king’s successor, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us,” strongly implies that Solomon’s popularity with the people was low.

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It reminds me of the white collar, corporate bandits who manage their fraudulent investment schemes for only so long until their angry creditors catch up with them.

God is a disturbing angry creditor to have, and as Job 5:13 promises, He is not blind to the ways of greedy, smarmy men (and women).

But we don’t have to wait around, sitting on our hands, until God acts, because one of the ways He can act is through us.

We can identify these people, in all their varied shapes, and stop feeding them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I pray that people will wake up, be wise, and use the money they have been given to bless the poor, the hurting, the hungry, and the truly needy. If they’d take a little time to research, and be more alert to the human beings living in their proximity, they’d realize that this money does not have to funnel through a major name, or organization, first.

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Posts complementing this one are

It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ

Just How Equal Are We in Our Society?

Why Do Some Christians Make So Much MONEY?

 

 

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What Does “Real” Church Look Like?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

What does “Real” church look like?

Those of us who have given up on traditional, weekly meetings in a brick-and-mortar building are fully aware of what “Real” church looks like to many, many Christians:

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite facing sunrise by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Great Big Canvas, allposters.com, art.com, amazon.com, Framed Canvas Art, and icanvas

Freedom, joy, worship, grace, comfort, hope — isn’t that what we seek to give to, and receive from, others when we fellowship together? Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at AllPosters, Art. com, Amazon, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Great Big Canvas.

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It’s in a building, generally Sunday morning.

You get handed a bulletin by an usher, but you don’t have to read it, because within 20 minutes, an elder or deacon will arise and repeat any pertinent news (upcoming work days, mid-week small groups, leadership meetings) that you are expected to attend. (Metro churches may be able to send this information to your phone; but someone will still read it aloud. A sign of a Real, excellent church is that it keeps up with technology because that’s what people are looking for, you know. That, and lots of specialized, age and lifestyle-specific group activities.)

Sit. Sit. Sit.

You sit. Until the minute hand points to the 12 or 6, depending upon your local “community,” you may talk to your neighbors around you. Once the music starts — originating from the raised platform, ahead — it’s time to shush and hush. (Short, simple statements are popular, incidentally, like “Prayer and Share,” “Flex and Obey,” “Walk the Talk.” It’s a God Thing.)

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In front of you is a large white screen with words on it. Sing those words.

You will alternate between singing (this is “worshiping”), listening to announcements, enjoying a “special,” and possibly be allowed to express yourself through raising your hand and “sharing,” until it is time for the pastor, generally in a suit but sometimes in a clerical robe, to bounce up to the platform, adjust the microphone behind his tie, and begin to speak (this is either “teaching,” or “preaching,” depending upon your denomination). Remember the introductory joke throughout the week; it’s the key to the lesson.

The Evening Ahead inspirational original oil painting of woman putting on jewelry and earrings for a night out by Steve Henderson

In getting ready for church, do we feel as much pleasurable anticipation as we do in getting ready for a special evening out? The Evening Ahead, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

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After the final song and prayer, you may leave — either to head home and do errands and work you couldn’t get to during the week, if Adult Sunday School was before the service (you did attend, didn’t you?), or to ASS. The children, the same way they are during the week at public school, are divided according to age and grade. There is no time to freely associate, because there is much managed, appropriately directed fellowship that needs attention.

A Body of Believers, not a Building

Such is many people’s answer to Hebrews 10:25, the verse of choice to impose acquiescence upon those who, for some reason, tire of the program above, and ache to meet and interact with other believers in different, meaningful ways. (By the way, it is nominally acceptable to meet together in a “house church,” since that is our impression of how the first century Christians did it, but the morning’s itinerary must mimic the Real Church version. And it’s fully understood that you’re only meeting in homes until you find a Real Church to fully meet your needs.)

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If it seems shallow or empty, be reminded that, in order to fully immerse yourself in the Christian experience, you must take advantage of mid-week small groups (which are the abiding trend even within churches whose population is small enough to qualify as a small group in a mega-church) where fellowship in a slightly more relaxed, but still managed in an appropriately directed manner.

Any loneliness, frustration, isolation, alienation, ennui, detachment or apathy you experience is your fault, because if you fully participated in all the organized and purposeful activities — the ones which you are qualified to attend, that is — then you would be receiving all the necessary encouragement that Hebrews 10:25 promises.

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As some churches reluctantly acknowledge (because people are either sleeping or leaving) that the rigidly prescriptivist approach is a bit . . . frigid, they’re adding fun things like candles, incense, open mic, and comfy couches (sip your latte!) to the worship experience. There should be something for everyone, and if you still feel . . . incomplete, somehow, remember that this is your fault.

No Real church is perfect you know.

But you must attend one.

 

Thank You 

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. The real church, you know, is the community of believers, and meeting together is meant to strengthen, encourage, sharpen, and comfort one another. If that’s not happening, then we need to make changes — individually and corporately — and those who enjoy attending service in a brick and mortar building should realize that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, they have more say in the matter than corporate-based, top-down management is allowing them to have.

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Posts complementing this one are

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I Like to Sleep in on Sunday!

The Christians Who Choose to Leave “Church”

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The Comfort Zone Myth

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed.” (Luke 8:16)

God has a plan for your life.

Do people still say that?

The Traveler inspirational original charcoal drawing of young woman with had and guide book outside of Eiffel Tower in Paris France by Steve Henderson

Our journey with God will take us new and exciting places, but if our strong, aching desire is to go to Paris, France, it’s not a given that He’ll send us to the Dead Marshes outside of Mordor. The Traveler, original charcoal drawing by Steve Henderson

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I guess they still do, since when we look on the Internet we find all sorts of celebrity Christians assuring us that this is so, and a key tenet of the doctrine is that God has made us each special, and He has special things for us to do.

It’s not a bad piece of fish bait, incidentally, if people actually believed it, but once we’re hooked into establishment Christianity with a promise of good news — that we are cherished, unique, have a meaningful purpose, and are precious to our creator (all very true, incidentally) — the boot drops on our bare foot with the attendant caveats:

“Well yes, God has given you skills and talents, with the desire to use them, but more importantly, He wants to take you out of your Comfort Zone! So, with that in mind, He’s going to give you work that you do NOT have the skill, ability, or interest to do.

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“That’s why God’s plan for your life includes coordinating children’s church. And finding volunteers for Saturday Clean-up Day. And attending next week’s webinar on being a dutiful servant of the church community.”

Worshiping Psychology

What I mentally call The Baptist God (although He’s found in multiple evangelical denominations) is such a petty, illogical Person, one who lights a lamp and stuffs it away, who so micro-focuses on our daily activities that we freeze into inertia. The whole “comfort zone” concept, which author Dr. Judith Bardwick defines as “a behavioral state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position” (sounds just like something Jesus would say, doesn’t it?) relies upon teachings from the ever-morphing world of psychology. But that’s not so unusual — much of what is preached as Biblical wisdom these days finds its roots in temporal philosophy.

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Blossom inspirational original oil painting of young woman by flowering tree in springtime by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.com

This is not a representation of how some people feel when you mention the word, “Shopping.” Blossom, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.

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The other day I found myself tasked with a dream chore: at someone else’s expense, I was to go shopping. The person paying, headed into assisted living, needed bedding, towels, personal effects, extra clothing, and the little things that make a place special. Color, style, design — it was all up to me. With a female progeny at my side, we spent an entire day feeling fabric, squeezing towels, seeking gentle, yet happy colors.

Shopping, or Driving Fence Posts?

Now under the Baptist God, this task would have been relegated to my husband or son, both or whom recoil at the word, “shopping,” and animatedly discuss paddock fencing for the garden and livestock. My daughter and I would have been given fence post drivers, all in the name of taking us out of our Comfort Zone.

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But forgotten is the person moving into assisted living, whose literal comfort zone will be compromised by the right job being given to the wrong person. We forget that, when God gives us work to do, His single focus is not necessarily how the work impacts us, but how it affects others as well. With this in mind, only a foolish manager (and there are many of those) would choose the least qualified employee.

And this is exactly how corporate Christianity works. Maybe we should start reading Jesus’s words more, and listening to the voices of those who don’t know Him, less.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage Christians to stop accepting the loud, insistent, strident voices as purveyors of truth.

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Posts complementing this one are

It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ

Fomenting Hate Divides Us – and Divided We Are Weak

Submission to Authority — and the Gag Reflex

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Must We Pray for Our "Leaders"?
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Scrolling ...

posted 1:35:44pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Fat Cat Christians -- Why Do We Keep Feeding Them?
"He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away." (Job 5:13) Years ago, when my husband the Norwegian Artist attended a private, Christian school, one of the major benefactors of the institution dropped in ...

posted 1:47:04pm Jul. 17, 2015 | read full post »

What Does "Real" Church Look Like?
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." (Hebrews 10:25) What does "Real" church look like? Those of us who have given up on traditional, weekly meetings in a ...

posted 12:13:24pm Jul. 15, 2015 | read full post »

The Comfort Zone Myth
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed." (Luke 8:16) God has a plan for your life. Do people still say that? [caption id="attachment_1737" align="alignleft" width="353"] Our journey with God will take us new ...

posted 1:01:34pm Jul. 10, 2015 | read full post »

It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ
"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." (Matthew 24:5) Interpreting prophecy is profitable, and more than one person has made a generous living by "explaining" ...

posted 12:49:22pm Jul. 08, 2015 | read full post »

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