Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Walking in the Dark

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Recently, a friend sent me this Bible verse from Isaiah 50:10:

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

Moonlit Night on the Coppei inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson

It’s hard enough to walk when things are shadowy; it’s impossible to do so, without God, when things are completely dark. Moonlit Night on the Coppei, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Initially, this verse was most perplexing to me because, despite God’s consistently shaking me awake over the last nine years, and teaching me to listen to His voice and not man’s, I tend to fall back on default to conventional, guided, pulpit-provided thought, and said to myself:

“But I know Jesus, and He is the light! So I should never be walking in darkness!”

That sounds like a sermon, doesn’t it, sprinkled with appropriate verses to hammer in the point:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12)

the customarily dreary point of these sermons being that we’re not good enough, we don’t have enough faith, and by golly, we’d better change all that if we want God to accept and love us.

Sometimes, We Walk in the Dark

But reality is, even though we have made a choice to follow God; learn about Him through prayer, reading Scripture, and observing the world around us; and seek fellowship and time with His son, Jesus, we frequently operate in a state of not knowing what will happen next.

Let me amend that: we ALWAYS operate in a state of not knowing what will happen next, because only God knows, and holds, the future.

Daydreaming inspirational original oil painting of woman walking on ocean beach by Steve Henderson

Life involves a daily walk on the path set before us; sometimes we can see it, and sometimes we can’t. Daydreaming, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus taught in Matthew 6:25-34.

“For the pagans run after all these things, and our heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

He is not scolding, as He so often seems to be from the pulpit, but teaching, guiding, encouraging — understanding that we, who live in fleshly bodies with very real concerns about mortgage payments, root canals or impacted wisdom teeth, rising food costs, and an extensive list of school supplies for our first grader prepared by a 22-year-old teacher who has no children of her own, worry about these things, because they slap us in the face every moment of our lives.

Unfulfilled Dreams

Often, in the midst of our day to day obligations and perplexities, we have dreams and desires for something better, something deeper, that we fight because — though we try and we try and we try to bring these dreams to some sort of fruition — nothing happens, and we question whether these dreams are from God, or just some silly fantasy within our own brains.

After all, we reason, if the dreams were from God, wouldn’t they come true, or at least look as if they had the intention of doing so?

At this point, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we are walking in the dark, because we don’t know what’s going on. All we know is that we can’t give it up, whatever this dream or desire is, and though we have, to the best of our ability, handed it back to God and said, “Take this, if it’s the wrong thing, and lead me,” nothing is happening.

Our eyes are open, but they see nothing, because the path ahead, and behind, and to the side of us, is dark.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” the Psalmist tells us in 27:14. In the verse before, he says,

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

“WHY?!”

No one makes a pronouncement like this when he is already seeing, and living, what he looks for and desires. These are the brave words of a person who has prayed, and prayed, and prayed for something that has not yet happened, and while the one part of him cries out in agony, “WHY!!!!!” the will of this psalmist asserts that God is good, all good, and He is worth trusting.

So back to that verse in Isaiah 50:10 from my friend, and sister in Christ:

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

Once we acknowledge that we are lost, in the dark, and unable to walk forward because we can’t see anything ahead of us, then our best, and only, choice is to trust in the goodness, compassion, and love (the name) of our Father, and rely upon Him, as our counselor, guide, and teacher, to walk us through this dark place.

And while this will not preclude our yelling out “WHY!? WHEN!? HOW MUCH LONGER!?” at the most disparate times (often just after we’ve been congratulating ourselves on how well our faith is progressing), our Lord and God and Father is not frightened of, or offended by, our questions. Indeed, they come as no surprise to Him; it is we ourselves who do not realize the shallowness of our faith, and our daily need to consciously place our hands in His.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

Posts complementing this one are

Psychotic Cats and God’s Love

Are Your Dreams — and Your Life — in Perpetual Limbo?

When Our Dreams Never Come True

 

Four Important Men You’ve Never Heard of

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Depending upon our interests, those of us who live in the world of mass media can rattle off names of note in the sports arena, TV land, cinematic Fantasia, network “news,” political affront, musical medley, or the religious circus, er, circuit.

Field of Dreams inspirational oil painting of meadow hills and trees in rural country setting by Steve Henderson

No matter how long we live, or how important we think we are, we are ultimately like the flowers of the field — here today, and gone tomorrow. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

So well versed are we in this trivia that entire game shows are set up so that contestants can show off this “knowledge,” with the one who answers the most about the least of significance, taking home the prize.

But names and faces are funny things — they pretty much last a generation, unless they are mythologized and set into a high school history textbook — and the actors and actresses who caused our grandparents to swoon provoke a response in today’s generation that’s more along the lines of, “Who’s that? What weird hair.”

Such is fame — it’s fleeting, representing “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

4 Unpronounceable Names

Take Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jethucal, and Pashhur, for example.

These men were powerful — so much so that the top politico of their nation, Zedekiah the king of Judah, was afraid of them, and they were able to set policy and bring about actions to their liking, without really worrying about Z’s opinion on the matter. It sounds a bit like many governments today, with the president or monarch or prime minister or whatever term is given to the top dog, working “in conjunction” with his political and corporate “advisers.”

Now Zedekiah was the last official king of Judah, in Israel, before the Babylonians swooped in and took over the land in 586 B.C., dismantling the government and sending the people into exile. He was regularly approached by Jeremiah, the prophet, and told what he must do:

“Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us,’  They will not!” Jeremiah told him not once, but multiple times. (Jeremiah 37:9).

“This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live.

“But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from their hands.” (38:17-18)

Don’t Wanna to Hear This

Like pretty much everything Jeremiah foretold, this was not an appreciated, or welcomed, message, and when Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur (are they starting to sound familiar yet?) saw that Jeremiah wasn’t going to shut up, and line up with the state-approved prophets who were foretelling peace, prosperity, and success, they went to the king, in all their administrative power and wisdom, and said,

Chimu inspirational original oil painting still life of peruvian pottery by Steve Henderson

These four pots have a longer shelf life, so to speak, then the four administrators with the unpronounceable, and highly forgettable, names. Chimu, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

“This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.” (38:4)

It did not matter whether Jeremiah’s words were true — it mattered that his words made powerful people look bad, and caused the non-powerful people, the masses, to question the motives and driving factors of their leaders. The general result of this, in any nation ruled by men who profit by their positions of governance, is the suppression of truth.

Toss out the Truth

In Jeremiah’s case, it meant that he was tossed into an empty, mud-filled cistern, left to die except for the bravery of one man — Ebed-Melech (his is a name truly worth remembering) — who went to the vacillating king and spoke for Jeremiah:

“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet.” (38:8)

Why so they have, the king admitted, giving permission to Ebed-Melech to rescue Jeremiah. Quietly, of course, and keeping his name out of it. If history teaches us anything, it is that men will act like men — cowardly or valiantly — in all cultures, and throughout all time.

How does this all end? For those who believe Jeremiah’s words — not Zedekiah, not his officials — the end shouldn’t be a surprise, since it is exactly what Jeremiah foretold, several times. Rather than die peacefully, which was the promise if he submitted to the king of Babylon (34:4), Zedekiah was captured as he fled the city, and watched as his sons were slaughtered in front of him. His eyes were gouged out, and he was bound in bronze shackles and taken to Babylon, where he was put in prison until the day of his death. (52:10-11)

So much for dying peacefully.

Ebed-Melech — Worth Remembering

And Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur? Their names go missing, although 2 Kings 25:19 mentions five royal advisers who were executed. Clever as the four men were, and self-seeking, perhaps they managed to merge with the exiles led to Babylon, but while they may have escaped the notice of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, it’s a sure bet that God didn’t forget their deeds.

Neither did he forget the kindness of Ebed-Melech, the only one honorable enough, and brave enough, to speak up for Jeremiah, and against the actions of four powerful men, whose names are difficult to remember even after repeating them multiple times. God promised Ebed-Melech that he would escape with his life, “because you trust in me, declares the Lord.” (39:18)

Money. Power. Fame, and Name. These are four earthly treasures that people, throughout history, seek, and while they may grasp it for awhile, we all die, our earthly remnants rotting into the ground. For  Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur, all that really remains are their names in a book that millions of people read, but despite this fame, the only ones who know those names are the people who win trivia contests on game shows.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write for the ordinary person, the one whose name matters very much to God.

Posts complementing this one are

Money, Power, Fame, and Name

When Powerful People Repent — Is It Real?

Mass Manipulation by the Mass Media

 

Family and Friends Are Not Dysfunctional

posted by Carolyn Henderson

People matter.

“Of course they do,” we all nod our heads emphatically.  A ridiculously easy way to bring people to tears is to show them a clip of a politician, movie celebrity, or extraordinarily rich and famous businessperson wiping their eyes and stumblingly uttering how much their spouse, daughter, or grandfather means to them.

Evening Waltz inspirational original oil painting of couple dancing on ocean beach at sunset by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.com

Life is a dance, and you don’t waltz alone, nor with your bank account or curriculum vita. Evening Waltz, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.

“So beautiful,” we sigh. “It’s good to see people of influence speaking out in support of the family.”

Why?

When something is true and right and good — like relationships between family and friends — why is it so important to garner words of approval by recognizable names? Does it make a truth more true somehow?

Back at the beginning of all things — before schools and universities, social clubs and professional organizations, churches and corporations — there was one man, Adam, and God saw that “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 1:18)

First Family — Nothing to Do with the President

This helper wasn’t a professional colleague but a wife, and the first family was born, predating and preeminent over all establishments to follow because it is the one that God Himself — and not man — created. It is also the one unit that mankind throughout history — by wars, slavery, taxation, economic deprivation, unfriendly legislation, and social and mass media attack — seeks to destroy, because people of evil know that the major impediment to getting the masses to do what they’re told, is the loyalty of each individual in those masses to the friends and family that have a hold on their heart, soul, and being.

golden opportunity inspirational original oil painting of sailboat on Puget Sound sea at sunset by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at allposters.com, great big canvas, framed canvas art, iCanvas, amazon.com, and art.com

The perfect afternoon isn’t so much sunlight and the right amount of breeze, as it is relaxing in the company of people who love and accept us. Golden Opportunity, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Amazon, Art. com, All Posters, Framed Canvas Art, iCanvas, and Great Big Canvas.

In most people, it’s a far stronger hold than the desire for money, a longing for fame, or even fear. (This may be one reason why we’re so fascinated when people of extreme power, wealth, and fame acknowledge a sense of caring to anything other than power, wealth, and fame. It’s wise, as outsiders and ordinary people, always to remember that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21) — a significant sign of where we put our treasure being where we invest our time, attention, and loyalty.)

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus told His disciples in John 15:13, “that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus loved His disciples, like family (“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” — Matthew 12:50), and it is notable that He refers to God as His Father and ours, not a co-worker, not a boss, not an expert, not a psycho-therapist. Jesus’s primary relationships include that with His Father and His siblings — you, and me.

A Man of Words 

So, to arguably one of the most famous men of all time, family and friends truly and distinctly mattered. With an endorsement of that degree, we honestly don’t need additional ones from anyone else. Indeed, the lip service paid to family by those whose priorities lie obviously in other directions, cheapens the value of the meaningful relationships that are a unique part of all our lives.

Last night, we had a household — every single one of the progeny plus two grandchildren, including the latest, Itsy Bitsy. After a dinner of chicken soup and homemade flat bread, it was time to clean up and parcel out chores: clearing the table, washing the dishes, drying and putting away, sweeping the floor — if you eat, you know the procedure.

As matriarch, I listed the various things that needed to be done (old habits die hard) and commandeered the most essential, and important, activity for myself:

“I’ll hold the baby.”

The Most Important Job

It was a job that I kept up long after everyone else finished theirs, and while nothing tangible was accomplished for the next hour and a half (I didn’t even have to change the diaper), the baby slept — safe, warm, and loved — while I rocked and mused about the relationship between a protector and the protected. Itsy Bitsy won’t remember this day, but I will, the same way I have never forgotten abandoning the laundry in the basket one afternoon while I held, for two hours, a sleeping Son and Heir. At the time, I told myself, “I will never forget this.”

And neither has he, even though he doesn’t consciously remember, because the time we invest in our children, our parents, our cousins, our uncles and aunts and grandparents and grandchildren, and friends isn’t limited to two hours in a chair, rocking, or one afternoon playing cribbage, or one Saturday morning brunch. The time we invest in people is continuous and continual, and the dividends we receive are warmth, laughter, security, sympathy, trust, protection, and deep, deep love.

Family is the cornerstone of normalcy and independence, and the best way to create a neurotic, fearful, anxious, and malleable people is to cut their ties with other human beings who love them, and replace these ties with bonds of laws, regulations, expert advice, governmental intrusion, false societal expectations, and mass media manipulation.

There is a reason why most ordinary people aren’t fabulously rich, famous, or powerful — not because we’re stupid, or because we don’t work hard enough, but because we do not make money, fame, or power our priority. It is also the reason why money, fame, and power tend to run in families, like legacies, because, whether or not extremely rich, famous, and powerful people spend a lot of time rocking their children, they do pass on their earthbound treasures.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God,” the apostle John says in 1 John 4:7. Unlike money or material possessions, love, when divided, multiplies into more, so it is possible to love, and love, and love, and never run out. It is truly a renewable resource to which all of us — regardless of our last name, family dynasty (or lack of it), education, and social position — have access, and all we need to do is use it — give it away — to create more.

People do matter.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to seek God’s love, as opposed to religion’s rules, and pass it on to their neighbor.

Posts complementing this one are

Mass Manipulation by the Mass Media

“If I Leave Church, Will I Lose My Friends?”

Grasping the Goodness of God

When Powerful People Repent — Is It Real?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

The other day, I read an intriguing post by a Famous Face. Like many Famous Faces, when he speaks, hordes of people — far too many of the Christian persuasion, incidentally — listen.

Ridge Top View inspirational original oil painting of trees in wilderness on top of mountain hill by Steve Henderson

As humans, it’s easy to elevate our idea of ourselves to the heights, but it’s cold and brutal up there. Ridge Top View, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

But the general message of this man, like much of what is propounded on a mass scale by people whose faces we recognize but whose genuine essence we do not know, isn’t necessarily true, right, honorable, well-meaning, or accurate, although it does cause listeners and readers to be frightened, anxious, angry, discomposed, and intimidated.

(Interesting fruit. When you find yourself eating it, because someone has sliced it into easy-to-chew pieces, it’s time to look at the hand that’s feeding you.)

But back to our Face, whose latest musings paraphrase into something like this:

“I am deeply disturbed over what is going on today, and am questioning the leadership everywhere, in all areas. Most especially the religious leadership — I fear that they are steering us wrong — but I’m sure they know what is right.

“I am driven back to God in a state of humility, fearing that even I am guilty of arrogance. I am questioning, and I am seeking God’s wisdom in all this.”

A Statement of Repentance?

The overall statement sounds thoughtful, moderately contrite, and meditative, especially the “doubting the leadership” part which is something that more and more lay people — the masses of humanity who should be satisfied sharing inspirational memes on Facebook and watching, absorbing, internalizing, and accepting the inculcation in the latest movies and TV show — are increasingly starting to do.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open,” Jesus says in Luke 8:17.

Contemplation inspirational original oil painting of woman in autumn meditating over leaf by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at amazon.com, art.com, all posters.com, Framed Canvas Art, iCanvas, and Great Big Canvas

Increasingly, ordinary people are asking more and more questions, and this bothers the powerful people who take it upon themselves to provide us with answers. Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon, Art. com, and AllPosters.

The masses are waking up, and asking questions. And for those who consider themselves outside the masses, “guiding” us, so to speak, this is disturbing.

So, when I read the Famous Face’s words, my initial, first, and enduring reaction was, “Is this real? Or is it simply a preemptive strike against the upsetting questions that people are beginning to ask, thereby deflecting their attention elsewhere?”

While this sounds cynical, part of being shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16) in a culture controlled and manipulated by mass media is questioning the words, and motives, of people we know only by what we are told by the people themselves, or the impressions we are given by what is written and said about them.

Healthy Suspicion

Since it’s unrealistic for most of us to know, personally, the Faces and Voices that we blithely invite into our lives, we need to 1) maintain a strong sense of suspicion about anything we are told and 2) judge (yes, we can do that) the people who influence us, by their fruit:

“Watch out for false prophets,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15-18 (and by the way, a prophet isn’t limited to a man from the 4th century B.C. who walks around in robes; another translation for “prophet,” in Greek, is “spokesman”).

“They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

So my abiding reaction regarding this man’s apparent repentance looks something like this:

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

True Repentance Results in Change

True repentance results not only in a change within the person, manifested in the outward behavior, but often in a change of their circumstances, since, when we question the establishment and its motives, we are immediately perceived as a threat that must be removed.

In other words, when a person of prominence and exaltation starts expressing misgivings about the system which generously funds his public voice, then the results of his repentance should approximate what happens to the rest of us when we turn around 180 degrees from what we have been doing and walk the opposite direction. He gets fired. And — in the lives of ordinary people at least — the income isn’t made up by lucrative book deals and a “self-funded” talk show, or a “grass-roots ministry” that miraculously explodes into something big.

“You brood of vipers!” John the Baptist said, in Matthew 3:7-8 to the Pharisees and Sadducees coming out to be baptized by him.

“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

John wasn’t being nasty or classicist, refusing grace to those who asked for it — he was observing, quite sharply, that the religious rulers and leaders weren’t there to repent, but to give the impression of repentance. John’s message was getting out there, people were waking up, and questions were arising about the teachings and motivations of those very leaders. Much as what is happening today.

The Cost of Following Christ

Many, many Christians — throughout history and now — stand up and speak out against what is wrong, and few of them — throughout history and now — are rewarded, monetarily and with fame, by the system they speak against.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed,” the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 describes the circumstances that accompany those who die daily to self as they follow the way and words of Christ. (Paul himself, we remember, left a lucrative career in leadership.)

The fruit we find in the lives of deeply committed Christians who do their best to love their neighbor with the love that comes from God Himself, is generally humility, often accompanied by a lack of significant material riches, fame, and power; and when riches are given, they are just as quickly given away to those who have nothing.

That’s the fruit I look for in prominent public figures who speak — forcefully and publicly — about their repentance.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage my brothers and sisters to stop hanging around in the laundry room, convinced that their only significant contribution is to fold underwear while other members of the family — greater and better and wiser — do the “important” work. Everyone should take a turn in the laundry room with the underwear, and those who are unwilling, don’t belong in the house.

Posts complementing this one are

Money, Power, Fame and Name

Rich Christian, Poor Christian — Which Are You?

Why Do We Follow Celebrity Christians?

 

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Walking in the Dark
Recently, a friend sent me this Bible verse from Isaiah 50:10: "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." [caption id="attachment_1446" align="alignleft" width="351"]

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