Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Three Things Christians Don’t Say Enough

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Words are powerful, but not in the way prosperity preachers or New Age advocates claim. While words themselves do not convey any ability to create reality, simply because we utter them (e.g., “I CLAIM this blessing!”), they affect those around us because they soothe and heal, or they hurt and damage.

Phonograph Days inspirational oil painting of woman with hat and dress in piano room listening to old fashioned nostalgia phonograph by Steve Henderson

Words can be sweet music to our ears, bringing a smile to our hearts. Let’s make them that way. Phonograph Days, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Every day, regardless of what our job is, and whether or not we are involved in an official “ministry,” Christians have an opportunity to touch people’s souls by, literally and figuratively, speaking for Jesus.

In addition to the standard “Please,” “Thank You,” and “I was wrong and I apologize,” there are three powerful sentences that Christians can use to bless the ears, and lives, of those around them:

We’re Not Omniscient

1) “I don’t know.” We’re really afraid of these three words, because in the back of our minds is the exhortation of 1 Peter 3: 15:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Deep down, because most of us know that we don’t have all the answers to all the arguments that people can throw at us, we avoid confrontation, or even conversation, with non-believers — who include everyone from questioning seekers to belligerent oppositional forces. It’s far easier to invite people to church (where our poor pastor can take care of things) as opposed to relaxedly interacting with them.

Response, Not Solution

It’s important to distinguish, however, between a “response” and a “solution,” and Peter is encouraging us to have a deep enough relationship with Christ to be able to explain, at least nominally, why we follow Him. He’s not insisting that we get into formal debates concerning creation versus evolution, or spirituality versus atheism — some people may do so, and do so well because they have studied these issues and can speak competently on them, but for the most part, it’s wise to,

“Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3: 9)

You don’t have to answer every hostile question thrown at you — frequently the questioner isn’t interested in the answers anyway. Disengage yourself from fruitless encounters.

When you are dealing with a true truth seeker, however, answer as best you can, and be honest enough with yourself, and them, to say, “I don’t know,” to something that’s beyond you. You’re not the only one without a satisfying answer for, “If God is so loving, why does He send people to hell?” or, “What about people who have absolutely no way of hearing about Jesus?”

“Me, Too!”

2) “I struggle with that, too.” Considering that we are children of a Father full of grace, mercy, love, and compassion, we sure beat ourselves down a lot, and many Christians have difficulty admitting that they are anxious, fearful, envious, bitter, insecure, spiteful, and unable to trust in the goodness of God.

Mesa Walk inspirational oil painting of Indian woman dancing on Arizona plains near Grand Canyon by Steve Henderson

We can literally dance with joy in our weakness, because it means that we don’t have to be perfect, just wrap ourselves in the mercy and grace of God. Mesa Walk, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

“That’s a sin,” we’re told. My favorite “that’s a sin” phrase relates to Philippians 4: 6, in which we are encouraged to “not be anxious about anything but . . . present our requests to God.” It doesn’t do a whole lotta good to tell a person sick with worry over the loss of their job and income that they’re sinning by worrying, and God is displeased with them.

Oh, great — another thing to worry about.

We are weak, my friends, and our Christian testimony is stronger for our admitting this — not only to the people around us who really, truly are not comforted by our having it so all together, to the point that our house is NEVER messy, but to God — who can’t deal with the problems in our lives if we refuse to admit they exist in the first place.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me,” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10. “. . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Silence Is Golden

3) Nothing. Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all, especially when the person pouring out their heart, hurt, confusion, despair, and fear to us is going through something we haven’t gone through, and can’t quite understand.

“Your loved one is with Jesus, that is, um . . . she did know Jesus, didn’t she?”

Brutal.

“God’s trying to get your attention with your cancer diagnosis. I suggest you get close to Him.”

Hmmm.

“A job loss isn’t the end of the world. Just trust in Jesus and He will provide.”

Brother, can you spare a dime?

“I’ll pray for you.”

If you mean it, and will make a commitment to do it, and keep doing it, this is sterling. But if it’s just four words said to get you out of an uncomfortable situation, swallow them.

If you are fortunate enough to understand, pretty much exactly, what a person is going through because you’ve been through it yourself, your words will salve, because they stem from your own humility, dearly bought.

But for the most part, listening to another person — truly listening — is the best way of saying something to them.

Three phrases, one of which isn’t a phrase: like all aspects of following Christ, it’s remarkably easy, and outstandingly difficult, but it starts, as every day does, with the statement,

“God, nothing is impossible for you. Walk with me.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I am so happy happy happy that I don’t have to be an amazing person with everything all together. I rest in God’s arms (when I’m not trying to wriggle out), and I encourage you to rest there, too.

Posts similar to this one are

“Jesus Loves You!” Enough, Already

Do You Long for the Love Christianity Promises?

The Misfit Christian (my book for the believer or truth-seeker who is tired of pat, trite answers to sincerely asked questions. Paperback and digital at Amazon.com.)

 

Why Doesn’t God DO Something?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

On one of the Christian Google-Plus communities I follow, a perfidious little troll regularly posts photos of starving children, highlighting his point with accompanying commentary like, “Where is the good and gracious God?”

Actually, he’s more verbally adroit than that — quite clever, actually — and to avoid confrontation or actual dialogue he sets up the post so that people cannot respond. They can only look at the pictures, ache for the child, and say, “Yeah, where IS God? Why does He let all this suffering abound?”

Lilac Festival inspirational oil painting of toddler girl next to flower bush in garden by Steve Henderson

Around the world, children should be fed, safe, and secure, and if we ask God, He will show each one of us how we can use the resources we have to give, and give wisely. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Framed Canvas Art.

In other words, why doesn’t God DO something?

It’s a reasonable question, one that has baffled us through the ages, but before we get too caught up in it, we might also ask,

“Well, why don’t we?”

Cutting off the Crusts

People starve in this world not necessarily because we don’t produce enough food — check out restaurant, school, government, and individual garbage bins in the country in which I live, for example. At the sub shop where I occasionally treat myself to a sandwich, I’m always fascinated that three inches of each end are sawn off and thrown into the trash.

“Can’t you send some of that to a shelter that feeds people?” I ask.

“Unfortunately, no. Government regulations forbid it for sanitation reasons.”

Well, there’s something we could do. We could find out who passes these laws and see if we could get them overturned. Bureaucracy being what it is, however, I’m not any more hopeful about that option than you are.

Bureaucracy

Speaking of bureaucracy, consider all the money that people send to relief organizations — to purchase food and clean water for those who don’t have it —  and think about how many times we hear that a shipment is “held up” (and thereby rots or is destroyed before it gets to the people needing it) by a government agency or red herring hostile force within the country. Logically, the best thing God could “Do” in this situation is get rid of the impeding bureaucratic agency, but once He started, there would be very little left standing, worldwide, by 4:30 p.m. closing time at end of the day.

A friend of mine in a poor, struggling country — the kind that is filled with a plethora of relief agencies, both religious and secular — mentioned how a fellow United Statesian had been sent to work at a large, mega-Christian charity in a big city nearby. When she tried to contact the new employee to see if the agency could link hands with her small, individual efforts to help people, the woman told her,

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

It’s so easy to overlook the local landscape, and its people, when bureaucracy reigns supreme. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“Oh, I have a desk job. I basically just shuffle papers around.”

Is there any reason why the mega-ministry couldn’t have hired a person from the agency-invaded country to “just shuffle papers around” as opposed to importing an entry level worker from 8,000 miles away? That’s something that humans, and not God, could do toward solving the country’s problem of unemployment. The amount invested in each imported entry level worker could raise an entire local family, one with no hope, to a level of dignity and security.

The Elite

At base, our world suffers because a small number of people at the top — well hidden but with their hands in the financial affairs of men — simply cannot get enough money, enough power, enough land, enough flesh from other human beings. They run banks, government agencies, educational establishments, medicine, pharmaceuticals, agri-business, media, and religious organizations — their surfeit is our lack, but one reason they make so much is that we continue to give it to them.

While there’s little we can do, short-term, about taxes, fees, and mandatory insurance payments, when we fund large corporations by buying, and buying, and buying things we don’t necessarily need but want, or when we purchase on credit and make interest payments — where do you think all that money goes? It goes to banks, and to corporations so large that they own more real estate and resources than actual nations.

In our purchases, we can make three little decisions that, individually, don’t seem like much, but collectively, can help starve this beast:

1) Don’t buy on credit

2) Don’t buy buy buy

3) When we do buy, seek out true small businesses — Mom and Pop’s farmer’s market stand, an artist’s fine art paintings, an eclectic toy shop that isn’t part of a chain — and support individuals, not oligarchies. On that same note, we might check out smaller charities, run by human beings not boards, and consider sending our money there. It may actually get to the people we’re trying to help.

“Yeah, I don’t need a larger screen TV, but I want it — so leave me alone!”

One at a Time, We Make a Difference

But if we can’t do this little thing — say “no” to a stream of nonessential purchases and keep that dollar or two or twenty or fifty off the books of big, big business, then why do we get so mad at God, accusing Him of doing nothing?

Imagine what would happen if every person who has ever asked, “Why doesn’t God DO something,” made just one decision today to not fund the fiscal consortium — didn’t use a credit card, or didn’t incur an ATM transaction fee, or didn’t buy a movie ticket, or didn’t take out a loan. Individually, the impact would be small, but collectively, the global corporate oligopoly feeds off of our nickels and dimes and pennies — because that’s what we are to them — not individual human beings, but monetary units.

The global oligarchy — our New World Order —  needs a lot of small, consistent, regular contributions from these monetary units (that’s you and me) to stay strong, powerful, and well fed — this last aspect being what too many individual people in this world, are not.

Buy wisely. Buy well. Buy locally or from true small businesses. And give to places that don’t hire entry level workers from 8,000 miles away. Maybe these are options God wants us to look into.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where, as an ordinary person, I do not have millions of dollars to pour into programs that purport to help, but tend to just feed the programs. But I can make a decision with each hard earned dollar I spend or give, and I do my best to do so.

Posts similar to this one are

Should You Question Authority?

Business Advice from a Homemaker

Live Happily on Less (we don’t have to be rampant consumers to be happy, or, as former President George W. Bush said, support our country economically and Go Shopping. Live Happily on Less is a series of short, bloggy essays that empower you to make sensible, decent decisions about the money you’ve been given, and not be trapped by political and media encouragement to spend yourself into stress and debt.)

“Jesus Loves You!” — Enough, Already

posted by Carolyn Henderson

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being told, at every store I enter or order from online, that I am receiving the lowest prices — ever!

The statement is made so much and so sweepingly, that I don’t remotely believe it, and when at Store B — with the lowest prices in town — I found three items that were priced higher than Store A — also with the lowest prices in town, I was hardly surprised. But that’s okay, because three of Store A’s lowest prices in town were higher than Store B’s.

Seaside Story inspirational original oil painting of woman and child on beach reading book by Steve Henderson

In conveying to people the concept of Christ’s love, we’ll have to use more than a three-word sentence. Seaside Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Light in the Box.

It all averages out somehow, and this apparently is the loophole. Everyone is telling the truth, sort of, just not the specific truth that their words give the impression of saying.

“That’s just life, Naive Girl.”

Disinformation

Yes, it is. Life in the world of men consists of partial statements, misinformation, disinformation, and 95 percent of the truth mixed in with 5 percent of the lie, and the winner of the game is the one who recognizes this and doesn’t get caught.

Unfortunately, many of the same techniques are used within the spiritual realm — knowingly and unknowingly — and among Christians, the equivalent statement to “We have the lowest prices in town!” is

“Jesus loves you!”

A friend who works at a grocery store, and who has experienced enough church life to swear her off of God forever, commented about a recent customer who barely answered her greeting and woodenly replied to her chipper comments (in case you’ve never worked in retail, clerks are instructed to sound happy and perky no matter how rude we are in return). At the end of the transaction, when my friend handed over the groceries, the customer beamed at her and said,

“Jesus looooooooves you! He died for you and will save you from your sin!”

Hammer It In, Hon

Well, as far as my friend goes, there’s another nail in God’s coffin.

You know, my friend is like a lot of people, seeking truth, longing for love, and wondering if this God they hear so much about is really the source of it. I was in that place 30-plus years ago, when as a cynical, jaded college student I opened myself enough, just barely, in vulnerability, to start asking others, who seemed to know, about God.

“Jesus loves you!” is the first thing I was told. “Come to church and you’ll see!”

That didn’t really answer what I was looking for: I wanted to know why life was so difficult. I wanted to know why others had meaningful relationships and I was alone. I ached because I frequently ate by myself in the college cafeteria and I lived with the constant feeling that I was a societal failure. And I really wanted to talk to someone safe, gentle, understanding, and accepting who could convince me that, at 19, I wasn’t a total flop.

“Jesus loves you!”

We Are His Ambassadors

He does, actually, and because we are His hands and feet, His body in this world, He has commissioned us with showing that love, which, frequently, we don’t know how to do other than invite a seeker to come to church.

Light in the Forest inspirational oil painting of two women with candles in woods by Steve Henderson

We are the light of the world. Even a small, flickering flame provides guidance in a dark, dark room. Light of the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

“It’s warm and friendly and welcoming there,” we tell ourselves, “and Pastor will teach them the truths that I don’t really know. I mean, I’m not a Bible study teacher or anything.”

It’s simpler than that, actually, and more difficult. In the case of my friend, who works long, disparate hours at a job where many customers — Christian and non-Christian — treat her as if she were a talking machine, it would take nothing more than making eye contact, smiling, and speaking with her as if she were a fellow, equal, human being. Some people do that — Christian and non-Christian.

How did Jesus show His love to people when He walked on earth?

He listened to them.

He accepted them.

He was gentle with the vulnerable, straightshooting with those who claimed to be wise or leaders.

He genuinely cared about them, and didn’t set up a relationship designed expressly to “bring them to God” (or into the church), and then drop them.

It’s Hard to Do Simple Things

I know, I know — we’re human and we’re not perfect and we’ll make mistakes and all that. But for all that we are concerned about our ministry opportunities — short term mission trips, teaching small groups, participating in visitation committees, printing the bulletin — we have far more valid, and important options just in the process of living our daily lives.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31)

Non-condescendingly, humbly, and without thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to while we’re doing it.

Sometimes, the hardest things to do are the ones that sound the easiest.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I am grateful that, 30 years ago, my Norwegian Artist took time to get to know me, answer my questions, and just accept me as a human being. I threw a lot of questions and observations his way, but he never flinched, and when he didn’t know something, he said,

“That’s a good question. I’d have to admit that I really don’t know.”

Posts similar to this one are

Alone but Not Lonely

Do You Long for the Love Christianity Promises?

The Misfit Christian (my book for the seeker of truth who is tired of platitudes and trite phrases, and who is agitating for real answers from a real God who really cares. Paperback and digital from Amazon.com.)

 

When Mighty Church Leaders Fall, Do They Crush the People Underneath?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

In our younger years, my husband the Norwegian Artist and I bicycled through small-town America, and for housing, we often asked a local church if we could camp in their basement. Encountering everything from open-armed hospitality to outright hostility, we ultimately found ourselves attending a lot of church services.

The Land of Chief Joseph inspirational oil painting of meadow flowers and mountains by Steve Henderson

There’s really no reason why we can’t all climb to the top of the hill and be surrounded by God’s majesty. The only thing stopping us is our willingness to walk the path that gets us there. The Land of Chief Joseph, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

One that made permanent memories was a revival meeting, in a tent, complete with wood shavings (the woman in front of us jumped up with an “OH!” as if she had been stuck with a pin) in which the speaker discussed the Cedars of Lebanon.

According to the speaker, these huge trees, towering over all other life in the forest, were the pastors God ordained to lead the sheep, and when the trees fell — he didn’t particularly mention why — then dreadful things happened, because everything under the massive trunks was crushed under its weight.

Get to High Ground

Now in my mind, the lesson of the day is that you don’t set up your sheep herd under a bunch of huge trees that are prone to topple, but the speaker didn’t address this. He just emphasized the importance of the mighty trees, and how firm and straight they grow, and how they protected the sheep by encircling them and keeping them confined.

Personally, I did not like being consigned to the bottom of the forest, at risk of being whacked over the head and summarily flattened, and it hurts my neck to tip back so far in order to see the tops of the trees. Radical that I was, I wondered — why aren’t ALL of God’s saints considered trees of Lebanon? Isn’t it important for all of God’s children to be straight, strong, firm, and immovable?

Not so, according to the speaker. Most people are sheep, and they need the trees.

We Worship Human Beings

Sadly, in modern-day establishment Christianity America, this appears to be so, and too many people flock — literally — to a pastor of power and words and magnetism, to teach them. Oddly, however, despite however many years they spend with this man (for he frequently is a man — many denominations finding all sorts of verses to discount the voice of women), the sheep don’t necessarily grow or learn as they properly should, in accordance with Ephesians 4:11-12:

Cadence inspirational original oil painting of woman in pink dress on rocky beach by Steve Henderson

In our walk with Christ, the goals is that we can do it using our own two feet, and not having to ride on the back of another. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

I thought of this today when someone on Facebook posted a link about Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church who is in the news, according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article by Joel Connelly, because 21 former pastors of the church have lodged formal charges against him. Reading through this article and related posts,  I couldn’t help but wonder,

Follow the Leader

“How do churches get so big? And what compels people to follow, so intimately, one human being?”

And, in following such a leader, any leader, are the congregants built up, knowledgeable, and mature? Logic tells one that, when we learn, we begin as children, starting with the basics. We soon outgrow those basics, adding to them until, at some point, we reach, or supersede, our teacher, and are ready to move on to teach others ourselves.

Is this what happens in churches — small or mega — or do the Cedars of Lebanon tower so tall that they keep sunlight from hitting the ground below?

Christians: we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

At what point will we start taking seriously our individual responsibility to interact with God, to read His word, to pray — one on one — to Him and seek His guidance, His leadership, and His teaching? Or will we always be content, eating tufts of grass in the shade and shadow of the trees?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my consistent message to Christians is to stop following the (human) leader and focus on following Christ. You can do this — you really can — and when you take teaching from another human being, don’t toss your soul, heart, brain, and mind in front of his feet as well.

Learn from others. But don’t worship them.

Posts similar to this one are

Christian Leadership and Ordinary People

Are You Qualified to Study the Bible?

The Misfit Christian (my book for truth seekers who feel nudged out of the group, and are tired of being called “difficult.” Have you ever thought, instead, that perhaps you are perceptive?)

 

Previous Posts

Where Does All the Tithe Money Go?
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32) If you attend conventional church for any time at all, you will be unable to escape the annual, or semi-annual, sermon upon tithing, which encou

posted 11:37:02am Jan. 28, 2015 | read full post »

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"]

posted 11:24:40am Jan. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Four Important Men You’ve Never Heard of
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. [caption id="attachment_1080" align="alignleft" w

posted 3:10:09pm Jan. 19, 2015 | read full post »

Family and Friends Are Not Dysfunctional
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,

posted 9:40:00am Jan. 16, 2015 | read full post »

When Powerful People Repent -- Is It Real?
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. [caption id="attachment_1431" align="alignleft" width="351"] As humans, it's easy to elevate our idea of our

posted 10:05:42am Jan. 14, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.