Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Do You Long for the Love Christianity Promises?

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Captain's House original oil painting by Steve Henderson

In our family home, we enjoy the status of being a son or daughter of the house. In our Father’s household, we can rest in our position, beloved children of a perfect Father. Captain’s House, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

This weekend I enjoyed the company of three out of four of my adult children.

It is impossible for me to describe to you how much I love these four progeny of mine — whenever I talk to them, play cribbage with them, eat with them, or just spend time with them — even mentally — I delight in them.

Eldest Supreme had just washed her hair and was walking around the kitchen like a sultana with a towel around her head, bantering with the Son and Heir about the bread he was making. Tired of Being Youngest bustled in, checking on her cheesecake and ensuring that no one surreptitiously broke off a piece. From the sofa I watched in absolute delight, just loving them from across the room.

I delight in my children.

God Delights in Us

So does God, but in our clumsy attempts to figure Him out and please Him in ways that we do not — or should not — demand of our own children, we forget this:

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

“Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.” (Psalm 149: 4)

Rather than rejoicing and singing for joy on our beds, however, we saints turn around and attack one another, condemning our brothers and sisters, and ourselves, because we don’t dress respectfully enough on Sunday (or Saturday) mornings (“If you truly loved the Lord, you would take time to dress right”), or because we swear or drink or smoke (“If you truly loved the Lord, you wouldn’t swear or drink or smoke”), or even because we worship on the “wrong” day (“If you truly loved the Lord, you would worship on the one and only true Sabbath.”)

There are so many, “If you truly loved the Lord,” scenarios that we could triple the size of the Old Testament listing them all out, and some of us do, keeping a running account of the many things we and our brethren do, or do not do, that displease the Lord.

Christmas Story original Santa painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson

For some reason, we have an easier time believing that Santa loves us, than that God does. Christmas Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

So focused are we on side issues that we forget — or never read — that He says this:

We Are Precious in His Sight

“You are precious and honored in my sight . . . I love you.” (Isaiah 43: 4)

This is a paraphrase of a promise made to the people of Israel, that God would ransom them, in the future, from Babylonian captivity, and the parsers among us disallow that this statement could have anything to do with us, but it does:

We are precious — valuable, treasured, cherished — in God’s sight. He loves us, and He takes great delight in His children.

Now my own kids — all four of them — are inveterate slobs, and if you want to lay this at my door for not training them right, feel free to do so (just in front of my face this time, please). While I don’t particularly like wet towels on the bathroom floor, dishes in the sink, and random papers in random places, I firmly ask each person to help out, and I place less credence on the appearance of my living room than I do on my relationship with my children. I have never yet — nor do I have any plans to do so in the future — disinherited and cast off my offspring because they are less than perfect housekeepers.

I love them too much for that.

We Walk around in Fear

And yet, we walk timorously around God, shrinking from His hand, convinced that He is ready to strike, and hurt, and slap, and punish us for every impure thought, every less than holy action, every motivation that we possess. And then we castigate ourselves because we do not love Him enough.

Always, always, we are fault, and while it is true that we are sinners, we are redeemed sinners, children in the house of a loving Father — a Father much wiser than we are because He doesn’t run His house by kicking the dog, and yelling at the kids.

“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” Jesus told a group of unbelieving Jews in the synagogue one day. “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8: 35-36)

The Son has set us free; He has invited us into the household with the Father, and we are precious, and dearly loved, sons and daughters of the King.

So why do we still act like slaves?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I feel as if I have just walked through the door, and into the household of God. I have belonged to Him for 31 years, but most of that time I’ve been out in the yard, shuffling around in shackles that I have willingly put on my own ankles and wrists.

I’ve finally walked through the door, and as I stand in the foyer, I call out,

“I’m a daughter of this household, but I’m really new to actually being in the house, and I don’t know what to do. But I’m ready, Father, for you to teach me.”

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Will We Ever Say Good-bye to the Legacy of the Vietnam War?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Most human beings seek peace, and the right to live an ordinary life doing honorably, ordinary things, like raising their families. Sailing on the Sound, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson.

Anniversaries are supposed to be celebratory things, generally of weddings, when a couple starts a whole new life together. How odd that we use the same word, “anniversary,” to acknowledge — surely not celebrate? — the unwanted introduction of the Vietnam War into all of our lives.

I was two years old when Lyndon B. Johnson sanctioned the forcible sending of young men into a conflict that, according to my U.S. History teacher years later, “was never intended to be won.” I was 13 when the debacle officially ended.

Only it didn’t end, because those soldiers who came back returned to a life that their mothers never envisioned when their sons were born. How many of us have seen men with alcohol, drug, and lifestyle problems and said,

“Oh, yeah. He was in the Vietnam War. He’s never been the same since”?

Essays of Innocence

My high school English teacher was an upright, uptight woman with an impossible hair-do only achieved by a wig, but when you knew her two weeks, you were no longer frightened by exterior show. One afternoon, she strayed from discussing Shakespeare to remembering 13 years of teaching during the Vietnam War:

“Graduation is supposed to be an exciting time of anticipation,” she told us, “and for you it is.

“Not so long ago, I taught in a classroom where students — and not just the girls — put their heads down on their desks and wept. The boys in the class — who should have been thinking about prom, or bragging about all the things you boys brag about — were quiet, worried, still. Too many of them had their draft numbers pulled up, and they knew that immediately after graduation, they were being shipped out.

“Most of them figured they had little chance to return, and they were quite unfortunately right.

“I remember the essays that these boys wrote, in this same class.”

The Lucky Ones

The “lucky” ones returned — one of them was my husband’s brother, who 30 years later developed multiple myeloma, an especially virulent cancer attributed to the Agent Orange poison that was blanketed over the jungles of Vietnam. His “luck” ran out this year, and the aftermaths of the Vietnam War continue for his widow, his children, his grandchildren, his mother, his in-laws, his siblings, his friends.

Summer Breeze original oil painting of a boy and a kite by Steve Henderson

No mother looks at her son and says, “Maybe he’ll go off — and be sacrificed to — war!” Summer Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“It’s different now,” we tell ourselves. “There is no draft.” But with mandatory registration for selective service still in force, and a series of wars — and rumors of wars — that have no real enemy and no intention of ever being won (how can you win against “terrorism”?), my English teacher’s scenario will be repeated anytime, in a future classroom. And with women now “cleared” to be fit for combat zones, the girls weeping at their desks won’t be crying for their boyfriends alone.

And already we say this:

“Oh, yeah. He was in the Kuwait/Iraqi/Afghanistan War. He’s never been the same since.”

War Is Life

“War has always been with us,” we sigh. And this is true, because war makes money, and people who crave money — and power — have always been with us as well. It is not the boys bragging about what boys brag about, and writing essays on Shakespeare’s sonnets, who start these things. But they are thrown into them.

When people question war, or the necessity of it, they are accused of being liberals who “don’t support our troops,” but as the sister-in-law who watched a good man — and his wife — fight, and fight, and fight a disease that their own government inflicted upon them in a war that was never intended to be won, I ask,

“Where are the generals, to hold the plastic pan, while this man throws up?”

War is not honorable, but we strive to make it so in order to justify the incredible loss of lives. And while in the past, during the Great War to End All Wars, say, (that was World War I, by the way), we established a definite bad guy, as years go by evidence mounts that certain people in financial and political positions played both sides for profit. And young men died.

Not the Original Intent

In the last days, when the Prince of Peace reigns, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

“Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2: 4)

Most people simply want to live their lives. It is telling that God’s vision for the future — when people will plow or prune — resembles our beginnings, in a garden, shows the intent our Creator had when He made the world.

But as long as manufacturing missiles produces greater profit than planting potatoes, we will never say good-bye to the legacy of the Vietnam War.

Happy Anniversary. Let the festivities begin.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, even when we are Christians, we cannot escape the pain of living in this world, and while it’s true that Jesus is love, and we rest fully in that love, this doesn’t mean that we don’t speak out against things that are wrong.

We are on the side of eternal and ultimate goodness, and we walk in, and with, the Light of the World. The interesting thing about light in a dark room, however, is that it shines into the dark corners, and exposes the cockroaches that are scuttling about there.

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Once You’re Awake — Now What?

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Cadence original oil painting of woman walking on the beach by Steve Henderson

Once you’re awake, you start walking, and once you start walking, you get to a better place. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

The other day, I found myself in the middle of a church picnic.

It was totally unintentional, and I’ll tell you the story someday, but the upshot is, I was chatting with a safe woman from the group, when I tossed out my usual question to determine whether or not a person is awake:

“So, do you completely believe and unquestioningly accept the government’s official version about 9/11?”

“Oh, no,” she replied without hesitation, then stopped, troubled. “It’s disturbing to think about the ramifications.”

Well, that’s an understatement, but at least I could see that her eyes were open.

But then she went on to a statement that I hear on a regular basis:

“I’m Overwhelmed”

“There’s just so much going on, and we don’t seem to have any power to stop any of it. I don’t know what to do, and I don’t see any value of being awake.”

That’s a valid statement, and I sympathize with the feeling of being overwhelmed.

But, in the first place, when you’re sound asleep and someone creeps into your bedroom with a knife, you have little chance of defending yourself at all. When you’re awake, however, and aware, you can deflect the blow, if not get in a good kick and a yell to arouse the rest of the house.

And in the second place, which is really the first place, as Christians, we are supposed to be awake at all times, living as servants —  and simultaneously beloved children — in the house of a powerful Master:

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him,” Jesus tells us in Luke 12: 35-36.

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.”

Watching, and Waiting

What does it mean, this watching?

In an earlier post, Are You Awake? I described the most notable aspect of being awake as recognizing that mankind, and all of his systems, are corrupt, debauched, depraved, untrustworthy, deceitful and perfidious. “Full of sin” if you’re looking for nine letters to fill in your crossword puzzle.

Brimming Over original oil painting of woman on the beach by Steve Henderson

Getting angry is generally our first option, but sometimes, when you look at the absurdity of people’s actions when they are steeped in sin, you have to laugh it off. Brimming Over, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition prints at Great Big Canvas and Framed Canvas Art.

So Step One is no longer being fooled by the things you are told.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words,” Ephesians 5: 6 says.

Seek Truth

Step Two is finding words you actually can believe, which is anything that proceeds from the mouth of God. He wrote a Book, and much of what it says goes counter to the ways that we have been taught. The Beatitudes alone, in Matthew 5: 3-12, are the complete and total opposite of the corporate business model which, quite unfortunately, has infected every aspect of our culture, including too many of our churches (they have boards, and meetings, and small group functions, and digital bulletin boards in the foyer, and PowerPoint presentations; and they are concerned with numbers, and cash flow, and attracting the “right” kind of  congregant, and the impression that they make upon the “outside community.”)

Following God means that we turn around in the sheep chute that is directing us, the masses, in one direction, and we walk against the flow of humanity. From a networking standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense to seek out the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame (Luke 14: 13) because they can’t pay us back like our friends, our relatives, or our rich neighbors, but Jesus’ business model is an odd one. Somehow, it works — but not in accordance with the way of the world.

Pray

Step 3 — pray, all the time, every day, and ask God what He would have you to do to battle the evil in this world and in this age:

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

“Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6: 11-12)

You may not see the importance in the things He asks you to do, but continue to ask, and listen, and obey.

Don’t Give up

Finally, do not give in to despair — take heart! Jesus has overcome the world (John 16: 33), and you belong to Him.

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” (Isaiah 8: 12-14)

“The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I write because this is one of the options God has set before me. Believe me, some days I feel like giving up, but I can’t, because there are things to be said, and not a lot of people are saying them.

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Are You Awake?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

 

Girl in a Copper Dress original oil painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson

I admit it: I was asleep for many, many years, and waking up was a shaking up process. Where are you? Girl in a Copper Dress 3, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.

The Bible talks a lot about being awake, and all Christians like to think that they are so:

“Oh, yes — I’m awake all right to the evils of the world around me!”

Quite honestly, as much as we would like to think that Christians, more than anyone, are awake to the evil of mankind and all of its systems, few of us are, my dear brothers and sisters.

“Now while (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.

“But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (John 2:  23-25)

Does this describe you? Do you know what is in a man?

Following Others

Do you wholeheartedly trust or believe in the teachings of another, because others — your pastor, Billy Graham, Oprah, Obama, George W., CNN or Fox News, the Republican or Democrat party,  Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Bill O-Reilly, Warren Buffet, Sean Hannidy, David Icke, a teacher, your boss, your mother, or lowly I — say that they are good and wise and to be trusted? Or do you trust in the names of any of those, or those like them, in that list?

If you do, then my friend, you are not awake, because you do not know what is in a man:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

(This verse in Jeremiah 17: 9 is one we inflicted upon hapless young children when I was part of the church Awana program, but we gave the wrong information at the wrong time — when children needed to know about love, we preached judgment, so that by the time they were old enough to understand judgment, they couldn’t accept it because we had never taught them love.)

But we’re grown-ups, my friend, and if we are Christians, then the central point we can start from is this:

God Is Good; Man Is Not

God is good and perfect and loving. There is no evil in Him at all.

Human beings are the total and complete opposite. The ONLY goodness within us comes from God.

Ergo, any goodness that is found in man is rooted in his humility and submission to God, and what words of wisdom he lets fall point — always — back to God. When we start to think of a person (and that person encourages us in that thinking) as wise, holy, intelligent, creative, and good in and of themselves, then we need to remember what is in a man:

“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.

“All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” (Mark 7: 18-20)

God Doesn’t Work from this List

And while Christians have been washed from these sins (2 Corinthians 6: 11), our flesh battles with our spirit, so that all of us can pick out an item or two from this list and admit we still have problems with it.

Chimu original oil painting of peruvian pottery by Steve Henderson

The things made by man — whether they are clay pots or systems — break. Chimu, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Think of this: if Christians battle arrogance, pride, greed, hate, bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, and deceit, what about those who do not follow or accept Christ as their master? Given that all sorts of people — some who are Christians but many more who are not — make up our government, education system, medical establishment, media, military, financial network, and not least, religious order– why do we invest any trust or belief in these systems of man?

If you are awake, you recognize that systems of man — ALL systems of man — are infected by the sins that plague mankind, and we cannot blindly support or believe in anything that man propounds. This means that the history you learned in school is woven with mistruths; the promises made in any political speech are highly likely to be lies (seriously, is that a surprise?); the assurances you are given for your safety and privacy are false; the facts you are presented as truth in your daily news are misinformation.

Stop Believing in the Wrong Things (or People)

Every single piece of information you are given, by every single person, is suspect, because it comes out of the mouth of a man, or woman. The ONLY information you can trust comes from God’s mouth, and one of the main sources we have for that is Scripture.

(“Written and passed on by man,” — I hear you already. But overseen and protected by God. As a Christian, determine whether or not you do, or do not, trust Scripture as inerrant. If you do, then start treating it as such; if you don’t, then embark on the journey to solve this.)

So seek truth. Read Scripture — for yourself. Believe in God enough to accept that He can help you interpret and understand what is written, and while you can learn from another person’s wisdom, do not rely upon that person to interpret all wisdom for you.

Wake up to this:

“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7: 20)

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I am encouraged to see more and more people, some of them Christians, waking up to the evil that is besetting us in these latter days. I pray that 1) more Christians wake up and 2) when they do, they look up to God with those newly opened eyes.

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