Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Christians: Let’s Admit That We Don’t Know It All

posted by Carolyn Henderson

I have to be in a certain mood to read the book of Proverbs, which consists, primarily, of pithy — yet wise, and true — statements in couplet form. Part of me always thinks, “Most of these were written by Solomon, who, although he was the wisest man in all history, managed to make some really foolish marital, spiritual, and financial decisions.”

Lonesome Barn inspirational original watercolor painting of clouds over grassy meadow near barn by Steve Henderson

Who makes the clouds, and the rain, the sunlight, the wind, and the animals that graze in the grass? He’s the One who knows it all. Lonesome Barn, original watercolor by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Framed Canvas Art


But that’s the beauty of the Bible — it never leaves us in the dark as to Who is all wise, all good, and all knowing, and the very foibles of a righteous man are a lesson in themselves:

“Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22)

Good, But Not Perfect

Solomon, David, Joseph, Daniel, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Peter, John, Paul — these were all good, righteous men whose words and actions were used by God, but we are never permitted the illusion that they aspired to be, or even could ever manage to be, equal to God themselves. God graciously shows us their imperfections, and if we stopped being so hard on ourselves, we would realize that this same grace extends to us: we will make mistakes — phenomenally dumb ones — we will err, we will sin, we will fall — but into the arms of a perfect, merciful, loving God.


Speaking of that perfect, merciful, loving God, Proverbs 30 is not written by Solomon by by Agur, son of Jakeh of Massa, which the helpful notes in my Bible associate — through the place name Massa — with the Ishmaelite people. In other words, not only is Agur not Solomon, he is highly likely also not an offspring of Isaac, but of the “other” son.

God’s Wisdom Is Everywhere

By the standards that too many of us Christians easily fall into, we can easily misconceive that what Agur has to say is of little value, because — so we reason — he’s not a Child of the Promise, and thereby can have no wisdom. (Admit it: have you ever thought, or said, “He’s not a Christian, so he can’t speak truth, not real truth”?) But . . . Agur’s words are in Proverbs, which gives them the weight of Scripture.


So what does Agur say?

“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” (Proverbs 30:1-3)

So far, Agur is playing right into our traditional, yet misdirected belief, in that, as a “heathen,” he rightfully admits that he knows nothing of God. How could he, we insist, given that he is not of God’s chosen people?

Humility Instead of Pride

But in the next few lines, Agur shows that, not only does he know much of God, he knows more than those of us who believe ourselves chosen (whether we’re Old Testament Jews or New Testament Christians) — do, because his humility in admitting that he doesn’t know everything about the One who IS everything — is something we Christians frequently lack:


Three Horses inspirational original oil painting of mountains and meadow by Steve Henderson

God, who gave strength to the horse, knows and understands all things. He is our teacher. Three horses, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)


These words effectively echo God’s in His conversation (monologue, actually) with Job in chapters 38-41, in which God puts forth all sorts of rhetorical questions of one who — like all of us humans — doubted the wisdom of God’s actions. It soon becomes very obvious that,

1) We don’t know when the mountain goats give birth (39:1)

2) We didn’t give the horse his strength (39:19)

3) The eagle does not soar at our command (39:27)

4) We can’t trap the behemoth and pierce his nose (40:24)

and on, and on, and on, until we can only answer, like Job,

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted . . . surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (42:3)


Those Willing to Be Taught, Learn

This is effectively what Agur, the Ishmaelite who fully admits his ignorance in front of the One who has established all the ends of the earth, is saying, and we would be wise to follow his example.

As Christians, we too easily stumble into the trap of believing that

1) We shouldn’t ever sin, fall, doubt, or snap impatiently at someone

2) We should understand all Scripture


3) We should have answers to every question, because, after all, if the Holy Spirit lives in us, we must show evidence of that spiritual life, mustn’t we?

But as the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:7,


“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

And despite having this treasure,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (8-10)

It is easy to misconstrue that we are good and knowledgeable and sinless and perfect when we are not: we belong to the One Who is. And He Who is is continually working upon us doesn’t get it all done at one time — our moment of conversion, say — but rather, “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)


It’s much easier for Him to work on us when we are humble, meek, aware of our shortcomings and not in denial that they exist.

As Christians, we don’t know everything, but unfortunately we feel the obligation to do so. Let us learn from Agur, a wise man of God, who starts from this premise of humility:

“I am the most ignorant of men . . . I have not learned wisdom, nor do I have knowledge of the Holy One.”

Only a truly wise man can make an admission like that.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I encourage you to search, diligently, for grace. You cannot err in this, because when you search for God’s mercy, you do so because you realize that you need it so much.


Posts similar to this one are

Some Days, We Feel Pathetic

The Purposeless Driven Life

The Misfit Christian (this is my book for truth seekers who feel as if they don’t fit into the group. You’re not supposed to fit into a group — you’re a member of the family of God. That’s not a group. It’s a family.)




Negative Thoughts: Deny the Lie

posted by Carolyn Henderson

A good lie is 95 percent true — that’s what makes it good.

After all, if it’s too obviously false, like,

The first lie, which remains a very good, believable one, still fools us today. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Wenzel Peter.

The first lie, which remains a very good, believable one, still fools us today. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Wenzel Peter.


“Negative thoughts have a magnetic force that causes them to glow and pulsate. Attracted by the light, people gravitate toward the thoughts, physically run into them, and get migraine headaches,” then people rightly say,


But if we alter the statement, subtly, we get,

“Negative thoughts are bad, and when you think or express them, you will frequently experience the very thing you’re afraid of.”

Have you heard that one, or a variation of it, before? And do you believe it?

“Don’t Say It!”

I ran into a woman the other day who does. We were part of a conversation in which a very brave person expressed, honestly, buck naked feelings, along the lines of,


“I am depressed, sad, and discouraged. We have prayed a long time for relief, but nothing happens, and sometimes I wonder if God hears us.”

“Oh, He doesn’t, when you feel like that!” she chirped. “When you don’t have enough faith, He is not obligated to answer your prayers.”

This singularly uncomforting, and distinctly misguided, sentence sounds as if it could be true, because we’ve all been around gloomy, depressing, battery drainers who never think things will ever turn out right, and they generally don’t (quite frankly, these drainers wouldn’t recognize a good result if it slapped them in the face), but like that good lie, it incorporates enough truth to fool, and enough lie to damage.


Prosperity Babble

Thanks to multiple generations of prosperity preachers, advocating a dogma of Speaking Truth into Existence, we attribute a power to words that belongs to God alone:

“God created the world through His words!” advocates proclaim, claim, declare, and aver. “So also can we.”

This clever, and effective, rephrasing of one of the oldest lies, told by a master in Genesis 3:4:

“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman, ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,'”

fools many, even mature Christians.


While seasoned believers readily identify, recognize, and refute the words of people who sell books promising others that they can get rich if they only speak the right words, the lie runs deep, and its insidious tentacles have reached, subtly yet firmly, into the sanctuaries of too many churches, and into the minds of too many Christians who would have no problem telling an obvious prosperity preacher to click off.

He Doesn’t Reject Us

“If you express doubt in God’s ability,” they muse, “then maybe He does turn His back on us.”

Fortunately, for Peter in his one and only recorded attempt to walk on water, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14:31)


Catching the Breeze inspirational original oil painting of woman walking on beach by ocean sea by Steve Henderson

While we may not walk on water, we do walk with God — in prayer, in hope, in faith, and in expressing our lack of faith. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, Vision Art Galleries, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.


Another time, Jesus calmed the storm when the disciples begged him to save them, because they feared they were about to drown:

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

My favorite involves the father of the demon possessed boy,  who in Mark 9:22 blurts out, ‘”But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

‘”If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.'”

Over, and over, and over again Jesus points out a lack of faith, but never rejects the person expressing it. And, most importantly, the words of the people asking for His help — whether they are full of faith or full of doubt — do. not. cause. the. miracle.


Jesus alone manifests the miracle, at His desire, and His overwhelming attitude toward humble, hurting, hapless sheep is one of compassion and care.

No Fear

Why then are we so afraid to express our very deepest thoughts to Him?

Because, on a regular basis, when we express just the tip of those thoughts to human beings, we are rebuked for our lack of faith, as if our inadequacy, or adequacy, in this area locks or unlocks God’s power.

“God is offended by our lack of faith,” we’re told.

But is He?

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings,” God says in Hosea 6:6, giving the idea that it’s more of who we are, as opposed to what we do — or speak — that matters.


“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” Psalm 51:17 says. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a broken spirit, but I can assure you that, when you do, your overall emotional state of being is not positive.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may life you up in due time,” 1 Peter 5:6 advises. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Part of casting your anxiety on God is expressing to Him what it involves, and describing your fears, hurts, and sorrows — in prayer — will involve a certain degree of what we call negativity.

God is not offended, nor surprised, by the deep, roiling, dark, panicky, distressed thoughts that surge through us as we struggle through each day’s challenges. Sometimes, when the water is pouring into the boat, and it looks like we will drown, Jesus appears to be asleep.


If He did not condemn the disciples when they shouted,

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:8), why do we think He will reject us when we say,

“God. I’m tired. I’m discouraged. And I don’t possibly see how you can get me out of this situation”?

If you’re at the point that you no longer want to express your hurt in front of people, because they scold you so much, then by all means, don’t.

But never stop expressing your deepest, most fragile thoughts, to God.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage all believers to be honest with God. It’s the first step toward our being honest toward one another.


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Some Days, We Feel Pathetic

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Just outside our dining room window is an extremely pathetic nectarine tree.

Actually, when it comes to producing nectarines, it’s phenomenally successful. With its lack of leaves, hollowed out inner section, and floppy branches, however, it projects a wretched state of abject despondency that makes one think,

This is our pathetic nectarine tree, which has been providing 2-4 pieces of fruit, everyday, for weeks. Not so pathetic after all. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art.

This is our pathetic nectarine tree, which has been providing 2-4 pieces of fruit, everyday, for weeks. Not so pathetic after all. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art.


“That is a really loser tree.”

But like most quick conclusions, this one is inaccurate, because no matter how uncomely and unprepossessing the tree, it does fulfill the major function of its calling, in that in produces nectarines.

Jesus’s Fig Tree

In Mark 12:25, Jesus interacted with another tree — a fig tree — which wasn’t as successful as our little tree in fulfilling its calling:

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again,.’ And his disciples heard him say it.”


Later in the chapter, the disciples note, with astonishment, that the fig tree has withered, never to fool anyone again by its false promise to produce.

Now there are many applications we can draw from this narrative, which precedes a long accounting of Jesus’s interaction with Jewish leaders, priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, all of whom are fairly well known for their looking pretty good on the outside but not so shiny and clean within (check out the 7 Woes in Matthew chapter 23), but today I want to discuss this story in light of fruit, and fruit bearing, and how many Christians go through life thinking that they’re withered dry sticks of dying vegetation, while they envy the fig trees in the distance.

The Ways We Covet


We’ve all done this, you know, and at base it’s a form of coveting. Rather than covet our neighbor’s house, or wife, male or female servant, or donkey (Exodus 20:17), we covet our neighbor’s situation: his gifts, say, or his abilities, and we consider our neighbor a success because 1) he has money, 2) he speaks well and others speak well of him, and/or 3) he seems to be doing so much for the Lord, in such an important fashion, while we are not.

And no matter how many times we tell ourselves,

Reflection inspirational oil painting of little girl and woman beach jumping in puddle by Steve Henderson

How often do we tell ourselves that we are too small, weak, pathetic, or useless to do anything good for God? Reflection, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Vision Art Galleries


“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7),

we counteract the import of the message by adding, mentally,

“Yes, that’s true, but if I were really worth something to God, He would show it by blessing me the way He does everyone else.”

From a Distance — We See Little

The funny thing about seeing people, or fig trees, from a distance is that you only see an illusion of who or what they are, and not necessarily the real thing. To see that, you have to get up close, personal, and within range of picking any fruit if it’s there — and most of us who know people that well also know the many foibles, faults, and issues they deal with. Rarely are we fooled into thinking a close, close loved one is a paradigm of perfection, but far too often do we fall into the trap of putting a relative stranger — whether he’s a “real” celebrity or a distant acquaintance at work, school, or church — in a high and mighty place.


“Look at all the leaves on that fig tree,” we murmur, awed and cowed at the same time. “It must be full of fruit.”

In most cases, with “real” celebrities, we are unable to get close enough to see if there actually are figs behind all the foliage, but given the experience we have in real life with real people, we can extrapolate the lesson:

Outward appearances do not necessarily reflect inward beauty.

Facebook Fruit

Recently, a young woman mentioned to me, “I hate reading about people on Facebook. Everyone seems to have their lives together; not only that, but they’re successful: they have money, good jobs, new cars, and they’re happy,”


to which I replied,

“Do you seriously think that people post all the bad things in their life, on Facebook? Will they say, ‘I have $35,000 in credit card debt, and it keeps me up at night’? or, ‘I have no real friends, and I’m so, so lonely’? Facebook gives a one-dimensional outlook on a person’s life.”

Facebook is the 21st century version of the distant fig tree, in full leaf but with little or no fruit.

Now of course, since today’s musing is an analogy, as opposed to an allegory, we avoid the fear (or hope?) that Jesus is going to wither all of the preening voices on Facebook, but let us be encouraged by Paul’s reminder in 2 Corinthians 4:7, that,

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us.”


God, the master gardener, tends His orchards with greater care and ability than we do our nectarine tree, and we can be assured that, even though we may look, and feel, pathetic, when we follow Him and read His word and speak to Him in prayer and humble ourselves before Him, we do produce fruit, and this is good.

He will prune, and snip, and graft, and chop, and water, and coax His trees to produce more and more fruit, and it is not up to us to look at our drooping leaves and say, “I’m so pathetic.”

Rather, let us be assured by His promise, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)

Thank You


Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage all Christians to seek their worth in Christ, not in their impressions of the people around them.

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Free Yourself from Bible Study Myths

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Why won’t you attend Bible study?” a man asked me once.

“Do you hate studying the Bible?”

Spirit of the Canyon inspirational original oil painting of woman at grand canyon with fabric by Steve Henderson

Anytime you seek to free yourself from rules that the majority of people follow, you’ll be told that you’re different, dissident, and difficult. Well, go ahead — would you rather be free, or compliant? Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.


Seriously, when you get a question framed like that, it’s best to just talk about the weather. The person asking will never understand the answer, because their eyes are closed.

Bible study, which really means nothing more than reading the Bible, is another one of those activities that has been appropriated, and defined, by the establishment church, so that too many people, when they hear the words, think this:

The Pattern

1) A group gets together — at home or in church — and sits in a circle.

2) A leader “facilitates,” which means that he speaks, everyone else listens, and a limited — very limited — amount of discussion is allowed.


3) Generally, a book other than the Bible accompanies the study as commentary, teaching, support, and instruction.

4) If there is no attendant book, the leader’s voice is the final one on the meaning of the passage.

But Bible Study, in its pure form, means just that: you, the Christian, read the Bible, as slowly or as quickly as you wish. You choose the book within the Bible that you want to read, and you can skip. It’s remarkably freeing, and to make it more so, I encourage you to dispel three common, but errant, myths about reading the Bible:

You Need Help

Myth #1 — You can’t do this on your own.

The idea that only certain people — pastors, elders, deacons, pastors’ wives, missionaries, Celebrity Christians, televangelists, speakers, or book authors approved by the secularly-owned “Christian” publishing houses — are qualified to teach spiritual truths is a lie that just won’t die, because we keep feeding it.


“What if you get something wrong?!” others ask in horror when you mention that you read the Bible by yourself, relying upon the Holy Spirit as your guide.

Enchanted inspirational original oil painting of woman in green dress in garden with sunlight by Steve Henderson

What is so frightening about being on our own? Sometimes, we should close our eyes, let our minds rest, and feel the sun — and the Son — embracing us. Enchanted, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.


As a practical answer to that question, I encourage you to wander — very briefly — through the Christian section of a bookstore and ask yourself, “Is ALL of this stuff spiritually accurate?”

Since the obvious answer is no, you are then led to the very real possibility that some of the authors, pushing their products, “are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women (Paul’s words, not mine), who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

And, how do you spot these people? Well, let’s close the circle:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 43: 16).


In other words, the better you know what’s in the Bible yourself, the more adept you will be at spotting the misuse of it by others.

Stay in One Place

Myth #2: Don’t move on from one verse until you fully understand its meaning.

While this sounds logical, it’s pretty much a recipe for frustration, especially when you run into a verse like Deuteronomy 20:16:

“However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.”

This includes women and children, which is a fairly bothersome concept for many of us. If you can’t move on until you understand this, then you’re stuck on Deuteronomy 20:16, that is, if you didn’t get stopped at Genesis 22 in which Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac. We’ve all heard various interpretations of why we shouldn’t worry too much about this incident, but never any adequate answer to,


“But what about Isaac? What lasting effect did this event have upon his relationship with his earthly father, Abraham, and his heavenly father, God?”

There is a temptation to accept a less than acceptable answer, simply so that one can move on, as opposed to saying,

“Whoa, God. This is a difficult verse, and I don’t see how it can be in line with your grace, mercy, and love. But I know that You are true, and there is an acceptable explanation. Please, in your timing, show it to me. Until then, I rest in knowing that you are all good.”

While the average atheist will call this a cop-out, when it comes to God, we either accept that He is all good, or not. We also accept that He is all knowing, and that sometimes we simply don’t comprehend what He’s talking about. The various end times prophecies in Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation come to mind, and when we insist upon a proper answer at the proper time, we’re in danger of accepting pat answers by . . . well, Celebrity Christians who make money off of telling us these things.


You? With an Original Thought?

Myth #3: Don’t even imagine that you could come up with an interpretation that no one has yet had.

Speaking of Celebrity Christians, I gleaned this piece of wisdom out of a book concerning how to study the Bible, by a Celebrity Christian who teaches others what the Bible says.

For some reason, although her interpretations are adequate and suitable to be placed in a workbook, yours, and mine, are not.

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go,” Isaiah 48: 17 tells us.

Now while God can, indeed, use commentaries, and videos, and Scripture notes, human teachers, and outside resources to teach us what is in His word, He also teaches without those resources. You’ll never know how much you can learn, however, until you take the training wheels off and let Him give you a little push.


I assure you that He will show you something that — while some human being, at some time, in some place, has maybe learned before — will definitely NOT be in line with much of what you are taught in an establishment church setting. Our Celebrity Christian author would have you reject this, and accept — passively — what you are told by others.

Christians, let’s quit being so compliant, tacit, obedient, and accepting of everything we are told, and the first and foremost step toward that is reading the Bible — by ourselves. In many places, this very act is illegal, which should spark the question:


Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I don’t hate Bible study — I just avoid, at all costs, church establishment small group meetings that purport to be the same thing.


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