Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Does It Bother You, That People Lie to Us?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:3)

For many years, like many people, I was contentedly asleep, focusing the majority of my time on minor, day to day things, allowing those things to swallow up an inordinate proportion of my thoughts: I accepted without question everything I saw on the news, thereby finding myself in a constant state of overwhelmed anxiety; I nursed grudges over trivial offenses; I attended church and participated in extra-curricular activities like mid-week children’s groups and worship team practice, convinced that the more time I spent doing “Christian” activities, the more of a Christian I actually was.

Lady in Waiting inspirational original oil painting of woman at Victorian lilac home by the sea by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at amazon, framed canvas art and icanvas

When we wait for someone, we want to make sure that they are trustworthy enough to fulfill their words. Truth, always, involves God. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Amazon, Framed Canvas Art, and iCanvas.

Cocooned within my insular world, I was able to transform minor issues into major ones, and the limited time I spent with God was generally devoted to informing Him about money concerns and observations on the personal foibles of others who threatened to make my comfortable existence uncomfortable.

And while I was concerned about the pain and hurt of the millions of others on this planet — most notably those who don’t get enough to eat every day — there was so little I could do about it other than write a check, that I simply didn’t know what to pray. So I didn’t.

But God adroitly and skillfully uses circumstances to awaken His children, and when acute emotional pain drove me to the realization that I had no control over my life, but One Person did, I had no time for minor things that had become major. My thoughts turned increasingly on the goodness of God, in comparison to the evil of man that abounds and flourishes in a world of powerful people who, like the grave, cannot get enough:

“Like death he is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.” (Habakkuk 2:5)

Global Pain

In the midst of dealing with anguish on a personal level, I found my eyes opened to anguish on a global level, instituted and nourished by financial and political magnates — whether they are on horseback with sabers or in leather chairs behind desks crafted from hardwood unsustainably logged from the Amazon  rainforest — whose central goal is to subjugate the majority of the human race. In every generation there are a few convinced that they deserve more, and better, by taking from those who simply want enough.

And I began to identify, first in one area and then in another, the lies I was being told.

It doesn’t really matter where one starts — once you discover that you are being lied to, in one area, then you awaken to the fact that the lies don’t stop there. If they come out of the mouth of a man, their verity is questionable.

Let’s take politics, for example, an area in which we expect to be lied to, all the time, and yet, come every election, we listen to each candidate and vote based upon their words, as if we expected those words to be true.

“Read my lips — no new taxes.”

Remember that one?

The Fruit Vendor inspirational original oil painting of south american market woman with bananas and melons by Steve Henderson

Our food matters, and it matters that it is as safe as we are told that it is. The Fruit Vendor, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

It doesn’t really matter that George H. Bush said it first, in just those terms written into his speech by his speechwriter — all political leaders make similar promises, which we generously forgive them for not keeping (“Bipartisan politics — it’s really difficult!”) The point is — abortion is not safe or rare, although it continues to be legal, and profitable for those who specialize in doing it; the unemployment rate is far higher than the actual number stated; bullying is alive and well in bully-free school and work zones; gas prices are not driven by free economics;  consumers are not informed which of their foods are genetically modified, nor do they have any say about the practice in the first place; and first-world nations are at war all around the world whether or not they declare the involvement to be an occupation or “peace-keeping” measure. Words do not match actions —

“The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (1:4)

For those still asleep, it’s easy to discount any criticism of current events as alarmism, or, the most severe criticism that can be levied — conspiracy theory. But when you awake to the fact that something you have been told is not true, and yet was told to you so that you would behave a certain way, or accept a particular proposal, or buy a product, then you have to ask yourself,

“Why do I keep acting as if what this person, or this organization, or this government, or this celebrity, or this religious figurehead, says is true?”

And once you ask yourself that, and realize how much is going on that you can’t do anything about, you ask, like Habakkuk 2,600 years ago,

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?”

or in other words, “What am I supposed to do about it? And why don’t You do something?”

Regarding what God does about injustice, let’s jump to Malachi 4:1 in which He promises,

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire.” 

And as for us?

We wake up. We acknowledge the evil and are no longer fooled by the lies. And we look to one source, and one source only, for the truth.

By the simple expedient of simply stopping believing everything we are told, and questioning every statement we are given, we would wake up.

And awake is precisely what Evil wants us not to be.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

 

 

Why Do We Follow These Leaders?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)

Jesus did not mean for His earthly flock to be left without wise, caring shepherds.

Golden Sea inspirational original oil painting of saiboat at yellow sunset on puget sound by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, amazon.com, art.com, allposters.com, icanvas, and framed canvas art

If we’re going to trust to the captain of a ship, we want to make sure, beforehand, that the captain actually knows how to sail. So should any sheep check out a shepherd. Golden Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at amazon, art. com, all posters, Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, and Framed Canvas Art.

In this passage of Acts, the apostle Paul is speaking to the assembled leaders of Ephesus, and his words should make us all stop and reflect: Christianity, and its followers, have been under attack from the very beginning.

Now when someone says this, we tend to think, “Nero — he killed Christians!” or, “The Spanish Inquisition — that was a bad time!” and this is very true, but Paul’s words warn us — today — that the danger to the flock comes from within, amongst the very group of leaders that is supposed to protect and shepherd — and we cannot complacently accept everything we are told, just because someone in authority says that it’s so.

In the first place, we are not under Judaic law.

Now while this  sounds painfully obvious (or it should, but many Christians, enamored of Jewishness and convinced that it adds something necessary to what Christ has completed, enjoy dabbling with elements of the religion, like saying “Yeshua” instead of “Jesus” or “Yahweh” instead of God), the point is that we are not under the rule of priests, nor are we obligated to put anyone there.

Where we attend Sunday morning (if we attend anywhere) is a free choice, and by showing up, we are not obligated to obey the hierarchy that is in place. The leaders, who are called to serve, are our fellow brothers and sisters, and when they start calling themselves, or thinking that they are, modern day apostles and prophets, we might want to use our commonsense and go someplace else.

“Hear, and Obey”

But the message of today, strongly promulgated by celebrity Christians — self-imposed leaders who pastor mega-churches, write books, and visit the Pope on behalf of the little people — is that we are a community, and as community members, we must make ourselves accountable to those “above” us — wives obey husbands (like slaves obey masters), laymen obey the elders, the elders confer with the pastor and form a leadership unit, the leadership unit is under the denominational aegis of whatever sect the church belongs to.

Fenceline Encounter inspirational original oil painting of goats and deer in meadow by Steve Henderson

These are goats, which are distinctly smarter than sheep, and while they follow a leader, they all keep an eye open for danger, individually. Fenceline Encounter, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

It’s all very Biblical and proper sounding, and if you question it at all, someone is sure to hammer you with Hebrews 13:17:

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority,”

although “obey” can also be translated as “persuade,” “trust,” or “have confidence in,” and the word presented to us as “submit,” can also mean “yield to.”

Which brings us back to Paul’s warning at the beginning of this essay:

“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth,”

something that only a fool would deny has ever happened, sometime, somewhere, or is not happening now.

We Must Be Awake

“So be on your guard!” Paul continues in 20:31. “Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

This is not a negligible issue: dishonest men, greedy for money and power, find it readily in a system in which acolytes are taught to not ask questions but to obey, to not speak up but follow the proper channels of presenting their concerns, to trust not in their own intelligence and acumen but in the words and commands of others.

Presented with “evidence” that their leaders are wise and good and in control — because these leaders are “blessed” by material wealth, or because these leaders “have the ear” of political magnates — most people back down, but one has to ask, just what is it, precisely, that the heralded 21st century human Evangelists say that is so earth shatteringly brilliant beyond what Peter, or John, or Paul, already wrote?

Or where, in the Scriptures, does God promise a private jet, large mansion, and television show to His prophets? Isn’t the purpose of wealth that we share it, lest we be like the rich man, who will have a harder time making it into heaven than a camel will, getting through the eye of a needle? (Matthew 19:23-24)

And given that these leaders assure us of their godly right to rule, based upon their wisdom and spirituality, shouldn’t they be concerned about the dangers that their riches are putting them in?

(As an aside, those of their followers who are concerned about this can easily solve the problem: just stop sending money to these people.)

There are wolves in the flock, my friend, and their presence is like tares among the wheat: it is difficult to tell the real, honest, meaningful shepherds from the false ones, and for those who are content to be sleepy sheep, readily following whoever calls the most convincingly, this is a problem.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” Jesus said in John 10:27.

Our primary, and ultimate, shepherd, is Jesus. Get acquainted with His voice, so that you know when someone is imitating it.

Thank You

Thank you joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

 

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8)

Whenever I tell an appalling church story, I am sure to be scolded.

“Not all churches are like this!” is the general response. “You shouldn’t be so harsh on churches because people need them.”

Purple Iris inspirational original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at light in the box and framed canvas art.

Hurting human beings are fragile, and it is the prayer of all who love Christ that we not rip other’s blossoms off. Purple Iris, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed prints at Framed Canvas Art and Light in the Box.

(No, actually, they don’t: people need God, and He is not confined to buildings.)

So, before I continue this story, I’ll add the caveat:

Not all churches, or the people within them, are like the one I will shortly be describing. But some are — and this story is for those who have been damaged by them. If your church is not like this, thank God — and do your part to make sure that it doesn’t become this way.

The Appalling Story

Now, to the story:

A woman was having family problems. It doesn’t matter what they are: what matters is that she was in emotional pain, under constant anxiety, and aching with a hurt that just wouldn’t go away.

Though it is many years since she has been in church — because her experiences there, long ago, were never fulfilling or meaningful — she wants God, and the most logical place to find Him, she reasons, is church.

So one Sunday, she assembles the children and shows up at service. Not being well versed or trained in church etiquette, the family doesn’t look, or act like, church people. But they are seated, given a bulletin, and the song service starts.

And then the woman commits the unpardonable sin: she allows her toddler, a child who loves to dance, to do so in the aisles of the sanctuary. After all, it’s hard for a 2-year-old to sit still, and this child dances to music at home.

Home is not church, however (fortunately), and one church member, offended at this breach of church etiquette, marches the child over to the woman and scolds, admonishing the woman — a visitor looking for love, apparently, in the wrong place — about her lack of parenting skills.

The ending is predictable, and it goes without saying that the woman did not stay for the sermon. And she sure didn’t find God where she was looking for Him.

God Is Not Confined to Church Buildings

This story has two purposes:

One: for the people who associate God with religion in any form: He’s not there. But the good news is, you don’t have to leave your home to come near to God — because where it matters for Him to be, right next to you, He already is.

Come near to Him by crying out to Him with your pain, and He will show Himself to you, in the oddest, most unexpected ways.

We Focus on the Wrong Things

Two: for those of us who fall into the trap of being overly-concerned about church etiquette, and dressing and acting a certain way in “God’s house”:

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Matthew 9:13)

If we want people who don’t know God to find Him, then we’ll have to deal with inappropriate church behavior, not the least of which is looking at the externals of a person, and being more concerned about that than what lies inside.

While this particular incident is so outlandish it belies believing, thankfully, most church people can say, “Our church wouldn’t do this!” (Quite unfortunately, however, because these incidents do happen in their various forms, all of us calling ourselves Christians have to live with the impression that this is what Christianity is: harsh, unfeeling, regulated, concerned with rules, and judgmental.)

But the incidents don’t have to be this outlandish to hurt: when we maintain a healthy distance between ourselves and that person who talks too loudly; or give a stern look to the teen with the short, short skirt; or comment, sotto voce, to our neighbor, “They live a rough life, bless their hearts,” we are in danger of driving away the very people who need Christ most: other human beings.

We Can’t Do This on Our Own

It’s not easy being a Christian, and loving others the way Christ does, but thank God, He doesn’t expect us to do it without Him. While it is true that some people will actively and aggressively reject God because their hearts are hard and their desires for money and fame and power are so overpowering that these elements rule their very existence, there are far too many others who are angry and hurt because they looked for that love, and where they thought they could find it, they were repulsed.

So that verse at the top? “Come near to God and he will come near to you,” — it’s for us, my brothers and sisters, to daily walk with our Father and ask Him to show, and teach us, His love, so that we can pour it onto others.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

 

Where Does All the Tithe Money Go?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“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 encourages — admonishes, actually — members to bring their resources “before the Lord” on a regular basis. (Weekly, ten percent of the gross wages — sounds like taxes, doesn’t it?)

Child of Eden inspirational original oil painting of little girl in garden with green hat and radishes by Steve Henderson, licensed prints at Amazon.com, iCanvas, and Framed Canvas Art.

Do all the children in the congregation of the church we attend have enough to eat? If not, that’s not a government problem, it’s a church issue, because we are called to take care of our own. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Amazon, Framed Canvas Art, and iCanvas.

One verse you won’t see in these tithing sermons is the one above, in which the believers of the early church took seriously Jesus’s command to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and to make sure that, when one’s neighbor was going without, those that weren’t took care of him:

“There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (4:34-35)

In all the years we sat in church, passing the plate, or basket, or velvet bag around during “offering” time, never was it emphasized that this money was designated for the poor, hurting, or needy in the congregation, because, quite frankly, it wasn’t.

Although there was a token nod given to a “benevolent fund,” (which needed to be specified in the check memo line to get the funds there; otherwise they went into the “general fund”) most of the money went for salaries, utilities, “ministries,” and “materials.”

“There were no needy persons among them” is a phrase that cannot honestly be used within most conventional church congregations, and yet, if we truly shared what we had, with the idea of distributing it to the poor and needy, as opposed to running a building and a business (mega churches come especially to mind), would we be sending people away — after Sunday morning service — to deal with their aching teeth that they are unable to fix, the 35-year-old car that needs four new tires, and the rent money that isn’t complete because a member of the family pretty much drank up last week’s paycheck?

“These people should learn to live more wisely and budget the resources that they have, better than they are doing.”

Bingo. That’s exactly what the leadership of churches — these people — should do. Yes, the laborer is worthy of his hire, and a pastor who spends his week studying in true humility so that he can teach and serve, with that same humility, does deserve a modest, and reasonable wage (is that what mega-church pastors get?). But after that, when it all goes into a building, and into infrastructure, and into programs and materials and products to the point that there is nothing left for hurting, needy people, we’re looking at a bureaucracy, not Christ’s church. The wise men of God who have set themselves up as leaders in the congregation are called to emulate the attitude of the leaders in Acts who, when presented with the precious monetary gifts set at their feet, did not devote that money to Sunday School materials.

Believers, it is not our duty to support a building, an establishment, and a neighborhood church first, and then, with whatever we have left over, to give to our neighbor — via a mega-ministry that is nothing more than another business itself.

Our command is to love our neighbor, first — none of us claiming that any of our possessions are our own, but sharing what we have. If the church leadership is not designed to, or does not have the intention of, emulating the apostles’ attitude about money and resources, then it is up to us, as individual Christians, to ensure that our brother and sister is cared for, and without need.

That’s where the tithe money is supposed to go.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

Previous Posts

Contemporary Corporate Christianity
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) In contemporary

posted 12:39:49pm Feb. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Deception is Brilliant and . . . Wrong
"The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy." (Joshua 9:5) It's not necessarily a compliment to be called clever, cunning, canny and shrewd, although in the society in which I live, the United States, fooling peopl

posted 1:08:17pm Feb. 18, 2015 | read full post »

When Our Strength Is Our God
"They sweep past like the wind and go on -- guilty men, whose own strength is their god." (Habakkuk 1:11) The society in which I live, the United States, is one which extols wit, cunning, business acumen, financial savvy, confidence, and strength. [caption id="attachment_1475" align="alignle

posted 10:08:56am Feb. 13, 2015 | read full post »

Three Things God Wants Us to DO
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) Those of us who attended church in the 1980s are familiar with the musical version of this verse. As with any Scripture that is set to mus

posted 12:41:45pm Feb. 11, 2015 | read full post »

Does It Bother You, That People Lie to Us?
"Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?" (Habakkuk 1:3) For many years, like many people, I was contentedly asleep, focusing the majority of my time on minor, day to day things, allowing those things to swallow up an inordinate proportion of my thoughts: I accepted

posted 1:55:36pm Feb. 06, 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.