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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The Comfort Zone Myth

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed.” (Luke 8:16)

God has a plan for your life.

Do people still say that?

The Traveler inspirational original charcoal drawing of young woman with had and guide book outside of Eiffel Tower in Paris France by Steve Henderson

Our journey with God will take us new and exciting places, but if our strong, aching desire is to go to Paris, France, it’s not a given that He’ll send us to the Dead Marshes outside of Mordor. The Traveler, original charcoal drawing by Steve Henderson

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I guess they still do, since when we look on the Internet we find all sorts of celebrity Christians assuring us that this is so, and a key tenet of the doctrine is that God has made us each special, and He has special things for us to do.

It’s not a bad piece of fish bait, incidentally, if people actually believed it, but once we’re hooked into establishment Christianity with a promise of good news — that we are cherished, unique, have a meaningful purpose, and are precious to our creator (all very true, incidentally) — the boot drops on our bare foot with the attendant caveats:

“Well yes, God has given you skills and talents, with the desire to use them, but more importantly, He wants to take you out of your Comfort Zone! So, with that in mind, He’s going to give you work that you do NOT have the skill, ability, or interest to do.

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“That’s why God’s plan for your life includes coordinating children’s church. And finding volunteers for Saturday Clean-up Day. And attending next week’s webinar on being a dutiful servant of the church community.”

Worshiping Psychology

What I mentally call The Baptist God (although He’s found in multiple evangelical denominations) is such a petty, illogical Person, one who lights a lamp and stuffs it away, who so micro-focuses on our daily activities that we freeze into inertia. The whole “comfort zone” concept, which author Dr. Judith Bardwick defines as “a behavioral state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position” (sounds just like something Jesus would say, doesn’t it?) relies upon teachings from the ever-morphing world of psychology. But that’s not so unusual — much of what is preached as Biblical wisdom these days finds its roots in temporal philosophy.

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Blossom inspirational original oil painting of young woman by flowering tree in springtime by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.com

This is not a representation of how some people feel when you mention the word, “Shopping.” Blossom, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art and Amazon.

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The other day I found myself tasked with a dream chore: at someone else’s expense, I was to go shopping. The person paying, headed into assisted living, needed bedding, towels, personal effects, extra clothing, and the little things that make a place special. Color, style, design — it was all up to me. With a female progeny at my side, we spent an entire day feeling fabric, squeezing towels, seeking gentle, yet happy colors.

Shopping, or Driving Fence Posts?

Now under the Baptist God, this task would have been relegated to my husband or son, both or whom recoil at the word, “shopping,” and animatedly discuss paddock fencing for the garden and livestock. My daughter and I would have been given fence post drivers, all in the name of taking us out of our Comfort Zone.

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But forgotten is the person moving into assisted living, whose literal comfort zone will be compromised by the right job being given to the wrong person. We forget that, when God gives us work to do, His single focus is not necessarily how the work impacts us, but how it affects others as well. With this in mind, only a foolish manager (and there are many of those) would choose the least qualified employee.

And this is exactly how corporate Christianity works. Maybe we should start reading Jesus’s words more, and listening to the voices of those who don’t know Him, less.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage Christians to stop accepting the loud, insistent, strident voices as purveyors of truth.

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Posts complementing this one are

It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ

Fomenting Hate Divides Us – and Divided We Are Weak

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It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5)

Interpreting prophecy is profitable, and more than one person has made a generous living by “explaining” to the rest of us — be it by books, speaking engagements, or movies — what to expect as the end approaches.

Alice in Wonderland illustration by John Tenniel

Reality does not always coincide with the things we are told and taught. Illustration from Alice and Wonderland by 19th century illustrator John Tenniel

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They tell us when it will happen (which is more than Jesus Himself claimed to know — Matthew 24:36), how it will happen, and what products we need to purchase to make our way through it. The end result (no pun intended) is that too many people live their lives in accordance with the proclamations of mere men, while others toss up their hands, say, “Who can know anything?” and skip past the difficult passages.

Jesus Gave No Date

One of these difficult passages is Matthew chapters 24-25, in which Jesus gives an answer to his disciples’ question, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”

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It’s a fairly straightforward query, but any honest person reading the answer would have to conclude that the response isn’t as simple, direct, and easy to grasp as what the prophecy interpreters lay out in their bestselling books. What’s clear is that a lot of deception is involved, and many will come in His name, claiming, “I am the Christ.”

Popular movies, myths, and comic book fare like to zing in on the Anti-Christ as the focus of this statement; others, with more reason, point to the many false teachers who promote prosperity doctrine, positive thinking, the power of living here and now, but in actuality, not a whole lot of people are going around claiming to be Christ Himself. Yet.

Group Think — And Groups Don’t Agree

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But in another way, they are, and have been doing so for a long time: Jesus had barely ascended to heaven before groups were being formed, creeds written, organized forms of worship enacted, to the point that most of us, by the 21st century, associate Christianity with some form of denomination (Baptist, Lutheran, Anglican, Assembly of God), establishment (the Holy Roman Empire, the World Council of Churches), division (Catholicism, Protestantism), celebrity voice (John Calvin, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa), or creed (Apostles’, Nicene, Jerusalem).

Lady of the Lake inspirational original oil painting of woman in golden scarf and skirt at alpine lake by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvas, Amazon.com, Art.com, AllPosters.com, and Great Big Canvas

Think. Think. Think for ourselves — and sometimes we need to get away from the noise of others to do so. Lady of the Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Art. com, AllPosters, Framed Canvas Art and more.

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Our very concept of God is shaped by the teachings of these establishments or people — none of whom agree 100 percent, incidentally, and indeed, put side by side, many of them are diametrically opposed.

But one thing, many systems of men have in common: they define Christ for us in a way that He did not show or live Himself. Many Christians blithely accept the concept that God is stern, unforgiving, constantly picking upon us for our sins, more concerned about the length of our hair or whether or not we have a tattoo or attend church services than the condition of our heart. Indeed, it is strongly implied, the condition of our heart is defined by these things.

This is a false Christ.

If He doesn’t line up with the Christ of the gospel: one who loves, accepts, guides, teaches, listens, and yes, gently — but in precisely the right way — chastens, then we must eschew the voices demanding our compliance, and watch out that no one deceives us.

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Thank You

Thank you for reading Commonsense Christianity, where I constantly encourage Christians to 1) think for themselves and 2) read Scripture independently of the voices around them. It’s fine if you want to attend a group Bible Study, just don’t let that study — or that group — define and refine what you believe.

Posts complementing this one are

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Let’s (NOT) Make Christianity the Law of the Land

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.” Daniel 7:26

There is a group — I don’t know if it’s small or large, but it’s fairly vociferous — which insists the reason our nation (the United States) is tanking, is because we no longer have prayer in schools.

And we have removed the Ten Commandments from public places.

Field of Dreams inspirational original oil painting of meadow rural landscape with wildflowers by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art

This land is your land, this land is my land, and in it we are meant to live free. Christianity by decree is just as limiting as the promotion of paganism. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Framed Canvas Art.

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And now, our Supreme Court has legalized homosexual and lesbian marriage.

But, the good news is, we still have In God We Trust on our money. (What an interesting place to put a reference about God.)

In short, according to this group, which as far as I can tell consists of a number of decent, ingenuous, guileless people who are easily swayed by a smaller, more powerful media and celebrity Christian cabal that foments anxiety, fear, anger, and helplessness, we as a nation are doomed to eventual destruction because we do not trust and honor God the way ancient Israel, with which we associate ourselves, did.

A Stiff-Necked People

Let’s pass by ancient Israel for now, and whether or not they ever, for any meaningful length of time, trusted, honored, revered, and followed God (the book of Judges is an unambiguous commentary on this, although Exodus 15:22 — 17:7 initiates the unflattering image of faith by a “stiff-necked people”), and let’s look at the United States — which promotes itself as a “Christian Nation.”

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Is the answer, as some politicos aver, a return to godliness under a conservative, Republican administration (for some reason, the terms are interchangeable with “Christian”) that will undo everything the present one has done? (This might be a good time to note that the present administration, in addition to creating a flurry of personalized executive orders, has built upon and strengthened policies set up and created in the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that.)

In short, the answer, according to this voice, is that we legislate worship (along the lines of, “If you build it, they will come”) and unless and until we do so, we are doomed to destruction.

Legislating a Belief in God

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It sounds logical, and worshiping God by governmental edict is nothing new. The decree in the verse introducing this essay, from the book of Daniel, was uttered by King Darius, the Medean/Persian ruler who overthrew Belshazzar, the last king of the Babylonians, in the 6th century B.C.

Darius established this ordinance after Daniel survived the lion’s den, where this faithful, non-stiff-necked Hebrew had been condemned after violating an earlier executive order, by this same ancient president.

Interestingly, some 65 years before, in the prior and partisan administration of Nebuchadnezzar, this governmental decree had already been made, after yet another violation of an executive order which resulted in the tossing of Shadrach, Meschac, and Abednego into the fiery furnace:

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“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble.” (Daniel 3:29)

Enforcement like that would put teeth into a law reinstating prayer in schools.

It sure worked for the Babylonians, didn’t it?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I remind Christians that our first, foremost, and primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not any nation of man. This is one of the reasons why Christians are persecuted, you know.

Posts complementing this one are

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Big Business Christianity

Why Political Activism Is Not the Christian Answer

Is America Doomed?

 

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A Rainbow of Silence — Why Christians May Not Want to Speak

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven . . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

To put it mildly, Ecclesiastes is one of the less cheerful books of the Bible. Purportedly written by Solomon, this short book chronicles the author’s efforts to experience every good thing in life — wine, food, women, clothing, luxury accommodations — with the resulting conclusion that they are all meaningless.

Light in the Forest inspirational original oil painting of two women with candles in Celtic forest by Steve Henderson licensed home wall art decor at Framed Canvas Art, Amazon.com, and iCanvas

God’s voice is quiet, and we hear it most effectively when we are silent ourselves. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.

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Without God, that is — although this message is well padded beneath the sepulchral ambiance of the work. (Personally, I recoil from a person of privilege expressing boredom and despair over elements of life that most humans only dream about, but I get it: this is someone who got it all, plunged into it all, and recognized it wasn’t enough. Which is more than can be said for the attitude of today’s elite.)

But if you read nothing more in Ecclesiastes than 3:1-8, it’s worth the effort. For the auditory learner, The Byrds’ 1962 musical rendition of the work — Turn, Turn, Turn — captures the essence, since it’s pretty much a word for word adaptation, but ironically, leaves out half of verse seven, quoted above: “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”

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A Cacophony of Voices

Because that’s what today’s essay is about, during a time when many, many people — from all sides of the rainbow — are speaking, most notably about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision (seriously, was it a surprise to anybody?) to legalize homosexual and lesbian marriage. The end result is not communication, but chaos.

Quite predictably, emotions and words run hot on both sides, and the most woeful thing about it all, for people who want to live free, is that these emotions and words mean nothing when it comes to creating policy within a nation that is supposed to be run by the people, and for the people. Words, logic, debate, argument, even vociferous shouting: there’s nothing wrong with these — but there is everything wrong in a land where such debate is not necessary, because the decisions to be made are in the grasping hands of a few.

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And those few — as they have in authoritarian regimes throughout history, like Rome, when Jesus lived — have made, and continue to make, those decisions.

Christians Do Things Differently

But back to being silent, or speaking: whether or not one, as a Christian, agrees with the Supreme Court’s decree, staying silent, for a moment, might not be a bad thing.

We all know the arguments, for both sides, and when we utter them, we join in a fray of shouting where logic, reason, perception, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and true tolerance do not exist. Christianity, quite unfortunately by its overtly political nature of late, never comes out on top in these areas.

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So perhaps we could take a break, not speaking or writing the obvious things weighted down by appropriately selected Scripture, and use this next week to simply be silent, asking God — not each other — how we should proceed, and live, in the times that we do.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity.

Posts complementing this one are

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Eating with Sinners: It’s Not So Difficult

Why Political Activism Is Not the Christian Answer

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