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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

How to Recognize a False Prophet

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:11)

Recently I ran across a blog from a mega-pastor who was refuting the teachings of another mega-pastor. Mega-Pastor B had some decent things to say about grace, mercy, acceptance, and Christ’s love that millions of Christians have not yet grasped, but quite unfortunately wove the weft of good truth with the warp of prosperity doctrine.

At some point, when things are set aright, the wolf or the lion or the tiger will lie down peacefully with the lamb, but that time is not now. The Wolf and the Lamb by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, old masters painter, 1686-1785.

At some point, when things are set aright, the wolf or the lion or the tiger will lie down peacefully with the lamb, but that time is not now. The Wolf and the Lamb by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, old masters painter, 1686-1785.

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Mega-Pastor A, who looks like he agrees with Mega-Pastor B when it comes to prosperity, lamentably recoils at grace. The good news of the gospel, according to this modern prophet, is that we can ask God, again and again and again and again, to forgive us our many, many, many, many sins, and He will. (It’s up to us, however, to root out and discover those sins, and if we don’t, well, we’d better hope we don’t die because straight off to hell we go. Yup. That’s good news. It’s amazing that so many people pay Mega-Pastors to preach this to them.)

“Christians Heading to HELL!”

Mega-Pastor A’s dire prediction is that many well-meaning Christians will head to hell because they have the wrong doctrine, and they need to be protected from this.

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While it’s true that many well-meaning Christians fuddle and muddle through life trying to worship an off-putting, easily offended and decidedly unlikable God, they don’t need the counsel of yet another wolf to find, and walk, the path leading to the loving Father that Jesus constantly talked about.

Like Dorothy with her ruby red slippers, we as Christians have the means to protect ourselves from false teachers, and while nothing in life is simple, we can start by keeping a few simple precepts in mind:

Ask Questions

1) Stop believing everything we’re told. Just because someone says he’s a Christian, a prophet, a teacher, an apostle, or a financial consultant who will turn our $1,000 initial investment into $100,000, does not mean that we must accept his word. Acts 17:11 records the Bereans, who checked and cross checked everything the Apostle Paul preached for accuracy. (It’s worth noting that the Apostle Paul, like Peter, and John, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah — and . . .  Jesus — did not make a financial killing off of his ministry.)

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Think

2) Use our common sense. Regardless of how many billions and billions of hamburgers have been sold throughout the world, this does not translate into a well fed planet. In the same way, millions and millions converted through mass proselytizing events does not equate to a world full of mature, committed Christians. Away from the hype, the music, the thrill of the mob and the pulsating tones of the speaker — just what, exactly, is the preacher preaching? Spiritually, it may have all the nutrients of fast food.

There Are No Christian Dynasties

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

The best way to negotiate a strange city is with a good guide — but the guide isn’t any good if we don’t read it. The Traveler, original charcoal painting by Steve Henderson.

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3) Ancient Israel no longer exists. We are not Hebrews, there is no physical temple, and we do not operate under a Levitical priesthood responsible for our personal and corporate spirituality. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that all Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood and holy nation, a people belonging to God, and this means every single member of the Body. There is no modern priesthood of generational Christian families who command the attention, loyalty, obedience, acceptance, and — most importantly — financial resources of the rest of us.

Bow Down to No Man

4) Okay, we’re ordinary and have no degree in theology, but neither do some of the celebrity Christians upon whom others depend for spiritual guidance. James Dobson, listed once by Time Magazine as “the nation’s most influential evangelical leader,” is not an ordained minister, and yet his teachings permeate the church. But don’t genuflect before that blessed “Reverend,” title, either; there’s a wealth of difference between the teachings of the apostle Peter and the teachings of the high priest Caiaphas — and our job as Bereans, and a chosen people, is to not be fooled into thinking that the honors and degrees man confers automatically translate into knowledge and truth.

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Mammon

5) Money talks, and we should listen to what it says about people who worship it. God’s blessings are one thing; God providing a personal jet for a teacher, prophet, apostle, or leader to jaunt about on is another. When a leader announces that he needs to maintain a certain lifestyle because he preaches to the wealthy, the politically powerful, and the captains of industry, then we have to ask, “Then who preaches to the poor, the downtrodden, and the weak — the ones that Jesus focused on?” Trickle-down Spirituality is as valid as Trickle-down Economics.

In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Last Battle, the animals and people of the land called Narnia were fooled into thinking that their loving creator, Aslan the Lion, was an ass dressed up in a lion’s skin. The ass, who was manipulated by the cleverness and shiftiness of others, apologized for his part of the trickery by saying, “I shouldn’t have listened to what I was told because I knew it was wrong. But I’m not a clever donkey.”

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“Maybe you should have spent less time saying you weren’t clever and more time trying to be as clever as you could,” another character aptly observed.

No, most of us probably aren’t Bible scholars. We didn’t go to seminary. We don’t feel confident, and millions of people aren’t Liking our posts and re-Tweeting our aphorisms.

But we’re not stupid, and if we spent less time apologizing for our defects and more time talking to God, relying upon His goodness, reading His words for ourselves, and tuning out those noisy voices telling us what He’s saying — then maybe there wouldn’t be so many false teachers.

Thank You

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Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage you to ask questions, and read the Bible for yourself.

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Spiritually Dead Christianity

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, whom God has hedged in?” Job 3:23

We live in a time when evil men prevail. Perhaps it has always been this way, but more discreetly. Those who are awake look around and see political leaders who do not lead with their citizenry in mind; corporate executives (some of whom run “Christian” organizations) who command salaries that exceed the resources of small nations; misinformation and disinformation that is regularly passed off as truth.

Just because something looks "spiritual" doesn't mean that it is good, and right, and true. Isle of the Dead by Arnold Bocklin, third version, 1883

Just because something looks “spiritual” doesn’t mean that it is good, and right, and true. Isle of the Dead by Arnold Bocklin, third version, 1883

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And while there are many, many people who call themselves Christians, one has to wonder just what a Christian is, when so many associate a close, and trusting relationship with our Father with following man-made rules (“The law is the law and it must be obeyed!”), stockpiling wealth (“It’s a sign of God’s blessing that our nation is rich!”), and rejection (“God’s going to send you to HELL unless you fall down before Him and tell Him that you love Him!”). A number evangelists have made, and continue to make, a lucrative career with this latter message.

Just what kind of Christians are those who come to God out of fear, and how they can possibly grow close to a deity who only accepts them because they responded to an altar call, repeated a few words, and signed a pledge card?

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For lack of better term, I call this Spiritually Dead Christianity, because it has everything to do with form and function, and little to do with the relationship that is so talked about. Many a person “comes to Christ” with the promise of love never ending, only to discover that the ultimate destination is a church building every Sunday morning, and some small group Wednesday nights.

Never Enough Faith

Their prayers aren’t answered, they’re told, because they “don’t have enough faith.”

There’s never enough money — not because wages are stagnant, taxes are high, and there are more people looking for work than there are decent-paying jobs — but because they don’t have “the word of faith.” They declare wrong. They claim weakly. Under this system, the billionaire financiers of our world are the righteous ones.

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A country is “doomed” — not because of the action of the its leaders — but because the people, who are somehow responsible for those actions, “don’t serve God.” We are compositely judged as opposed to individually loved.

Such is Spiritually Dead Christianity, Christianity that isn’t a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, but rather a shallow substitute that incorporates ostensibly bowing our heads for grace at restaurants as “witness” to those around us, voting Republican, and never, ever calling out what we see as wrong behavior because, as there is ALWAYS someone to remind us,

“We are ALL sinners! You can’t point to that person — who made his billions by defrauding others — and judge. You YOURSELF are JUDGED by God, and you deserve to burn eternally!”

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But we must be lenient with the person who makes his billions by defrauding others. And be silent.

Turning Our Backs on Lies

Some people, not many — and you probably know who you are — turn their back on this form of “spirituality.” Tired of being told, repeatedly, that they are failures in God’s sight, they abandon this false God. Some head off to another religion, something that promises — as did Spiritually Dead Christianity — acceptance, or peace, or a sure-fire way of getting their prayers answered.

But others are like the apostle Peter, who, after many of Jesus’s disciples walked away because of Christ’s challenging teaching, spoke in John 6:68:

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“My Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

These people, in being awakened to the falseness of man-induced doctrine they have been taught, disassociate that doctrine from truth, and look for the real God — the one they thought they were being told about when they first joined the group. In launching out on a narrow, difficult path, they join a very, very small minority of people. It is so small that the members of this body frequently wonder if there is something wrong with them, because the truths they are discovering — beautiful, exciting, liberating, exhilarating truths — are discounted as foolishness, disobedience to authority, or misguided precepts.

They wonder, as Job did, why are they given light when they are surrounded by darkness, and what do they — who have no power, influence, money, or voice — do with this light?

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I don’t know. But what I do know is that we don’t head back out to the darkness.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I constantly encourage individual Christians to BE just that — individuals who do not shape their beliefs and lives by the dictates of any group, no matter how holy it sounds.

Posts complementing this one are

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Must We Pray for Our “Leaders”?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I came across a post criticizing the present U.S. presidential administration, and sure enough, within the comments was one by a Christian well-trained, within our corporate church system, to be docile, compliant, subservient, and deferential to the dictates of men:

Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny

Christians, who talk about grace, love, and mercy, sure do follow, obey, and worship a lot of laws. Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny, courtesy Time Warner.

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“Christians are commanded to PRAY for our leaders, not criticize them!”

(This is the same sort of indoctrinated group thought that advocates public humiliation as an effective form of punishment, extols the virtues of paying prisoners $0.35 per hour to perform work for multi-billion dollar corporations, and insists that “the law is the law,” and no matter how draconian, must be obeyed.)

Generally, the verse in mind is 1 Timothy 2:1-2, so in light of what it says, (which at the outset, it’s important to note, is an “urging” and not a “command”) and a little bit of commonsense, let’s see what our obligations are about praying for our “leaders.”

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A Wealth of Leaders

1) We have too many leaders. Politicians are bad enough (although it might be noted that, in “free” countries at least, these “leaders” are supposed to be “public servants” “elected” by the “people”), but legalistic Christians pile them on: teachers, managers, bosses, judges, doctors, bureaucrats, and pastors — misguided Christians who worship authority teach that there are many, many human beings we must obey without question, in addition to pray rich blessings upon.

Those of us who disagree with the false emphasis upon hierarchical command as divine decree can start by getting rid of, mentally, discretionary leaders whom we’re not forced to serve, and any leader in a church — which is optional to attend — comes immediately to mind. Pop culture mass media may identify this name or that as America’s Pastor, but he has no dominion over the souls, minds, loyalty, time, and certainly not money, of God’s sons and daughters.

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Egalitarianism

2) Prayers are to be made for everyone. Unlike men, God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

3) We are not obligated to pray rich blessings upon people. Man-made leaders, most notably those in politics, finance, business, media, and (does anybody notice this?) religion, generally have more than enough when it comes to material blessings. Perhaps the best prayer for these people is that their material wealth and power not be a hindrance to them, and that, if the best way for them to seek humility, wisdom, and compassion is that those blessings be removed, then may they those blessings be removed.

Spirit of the Canyon inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite on rock in National Park by Steve Henderson licensed home art wall decor at art.com, allposters.com, amazon.com, icanvas, great big canvas, framed canvas art, and on the wall

God hears the prayers of all His children, so let all His children pray. Spirit of the Canyon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at Great Big Canvas, AllPposters, Art. com, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon, and On the Wall

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4) We are not forbidden to criticize people. By very nature of their desire for power, those in leadership are poised to be talked about, excoriated, and brought to account for their actions. Indeed, in political systems which assert people’s freedom to choose their leaders, many promises are made, and it is foolish and shortsighted to not call lawmakers (and interpreters) to answer for those promises. (But Christians are taught not to.)

5) We pray so that those in power do not utterly destroy the world in which we live. “That we may live peaceful and quiet lives,” Paul says. This prolific writer, who lived under a brutal totalitarian regime that called upon its unwilling subjects to worship the emperor as a god, knew that a small bunch of nobodies — advocating the worship of the real God — had no earthly power against a system with no authentic checks or balances. The only real safety for ordinary people were limitations upon their leaders’ ability to inflict damage.

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The Prayer

So how do we pray for our political leaders? How about this:

“Dear Father, we pray for those who have the power to affect many lives with their actions. Do not let them enter into temptation, and strengthen their minds and hearts against the promise of money or power, in exchange for the decisions that they make.

“For those who say that they know You (and there are many of these), call them to obey Your words to love one another. Bring them to a state of humbleness and humility. Guard them from foolishness, greed, selfishness, pride, and a misguided desire to bask in the accolades of men.

“If they have been compromised by unwise decisions, give them the wisdom and strength they need to walk the path set before them, and protect those who are innocent.

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“For those who do not know you (including and most especially those who claim that they do), stay their hand, frustrate their plans, bring to ruin the structures and the webs that they create. Bring into the light the deeds that they do in darkness, and open the eyes of the nation’s people to see these deeds, understand the evil, and be awake to any lies that are being told.

“Awaken your people, God, and open their ears so that they can hear Your call.”

If this makes sense to you, then please pass it on.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. People who call themselves Christians must stop blindly accepting, promoting, believing, and obeying everything that they are told. Test the spirits (1 John 4:1), and do not follow those who are not from God.

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Fat Cat Christians — Why Do We Keep Feeding Them?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.” (Job 5:13)

Years ago, when my husband the Norwegian Artist attended a private, Christian school, one of the major benefactors of the institution dropped in for a visit.

Mia the Siamese Cat

So winsome, so charming, so adorable, but the cat does have claws, and she uses them when she’s crossed. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art

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“Dropping in” involved a limousine, with the first glimpse students had of the great man being his white, patent leather shoes. His wife, on the other side, was draped in furs and jewelry, and the duo exuded opulence, affluence, and the strong presumption of being admired, catered to, and fawned over. Which they were, at least by the chief officer of the school.

“How did this man make his money?” I asked my husband, 40 years later.

“He sent out letters to church people, asking for donations in exchange for his sending them a cheap, mass-produced item that he blessed,” the Norwegian replied. “People fell for it because he strongly implied that he had an ‘in’ with God, and if they didn’t follow through, God wouldn’t listen to them.”

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Interestingly, this con-man is still around, still selling cheap, pre-blessed, mass-produced items, and while he’s never made it as big as his national and international colleagues (book deals with major “Christian” publishing houses really help, as does a TV presence), he’s still cashing donors’ checks.

We Are Fooled, by Cunning Fools

“How can people be so stupid?” it’s easy to mentally blurt, especially when we’re convinced that we, ourselves, are not that stupid.

But one must never underestimate the power of religious coercion, and while some people (rightfully) scoff at the performance of the man in the white patent leather shoes, they may stop twice in a -Mart  or -Co store where a Botoxed face beams from a book cover, promising healing, freedom from anxiety, business success, or just plain old money. Deep down, we all battle a sense of insecurity that things don’t go swimmingly for us because we’re fumbling and stumbling around God, while these people obviously have an “in.”

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This is an easy attitude to fall into in a religious climate where we extol Prayer Warriors, those whose prayers are reportedly more effective than ours because they have learned the correct and accepted means of “praying through Scripture.”

ALL Honest Prayers Matter

Lady in Waiting inspirational original oil painting of young woman in shawl by seaside victorian home by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, and amazon.com

While we may wait for an answer to our prayers, we can be sure that the prayers were heard. God does not hear the prayers of some people more than He does the prayers of others. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, licensed wall art home decor at iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, and Amazon.

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“Dear God, I’m hurting and confused and afraid,” apparently does not cut it with our Father. Like any savvy businessmen, we tell ourselves, He only deals with princpals, the cunning ones, and while we know — or should know — that mammon and power are not priorities with God, we can’t get over feeling that they are rewards, however, and those people who have both in significant quantity are extra, extra blessed — like Job, or Solomon.

But Job had his setbacks, and Solomon, for all his wisdom, behaved foolishly (1 Kings 11:9 tells us that “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord”). And while we think, “Big deal. Solomon still had his money and power,” 1 Kings 12:4, in which the assembly of Israel tells the king’s successor, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us,” strongly implies that Solomon’s popularity with the people was low.

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It reminds me of the white collar, corporate bandits who manage their fraudulent investment schemes for only so long until their angry creditors catch up with them.

God is a disturbing angry creditor to have, and as Job 5:13 promises, He is not blind to the ways of greedy, smarmy men (and women).

But we don’t have to wait around, sitting on our hands, until God acts, because one of the ways He can act is through us.

We can identify these people, in all their varied shapes, and stop feeding them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I pray that people will wake up, be wise, and use the money they have been given to bless the poor, the hurting, the hungry, and the truly needy. If they’d take a little time to research, and be more alert to the human beings living in their proximity, they’d realize that this money does not have to funnel through a major name, or organization, first.

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Posts complementing this one are

It Is Easy to Follow a False Christ

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Why Do Some Christians Make So Much MONEY?

 

 

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