Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Once You’re Awake — Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Overwhelmed”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watching, and Waiting

What does it mean, this watching?

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

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

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

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

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

Seek Truth

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

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

Pray

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

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

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

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

Don’t Give up

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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Are You Awake?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following Others

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

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

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

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

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

God Is Good; Man Is Not

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

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

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

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

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

God Doesn’t Work from this List

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

Chimu original oil painting of peruvian pottery by Steve Henderson

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

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

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

Stop Believing in the Wrong Things (or People)

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

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

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

Wake up to this:

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

Thank You

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

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Thriving on Spiritual Abuse

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Hurricane River original painting of river running through mountains by Steve Henderson

As we grow through life, it’s easy to get bumped and bruised by rocks. But we don’t need to have them thrown at us. Hurricane River, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Years ago in my little town, there was a restaurant that was known not for the quality of its food (above average), the ambiance of its surroundings (cheap chic), or the professionalism of its staff (non-existent). It was famous, and wildly successful, for the way it abused its clientele.

From one week to the next, customers never knew what they would be charged for — at the manager’s whim, butter pads cost 15 cents extra, and then they didn’t. Coffee refills were endless — oh no, that was last week; now it’s one refill, grudgingly allotted.

One customer, who frequented the place daily for more than 25 years, ordered two slices of toast every morning, sometimes being charged for butter and jam, other times just for the jam. Because the toast consisted of yesterday’s leftovers, every day’s breakfast looked different: one day her “two” slices of toast was one piece, cut in half. Frequently it was burnt.

To get it, she had to listen closely, because the staff yelled out, “Hey, Emily! Your toast is ready!”

This Business Model Works

Such was the business model, and judging by the way the mismatched tables and rickety chairs were filled to capacity, people loved it. The worse they were treated, the more they flocked in.

I can’t help but think of many churches when I remember this restaurant, now mercifully closed, and while I saw, and avoided, the flaws in the restaurant, I confess to spending all too long being abused on a spiritual level. It’s normal somehow, maybe even chic, to be scolded from the pulpit into how we allocate our giving; channeled like sheep through a chute into a Sunday School class we’re not really interested in, but have no alternative to attending (that is, if we want to see people that day); politely ignored when we offer a suggestion; passed over for spiritual promotion to the coveted deacon or deaconess status because our attendance rate — especially at that Sunday School class — isn’t stellar.

Week after week, we sit in the pew and passively accept yesterday’s toast, cut in half, possibly burnt, rushing up to the front to get it when someone yells out, “Hey, You — Toast’s ready!”

It’s Not Quirky — It’s Wrong

It’s a funny thing, but when certain people get relaxed enough to talk about their church, they frequently complain, which is what we did one day to a visiting friend. We thought we were just discussing quirky, odd aspects of our weekly foray into the brick building, but she heard it differently:

“Why do you subject yourself to this type of abuse — and it is abuse — every week? If you can’t change things, and no one listens to anything that you say, why don’t you leave?”

We weren’t ready to hear that, and after all, she didn’t attend church at all so what would she know? but her word, “abuse,” resonated in our minds when we stood in the unheated stairwell, talking to a woman whose sister had just died, because all of the heated rooms — a cavernous sanctuary and an entire basement — were devoted to 20 adults in two Sunday School classes, and 25 children downstairs. There was no place allotted for unsupervised fellowship.

Chief Joseph Mountain original oil painting by Steve Henderson

It’s cold out in the church stairwell, in February. Chief Joseph Mountain, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Another time, we remembered the word “abuse” when the Norwegian Artist and I took a walk (no problem there) in a snowstorm, because our two younger kids actually wanted to stay for Sunday School (if they memorized the book of James, they earned a free trip to the Fun Park; when we suggested doing something like this for adults, the pastor looked deep into our eyes, nodded warmly, and said, “That’s a GREAT idea!” which stopped, right there). The only option for parents awaiting their children was the sheep chute into one of the two adult Sunday School classes.

Small Things Are Big Issues

These seem like such small, unimportant details, don’t they? But a series of small, unimportant details — over organization, micro managing, leaders standing aloof, poorly concealed control mechanisms, charging for a pad of butter — add up, to the point that one wonders,

“Why am I doing this? I know it’s not all about me, me, me, but isn’t there supposed to be a point — and a good one — in assembling together? Don’t we attend church because we believers need each other’s — and not just the leadership’s — support, fellowship (unstructured), and time?”

“That’s what small groups are for!” we were told. “In the middle of the week, we sit in a circle in someone’s house, and you get to listen to an approved leader read the lesson out of a four-color magazine published by our denomination!

“Or better yet, we’ll discuss the latest book, The Missional and Purposeful Life of the Driven and Manipulated Christian Drone!”

Oops. My humanity is showing.

But that’s what church is, or is supposed to be, full of that raw humanity represented by a group of very imperfect believers who assemble together because we need each other, not programs, not pop-Christian books, not supervised fellowship activities in line with proper group dynamics. And this church is supposed to belong to us — the individual believers, who should have some say in how it is run without being conversant in Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s worth wanting something worthwhile, demanding it, seeking it, and, if we can’t find it where we are, taking the small narrow path that we keep finding in front of our feet.

“Hey, you! Your toast is ready!”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I try to “go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Luke 14: 21)

That’s you, my friend, and it’s I as well. Who more to care about the disenfranchised and unimportant of the world than those who are ordinary nothing people themselves? Please, please stop looking to big names and loud leaders to tell you how to live your lives in Christ. Please, please look to Christ Himself.

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3 Reasons America Does Not Need — or Want — Prayer in Schools

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Prayer takes place within the heart, and whether we are in the midst of a forest or a classroom, we can do it — without yet another government mandate. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

Christians, like all humans, fuss about things, and a central fussing point of the last many years is prayer in schools.

“Our country is falling apart because we no longer have prayer in schools,” people say, emphasizing the point with 2 Chronicles 7: 14 —

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

All our problems? It’s because we no longer pray in schools.

When Did We Do This?

Given that I’m more than a half-century old, and at no point, in my school years, did we pray in schools, I’m not sure when these halcyon days of Christian piety were supposed to exist, but whether or not they did, there are three major reasons why we Christians do not need to — and probably should not — agitate for prayer in schools.

Governed by Men, not God

1) We are not a theocracy. The passage in 2 Chronicles is addressed to an ancient Hebrew people, who ran their government with God as their head — something that the contemporary state of Israel does not do, much less the United States.

But because we have this mistaken notion that we are a Christian country, with Christian roots, we keep hammering away for the external actions, like prayer in schools, that used to be foisted upon children, whether they were Christians or not.

“Everyone should be,” proponents sniffed. They sniff the same thing today.

As God’s people, Christians are not hampered, at all, from fulfilling the command in 2 Chronicles 7: 14, but they do not need to do it in the schools, or in government buildings (how well does mandated, corporate prayer in a secular setting work, do you think, given that Congress still opens with a diluted form of it?), or even in their churches: It is imperative that Christians pray individually, in their homes, and sincerely — not relying upon the public arena where we applaud the speaker’s spirituality:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” (That’s how our politicians pray.)

Anytime, any place, all the time — prayer is a lifestyle activity, and you can do it while you’re fixing your hair. Figurative, licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson available at Great Big Canvas, Framed Canvas Art, Amazon.com, and others online retailers.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6: 5, 6) We can do this anytime, any place, and without anyone seeing or knowing — an important factor as our country tightens its control over the populace and slides moves more and more into the confines of a police state.

Do you want a government employee — and that’s what public school teachers are — inserting him- or herself into the spiritual life of your child?

There Are “gods” and God

2) We do not all believe in the same God. People like to point to our dollar bill, which has, “In God we trust,” emblazoned across the back. To the left is a pyramid with a disconnected, all seeing eye and the  motto Annuit Coeptis (loosely, “Providence favors our undertakings,” which is a great motto for a country with the primary goal of making money) and Novus Ordo Seclorum (New World Order — do you like that one?).

So . . . if this is the God who said,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” (Deuteronomy 6: 4)

do you think he approves of pagan symbolism (the pyramid, the “eagle” on the great seal that functions more as the mythical Phoenix rising) in conjunction with, “In God We Trust”?

What God are we talking about here?

If we’re going to turn this into a 12-step program and say any God, or Goddess, just so long as we feel like it’s a Supreme Being, then we dilute the prayer into nothingness, and we may as well set up an altar to an unseen god at the head of every classroom. (Acts 17: 23)

Do we expect an atheist teacher to pray “in Jesus name”? Do we insist that Christian children bow to Allah, or Muslim children worship Christ? As Christians, praying to god, any god, violates Deuteronomy 6: 4.

Meaningless, It’s All Meaningless

3) Prayer becomes a meaningless ritual. Saying the words does not activate the heart, and whether we mumble our way through grace at a meal, or rattle off a generic prayer at the beginning of the school day, we are in danger of honoring the One True God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him, in which case we worship Him in vain. Our teachings are but rules taught by men. (Matthew 15: 8-9)

Prayer is a conversation with our Father, and as such, it is a privilege, an honor, a joy, and a very serious undertaking. “Our Universal Father or Mother, we honor you,” doesn’t cut it.

We don’t need prayer in public schools. We need individual Christians praying, all the time, within their hearts.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage individual Christians to grow in their relationship with Christ by praying, meditating upon Scripture, and reading the Bible for themselves.

Posts similar to this one are

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