Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

God Is Not as Inept as We Think He Is

posted by Carolyn Henderson

An essential part of following God, is letting Him lead. Autumn Dance, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

Lately, I have been working on a bad habit, and if you have teenagers, you probably know what I’m talking about:

I remind people, frequently, of obvious things to be done, and it drives them nuts.

Like this, to Tired of Being Youngest:

“Make sure you put gas in the car before the arrow points to the E, or you might find yourself stuck.”

Well gosh, that’s dumb — nobody, whether they’re driving their parent’s car or their own, wants to pull over to the side of the highway and wait hours for a rescuer to come with a gallon of gas. And if they do, the experience will be such that they’ll never want to repeat it.

Nag Nag Nag

Or to the Son and Heir, who is market gardening produce at the Farmer’s Market:

“There’s a lot to get ready before the market opens on Saturday, you know.”

He pauses from shoveling, leans on the handle, and gently stares.

As I said, it’s a lamentable habit, one that’s been years in the making, and one that effectively says to the people around me, “I don’t trust that you know what you’re doing, and if I don’t take control of everything, nothing will be accomplished.”

Bad attitude. And an easy one for mothers, especially, to fall into.

A Little Self-Control, Here

In this last week, I have consciously and deliberately shut myself up from saying stupid, controlling, mindless things, and as I have stepped back and just watched, I have been intrigued to see that I, and my observations, are not a necessary component for things getting done.

God is light. If we talk too much, we won’t blow out the light, but we sure do try. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

When I establish the parameters of what are, and are not, my responsibilities, I am free to fulfill the obligations that fall upon me, and then stop, and wait, for the other person to do their part. I’ve known this for years, and actually practice it a fair amount of time, but bad habits are easy to slide into, and when I don’t watch myself, I readily take on others’ worries, and responsibilities, as my own.

This includes stepping onto the toes and infringing upon the provinces of God, who owns — literally owns – me, because years ago I readily gave me life to Him. I have spent the ensuing years regularly trying to take it back, or at least enforce a degree of control into how it will be run, and this does not go over particularly well.

God doesn’t roll His eyes, but He does stay silent sometimes when I insist upon doing all the talking.

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose,” Philippians 2: 12 tells us.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2: 10)

There’s a Place for You and Me in All This

God makes it clear that He is the one in charge. (Celebrity preachers like to tell us that God has a Plan for our lives, but since too many of them associate that Plan with our pursuing prosperity by increasing theirs, I eschew this term). But the point is, God has a plan, period, for humanity, and it’s not for the glory of any human being and their vast ministry which bears their name, but for His.

And I, and you, are a part of it. But we’re not a part of it the way humans make us a part of their plans — by encouraging us to send them money, or volunteer our time while they get paid, or toil in obscurity so that they can shine in the light they point to themselves. We are part of God’s plan because we are members of His family, His sons and daughters through Christ, and what He gives us to do, and to work with, are good things:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” Jesus asks in Luke 11: 11. “Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

Well, on my bad days, I am fully capable of reminding God,

“I need help, please. And I don’t want You to hurt me.”

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will our Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11: 13)

Your will be done, Jesus. It’s better than mine.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to grow in their faith, and grow up in their faith. As a group, we Christians — especially those in the wealthier nations — are at risk of being ineffectual and unnecessary to the society around us, simply because we spend all of our time pursuing the wrong things.

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When Your Feet Hit the Floor, Does the Devil Scoff?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

A truly savvy woman, or man, knows that our strength, ability, and wisdom derive from our deep relationship with Christ, not our kick butt attitude. Riverside Muse, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

We are a society that lives by one-liners and Facebook memes.

The book of Proverbs, come to think of it, is filled with one-liners, but they’re not particularly funny, so we don’t see posts like this go viral:

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29: 2 — Two people Liked this; nobody Shared)

Ah, but get a zinger like this, and it’s all over Pinterest:

“Be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor, the devil says, ‘Oh no, she’s up!'”

How Clever We Are

Yeah, we like that. We’re tough, we’re savvy, we’re clever, we’re foxy, keen, sharp, and cunning. So much so that the devil shakes when we level our gaze at him.

Only he doesn’t, you know. Satan’s most notable encounter with Woman was with the first one, Eve, who since she was the mother of all of us, would probably be the most perfect specimen around.

Unfortunately for us and future Facebook memes, the encounter didn’t go well, at least for humanity. In Genesis 3, Satan starts by planting doubt in Eve’s mind:

“‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'”

and instead of responding,

“You’re twisting His words, Snake Face,”

she replied,

“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree in middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

Details, Details

God gave the tree a specific name — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — and He never said anything about not touching it. Minor points, but just because something’s small doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

That confidence we’ve got? It comes from the rock we stand on. Diaphanous, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Also available as a open edition licensed print at Great Big Canvas.

So now Satan just blatantly lies,

“‘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.'”

He fed her the line that we — women and men — have been chewing on ever since: You can’t trust God. He holds things back from us. He really doesn’t know, or want, the best for His children, but has some sadistic plan of His own.

Replace the word “God” with Satan, and you’ve got the truth, but Eve — the prototype for all females who follow, fell for the lie. What makes any of us think that we have what it takes, when she did not?

Got Jesus?

Ah, but we have Jesus, Christians reply.

Okay, let’s look at that:

First of all, nothing in the meme about our feet hitting the floor implies any concept of our depending upon the strength, wisdom, grace, knowledge, or judgment of Christ. That little saying’s saying a lot of about what slick chicks we are — and it specifically singles out women. Men are too dumb, we snicker, to deal with the devil. It’s enough for them to try to understand women.

Second, the ONLY person who makes the devil, and his demons, quake is Jesus: in Mark 5: 12 a legion of them begged Jesus’ permission to enter a herd of pigs, which then hurled themselves over a precipice into the water below and drowned.

In the same account recorded in Matthew 8: 28, the demons shout,

“‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'” I’m picking up on some insecurity there, and I doubt it has anything to do with a lack of self- esteem.

James 2: 19 tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.”

They’re not shuddering at you, Sweetie.

Before Your Feet Hit the Floor, Do This

The only way you, or I, or any woman, or man, is going to be the type of person who makes Satan shudder when our feet hit the floor is if we say this while we’re still in bed:

“Jesus, I won’t make it through the day without You. Guide me. Teach me. Love me.”

Think of it in playground terms:

If there are bullies who beat you up, every day, and your big brother finds out about it and walks you to and from school, the bullies aren’t going to run away because of anything to do with you.

They’re going to run away because of Him.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I enjoy looking at the quirks of our modern life and determining how they affecting our interpretation of Scripture.

Read the Book. It’s not particularly funny, or witty, although God does have a sense of humor. It does, however, have a lot more wisdom than any cute saying on a digital placard.

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Sometimes, Normal Is Abnormal

posted by Carolyn Henderson

As Christians, we can’t leave the world — that’s not our decision right now. We can, however, make a decision as to how we will LIVE in it. Indian Hill, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Light in the Box.

As Christians, we are exhorted to be “in the world but not of the world.” (John 15: 19, Romans 12: 2)

This is far more difficult than Liking, or Sharing, a Facebook meme. Too many Christians are convinced that they no longer conform to the pattern of the world because they attend church on Sunday while outcasts sleep in. The evidence of the renewing of their minds is that they take a co-worker aside and murmur, “Please do not take the name of my Lord Jesus in vain. It is most offensive to me, and my God.”

The world hates them, they are convinced, because they use the word “Jesus” in everyday conversation.

Beyond Superficial

But living the life in which we are the child and God is our Father, in which we are the servant and He is our Master, is more than superficial words and actions. It requires trusting Someone we can’t see, but can know, with every aspect of our existence.

“The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people,” Isaiah 8: 11 says.

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.”

What do “these people,” the culture in which we live, fear? What do they think is “conspiracy,” what do they think is out of step? Conversely, what do they think is normal?

Well, let me show you “normal” in my world, the American society:

“Normal”

We get up early; eat fast; slap our face together and drive to work — because all useful, valid, valuable people work in an official capacity (think: cubicle, cash register, or classroom) at least 40 hours per week. We do what we’re told, and in the “free” time allotted to us we shop, text on our phones, check social media, attend sports events, perform community service, and wish we had more money than we do.

We never admit deficiency, defeat, insecurity, or inability. If we’re unemployed, too sick to work, poor, or not doing either A) our dream job (at which point we can be paid less than a whole lot) or B) anything in which we are paid a whole lot, we are failures. “A” is only acceptable for awhile; eventually we are expected to turn a profit on it. We value money, busyness, and social activity.

Life with God is one of grace, beauty, mercy, compassion, and joy as we trust in the only One worth trusting. Grace, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

If our life looks too different from this “norm,” we are non-successes, and whatever our Christian life is, it must fit into this paradigm.

But Isaiah continues in verses 13-14:

“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.”

“Abnormal”

All of our lives look different. Some find the focus of their life maintaining it, as they battle cancer, chronic disease, infections that stymie their doctors, viruses, and assorted physical ailments. “Normal” for them looks really, really abnormal from cultural precepts.

Other people struggle with money and position all of their lives, no matter how hard they work.

Still others battle with the idea that they are losers because they don’t have a lot of friends and they’re not particularly “social.” Quiet people frequently feel that they are weird.

In our culture, they are.

But that’s not what we’re all about as Christians, so focused on fitting into the dictates of our surroundings that this becomes our primary goal.  Our prayers center around throwing our circumstances up at God and demanding that He “fix them.”

“My life doesn’t look like anybody else’s,” we grieve.

God’s Reality

The passage in Isaiah concludes,

“. . . but for both houses of Israel he (God) will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes him fall.”

For those of us who follow God, who make Him — not His gifts, not His power, not His Big Daddy potential to do things for us so that we look successful, or at least normal, in our culture’s eyes — He is a sanctuary, where we can rest and say, “I’m tired. I’m sick. I’m scared. I’m hurt. I’m lonely. I’m unsure of myself. But I’m also Yours.”

For those in the world, steeped in our culture, however, they can’t say these things, and they keep tripping over God either because 1) they’re avoiding Him or 2) they’re insisting that His purpose is to fulfill theirs.

As Christians, we trust God with our entire life, whatever it looks like, whatever we do or don’t do, however we are configured and whoever we are, period. It is not God’s goal to make us fit into the world around us.

It’s to make us look like Him.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage believers to seek God — the Great I Am — as opposed to a little god, the One Who Does Stuff for Me.

It’s not easy, believe me — the first challenge is distinguishing the real God from the substitutes, but when we approach our Father with humility, and ask Him to teach us, He does.

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The Wrong Gospel and How It’s Chasing People out of Church

posted by Carolyn Henderson

An increasing number of people are opting to walk a different, truly narrow path, as they search for the truth. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and amazon.com.

I know a lot — a LOT — of people who were raised in a church, no longer attend, and want nothing to do with God.

Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist — it doesn’t matter the appellation, these people are on the run from memories and experiences unrelated to any form of hope, peace, joy, or love. The stories are different, but one commonality is a desire to have nothing to do with the God they were raised with — He’s never satisfied with anything they do or say, and since He’s so hard to please, why bother?

A Survivor’s Story

Recently, I talked with a survivor from this experience — this man is unusual because, while he walked away from his religious background, he didn’t walk away from God. It has taken years, and there are years yet to go, he says, but slowly he has been separating the God of church from the God of the Gospel.

“When I was growing up, it was all God, and that was the problem,” he told me. “God was everywhere, all the time, and we couldn’t get away from Him.

“I took notes to school excusing me from dancing in P.E. because God disapproved. He didn’t want us to go to movies. We couldn’t play cards. Women couldn’t wear make up, cut their hair, or wear pants. Laughing too much was wrong.

“The only thing we could do was go to church — Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Thursday afternoon, and then we cleaned the church Saturdays for services the next day. We passed out tracts. We only read ‘Christian’ books and listened to ‘Christian’ music.

“Life was all God, and yet it wasn’t God at all.”

The God of Guilt

For many people, the God of the Gospel is the God of Guilt, and the essence of the good news is that those who follow Him won’t burn eternally in Hell. Until they utter a swear word, that is, or think a bad thought, or deliberately miss a church service, at which point their salvation is on hold until they repent and God accepts them back into His arms.

Is it any wonder that people reject this message?

The good thing is that they do. The bad thing is that, so entwined is God with this message, when they walk away from the falseness of man’s teaching, they run away from God. Many of the people I know, deeply spiritual, seek to fill their soul by the latest self-help book, or viral Facebook post about someone coming back from a near death experience and telling them about the Love they encountered.

They are desperate to know that there is some form of Loving Presence out there, and that this Presence cares about them.

Seeking Elsewhere

Because the Bible has been mis-used and misquoted, they rarely look there, depending, instead, upon the words of others — others who are making a lot of money with their words. These prolific writers and pop-positive-speakers encourage acolytes to look within, tap into the power of self, connect with the cosmic consciousness, more of the wrong gospel, but one that at least promises a shot at acceptance.

Human nature is such that we will keep looking, and looking, and looking until we find what we crave. Many who crave God have been given the wrong impression of who He is. Girl in a Copper Dress 2, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and amazon.com.

I was fortunate. Raised in a home with Catholicism on one side and atheism on the other, I spent little time in church, and what I learned about God I found in a series of booklets that put Biblical history in story form. As a young adult, I read about God in a Bible written in contemporary English, and I liked what I saw.

When I left Catholicism to become a Protestant (my uncle told me I would burn in hell), I was alert to rules and regulations in my new church home. In Catholicism, the rules are many, varied, and vast, but pretty clearly stated (go to mass, go to confession, bless the pope); in Protestantism they are more subtle, but similar (go to Bible study, be “accountable” to others, obey the pastor).

Either Way, I Go to Hell

Years later, and after too many Sundays of trying to conform, I left establishment Protestantism’s weekly obligations — revolted by the system’s increasing  similarity to the cubicle world of contemporary business culture. “Brothers” and “sisters” shook their heads and said I was heading to hell, because I obviously was never a Christian. I walked away from their rules and regulations and picked up the Bible, determined to read it for myself.

And I walked straight into the arms of God.

My friend, if you left church because your experience mirrors that of the man I quoted above, you’ve done an understandable thing: you rejected what was false because you’re looking for what is true.

Finish the job: look for God, the real one you didn’t find.

An excellent resource to find out more about Him is in the book He wrote. Read it for yourself. Ask Him to explain it to you. Don’t give up.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. Jesus tells us in John 8: 31-32,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I am experiencing that promise of freedom. I write to encourage others to seek it out, demand it, and experience it, too.

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