Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Your Right to Privacy: Protect It

posted by Carolyn Henderson

We are rich in ways that we do not see and frequently do not understand. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I’ve been a Christian for 31 years, and in that amount of time you see a lot of trends and fads:

The Name It/Claim it Blab It/Grab It movement that damages the pure sense of trust we have in God’s wisdom to know and meet our needs just never goes away. If you don’t know it by these names, you may recognize the prosperity gospel, health and wealth, word of faith, or positive confession, and if you watch too much television, you might have been mesmerized into thinking that, the reason you don’t have a new car, or lots of money, or a great job instead of the crummy one you endure, is because you don’t grab God’s promises and shake them in His face.

The only people who win with this doctrine are the ones who sell the books, conduct the seminars, and cash the checks.

The Myth of Accountability

Another insidious misuse of truth is the accountability doctrine, which goes beyond the simple concept that we — sensitively and with wisdom — point out to a Christian brother when he is doing something wrong. This in itself is a delicate situation, capable of being misused and mishandled, but we push it to the extremes of forcing ourselves far too aggressively into the privacy of other people’s souls.

In small groups, which are supposed to be intimate and safe somehow, participants are encouraged to divulge the very deepest secrets of their spirit, and if they don’t, then this is evidence that they don’t “trust” their brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have no difficulty at all in admitting that I do not trust somebody just because they flash an ID card in front of my face that says, “Brother and Sister in Christ. Upon demand, bearer is entitled to unquestioned trust of, acceptance by, and confessions of other Brothers and Sisters in Christ.”

James 5: 16 is frequently misquoted and misapplied:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed,”

as a stick to compel others to “share” deeply, often uncomfortably, information that is so secret and so fragile, that only God’s hands are gentle enough to touch it.

Small Groups — Another Fad?

If you read that verse closely, it does not say to rip the bodice off the bosom of your soul and let everyone see. It says to confess your sins — logically, to the people against whom you have sinned — and pray for one another. You do not have to go into great, embarrassing detail about your every thought, temptation, desire, and failure.

We can minister to, and learn from, one another without invading one another’s privacy. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Indeed, the word accountability, used in the intrusive sense, does not appear in the Bible, and if someone wants to quote Romans 14: 12,

“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God,” you’ll notice that the words Small Group do not appear.

Actually, small groups is another fad, a by-product of corporate team-meeting culture that breaks down mega-church populations into manageable segments. Regrettably, small churches — the entire population of which would fit into a SuperSized Church’s “small” group — heartily embrace this concept, abandoning the very strength they have in their existing, and intimate, small numbers.

Why are potlucks — in which people meet, and fellowship — over food, thought to be so spiritually inadequate?

Fads come and go, the only unchanging aspect about any of our lives being God Himself, who is the “same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8)

Interestingly, the verse immediately following says, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.”

My dear, card-carrying brother and sister in Christ:

Follow Christ. Not fads.

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I post three times a week and I invite you to 1) comment, 2) subscribe to this blog, 3) pass me on, and 4) speak out and speak up as a Christian. When we don’t speak, others speak for us.

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“I’m a Christian, but I’m not Religious”

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not Religious”

posted by Carolyn Henderson

The evidence of our Christianity is more internal — through thought, prayer, meditation, and compassion — than it is external. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Have you ever said this? I have:

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not religious.”

Religious, as an adjective, isn’t a particularly complimentary word, because it implies that the person participating in it is too focused on outward trappings: saying Thee and Thou instead of You; wearing esoteric clothing that separates him or her from the rest of the madding and heathen crowd; attending all sorts of meetings and services as evidence of piety; arising at 4 a.m. — and expecting others to do so — for Quiet Time, a term that has always sounded like something we expect pre-schoolers to do, midday.

While none of these activities, or ones like them, are bad in and of themselves, they exert a negative reaction upon bystanders when the person doing them implies that they are necessary for true holiness, genuine faith, reverent godliness and grace. Increasingly, people are pulling away from places where the substitute for grace is seen as the real thing.

There Is No Christian “Norm”

Many of these seekers and believers — I am one — are quickly discounted as “fallen from the faith,” “backsliding,” or “away from God” for no other reason that they are away, literally, from organized religious activities. But while those around them are quick to label them as unbelievers, many sensitive seekers of truth and followers of Christ walk on, outside of “normal” parameters, and work out their salvation in a different way.

It is these people who feel the need to say, “I am a Christian, but I am not religious,” because they recognize, that to too many people outside of the flock, Christianity looks like a series of rules, obligations, dictums, regulations, mandates, edicts and decrees — none of which, at base, have anything to do with Christianity.

Lists and Bullet Points

So what does have to do with Christianity? The apostle Paul, in Romans 12: 9-21, lays out an enumeration that should, but won’t, keep any list-loving, do-this/don’t-do-that, potential legalist ecstatic. Here’s a sampling:

  • Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
  • Honor one another above yourselves.
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Share with God’s people who are in need.
  • Practice hospitality.
  • Bless and do not curse.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
  • Do not be wise in your own eyes.
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
  • Do not take revenge, but leave judgment up to God.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christian Life versus Christian “Lifestyle”

That’s a long, comprehensive list, but because fulfilling it doesn’t require reading only “Christian” literature and listening to only “Christian” music, saying “Praise the Lord!” all the time as a means of promoting His name, attending small groups, going up to random strangers and saying, “Please don’t take the name of my Lord Jesus in vain; it is most offensive,” or volunteering for whatever “ministry” the leadership council of one’s particular church deems approved, it’s not somehow.

“Overcome evil with good,” and thereby be a pleasing aroma to the world around us. Blossom, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

But actually, performing the activities in the aforementioned paragraph is far, far easier than fulfilling any of the items in Paul’s list. It’s so much easier, and concrete, to only read books put out by Christian publishing houses (follow the money and see if the Christian publishing house that put out the book you’re reading is a subsidiary of a larger, secular publishing house) than it is to stop, close your eyes so that you can think, and realize, “I was a bit of a butt-head back there. I came across as a know-it-all, dominated the conversation, and left the person I was talking to feeling helpless and invalidated. Maybe that’s what Paul means by, ‘being wise in my own eyes’?”

Your Inner Life, Like God, Is Invisible

You can’t point to an attitude of your heart and “see” it. Like God, it is invisible, and, like God, just because it is invisible does not mean that it isn’t real.

If you want to be a real Christian, focus on Christ, not the trappings of religion.

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I publish three times weekly, and invite you to subscribe to this blog (top right of the menu bar). If you like what you read, I sincerely and humbly ask that you pass me on via word of mouth or social media.

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Two Reasons Why the World Hates Christians

posted by Carolyn Henderson

“Christianity” and “Love” are two words that we hope are associated together. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Christians have a bad reputation for being unkind, intolerant, harsh, judgmental, and self-righteous. Oh, and uneducated.

Now of course, anytime you speak about, or live, moral absolutes, you’ll get attacked by people who don’t want to be told — either by your words or example — that what they’re doing is wrong. Jesus Himself didn’t make a lot of friends on this planet.

From time and distance, however, most people, even those who don’t choose to believe who Christ is and what He says, concede that He was “a great teacher,” or a “morally upright man.” They don’t go on and on about His acrimonious unfeeling attitude toward the lives and feelings of others.

That’s reserved for us, His hands and feet, His voice and message, and Christ warned us that this would be so:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)

If They Hated Christ, They’ll Hate You

The world is filled with many travelers, all sharing the same space. Harbor Faire, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. More of Steve’s works are at Steve Henderson Fine Art.

So the upshot is, if you are truly living for Christ, the eventual outcome is that many people who do not know Him — the world — will hate you, simply because of who and what your Master, Christ, is. And yet you, and I, persevere because the message which the world hates so much — that God loves us, deeply and dearly, and wants to enfold us in His arms — is one that individual people within the world are crying to hear.

That’s Part A of Why the World Hates Us.

Part B is a bit more disturbing, because it — justifiably — makes us look bad.

But Sometimes, There’s Another Reason

Too many times, people strongly dislike Christians not because of the message of our Master, but because of the attitude we project when we seek to convey that message. We come across as

  • Harsh
  • Unfeeling
  • Self-Righteous
  • Unforgiving
  • Defensive
  • Intolerant (this word is vastly overused by media moguls and propaganda pushers who seek to make any difference of opinion, on any issue that they manipulate, a matter of “hate.” Just because malevolent forces misuse the word does not mean that we avoid the matter. To be tolerant does not mean to back off and give in to the louder voice; it means to be courteous of the dignity of others, and not railroad our opinions through).
  • Inflexible
  • Small minded


This list can go on indefinitely, the point being that, when we walk into a room and make the rest of the people in it feel like slug droppings because they could never approach our level of holiness, virtue, saintliness and piety, we have actually failed to get across the veritable essence of those attributes. People — real people — were drawn to Christ because of His love, understanding, patience, sensitivity, and kindness, and He managed to convey, and teach, truth without abandoning any of these.

Christ’s Example Is the Right One

With the weak He was gentle; with the arrogant He was firm; with the foolish He was patient; with the cunning He was wise. But He Himself was never proud, demanding, merciless, or disagreeable. Far too often, we are.

But we serve a loving and gracious God, and if we back off and pull away from our outward trappings of religiosity, He works with us to show what real compassion, kindness, wisdom, discernment, and mercy look like, as opposed to the substitutes we so easily fall into.

Religiosity versus relevance: what’s the difference? Join me at, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not Religious.”

Thank you for reading Commonsense Christianity. I post three times a week, and I welcome your comments and thoughts — as we dialogue with one another, we learn from one another. And while we will not agree on every point (we’re not robots, you know), we can still love and support one another. Articles similar to this post are

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You’re a Name, not a Number

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Human beings are complex, unique, and so much more than a series of numbers. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

I have just spent the last 45 minutes on hold waiting to talk to a representative from a government agency. At the start of the call, I was asked to enter my personalized identification number, which, in accordance with the U.S. national identification system (it exists, people, whether we acknowledge it or not) gives the right, or wrong, people pretty much everything they need to know about me.

Only it doesn’t. Because, while a social security number grants all sorts of the wrong people access to my financial, medical, geographical, educational, business, personal, and shopping records, it doesn’t reach down into my soul — although this is not for lack of the official, and wrong, people trying their hardest to do so.

Too many people on this planet are encapsulated and identified by a number, and while it may seem wonderfully efficient to have disparate information so conveniently consolidated, no human being, especially one who does not care about us, treasure us, or love us, should know so much about another human being.

God Alone Knows Our Secrets

Only God should know everything about us, because only God cares enough about us to keep that information secure and safe.

But we live in a country, and a world, run by a limited number of humans who feel it is their right to direct and influence the lives of many others, and that we are so accustomed to being called by number, as opposed to name, shows how firmly we have accepted that there is nothing wrong with this. Nameless faces, in nameless places, send us letters and e-mails instructing us to read this, sign that, fill out this form, and supply them with yet more information. A dental office I recently visited, citing being “in accordance with American Dental Association recommendations,” demanded social security and driver’s license numbers of their patients. What, precisely, does this have to do with teeth?

God Knows, and Loves, Your Name

If, lately, you have felt valueless in the world in which you live, little more than a number with a whole lot of personal records attached to it, then you are not weird, you are aware. And being aware, and awake, is something Christ consistently calls us to be — because the world is not our home, because evil people temporarily hold power, because Christ will come back when we are not expecting Him — and He wants to find His people ready.

You may think you are small, but you are not worthless. You, and your name, means something. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

His people — you, me, others — have names that He knows, souls that He searches, hearts that He loves, and lives He protects, watches over, heals, and holds. You are not, and never will be, a number to God, and if you have ever wondered just how different the Kingdom of God is from the Establishments of Man, this distinction is paramount.

“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus tells us in John 10:14. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

When you are a child of God, it is your Name that is written in the Book of Life, not a number. While you mean less than nothing to too many of the wrong people, you mean more than everything to the All Loving, All Knowledgeable, All Powerful God.

Your life — which includes so much more than your medical, shopping, and financial records — is safe in His hands. Those are the only hands where they are safe.

Seek Him. Love Him. Trust Him.

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I post three times weekly and invite you to subscribe (top right on the menu bar). I also humbly request that you pass me on to people interested in living their Christian faith uncowed into submission by the rulers, authorities, celebrities and leaders of the contemporary Christian Establishment.

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