Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The Business of Christianity

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Reading is not, nor should be, a mindless activity. The more we read, so it should be, the deeper we think. Of course, this depends upon what we are reading. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

I was in the big city, waiting to pick up air travelers who were three hours late starting a three-hour flight, and I had time in my hands. There’s only so long you can sit in Starbucks without a digital device, so I wandered into the bookstore. Twice.

Eventually, after reading every knitting book on the shelf, I made my way to the Christian section, but not because I wanted to peruse any product promoted by huge, Christian publishers (most owned by secular companies) with an agenda that has less to do with strengthening the saints as it does with bringing in money, money, and more mammon.

I See You

A man’s toothy grin beckoned from the jacket, inviting me to empower my life with Jesus. His face was everywhere —  front view, slightly side view from the right, honing in from the left, blue suit, black suit, dark heather sports jacket, same smile, same haircut. I felt as if I were in some mother’s living room, looking at the wall of her son.

Several women gazed at me — compassionately, strongly, solicitously — their names on the book jackets more prominent than the title, their unspoken assurance that they’ll walk through this with me, they know how hard it is to be a woman, and most especially a woman of God, and they will teach me how to be that person. They have a devotional just for me. And a special Bible, with their comments and commentary in text boxes throughout, and pretty flowers on the cover. Oh, how they care about me. They have for years and years.

Still Churning ‘Em out, Eh?

Familiar names clamored from the shelves — some of these people, at one time, wrote a decent book, and have basically been re-writing it ever since. It gets shorter, spunkier, sassier, modernized, and it’s aimed at teens, tweens, divorced women, twice-married men, college students, or high school drop-outs. Whatever your life situation, there is a book, and an accompanying study guide, to get you through it.

Christians look and act different, because we follow God, not human beings. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.

If the familiar names are dead or retired, not to worry — their sons and daughters carry on the dynasty.

There were books about raising children, improving my self esteem, managing money, and submitting to the professional tutelage and guidance of others. There were treatises on being radical, man; resting in His blessed arms; and getting out there and kicking butt for Christ.

In a section that was 20 times the size of the knitting category, there was very little to read.

One Name, above All the Rest

It’s not that there’s nothing out there, it’s that there’s too much of little import, little meaning, little actual teaching — even the Bibles can’t stand on their own without the NAME of somebody (not I Am Who I Am) driving the sale. The whole reason I’d wandered there, actually, was to find a a Hebrew/Greek study Bible, but there wasn’t one.

Are we really so dependent upon a particular human being, and his or her thoughts on everything about our life, to live that life?

When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes when people said, “The Bible tells you everything you need to know.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought. “What about managing money, and finding a job, and teaching kids, and baking bread?”

My problem, however, was that I never really read the Bible — like many Christians, I managed with a once weekly church visit, listening to the pastor explain his chosen passage. Quite fortunately, unlike many Christians, I avoided Christian “how-t0″ books — I never could understand how people who lived a lifestyle far beyond any I could imagine could tell me how to cope with daily worries they knew nothing about.

The Best Thing That Happened, Was Bad

But the best thing that happened to me was when my life fell apart, and everything I had depended upon crumbled, and so many people I thought were friends, were nothing more than once-a-week, Christian acquaintances, about as deep as the sermons. In my quest to figure out just who I Am Who I Am was and is, I threw myself into the Book He wrote — and I read, and read, and read.

And I began to realize that yes, the Bible really does tell us how to live, far better than 40-feet of shelf-space in the Christian books section, and we don’t need to depend upon the words and counsel and directives of people who are better known for their names than their wisdom. We have the true Word, and the ultimate Counselor.

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” (Matthew 21: 13)

You don’t have to avoid all Christian books. But read the Real One, first, and learn to discern which of the marketplace products are worth your time.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my goal is to wake up the sleepers, and encourage the seekers.

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Trust God, and Get Your Jammies on

posted by Carolyn Henderson

In God’s presence, we live, and graze, in peace and safety. Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Life happens in grocery stores.

I was in line yesterday with my loaf of English muffin bread when I overheard a deep, male voice rumbling behind me:

“After this, I’m going home and getting my jammies on.”

I sincerely admire the poise and self-confidence of any man who uses the word “jammies” in public. And I second the motion:

The highlight of my day is often the end of it, when a good day’s work is done and I exchange street clothes for jammies. While some people consider jammies appropriate public attire — the ultimate in Dress Down Fridays — I associate them with comfort, acceptance, and rest — three elements I do not find out in public.

Where I’m Safe

I do, however, find these elements at home — a place of safety and security, a refuge if you will, where I can be as relaxed in who I am as much as in how I dress.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” Psalm 46: 1 tells us, and Psalm 16: 1 pleads,

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.”

Refuge implies safety, strength, security, acceptance — all those things we look for in a world where too much is uncertain, unkind, discouraging, difficult, cold and uncaring. We find that refuge at home, in our own space, where we wander freely about in our jammies.

In our jammies, at home, with people we love and trust — that’s where our security is. Little Angel Bright, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Amazon.com.

More importantly, we find that refuge in God, who loves us, cares about us, guides us, teaches us, embraces us, and has no problem at all when we appear before Him in our jammies. Indeed, He invites us to do so, deep in our heart, where it matters, but all too frequently, when we approach Him, we do so in a three-piece suit, fully put together and professional looking, because we feel as if we have to earn the right to be in His presence.

Don’t Put Things off

“I’ll get right with God someday,” people often say. “But first I want to stop smoking and get a handle on my swearing. Then I’ll call on God.”

In other words, I need to pick up my business clothes at the dry cleaners and get my hair done. THEN I’ll call God and make an appointment.

But this is so unnecessary, my friend, and so futile, actually, because there is nothing we can do, and no way we can dress, that makes us more acceptable to God than we already are, or aren’t. And initially, this is how we look to Him:

Yucky little ucky wormy things, and our wool suit has holes in it.

Before You Get Discouraged

That’s what imperfect humans look like before a perfect God, but before you get discouraged, remember this:

When we realize that we’re yucky little ucky things, and that nothing we do can measures up to God’s standards of perfection, we’ve taken Step 1.

Step 2 is recognizing that we don’t have to meet God’s standard of perfection to gain His acceptance, because Jesus already did it. That’s what it means when we say, “Accept Jesus,” — it means that we acknowledge Jesus’s ability, through His horrendous death and stupendous resurrection, to take the punishment that we deserve in our place.

That way, when we stand before God, we’re actually standing beside Jesus, and when God looks at us, He doesn’t see yucky little ucky things, He sees His beloved Son, holding the hand of a new little brother or sister, dressed in jammies:

” . . . those who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8: 15-17)

Children, secure and safe in their household, don’t wear three-piece suits. They wear jammies.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. Sadly, many people say that Christianity is a religion of hate, and that God is the source of all mankind’s problems. While admittedly, people through the ages — and into today — do lamentable things in God’s name, they do not embody Christianity. Jesus embodies Christianity, and it is through reading His words and the words about Him, in the Bible, that we learn about and encounter the love of God.

As long as you rely upon other people’s actions and words to teach you about God, you won’t learn about God.

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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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