Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Praying for Something BIG? Five Points to Ponder

posted by Carolyn Henderson

When the distance between Point A and Point B seems to great, and there’s a canyon in between, the only One who can get us to the other side is God. Daybreak, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

We serve a God who does impossible things. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had a baby when she was 90 years old (Genesis 18, 21). The Israelites escaped the Egyptians by walking through the parted Red Sea — with the pursuing Egyptians drowning when the waters crashed back together (Exodus 13, 14). The walls of Jericho fell on the seventh day, after the Hebrews walked around the city seven times, blew a trumpet, and shouted (Joshua 6).

We haven’t even mentioned Jesus and all the many miracles He performed.

God, and Only God

The point is, with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19: 26), and He wants us to call upon Him in our day of trouble (Psalm 50: 15). So when we’ve got a problem, a BIG problem, God assures us that we can confidently approach Him with it:

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” (1 Peter 3: 12/Psalm 34: 15)

However, as you probably know, it’s never as easy as it sounds. When you’re calling on God for the impossible in your life, do it with confidence, but do it also with wisdom:

Give Him Free Rein

1) Don’t box God in to a specific way of answering. From our perspective, the answer looks simple: we need THIS job, or THAT amount of money (many of our requests have to do with finances); healing from a disease; or relief from an oppressor.

1 John 5: 14 says, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” While our initial response is to kick the soda can and say, “Dang. He always wants what I don’t,” trust that He sees your tears and “knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6: 9)

Walk

2) You’ve got work to do.

Psalm 5: 8 says, “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness . . . make straight your way before me.” The implication is that we’re walking, not sitting, and when we face even insurmountable problems, there’s usually something we can do:

When God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites walked through it. If there’s something you CAN do, then do it. Daydreaming, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

If we don’t know anything about buying a car, we can ask a friend if they know a mechanic who can accompany us to the car lot. If we need money, lots of it, we generally can cut, trim, adjust, and finesse our budget more than we ever thought we could. If we’re in chronic pain and no doctor will tell us why, we search, research and don’t give up.

Even if you think the Red Sea is at your back, stand up, adjust your pack, and check the livestock. If there is any task you are given to do, do it.

Ditch the Stopwatch

3) Don’t slap a time limit on God.

The surest way of feeling discouraged, despairing, and angry is to give God an ultimatum. Even if you’ve got one — the rent is due on THIS day — you have no choice but to trust that He knows this and will work accordingly. Frequently, however, we don’t have a time limit, other than our (natural) impatience to get this problem behind us so that we can move on to better things.

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3: 19, 21-22, 25-26)

Waiting is never easy. It’s also generally not optional.

A Bit Too Social Media

4) Quantity is not quality. By all means, ask people to pray for you — “Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5: 16)

Think twice, however, before you do a mass crowd posting on Facebook, an unrestricted tweet on Twitter, or a universal networking on Linked In, reasoning that, the more people speaking on you behalf — even if they’re total strangers —  the more God HAS to listen.

“If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18: 19)

That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But how comforting to know that you don’t have to be the most popular kid in the class to get God to listen to you.

A Cry from the Heart

5) It’s not so much what you say, how you say it, or how often you repeat it. Ultimately, prayer involves trust.

“When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 6: 9. Interestingly, in this entire passage on prayer (Matthew 6: 5- 14), “Pray” is mentioned six times, but so is the word, “Forgive.”

Remember the verse in point one, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”? It looks like a significant part of God’s will is that we forgive others.

Life isn’t easy, my friend, and sometimes it’s hard to see how our Christianity helps us through it. But God is our ever-present help in trouble, and those troubles are a means for us to acknowledge our own weakness, and rely on His strength.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I am learning about prayer in real time. God is gracious, and when we seek Him, we find Him, and when we ask Him for wisdom, He gives it to us.

Posts similar to this one are

How to Pray

How NOT to Pray

Do Negative Thoughts Affect Your Prayers?

 

Is Your “Personal Relationship with Jesus” Dysfunctional?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

It is possible to find peace in our lives and our various relationships, and we are more likely to find it from God, than we are from men. Along the Salmon River, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Dysfunctional relationships are all the rage these days. Thanks to a satiety of psychology (“Christian” and secular), self-help books, surreality talk shows, and overreaching government agencies fumbling about our private lives, we’re convinced that there’s no such thing as a normal relationship.

Of course there are abnormal relationships — and the more chemicalized we become in the food we eat and the medicine we ingest, the more problems we can expect, externally initiated. At the same time, there are many more normal relationships than what we acknowledge. It’s easy to forget this when we’re bombarded by unsolicited taxpayer-funded, slick brochures like the one coiled in my mailbox, slithered from the stealthily created “Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery.”

Fixer-Upper People

Seriously? I’d rather rely on wise words from Oprah. Not likely, for me. I’d learn more from Johnny Carson re-runs — he didn’t purport to fix up my life; he just made me laugh.

Too many people these days are

1) ready to identify our lives, personalities, and relationships as dysfunctional

and

2) poised to “fix this” for us — most notably when we buy their books, tune in to their shows, and send them our check. Lamentably, this includes our relationship with Christ, one that has the potential to be pure, rich, joyous, unadulterated, fully functional — and all of this for free, incidentally, because once we’ve plunked down the funds for our Bible, all we have to do is read it.

Stop Reading about the Book and Read the Book

But we don’t. Rather, we read books about Jesus, and about what He says in the Bible, and we listen to speakers telling us about how Jesus wants us to live, and we never actually communicate with Christ Himself to discover whether what we read and what we hear is accurate.

Here’s a short list to consider when determining whether what we’re absorbing is toxic or not:

He Was More than a Great Teacher

1) “You shall have no other gods before me.” Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, this passage from Exodus 20: 3 is the first commandment.

Whatever book you’re reading to learn how to deal with life, it’s detritus when it refers to Jesus as “a great enlightened teacher of 2,000 years ago,” and equates His words with that of a Zen Buddhist master.

Our relationship with Christ involves a lot of thinking — about Who He is and what He says, as opposed to what others tell us about Him. Queen Anne’s Lace by Steve Henderson. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas. iCanvasART, and amazon.com.

It’s not that the Zen man has no wise words, it’s that the author you’re reading puts him on the same level as God, or rather, lowers Christ to the level of a mere man.

Paying for “Secrets”

2) “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33: 3)

How many speakers, authors, teachers, and self-described spiritual masters promise secret and hidden information, difficult to find or understand without their guidance?

The truth in the Bible is accessible to all of us — for free — through reading, thinking (many self-help books encourage us to, “empty our minds”), and prayer. Too easily we believe that the “real” message has been revealed to a select, privileged few, who generously offer to “share” this with us, for a fee, of course.

Don’t Be Gullible

3) “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4: 1)

Far too many Christians unquestionably believe stories of near death experiences, encounters with angels, visions, and audible instructions from God by people claiming that others need to listen to what they say, because God works specially through them.

If God is working specially through anyone, then the message will point directly back to — and glorify — God, not the speaker. This is rarely the case.

God’s Power, not Yours

4) “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” (Job 12: 13)

It’s popular these days to talk about “focusing upon power within,” “tapping into the inner self,” or “unleashing our hidden strength,” but if you’ve got the idea that these are synonyms for the Holy Spirit within you, disabuse yourself of this notion. God’s power is not accessible to us upon our demand, and you won’t get any farther, any faster, in your prayers by visualizing; working yourself into a trance; repeating a particular sound or word; or declaring, announcing, or proclaiming.

Since this is effectively pushing God around, setting ourselves up in His place, it’s highly likely that you will get no response — and that’s the good news. It’s wise to remember that many popular spiritual “techniques” aren’t new at all, but shrouded in the darkness — and occult — of time.

Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock, and we will receive, find, and have the door opened for us. It’s simple, yet complex, but requires nothing more than that we trust Him. You don’t need a seminar, a workbook, another book, or an hour with a speaker on TV — you just need time, alone, with Jesus.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I do my small part in waking people up to the deceit that pervades the very air we breathe.

Posts similar to this one are

We Say It All the Time, but What Does It Mean to “Follow Jesus”?

Does God Still Speak?

Your Learning Curve, as a Christian

 

We Say It All the Time, but What Does It Mean to “Follow Jesus”?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

It is a misconception that we learn from our peers. We learn from someone wiser than we. Into the Surf, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Amazon.com

We Christians have a lamentable habit of using esoteric language, which is an erudite way of saying that we speak phrases understood by a small, like-minded group of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

Given that the gift of Christ is meant for everyone in the world, it’s a habit we might think about breaking, but before we do so, we need to figure out if we know what we’re talking about, ourselves.

For instance, what is the “good news” of the gospel? Can we encapsulate it in a sentence or two?

And what does “accepting Christ” mean?

Following Jesus — How?

Here’s an easier one, because Jesus said it so much Himself: following Jesus. What does it mean?

Well, maybe it’s not so easy, simply because Jesus said it so many times. Like this, in Matthew 16: 24 (cross referenced in Luke 9:23, Mark 8: 34),

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Quite honestly, that doesn’t sound particularly fun or safe, but following Christ comes at a cost, most notably ourselves. Those who follow Christ are to be less concerned with their self-image, self-confidence, self-importance, self-identity and self-actualization than they are with the words of Christ, and His care and love for others.

This goes a bit against contemporary pop psychology, which has unfortunately crept into the church and curled up in one of the corner pews, assuring us that we can’t love others until we focus on loving ourselves. I don’t recall Jesus ever mentioning anything along those lines.

Sheep, not Sheeple

He did say, however, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10: 27)

So we’re sheep. Not the most intelligent of animals, and ones prone to follow the leader. We know people who borrowed a ram for procreational purposes. Unfamiliar with the layout of their land, the male guest trotted over the edge of a bridge spanning the river on their property, and was promptly followed by all one dozen of the ewes. It’s a good thing that it was a short bridge, and a small river.

Jesus frequently used animals as examples in his parables and stories. Rumination, original watercolor by Steve Henderson, sold.

But this shows the hazards of following the wrong leader, which would be, essentially, anybody but Christ. His voice is written down for us in Scripture, and if you have a Bible that lists Jesus’ words in red — or green, or purple — you can jump from passage to passage and just see what He says.

Doing Battle as Cattle

If it starts to seem overwhelming, linger at Matthew 11: 28-30, where Jesus invites us to,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now we’re oxen. They’re bovines. But before we get insulted, recognize that a “yoke” of oxen frequently refers to two beasts, side by side. If we’re one of those creatures, then Who is the other?

. . . and Tax Collectors

Luke 5: 27-33, Matthew 9: 9-12, and Mark 2: 14-17 all tell about the calling of Levi, the tax collector, whose Greek name was Matthew (whom we know as one of the twelve apostles). The Pharisees, who tended to be offended by most of what Jesus said and did, expressed indignation that so many of these slime bags and sinners were “following” Jesus, to which He replied:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Many of us who have been Christians for awhile are in danger of thinking of ourselves as righteous (which we are, in and under Christ) — but we forget that all of us, before we made the decision to follow Him and “become fishers of men” (Matthew 4: 19),  lived the life of sinners, and that Christ is the reason we’re different.

Way? Which Way?

May favorite verse about following Jesus is John 14: 5, when Jesus is telling His disciples that He is leaving to go to His Father’s house:

“You know the way to the place where I am going,” He assures them.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'”

Isn’t that an astute question? And it comes from the man we unfortunately label as “Doubting Thomas.”

Jesus answers with a verse beloved by His followers, and hated by many who aren’t:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This verse isn’t a weapon, a nail to hammer into people’s hands — it’s a promise:

No, you don’t know where you’re going. But He does. Follow Him, and you’ll get there.

Thank You

Thank you for reading Commonsense Christianity. Christianity is different, you know. Not because it’s harsh and judgmental and mean spirited and proud, but because it is a message of love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, and mercy.

Posts similar to this one are

Christianity Is Simpler Than You Think

Does God Still Speak?

Missional. Intentional. Authentic: Meaningless

When the Prodigal Son (or Daughter) Is Yours

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Where are they? And what are they doing? Sometimes, it’s hard to know whether we want those answers, or not. Highland Road, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Light in the Box.

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11 – 31) is a familiar one to many — sometimes because we’ve been the person who has broken our parent’s heart ourselves, other times because we are that hurting parent.

The principle message of the story is that, from the perspective of God our Father, ALL of us are prodigal sons, running away from His love and goodness, grace and mercy. Some of us, realizing that we no longer want to feed pigs anymore, decide to come back to our Father’s house.  And like the man in the story who watches constantly for his son’s return, God enfolds us in His arms and love, announcing to all that His child “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15: 31)

When the Prodigal Is Yours

Some people live this parable in real time, and it lasts a lot longer than nine paragraphs in the Bible. If this is your story, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) “Where did we go wrong?” That’s the first question we ask ourselves, and while it’s a valid one, it’s also one to answer promptly, honestly, and competently, and not to spend time wallowing in.

Of course you made mistakes — all humans do. Ask God to guide you in being aware of those mistakes, correct whatever is necessary, and move on. Prodigals happen in the best of families as well as in the worst, and you can find some measure of comfort in recognizing that the first Prodigal Son and Daughter were Adam and Eve.

Where Is Everybody?

2) You find out who your friends are. When times get tough, some people draw closer to us, and others run away. This isn’t surprising, but what generally floors us is that often, the people we thought we could count on, we can’t, and those we barely knew existed, are right there by our side.

The one who never leaves us is God Himself, who says, in various ways throughout the Bible, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13: 5, based upon Deuteronomy 31: 6)

Don’t Be Hasty

3) This probably didn’t happen overnight. While the actual crisis may seem sudden and unexpected, most situations take time to develop. Proverbs 14: 17 tells us,

“A quick-tempered man does foolish things,” and 19: 2 warns, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”

Don’t be pushed to make fast, rash decisions with potentially irrevocable ramifications.

Growth, healing, life — these all take time. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson, sold.

4) There are other people, who need you, in your life. If there are additional children, especially still in the home, don’t force them to live their lives constantly in the shadow of their sibling’s actions. Yes, you are brokenhearted, but your youngest child’s birthday is coming up, and she deserves a celebration.

The prodigal son of Jesus’ story physically left, and while his father never stopped looking for his return, he also didn’t stop living his own life. He had a farm to run, and at least one other child.

It’s a toss-up whether it’s easier to have the prodigal out of sight and far away, or near enough that you are constantly updated as to the latest scrape, but either way, there’s not much you can do for someone who isn’t listening and doesn’t want to change direction right now. You major activity is to pray.

Forgiveness Isn’t Easy

5) This is a great opportunity to learn, firsthand, what forgiveness means. There will be people who encourage you to deal harshly with the prodigal, summarily rejecting him or her because they are “sinful and rebellious,” and your duty as a Christian demands that you show tough love.

Tough love is tough not because it’s grim and rigid, but because it’s painfully difficult. (It’s also a pop psychology phrase that you don’t find in the Bible.)

Luke 17: 3 tells us, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times, comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

By all means, lock your house, put away money and charge cards, protect yourself from your prodigal when they are in an untrustworthy state, but always remember — this is your child. Ultimately, you don’t want to sever them from the possibility of ever having a relationship with you, when they come back to their senses.

Things Take Time

6) Healing — on your part and the prodigal’s — takes time. A wise woman, who endured many painful years loving a child determined to make excruciating decisions, told me,

“Proverbs 22: 6 tells us that when we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it.

“Did you see the part about, ‘when he is old’? It may take awhile.”

It’s not easy being the parent of a prodigal — don’t let anyone, ever, prevail you into thinking that it is. Lean on God, not your own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5); don’t give up (Galatians 6: 9); and remember that love — God’s love — never fails.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. When I read the Bible, sometimes I stop before I open the book and remind myself,

“The stuff in here is actually true.” It’s amazing what kind of perspective that gives you.

Posts similar to this one are

What’s So Bad about a Comfort Zone?

When You Can’t Take It Anymore

Don’t Worry — It’s NOT All up to You

Your Learning Curve — as a Christian

 

Previous Posts

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
"Come near to God and he will come near to you." (James 4:8) Whenever I tell an appalling church story, I am sure to be scolded. "Not all churches are like this!" is the general response. "You shouldn't be so harsh on churches because people need them." [caption id="attachment_1456" align=

posted 12:46:50pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Where Does All the Tithe Money Go?
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32) If you attend conventional church for any time at all, you will be unable to escape the annual, or semi-annual, sermon upon tithing, which encou

posted 11:37:02am Jan. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Walking in the Dark
Recently, a friend sent me this Bible verse from Isaiah 50:10: "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." [caption id="attachment_1446" align="alignleft" width="351"]

posted 11:24:40am Jan. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Four Important Men You’ve Never Heard of
Depending upon our interests, those of us who live in the world of mass media can rattle off names of note in the sports arena, TV land, cinematic Fantasia, network "news," political affront, musical medley, or the religious circus, er, circuit. [caption id="attachment_1080" align="alignleft" w

posted 3:10:09pm Jan. 19, 2015 | read full post »

Family and Friends Are Not Dysfunctional
People matter. "Of course they do," we all nod our heads emphatically.  A ridiculously easy way to bring people to tears is to show them a clip of a politician, movie celebrity, or extraordinarily rich and famous businessperson wiping their eyes and stumblingly uttering how much their spouse,

posted 9:40:00am Jan. 16, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.