Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

“Jesus Loves You!” — Enough, Already

posted by Carolyn Henderson

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being told, at every store I enter or order from online, that I am receiving the lowest prices — ever!

The statement is made so much and so sweepingly, that I don’t remotely believe it, and when at Store B — with the lowest prices in town — I found three items that were priced higher than Store A — also with the lowest prices in town, I was hardly surprised. But that’s okay, because three of Store A’s lowest prices in town were higher than Store B’s.

Seaside Story inspirational original oil painting of woman and child on beach reading book by Steve Henderson

In conveying to people the concept of Christ’s love, we’ll have to use more than a three-word sentence. Seaside Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, Framed Canvas Art, and Light in the Box.

It all averages out somehow, and this apparently is the loophole. Everyone is telling the truth, sort of, just not the specific truth that their words give the impression of saying.

“That’s just life, Naive Girl.”


Yes, it is. Life in the world of men consists of partial statements, misinformation, disinformation, and 95 percent of the truth mixed in with 5 percent of the lie, and the winner of the game is the one who recognizes this and doesn’t get caught.

Unfortunately, many of the same techniques are used within the spiritual realm — knowingly and unknowingly — and among Christians, the equivalent statement to “We have the lowest prices in town!” is

“Jesus loves you!”

A friend who works at a grocery store, and who has experienced enough church life to swear her off of God forever, commented about a recent customer who barely answered her greeting and woodenly replied to her chipper comments (in case you’ve never worked in retail, clerks are instructed to sound happy and perky no matter how rude we are in return). At the end of the transaction, when my friend handed over the groceries, the customer beamed at her and said,

“Jesus looooooooves you! He died for you and will save you from your sin!”

Hammer It In, Hon

Well, as far as my friend goes, there’s another nail in God’s coffin.

You know, my friend is like a lot of people, seeking truth, longing for love, and wondering if this God they hear so much about is really the source of it. I was in that place 30-plus years ago, when as a cynical, jaded college student I opened myself enough, just barely, in vulnerability, to start asking others, who seemed to know, about God.

“Jesus loves you!” is the first thing I was told. “Come to church and you’ll see!”

That didn’t really answer what I was looking for: I wanted to know why life was so difficult. I wanted to know why others had meaningful relationships and I was alone. I ached because I frequently ate by myself in the college cafeteria and I lived with the constant feeling that I was a societal failure. And I really wanted to talk to someone safe, gentle, understanding, and accepting who could convince me that, at 19, I wasn’t a total flop.

“Jesus loves you!”

We Are His Ambassadors

He does, actually, and because we are His hands and feet, His body in this world, He has commissioned us with showing that love, which, frequently, we don’t know how to do other than invite a seeker to come to church.

Light in the Forest inspirational oil painting of two women with candles in woods by Steve Henderson

We are the light of the world. Even a small, flickering flame provides guidance in a dark, dark room. Light of the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

“It’s warm and friendly and welcoming there,” we tell ourselves, “and Pastor will teach them the truths that I don’t really know. I mean, I’m not a Bible study teacher or anything.”

It’s simpler than that, actually, and more difficult. In the case of my friend, who works long, disparate hours at a job where many customers — Christian and non-Christian — treat her as if she were a talking machine, it would take nothing more than making eye contact, smiling, and speaking with her as if she were a fellow, equal, human being. Some people do that — Christian and non-Christian.

How did Jesus show His love to people when He walked on earth?

He listened to them.

He accepted them.

He was gentle with the vulnerable, straightshooting with those who claimed to be wise or leaders.

He genuinely cared about them, and didn’t set up a relationship designed expressly to “bring them to God” (or into the church), and then drop them.

It’s Hard to Do Simple Things

I know, I know — we’re human and we’re not perfect and we’ll make mistakes and all that. But for all that we are concerned about our ministry opportunities – short term mission trips, teaching small groups, participating in visitation committees, printing the bulletin — we have far more valid, and important options just in the process of living our daily lives.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31)

Non-condescendingly, humbly, and without thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to while we’re doing it.

Sometimes, the hardest things to do are the ones that sound the easiest.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I am grateful that, 30 years ago, my Norwegian Artist took time to get to know me, answer my questions, and just accept me as a human being. I threw a lot of questions and observations his way, but he never flinched, and when he didn’t know something, he said,

“That’s a good question. I’d have to admit that I really don’t know.”

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When Mighty Church Leaders Fall, Do They Crush the People Underneath?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

In our younger years, my husband the Norwegian Artist and I bicycled through small-town America, and for housing, we often asked a local church if we could camp in their basement. Encountering everything from open-armed hospitality to outright hostility, we ultimately found ourselves attending a lot of church services.

The Land of Chief Joseph inspirational oil painting of meadow flowers and mountains by Steve Henderson

There’s really no reason why we can’t all climb to the top of the hill and be surrounded by God’s majesty. The only thing stopping us is our willingness to walk the path that gets us there. The Land of Chief Joseph, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

One that made permanent memories was a revival meeting, in a tent, complete with wood shavings (the woman in front of us jumped up with an “OH!” as if she had been stuck with a pin) in which the speaker discussed the Cedars of Lebanon.

According to the speaker, these huge trees, towering over all other life in the forest, were the pastors God ordained to lead the sheep, and when the trees fell — he didn’t particularly mention why — then dreadful things happened, because everything under the massive trunks was crushed under its weight.

Get to High Ground

Now in my mind, the lesson of the day is that you don’t set up your sheep herd under a bunch of huge trees that are prone to topple, but the speaker didn’t address this. He just emphasized the importance of the mighty trees, and how firm and straight they grow, and how they protected the sheep by encircling them and keeping them confined.

Personally, I did not like being consigned to the bottom of the forest, at risk of being whacked over the head and summarily flattened, and it hurts my neck to tip back so far in order to see the tops of the trees. Radical that I was, I wondered — why aren’t ALL of God’s saints considered trees of Lebanon? Isn’t it important for all of God’s children to be straight, strong, firm, and immovable?

Not so, according to the speaker. Most people are sheep, and they need the trees.

We Worship Human Beings

Sadly, in modern-day establishment Christianity America, this appears to be so, and too many people flock — literally — to a pastor of power and words and magnetism, to teach them. Oddly, however, despite however many years they spend with this man (for he frequently is a man — many denominations finding all sorts of verses to discount the voice of women), the sheep don’t necessarily grow or learn as they properly should, in accordance with Ephesians 4:11-12:

Cadence inspirational original oil painting of woman in pink dress on rocky beach by Steve Henderson

In our walk with Christ, the goals is that we can do it using our own two feet, and not having to ride on the back of another. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

I thought of this today when someone on Facebook posted a link about Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church who is in the news, according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article by Joel Connelly, because 21 former pastors of the church have lodged formal charges against him. Reading through this article and related posts,  I couldn’t help but wonder,

Follow the Leader

“How do churches get so big? And what compels people to follow, so intimately, one human being?”

And, in following such a leader, any leader, are the congregants built up, knowledgeable, and mature? Logic tells one that, when we learn, we begin as children, starting with the basics. We soon outgrow those basics, adding to them until, at some point, we reach, or supersede, our teacher, and are ready to move on to teach others ourselves.

Is this what happens in churches — small or mega — or do the Cedars of Lebanon tower so tall that they keep sunlight from hitting the ground below?

Christians: we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

At what point will we start taking seriously our individual responsibility to interact with God, to read His word, to pray — one on one — to Him and seek His guidance, His leadership, and His teaching? Or will we always be content, eating tufts of grass in the shade and shadow of the trees?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my consistent message to Christians is to stop following the (human) leader and focus on following Christ. You can do this — you really can — and when you take teaching from another human being, don’t toss your soul, heart, brain, and mind in front of his feet as well.

Learn from others. But don’t worship them.

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Are We Being Bullied to Think a Certain Way?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Think of the term, Judeo-Christian values.

We bandy it about, especially we Christians, and the idea is that, because Jews and Christians share a common heritage (the Old Testament, and Abraham as our collective father), we should support one another, without question (although I’m not sure if the road runs both ways).

Enchanted inspirational oil painting of young woman girl in green dress in sunlight and garden by Steve Henderson

As intelligent, spiritual human beings, we must take time to think about life, spirituality, and the human experience, and not allow someone to make a one-size-fits-all approach for us. Enchanted, original oil painting by Steve Henderson. Licensed, open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

How that “somehow” plays about these days is that Christians, unequivocally, are told to uphold everything the state of Israel does politically, because if we disagree, we’re not supporting God’s people. Frequently, we are bludgeoned with this verse from Genesis 12: 2-3 in which God makes His promise to Abraham:

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Read and Research

This is a time when regular reading of the Bible comes in handy, because if we aren’t familiar with the overall book, individual verses can easily be brought out and slapped across our face. Generally, it goes like this:

“You can’t disagree with anything Israel does, or God will curse you. The Jews are God’s people!”

Well, let’s think about this:

Free to Disagree

1) Disagreeing with somebody is not the same as cursing them. While the future King David in 1 Samuel chapter 24 refused to touch God’s anointed Saul, he did not refrain from taking him to task:

“I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.

“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

David’s support of Saul did not include blinding himself to the man’s faults.

Gentiles Are Abraham’s Children, Too

2) We, too, are God’s people, and that promise in Genesis 12 applies to us as well:

“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ 

“So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3: 8-9)

Ephesians 2: 11-22 goes even further, calling to mind the Gentiles’ initial state of being far away, “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (verse 12)

But in Christ that changed, and we are now “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles (New Testament) and prophets (Old Testament) with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (verse 19-20)

Lumping Us All into One

Only an idiot would blanket all Christians into one group, and add that anything this composite group does is right — but this what Christians are expected to do with the Hebrews, or more accurately, the political state of Israel. Logic tells us that not all people who claim to be Christian actually are, and in a similar vein, not all those who claim to be Jewish, actually are:

Phonograph Days inspirational oil painting young woman girl in 1940s nostalgia hat and dress next to piano by Steve Henderson

Every human being on earth is unique, born in a specific time and place, created by God in the safety of the mother’s womb. We even like different music. Phonograph Days, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 both mention the synagogue of Satan, describing “those who say they are Jews and are not,” and both John the Baptist (Matthew 3: 7) and Jesus (Matthew 23: 33) referred to various leaders of the Jewish sect as a “brood of vipers.”

Imagine how that would go over on the evening news?

“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father,”‘ John the Baptist speaks to the brood. “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3: 9)

And He did — He opened the doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles. It wasn’t a particularly popular move in some quarters — John lost his head; Jesus, well, most Christians know what happened to Jesus, and this brings us back to the term at the beginning of the article: Judeo-Christian values.

Christian-Judeo Values

What if we flipped it, and called it Christian-Judeo values: do both sides fully agree that we have God the Father, and Abraham our father, in common, or are we Christians deluding ourselves into thinking that we have a mutual, equal relationship, and one in which we both support the other?

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two (Jew and Gentile) one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.” (Ephesians 2: 14)

This describes a veritable and true Judeo-Christian, or Christian-Judeo, relationship, but I can’t help but think that we’re not quite there yet.

When it comes to the news, make sure the information you’re getting is accurate, don’t be bullied into thinking a certain way, and remember that “No one is good — except God alone.” (Mark 10: 18) God does not call us to blindly accept, or patently reject, everything about any group of people.

Someday, Christ will return, and He will tell His children — Jew and Gentile:

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25: 40)

There are a lot of “least of these” people in this world. Let’s find, support, speak up for, love, and take care of them.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I look for truth in God and the Bible alone, and question everything I am told by human beings with the thought in the back of my mind, “What is it this person wants me to believe, and why?”

If you feel as if you are being pressured to believe a certain way, you probably are.

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Christianity Is Not a Political Party

posted by Carolyn Henderson

We have two sets of friends that we have always wanted to put together in the same room:

Set A is classic U.S.A. Republican party, and they worship George W. Bush. The world ended on the day he left the White House, and if they believed in saints, George would be greater than Peter.

The World Traveler inspirational Santa Claus painting with globe at North Pole by Steve Henderson

Most of the world consists of ordinary people, who have more in common with one another than we have differences. But for the rulers, it’s important that we focus on our differences. The World Traveler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Set B is pure Democrat. They don’t need to believe in saints, because Barack Obama is equivalent to, or greater than, Christ.

Ironically, we think they would get along famously together, as long as one didn’t mention the name of their respective human Messiah. So focused is each set on the marriage of political beliefs with God’s way of doing things, that they can’t separate the two.

Conservative versus Liberal

On a surface level, one can see how this comes about. Set A points primarily to the Republican’s platform against abortion, as well as its “tough stance” against “bad people” (the definition of which is flexible, depending upon what Fox News says that week). Speakers, political leaders, and celebrities receive the stamp of approval when they announce their belief  in God, country, and the pledge of allegiance — and they regularly attend church. This latter activity, I find, is a major component in whether or not a person is considered godly and worth listening to. (Rumor has it that people in the Democrat party attend church as well, but it’s not the same thing, somehow.)

Set B points to government programs designed to help the poor, about whom they accuse Set A of not caring. (Set A assures them that the money trickles down from the wealthy corporations — many of which Set B supports but pretends not to — and makes it into the hands of the poor.) Set B is against war, but curiously accepting of the fact that it is continuously raging, and does not push its leader to actually do anything about ending strife.

Both groups snipe and snap at one another, and we’re always told that nothing can get done or is getting done because of partisan politics, but somehow, life for the ordinary person never really improves, regardless of who is in power. At base, both parties look sort of the same: rich, powerful, and alienated from the masses.

Religion Marrying Politics

In Acts chapter 4, the apostles Peter and John appear before the Sanhedrin, consisting of the “rulers, elders, and teachers of the law.” (4: 6) The high priests, Annas and Caiaphas were there, and we find the same (politico-religious) crowd that delivered Jesus to the Roman authorities in Luke 23. In other words, despite being overtly religious, these people had power, or access to power at a secular level, and they used it.

Lady in Waiting inspirational oil painting of woman in shawl by purple lavender sky and Victorian House by the sea by Steve Henderson

Our own people” — these are the ones who matter to us, and for whom we wait. They are not disassociated, distant members of some religious or political faction. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART.

Upon being released,  Peter and John “went back to their own people” (4: 23) and quoted Psalm 2: 1,2:

“Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” (4: 25, 26)

I find the term, “their own people,” telling, in that Peter and John, despite being Jews, did not associate themselves with the politico-religious leaders, but with the new followers of the Way — Christians. Set apart and disenfranchised from the Jewish leadership sect, the followers of Christ were not represented, or even cared for, by either religious or state ruling classes. Top Jewish leadership, however, worked cunningly and well with Roman rule, for the mutual benefit of each.

The Kings of the Earth

The losers, as usual, were the ordinary people.

Another term of interest in the passage above is “the kings of the earth,” who on more than one occasion are interpreted in less than stellar light. Revelation 17: 2 tells us that “. . . with her (the great prostitute) the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” 

It’s not much of an extrapolation to deduce that the “kings of the earth” are its leaders –religious and secular — and they do not, actually frequently don’t, follow God. It doesn’t matter whether you call these people kings, emperors, governors, satraps, presidents, congressman, priests, religious speakers, financiers, CEOs, partisan talk show hosts, Republicans or Democrats — the kings of the earth rule — or think they do. In actuality, they are under the King of Kings, whom Christians follow, and it would be wise for us to recognize that what the “kings of the earth” propound and what Christ says, are at frequent variance with one another.

The Republican party is not the Christian party. Neither is the Democrat. They are political systems, set up by men, and ruled by the kings of the earth. Regardless of which party we ascribe to – if any — or corporate news media station we insist upon tuning into, we must remember that we have more in common with fellow Christians than we do with members of any human-based organization. One of the goals of the kings of the earth is to divide us from our shared fellowship in Christ, and encourage us to set upon one another, as opposed to asking, “What are those kings up to?”

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where today’s post was prompted by a Christian on Facebook who asked, “How come the news media doesn’t tell us more about the Christians being persecuted in Iraq?”

Because the news media, my dear friend, is run by the kings of the earth. But it’s supported, financially, by people who think that it’s seeking, and telling, the truth.

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