Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Should Christians Think?

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Difficult questions aren't answered quickly, but require a lot of reflection, study, prayer, and thought. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Difficult questions aren’t answered quickly, but require a lot of reflection, study, prayer, and thought. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I don’t mean for this to sound like the first line of a cheesy bar joke, but do you know how to get Christians reading your blog post, buying your book, or listening to your sermon?

Use a title with the word “should” in it, as in:

“Should Christians decorate and hide eggs at Easter?”

“Should Christians teach their children about Santa Claus?”

“Should Christians drink alcohol?”

Fill in the blanks with any activity that doesn’t have a definite for or against statement in it in the Bible (Thou shalt not commit adultery), and you’ve got a winner that will draw in all sorts of people who rely on others, not their own reading of the Bible and communication with God, to tell them how they are supposed to live.

How Shall We Then Live?

Not all Christians, fortunately. Many of my readers are highly spirited, engagingly intelligent children of the King who spend a lot of time in the royal parlor — listening, meditating, questioning, talking back, arguing, accepting, and learning — and they give me hope for 21st century, contemporary American Christianity. When they have a question, along the lines of,

“Even if Jesus didn’t have a tongue piercing, does that mean I can’t?”

they rely upon hours, days, and years worth of time spent reading the Bible — on their own — and communicative prayer with the Master. It doesn’t matter to them what the TV Evangelist of the Day says — it matters what God says. And they don’t need the Evangelist to interpret God’s word for them.

We Are Sheep, Not Sheeple

If I sound insensitive, harsh, and frustrated, well gosh, I guess that’s because I am — at least the frustrated part, because when Christ describes us as sheep, He didn’t use the word “sheeple,” and He didn’t intend that we replace Him, the Great Shepherd, with a series of human gurus. For every name of fame that actually has something to say, there’s another one who got to the top of the heap because of a silver tongue capable of generating a lot of gold, or because Dad was there first.

Our Great Shepherd leads each of us to the field where we need to be. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Our Great Shepherd leads each of us to the field where we need to be. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Any time the name of the author is bigger and more prominent than the title of the book, I spend my money on a latte instead.

Of course, you don’t have to be famous — just amazingly confident in a manly, authoritative or womanly, compassionate sort of way, pronouncing judgment and opinion with inflexible assurance.

We attended a church once where a series of women, especially, never called the pastor by his name, just, “Pastor.”

“Pastor said this.”

“Pastor told such a funny joke!”

“Are you having Pastor for dinner on Sunday?”

Suffice it to say that, no matter what Pastor said, these women did not argue. Pastor was always right. That’s a whole lotta confidence to place in one human being.

Test the Spirits, and the Speakers

1 John 4:1 tells us, “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.”

Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is more succinct: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

These verses are addressed to you and me, my friend, individual Christians who are responsible to read, interpret, and meditate upon what God says, and while we can use the thoughts of other people — whose expertise in certain areas add dimension and knowledge — to reach our conclusions, we should not ultimately rely on any other human being to do the testing for us.

Throughout history, many people have died in the process of getting the Bible translated into the language that we speak and read. The best way we can honor their sacrifice is to read the Bible, regularly, for ourselves, and spend time in direct prayer with God, asking for His guidance and teaching.

 

Only . . . BELIEVE!

posted by Carolyn Henderson
You know, some days feel like this. Image clip from When in Rome, by Touchstone Pictures.

You know, some days feel like this. Image clip from When in Rome, by Touchstone Pictures.

I love chick flicks, and if we’re going to have a long-term relationship, you’re going to need to accept this. In the 2010 flick, When in Rome, five people stuffed into a Vespa 400 microcar are careening toward the glass doors of a building when the magician inside closes his eyes and sends his energy toward opening the doors:

“Only BELIEVE!” he intones, and everyone yells in desperation, “I BELIEVE!”

And the doors open — because the people believe, not because the doors are automatically programmed. Sigh. That’s Hollywood.

“Believe” Is a Multi-Faceted Word

While believing is an essential part of Christianity, there’s always the question, What are we believing in? In Mark 9: 23-25, Jesus gives us a major clue:

“Everything is possible for him who believes,” Jesus tells the father of a demon-possessed son, to which the father immediately replies:

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 23-25).

In this case, the parent had expressed doubt about Jesus’ ability to do something, and Jesus made it quite clear that part of believing in Him is that we fully accept his infinite power and ability to do anything He chooses. ANYTHING.

Believing 101 and Believing 102

Okay, that’s Believing 101. Believing 102 is more difficult, and it is frequently the part eclipsed by the Mega-Watt Just BELIEVE Speakers who urge people to voice their wants and desires in such a way that God has to answer their prayers, simply because they the people have said the right words in the right way:

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

There’s that Believe word again, but it’s definitely not being used in the sense of careening toward closed glass doors, shouting out, “I BELIEVE that these things will open, simply because I’m being so loud and determined about it!”

Santa's a great guy, but his existence, or not, does not depend upon how hard you believe in him. These Gifts Are Better Than Toys, original painting and signed limited edition prints by Steve Henderson.

Santa’s a great guy, but his existence, or not, does not depend upon how hard you believe in him. These Gifts Are Better Than Toys, original painting and signed limited edition prints by Steve Henderson.

Belief, in and of itself, is not enough, because the essential matter is this: What are you believing in?

The Power of God, or God Himself?

“I’m believing in the POWER of God,” the Mega-Watt Speaker replies. “Speak it, declare it, announce it, BELIEVE it, and the POWER of God will be released in your life.”

Really?

While it is vital that we believe God CAN do anything, we also have to address the issue of whether or not he WILL do anything, and it is in this matter that the Mega-Watt Speakers lead people astray.

God is not obligated to do anything we ask, just because we ask it. While words are powerful, and God Himself spoke the world into existence, the mere syntactical arrangement of the “right” words, coupled with a strong enough belief that this cunning verbal skill of ours will open the doors, is hocus-pocus, not Christianity.

Hocus Pocus

And it is a hocus-pocus that has potential to damage people’s faith, because when they BELIEVE hard enough, and they say the right words, and they are still not showered with blessings, their logical conclusion is one of two things:

1) They didn’t do it right, somehow, because they don’t have enough faith

or

2) God isn’t who He says He is, and He’s messing with their minds.

Let’s look at Option 3, which involves the work of believing in the One He Has sent, from John 6:29, quoted above:

Believing in Christ is more than accepting that He exists and that He is all powerful — it is also accepting, in the worst of times, that He is all loving, all merciful, all kindness, all compassion — even. if. our. specific. prayers. are. not. answered.

Doing the Work of God

That’s where the “work” part comes in, because reaching for and achieving this acceptance is far more difficult than confidently speaking words and waiting for results; it is a matter of reading God’s word, talking to Him about it, patiently waiting, messing up as we impatiently lash out, reading more, meditating more, understanding something that used to confuse us — this all takes time, walking with God, collapsing in His arms, sitting by the side of the path in exhaustion and leaning against a tree. And then we get up and walk again, our hands in His.

It’s so much easier to jump into the Ferrari, yell out I BELIEVE! and roar forward.

But that only works for a few people, and the reason they can afford that Ferrari is because others are sending them money for the payments.

If you have been praying for something, earnestly, and it’s not happening, stop trying to tap into the power of God and seek out God Himself. He wants to walk with you, commune with you, teach you, love you, and your very insistence that He answer Your prayer, Your way, may be getting in the way of this.

It’s hard, I know. That’s why Jesus used the word, “work.”

 

 

Three Halloween No-No’s for Christians

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Yep. We do Santa, too. Little Angel Bright -- original oil painting and signed ltd. edition print by Steve Henderson, and cool You Tube video at the Steve Henderson Fine Art YouTube channel.

Yep. We do Santa, too. Little Angel Bright — original oil painting and signed ltd. edition print by Steve Henderson, and cool You Tube video at the Steve Henderson Fine Art YouTube channel.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays (see, The Big Halloween Bash), not only because it’s always been a truly fun, family affair in our household, but because so many legalistic Christians decry it. I know, it’s naughty of me to think that way, and I’d say that my slip is showing, except that I’m wearing blue jeans. This might be a good time to mention that I’m a fan of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too, and I definitely don’t confuse them with Jesus.

Call me a reprobate — it’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

But if you’re truly appalled about Halloween and the people who celebrate it, that’s okay. There are many issues we’ll never agree on, although the supremacy of Christ, His love and acceptance, His open and embracing arms — those are pretty major issues that we could probably sit in the same room and rejoice about.

It’s Okay to Hate Halloween

And I recognize that, for many people who abhor Halloween, there is a sense that the holiday is all against Christ and everything He gives us, and that’s why they react to it the way they do. But from the viewpoint of a joyful reprobate, I want to offer perspective on three common reactions against Halloween. If you do these things, you are not, as you think, promoting Christ so much as you are irritating — and potentially offending — the people you seek to minister to.

1) Don’t hide away. It’s fine to turn off your porch light and watch TV in your living room. Most trick or treaters know that the turned off porch light is a statement: “No candy here, guys. Please move on to the next house.” The unspoken etiquette of Halloween — which is surprisingly respected — is that one NOT egg bomb non-participating houses.

What gets irritating is when you turn off every single light in your house and lurk about in the basement, because you don’t want even the remotest chance that someone will knock on your door.

Sail off somewhere for the evening if you want, but if you stay home, don't skulk. Autumn Sail by Steve Henderson, licensed open edition print.

Sail off somewhere for the evening if you want, but if you stay home, don’t skulk. Autumn Sail by Steve Henderson, licensed open edition print.

Don’t think that we don’t know you’re there. Don’t ask me how, but people know when you’re hiding, because rumor flies — in a hamlet or metropolis, a cozy church or a mega-watt — and you’d achieve more respect if you’d just sit in the Lazy Boy like any other night and watch TV.

We’re Not as Subtle as We Think

2) Do not give out Bible tracts instead of candy. This is not clever; it is not subtle; and it is certainly not working. While you may think that the child going through the night’s haul — or his parents — pulls out the little piece of paper with a sense of wonder, asking, “What is this? Oh, look, it’s about Jesus,” you would not like to eavesdrop on the conversation in that living room.

If you don’t like the whole candy thing, that’s fine — give out pencils. They can even have Scripture verses on them. Stickers with Jesus holding sheep — that’s edging over the line. Think about it: what are you trying to do? Alienate people, or draw them in? A big smile, a comment about the costume, and a generous bowl full of treats speak more loudly than you think.

Don’t Embarrass Kind People

3) Do not put the homeowners on the spot. We heard of one family who allowed their children to trick or treat, sort of, but required them to reject the candy and ask the homeowner, instead, for a donation to a worthy Christian cause. This does two things, neither of which glorify God:

It rejects the generosity of the homeowner

and

It non-plusses the poor guy, or gal.

I’m not even going to mention how sorry I feel for the poor kids, who would be better off staying home, watching TV, even if it meant skulking in the basement.

This Is the Kick-off to Holiday Contention Season

Holidays will always be a point of contention for people of faith, but come to think of it, within any family, holidays are sensitive times. Somebody, somewhere, gets offended, often over as small a thing as choosing Aunt Delphine’s mashed potatoes over Uncle Albert’s stuffing, and if we don’t watch ourselves, we can launch a multi-generational feud over something that, in the large picture, isn’t as big as we’re making it out to be.

I need to be more patient with you. You need to be more patient with me.

Unchurched, or Church Free?

posted by Carolyn Henderson
When we walk with God, it's important to get outside, away from walls on each side. Dream Catcher, original oil painting and licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson.

When we walk with God, it’s important to get outside, away from walls on each side. Dream Catcher, original oil painting and licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson.

We are a society that parses words, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — consider the difference of implications between “anti-abortion” and “anti-choice” — and how we phrase things makes a huge difference in how our listeners or readers interpret our message.

For instance, lately in the news there are articles about couples choosing to not have children, and they refer to themselves as “child-free,” as opposed to “childless,” because they don’t like the impression that they are missing something, somehow, by the latter term. As the mum of four, I know that they are missing something indeed, just as I and the Norwegian Artist missed out on a different type of lifestyle because we chose to make less money and spend more time tracking down random socks and incomplete board games without all the pieces. You can’t have it all, and we’re fine with that.

Making A Conscious Decision to Pursue an Alternative

Within the Christian community, there is an unpleasant little term, “unchurched,” that seriously needs a modern counterpart, given that there are a number of committed Christians these days — like us — who for various reasons, no longer attend weekly worship services or participate in a community church establishment:

Churchfree.

Like childfree, it implies a conscious decision to go about things a different way, although in our case, our conscious decision came after years and years of trying to fit in, adapting ourselves into a paradigm that the leadership community had set up, and resisting as we were gently, but inexorably, nudged out of the fold. What began as a three-month sabbatical from it all grew into a lifestyle that we embrace, and that works for us.

Many of today's church establishments have little patience, or room, for non-conformity. Diaphanous, original oil painting and licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson.

Many of today’s church establishments have little patience, or room, for non-conformity. Diaphanous, original oil painting and licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson.

With more than 75 combined years of sitting in church pews, the Norwegian Artist and I could hardly be considered “unchurched,” which implies, incidentally, that we are “un-Christian.” If you could get us to walk into a church, any Protestant church, on a Sunday morning, we would fit right in, singing the proper songs, putting on the appropriate face, turning to greet one another in the allotted time, listening and looking interested during announcement time, maybe (but it’s really, really unlikely) writing notes about the sermon onto the back of the bulletin.

We are completely and totally versed with proper church etiquette, so we are not “unchurched.” We are simply not in a church building on any given Sunday morning because we choose not to be.

The Numbers Are Increasing

And we are a growing population of committed, frustrated Christians, who fully recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect church, so that’s not why we’re staying away. But we are bored with the routine, not interested in joining a series of groups, and tired of being pressed into a mold. As I mentioned to one pastor (yes, I, a lowly woman, expressed my opinion to a leadership male), “If we were rounded up and sent to jail for attending these services, would our sacrifice be worth it?”

Danged if he didn’t shake his head, lightly, “No.”

Immediately afterward he launched into the “no church is perfect” spiel and encouraged me to “be patient.”

It Takes All Kinds of People

Our lifestyle choice obviously doesn’t work for everyone, and we didn’t approach it cavalierly — as I said, we have 75 combined years of trying to make this work. It is, however,  the best choice for us, and many others like us, right now. In our own case, we added homeschooling, homebirth, and building our own home to the mix, so we’re either really, really weird or really, really independent, but that very series of factors made us really, really uncomfortable in the weekly — and now it’s multiple times weekly — community church environment.

At times, I do wish that there were an intimate group situation into which we could fit and thrive. And I do realize that we have to make some adaptations — we have, for many years. We chose to stop, however, when we realized that all the required adaptations came from our side, and if we were ever going to truly fit in, we would have to radically change who we are.

 

 

Previous Posts

"Why Are You So Afraid? Do You Still Have No Faith?"
This last week on Facebook was one of general fear, anxiety, panic and despair, not so much because everyone was in and out of relationships, or because Lucky Slots wasn't doing well, but because too many Christians are preparing for the imminent invasion of the United States by hostile forces.

posted 8:10:32pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Improving Your Meditation Skills
Meditation is one of those words with multiple meanings, and some Christians are frightened by the concept because they think that meditating involves emptying their minds completely and allowing outside spiritual forces to fill the vacuum. [caption id="attachment_1127" align="alignleft" widt

posted 5:36:59pm Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Are We Dumbing Ourselves Down?
I have a friend who worked for the medical publication industry -- which creates articles and circulars that enjoin: "Get your flu shot and eat those veggies!" Years ago, she explained, the written material was created at various reading levels, with the premiere offerings targeted to g

posted 7:05:39pm Sep. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Frightened, Freaked Out Christians
Like various government, corporate, and financial agencies, I scroll through Facebook to get an idea of how the populace is thinking, and the other day someone posted a video clip of Retired Air Force Lt. General McInerney -- somber, serious, and very authoritative looking -- warning Fox News acol

posted 7:06:56pm Sep. 05, 2014 | read full post »

Three Things Christians Don't Say Enough
Words are powerful, but not in the way prosperity preachers or New Age advocates claim. While words themselves do not convey any ability to create reality, simply because we utter them (e.g., "I CLAIM this blessing!"), they affect those around us because they soothe and heal, or they hurt and dama

posted 8:12:20pm Sep. 03, 2014 | 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.