Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Make a Difference, Every Day, as a Christian

posted by Carolyn Henderson

As Christians, we can be the light on the hill, shining into the darkness. Autumn Moon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Theoretically there are millions of Christians in my home country, the United States, but for some reason, we are always looking for a major revival before we expect to see any significant changes made in our collective lifestyle.

Things used to be better, we are told, back when Beaver was a young boy and there was prayer in schools. Or further back, when Laura Ingalls Wilder was eating tough chicken on the prairie and rap music consisted of what teachers did with rulers to children’s knuckles. Or further back than that, when our Founding Fathers — which Christians insist were Christians although most of them look like today’s politicians in that they talked about being religious and looked like they were being religious but didn’t particularly live as if they really believed Jesus were true — set up what we insist upon calling “a Christian Nation.”

A Nation of Christians, or a Christian Nation?

We’ve had slavery, genocidal war on the Original Peoples, robber barons and railroad kings setting up the financial family scions that still rule today, serious social engineering, covert experimentation with eugenics, rampant dishonesty in our business and political realms, wars we don’t call wars — when we get to the “Christian Nation” part, please let me know.

Ah, but the solution is to get more Christians into politics, a movement that was heavily pressed in the 1990s when households like ours received regular requests from large, corporate, Christian organizations insisting that it was up to ordinary people like us to turn this nation around — one $50 donation check to their organization at a time. Presumably, they had a modicum of success and some Christians made it into the political arena; if you believe the newspapers, a huge chunk of the Republican Party is run by, and run over by, the “conservative Christian Right.”

Let’s Make a Positive Impact

So why do we not feel the impact of these millions and millions of Christians? By impact, let me clarify, I do not mean forced church attendance, or mandatory prayer in school (really guys, you don’t want that — government regulations setting up federally sanctioned conversations with God?), or fines for swearing, or civic “peace keeping” forces taking valuable time away from setting up speed traps to focus, instead, on measuring the length of a woman’s skirt: this is the world of Christendom propounded by Hollywood’s Deadheads.

What matters, in Christianity, is not the length of our skirt hem but the breadth of our relationship with Jesus. Girl in a Copper Dress 3, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

No, when Christians make an impact it is one life at a time — the individual Christian’s — working in another life at a time — a friend, family member, stranger, neighbor. Our central focus and central command from Jesus is twofold:

Love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Love our neighbor as ourselves.

An Investment of Time and Spirit, not Money

And to do this, we don’t need study books; pastoral exhortation; discipleship classes; specialized Christian television media; evangelistic outreach and encouragement seminars set up in football stadiums; Christian-themed publishing houses and recording studios pumping out Christian-themed books, comics, movies, and music, or mega Christian corporations “representing” us somehow.

What we need are individual Christians living their lives as committed Christians. Doing this is fairly uncomplicated (not simple, incidentally) and if you’re unsure of where to start, try this:

Begin each day by talking to God (I do this in my head), and say something along these lines: “You are my Master, King, and Father; and I am your willing servant, subject, and child. Tell me what you want me to do today.”

And then, wait for Him to answer. He will, somehow, and it will look different each day, and for each person, but the first step in accessing, nationally, the power of all our purported Christians is for each Christian, individually, to talk to God and strengthen his relationship with Him.

It doesn’t matter if there really are millions of Christians in this nation, or just one — what matters is that the people who call themselves Christians and say that they are Christians and believe that they are Christians take seriously the first part of the word Christians, “Christ,” and connect with Him.

 

Feeling Abandoned?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Sometimes, it feels as if we are in an isolated place, all by ourselves. Stonework, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

Let’s face it. Most of us wandering around on the planet today have not seen Jesus in person, nor have we audibly heard his voice, emanating from the sky or from the back of the laundry room.

The vast majority of Christians throughout history belongs to a blessed group of those “who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), and while blessings are nice, when you’re in the midst of fumbling your way through life’s daily challenges and pain, it’s hard to fully comprehend that you’re not doing this all by yourself.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Encouragement at 2 o’clock in the Morning

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has committed that verse to memory, only I’ve shortened it, mentally to, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” which is much easier to repeat, as a mantra, at 2 o’clock in the morning.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus promised his disciples, and, by extension, the rest of us. These are comforting words indeed, but in a visually stimulated society, sometimes words aren’t enough, and the more difficult life gets, the more we ache for something more tangible onto which to hold.

Jesus understands this — that’s one reason He told so many stories, because His listeners understood about sheep, and olive trees, and grapevines, and goats. Nowadays, however,  sheep aren’t a part of many of our lives, and sometimes, as we meditate, it’s helpful to mentally modify the stories a bit, into something that we can comprehend.

Babes on the Beach

As a child of God, you never walk on the beach by yourself. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I did this last month when we took our four-year-old granddaughter to the beach for the first time. Four of us went in all — Small Person, The Norwegian Artist, our Tired of Being Youngest, and myself — and I was immediately struck by a few things:

1) At no time, EVER, was Small Person left alone — anywhere. In the car, on the road, in the lodging unit, at the beach itself: at least one adult was always there, watching. We had no intention of any sort to leave her or forsake her.

2) We always knew where Small Person was. On the latter part of the visit, she was allowed to walk from the lodging unit to the fence boundary, 25 feet away. Asserting her independence, sometimes she walked briefly out of our immediate sight, but she never actually was.  (“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father . . . So don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29, 31)

3) The only reason Small Person was accorded the independence to walk to the fence boundary, unaccompanied, is because she had proven that she would not do random, stupid things, like run off. In actuality, she did not want to be alone out there — in the yard, by the fence, and most especially on the beach itself. Although as she became more confident she didn’t need to hold the Norwegian Artist’s hand at all times, she wasn’t going anywhere without him.

Learning from Children

There is a reason Christ encourages us to become as little children — “He called a little child and had him stand among them, And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 2-4)

We have trouble with that humble part, because it sounds too much like “humiliate.” But when we humble ourselves, like children, before God, we acknowledge that the beach is a big, scary place, and we are too small, young, vulnerable, and defenseless to be on it by ourselves.

And we never are. You may feel alone and abandoned right now, my friend, but I assure you — you are NEVER on that beach by yourself.

Thank you for reading me, and please consider subscribing to Commonsense Christianity by using the Subscribe to Commonsense button in the top right menu. I post three times a week.

Posts of a similar nature to this one include

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Sham Christians: Don’t Be Fooled by Them

posted by Carolyn Henderson

There is a huge difference between a real flower and a silk one, even though they may look very, very similar. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us, but just because somebody announces that he is a Christian, doesn’t mean that he’s telling the truth.

And yet, this maxim is obviously not getting through to the general Christian populace, because there are a lot of people out there loudly announcing their Christianity, making a bit of money along the way as they do it, and not being challenged because there are wormy apples growing on what they assure us is a healthy, vibrant peach tree.

“Watch out for false prophets,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15 – 17:

“They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Even if you’re an extremely urban person who thinks that fruit somehow magically appears in packaged, roll-up form, Jesus’ analogy is one that can save us a lot of angst, and money, by keeping our debit card in our wallets before we toss funds at people who say they are doing Christ’s work, but really aren’t.

Follow the Money

And come to think of it, money is one of the major elements to keep in mind when you start questioning the spiritual validity of a person’s message. Recently, a friend of mine shared about a new Exciting Christian Person she had discovered, who had this Exciting Christian Message.

From what I could tell, the central message of the Exciting Christian Person was multifold:

1) We should love and embrace ourselves.

2) We can get anything we want or need through the Power of Christ.

3) Most of us don’t know how to tap into this power.

4) By purchasing the Exciting Christian Person’s books and other resources, we can discover how to tap into this power.

Ask Yourself Questions

Is God glorified? That’s the primary question when you determine the motives of others. Opalescent Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Now when I evaluate a purported Christian’s message, I run it through this major filter:

Is God glorified? because if you read the Bible on even an itinerant basis, you quickly grasp that God is NOT big on glory being given to anyone else but Him. So with this in mind, let’s look at sentences 1 – 4, above:

1) While self-acceptance is an issue in this culture, it is not one of the major, or even minor, commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” Jesus says in Matthew 22: 37. “This is the first and greatest commandment.”

I don’t mean to be a spoiler here or anything, but the second greatest commandment is not, “Focus on loving yourself.” (Accepting ourselves, by the way, is important; it’s just not achieved by placing ourselves first.)

2) God is our Father, not Big Daddy. Yes, there are verses about answers to prayer; there are also verses about hardship and pain. They go together somehow.

There Are No Secrets

3) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7: 7) Oh, and wait. God is not obligated to answer our demands in our time frame and expectation level, and anybody who tells you that he knows how to “get” or “make” God do what He’s told, isn’t paying attention to the stories of Abraham, or Job, or Moses. Jesus Himself had a pretty major prayer in Gethsemane — “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” which wasn’t complete without the rest of the sentence, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

There is no “secret” way to pray to ensure that you achieve wealth, fame, power, healing, or material blessings.

4) While it’s fine to sell books and resources, when the message of those resources is, “You need my unique, specialized knowledge to get ahead,” walk away, brew a pot of tea, and sit with the kitty for awhile. She has more spiritual insight for you than this person does.

If you’re going to spend time, and possibly money, following a person who purports to speak for Christ, then make sure that their words do, indeed, mirror those of Jesus, who came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.

Thank you for joining me on Commonsense Christianity, and please feel free to leave a comment — I love hearing from you. I post articles three times a week, during the week, and I invite you to subscribe to Commonsense Christianity on the top right of the menu bar.

Posts related to this article are

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Is Your Job Meaningless?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Now this guy, he’s got a one-of-a-kind job. These Gifts Are Better Than Toys by Steve Henderson.

In this technological age, one of the means of entertaining ourselves is typing random sentences into search engines and seeing what comes up. So the Norwegian Artist, in a inexplicable fit of, well, even he can’t explain why he did this, typed,

“Meaningful Jobs.”

Take the Norwegian’s advice and don’t bother. Forbes Magazine, which very few of us consult to meet the deeper emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives, posted a list of 25 Meaningful Jobs That Pay Well, the first five of which were in the medical field, and — surprise surprise! — these positions paid REALLY well.

When your mom told you to become a Neurosurgeon or Cardiothoracic Surgeon, she was reading Forbes.

What Do These People Do, Anyway?

Of course, if you don’t want to go into the medical field, you can be number 6, a Supervisory Special Agent. One hundred percent of the people in this field surveyed said that the work was meaningful, and considering that the median pay is $129,000 to do . . . what? their satisfaction is understandable.

Oh, and number 7 — a Chief Executive Officer, median pay $155,500, satisfaction rate 82 percent. For some reason, I’ve never associated the word “meaningful” with the term CEO.

“Lucrative,” yes.

The Huffington Post, another entity I never consult for, well, meaningful content, listed the 10 Least Meaningful Jobs: Payscale, beginning the article with,

“Want to make the world a better place? You may want to consider changing jobs.”

It made me wonder — if a gas station attendant (the Post’s Number One Least Meaningful Job) paid what a Supervisory Special Agent position did, would it all of a sudden be meaningful?

Does Money Make Meaning?

Some of the most meaningful things we do, don’t pay. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

In other words, what makes a job meaningful — how much money it generates, or how much it helps people?

Most people work because we have to — there’s food, shelter, clothing, taxes, fees, insurance payments, utilities — although the latter four are generally paid before we can address the first three, and YES, we would like to be recompensed well for what we do.

But it’s important to recognize two things about our jobs:

1) How much we’re paid is not a reflection upon how meaningful the job is. Think about your average homemaker — based upon her payscale, she’s useless, which, come to think of it, is how contemporary society views her.

2) Any honest work, done well, is meaningful. Our grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression, knew this — that’s why they kept repeating to their grandkids, “Don’t knock it. It’s a job, kid, and it keeps you off the streets.”

A Surfeit of Neurosurgeons

There are only so many neurosurgeons a society can absorb, and while it’s impressive to say that you’re the Director of Compensation and Benefits (median pay, $122,000, satisfaction rate 64 percent), you’re far more likely to be the person arguing with this guy about your compensation and benefits package. In other words, many people are worker bees.

Jesus was a carpenter. Peter and John were fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector, which as far as pay and benefits go, would make Forbes’ List of the first century and be described as meaningful.

But what makes your job — and your entire life, actually — meaningful is not how much you’re paid, or even what you do. It’s that you’re there, and as a child of God, you walk with Christ as your guide and you do the work — whatever work — that is set before you each day. If you don’t like what you do — and there are a lot of really unlikable jobs out there — talk to Him about it, but don’t put yourself down as useless to humanity because you’re not a neurosurgeon.

Your Job Is, and You Are, Meaningful

You may bag groceries, run a coffee shop, drive a bus, drill teeth, drill oil wells, design clothes, paint artwork, teach children, wait tables, deliver mail, trade stocks — whatever it is, and whatever its level of prestige (or perceived lack of prestige), the meaningfulness of what you do depends upon how you do it: honestly, fairly, honorably, and taking advantage of every opportunity you have to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Smile at a co-worker. Speak gently to a confused victim of dementia. Bite back a snippy retort at someone who is rude to you (service workers do this all the time; the CEOs who run their companies don’t have to). Work for Christ as your employer in whatever capacity you are in right now, and don’t put yourself down because what you do isn’t “meaningful.”

As a Child of God, every breath you take is meaningful.

 

 

 

 

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