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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The Confident Christian, and Why He’s So Dangerous

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Parenting is one of the strongest ways to gain confidence, because you protect someone who needs you and depends upon you. All mothers and fathers are put in the position of leadership. Madonna and Toddler, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART.

When I was a young woman and a new Christian, I used to swoon in the presence of the Confident Christian Male. I’m sure you’ve met these Alpha Omega types: they command a room as soon as they effect their entrance, and declare wisdom in measured, even tones.

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Fearless and self-assured, they pronounce judgment upon everything from the proper way to pray to sound business acumen, and after five minutes in their presence, you’re convinced that you need only do what they do and obey what they say, and you will succeed in life.

Frequently, they wind up — or rather, put themselves in — positions of leadership, where numbers of people fall under their spell. I am happy to say that I am no longer one of these people — I don’t know, maybe it’s that post-age-40 female thing, when we realize we know more than we think we do, but I started looking at what people say, versus how they live, and I began to be unimpressed. (Look up the traditional definition for “confidence man,” sometime.)

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I’ve Met This Person, Before

After years of dealing with these people, a general conspectus emerges: Phenomenal Spiritual Business Man who does everything from provide financial consulting services to write children’s books (EVERYONE writes children’s books, from Rush Limbaugh on down; do we seriously think that children have no literary standards?). He has outwardly obedient kids and a docile wife, frequently “serves” as an elder or senior deacon in a church, and when I am unfortunate enough to have to do business with him, he is convinced that the sheer magnetism of his voice is enough to secure my compliance. I’m just a little lady, after all, and given that I’m a Christian little lady, then it follows without question that I will follow him without thought.

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On a larger scale, he hosts a television or radio show, “comments” on the news, conducts seminars, or writes books that we are all instructed to read.

He is a leader — dynamic, charismatic, sanguine, and bold — and the sheer positiveness of his message is the reason why we believe it. Humans crave security, and when another human promises it — through the seductive forcefulness of his words — we fall into line, behind him.

Confidence versus Humility

But is this wise?

And does confidence necessarily mean godliness? Or aptitude?

I think not.

One of the greatest human leaders of all time was Moses, who is described in Numbers 12: 3 as ” . . . a very humble man, more humble than anyone on the face of the earth.” So unwilling was he to put himself forward that he argued five times with God about taking a leadership role that the average Prosperity Preacher would consider beneath his skills, with a final request of,

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It wasn’t Moses’ confidence that parted the Red Sea, but God’s might. Whitewater, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

But God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1: 27), something we might remember when Confidence Man prods us into the corner and intimidates us to acquiesce, because he is big, strong, presumptuous, and right.

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Yes, I know — you, and I, are small, weak, vacillating, unsure of ourselves, not particularly wealthy, and singularly unimportant.

Jesus: Meek, and a Leader

This might be a good time to remember that Jesus in Matthew 11: 29 describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart,” and His Beatitudes of Matthew 5 list out attributes — which Christ considers well worth desiring — that are the total opposite of what we learn in Personal Development Seminars.

When the Bible talks about confidence, it doesn’t position the word “self” in the front:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us,” (1 John 5: 14)

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or

“(I am) confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philipppians 1: 6)

If you are unsure of yourself, that’s okay — I’d be unsure of yourself, too. I know I’m unsure of myself. But the one Person who’s worth being sure of — because He’s perfect, and strong, and wise, and compassionate, and powerful — is Jesus Christ, and He tells us this:

“All things have been committed to me by my Father.” (Matthew 11: 27) That’s a pretty sound recommendation.

If you’re going to worship anyone, make sure it’s someone worth worshiping, and the only one who fits that description is Christ. He’s worthy of your worship, and He’s worthy of your trust: don’t give it to anyone else.

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Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I see two kinds of Christians — those who follow Christ, read His words, and listen for His voice — and those who depend upon others to tell them what to do and how to think.

Do, do, do strive to be the first type of Christian.

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Speak up, and Don’t be Afraid

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Recently, I wrote a letter to the editor about an obscenely expensive, $20 million dollar bond our local school district is floating. As a veteran homeschooler who launched four highly literate, analytical, articulate adults into the world of work and home, I’m unconvinced that massive amounts of money, spent without any sense of accountability to the people providing it, is the best way to achieve an educated citizenry.

Now when you write a letter to the editor, especially on a controversial topic, you frequently get one of two responses, either publicly, or in your Facebook messages:

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“You’re crazy! You have no idea what you’re talking about, and you are unqualified to speak on the matter at all. You should just shut up.”

(This is the sanitized version, by the way, removing all the words that begin with “f,” describe explicit body parts, or refer to the waste product of a chicken.)

The opposite spectrum looks like this:

“I’m so glad you spoke up, and said what so many of us are thinking.”

Why Are You Afraid?

When I respond to those people (I generally delete the others; you can’t reason with someone who sputters like Sylvester the Cat), I ask,

“If this is what you think, then why don’t you write a letter to the editor as well? The more people who speak up, the more support for the message.”

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“Oh, I could NEVER do that!” is the general response. “I would be attacked by people who disagree with me!”

Well yes, that’s a strong possibility, but generally — in areas where there are still letters to the editor and we have the nominal appearance of freedom of speech — the persecution we endure frequently involves others laughing at our stupidity, or calling us fools, or questioning our intelligence level. And, unfortunately, for many people, this is enough to keep them from speaking:

Peer pressure. It starts in pre-school and follows us our entire lives, if we let it.

There’s Always a Good Reason

There is always a good reason not to speak up: if you’re a businessperson, you may lose clients because you hold an unpopular opinion. If you’re a homeowner, you may find yourself with a broken window from a coward who signs his name with rocks, not words. If you’re just a nobody (all people are nobodies, really; and we’re all somebodies — realizing this keeps us humble, with dignity), you may want to avoid confrontation with your brother-in-law, who has loud, strident opinions that he brings to the family reunion.

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There is a time and a season for everything — to speak up, and to be silent — but fear of ridicule should not be a concern when it comes to doing either. Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

But as much as you may wish to run from confrontation, if you’re a Christian, you can’t make a lifestyle choice of this:

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“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 10: 21-22. “Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Now the reaction Jesus is talking about is a bit stronger than what we expect to receive when we write a letter to the editor, but then again, Christ’s message, entrusted to us, is greater than opposing a school bond:

Jesus provides the only solution to the problems, pain, and evil of this world. Following Him, listening to Him, and doing what He says is the best, and only, way.

An Unpopular Message

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This is not a particularly popular message: Jesus Himself paid for it with His life. So have His followers, through the centuries and into today.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)

If you, like me, live in a nation that still looks “free,” be aware that it isn’t, and there may come a day when you will face accusers who have nothing more against you than that you worship Christ, not them, or the god of their choice. If you wonder how you will respond on this day, and fear that you will falter, then connect with Christ, NOW, and spend more time reading His words than you do the newspaper, listen to His voice more than you do the commentators on network news, and put your faith in Him, not men.

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And don’t be afraid to write a letter to the editor now and then.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. As Christians, we have a unique relationship with God, and this relationship enables us to learn from the wisest, kindest, most powerful, most compassionate Person — One who has no beginning and no end, no ability to fail, no weakness, and no darkness within Him at all.

But you can’t learn from Someone you don’t spend time with, and if the only thing you know about Jesus is what other people tell you, you won’t know much about Him at all. Stop listening to other people: pull out that Bible that many people are sitting in prison today for the “crime” of possession, and read it. Got questions? Ask the Author.

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Lessons from the Easter Bunny

posted by Carolyn Henderson

None of our adult children is confused about Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. The wonder and joy children find in the first, is a reflection of the reality that we find, throughout our lives, in the second. An Unforeseen Encounter, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; signed limited edition print and open edition poster.

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Full disclosure: we do Easter egg hunts. But then again, we also do Halloween and Santa, and have been remarkably able to separate these particular family traditions from our theological viewpoints.

As Christians, it’s important to not only talk, and talk, and talk about our freedom in Christ, but to actually experiment with living it and see how it unfolds. For us, this means that we skip the Sunrise Service (actually, since we liberated ourselves from mandatory church attendance, we skip the whole day’s official religious activities altogether), and focus on the family.

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And the big event we enjoy is the Easter Egg Hunt.

From Youngest to Oldest

Now nobody is exempt from the Easter Egg Hunt, from the youngest child to the oldest patriarch. One by one, the selected hunter stays inside while everyone else heads outside to hide the plastic eggs. (Egg filling is customized: the Son and Heir requests dried fruits; the females of the herd prefer high-end chocolate; the Norwegian Artist accepts a combination. Everyone would like gold coins, but that hasn’t happened yet.)

The difficulty of the hiding places depends upon the age of the hunter:

With a two-year-old, we limit the search arena and pretty much drop the eggs on the ground, in plain sight.

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An eight-year-old works harder, peeking behind trees and under chairs.

An adult — especially if that adult is the Norwegian Artist or the Son and Heir — may have to climb a tree, or crawl under bushes, or look inside irrigation pipes. Nothing comes easy, but what adult expects to be treated like a two-year-old?

A Customized Challenge

And therein lies the lesson of the Easter Egg Hunt: the older you are, the wiser you are, the more mature you are, the more challenging it is to fill your basket. When you are very young, very small, very fragile, it’s not difficult at all to find the eggs, and if you have trouble, there are plenty of assistants to guide you. But regardless of your age, you have Easter eggs, just for you.

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So it is, quite frequently, in our spiritual lives: when we are seekers or new Christians, unsure of God other than knowing that He loves us, answers to prayers frequently seem to come faster than they do later, when we have learned more about God (one hopes) and have a greater experience of His goodness to fall back on.

God Knows How Old We Are

I was struck by this recently when I prayed for a young believer, damaged by life and harsh memories of religious censure. God, to her, is so intertwined with rigidity, sternness, and a cold, astringent approach to piety, that she has difficulty separating the two: God isn’t love; He’s a series of rules.

Waiting is an inevitable aspect of every human being’s existence. While no one enjoys the experience, the more we do it, the better we get at it, and the more time we reflect upon the Person we are waiting for. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, my Norwegian Artist.

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But she was desperate, distraught, discouraged, and despondent, and after listening to her hurt, I asked if I could pray. My thought on doing this, was this:

“God, You’d better follow through. Because she doesn’t really believe in or trust You.”

My second thought was,

“It shows the level of my disbelief and trust that I even said that. You can take care of Yourself, and I know that You’ll take care of her.”

He did. Within the week, two amazing, one unusual, and one challenging thing happened, but by golly, something happened, and the next time we spoke, my friend cautiously agreed that God didn’t hate her after all. She is depending upon Him to walk her through the challenging thing.

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Wow. I Wish MY Prayer Were Answered That Fast!

Me? I’ve got a six-year-old prayer request that I keep bringing before God — in different ways as I learn more about Him — and little bits and pieces get answered here and there. It is no easy thing filling this particular basket, but each time I find an egg I learn more about finding the next.

Luke 2: 52 tells us that the boy Jesus,  “. . .  grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

So also, learning under Him and from Him, do we, and while we may wish that our prayers could be answered more quickly and readily (as they seem to be, when we make the mistake of looking around and comparing, with others), we learn patience. The very difficulty of it all is part of the growing process, and if we were still at the level of a two-year-old, then the eggs would be tossed at our feet.

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“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child,” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13: 11. “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

God meets us where we are, and takes us beyond where we think can go.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage you to walk the specific path that God has put you on: it won’t look like my path, and it won’t take you to the same place. But we’re walking with the same Guide, and when we meet sometime, at an intersection, we can share lunch and talk about what we’ve learned.

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Myths Christians Believe about Movies Like Noah

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Hollywood loves it when movies sail on a sea of controversy, but as Christians, let us make our entertainment choices based upon a serene, logical, wise mind. Golden Sea, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print available at Great Big Canvas.

The flood of media love for the Russell Crowe movie, Noah, awashes the brain. It reminds me of Mel Gibson’s 2004 Passion of the Christ, and people are saying the same things now, as they said back then.

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Let’s look at some of these tedious pronouncements people are making about Noah that echo what they preached during Gibson’s moneymaking affair — because that’s what these movies do, my friend: they make somebody a lot of money. Before you determine whether some of that donation money will be yours, just make sure you’re not attending for any of these reasons:

Myth 1) It’s so wonderful that Hollywood is making family-friendly, and Biblically-based, fare! If we want more of the same, we need to attend.

You’ve got that right: as long as you put down the money, Hollywood will make more of the same, and in the case of Noah, look at the disclaimer:

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This film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The Biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Christians are so desperate to be heard in Hollywood that we’ll take anything, even a production by an atheist director who describes his epic as “the least biblical film ever made.”

Yep, we’re getting more of the same all right.

Myth 2) You can’t expect a non-Christian to get it all right, but he did his best.

Director Darren Aronofsky isn’t stupid, and it can’t be much of a stretch to read four chapters out of Genesis and get the general import. He also can’t be unaware that his particular interpretation has a high chance of insulting many people who truly do believe in the “essence, value, and integrity” of what is not only a beloved story, but actual history, in their eyes.

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Did Noah rise out of the sea? Was he a she? Did he tread water during the flood? We can get into all sorts of “interpretations,” if we choose. Aphrodite, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

How upset would Jane-ites be if Elizabeth Darcy slept with Mr. Bingley, in a “controversial” interpretation of Pride and Prejudice by someone who doesn’t like Jane Austen? Probably more upset than a lot of Christians will be about this movie.

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Myth 3) An atheist is the best person to make a Christian film, because he has a more objective approach. Invite him to your next Bible study, and let him replace whoever’s been teaching you up to this time.

Too many Christians mentally genuflect at words of perceived wisdom by people who openly discredit God and His book. And yet these same Christians won’t interpret the words for themselves, because they might get it wrong. Of the two, atheists or Christians (even dithering ones), which group has the Holy Spirit as its guide?

Myth 4) What a super opportunity this is to witness!

Of what? That the Biblical account of Noah is no more than a fairy tale, and that anyone who believes it’s really true is an idiot?

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You can’t witness about something that you’re unsure of yourself, and many Christians, struggling to reconcile the first 11 Chapters of Genesis with the pervasive, persuasive religious message of Darwinism and The Theory (Applied Like Law) of Evolution, don’t accept Noah’s account as literally true themselves.

Undoubtedly, the movie will do a great job of reinforcing this in their minds, and in the minds of many others.

Myth 5) We need to stop being so judgmental and narrow.

We must be open to different interpretations and ways of looking at this story.

All stories are open to different perspectives, but when we listen to those perspectives, we keep in mind the intent of the person giving them. If that person is hostile to the story, then his interpretation of it is justifiably questionable.

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Should you go, or shouldn’t you?

The decision is yours, my friend, and whether or not “high profile religious leaders” approve or not, make up your own mind. It’s your mind; it’s your money; and it’s your judgment that decides how they will both be used.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, I really enjoy a thoughtful, thought-provoking, well-made movie, which is why I critically look at any new interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre!

Wise movie directors know that they owe their viewers a sense of consideration, deference, and respect when they present a new telling of a beloved story, and the lovers of those stories know that they have a right to hold an opinion, based upon their knowledge of and passion for that story. May our knowledge and passion for the Word of God be great indeed.

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