Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Letting Satan Win

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Don’t be fooled: this is a goat, not Satan. And she’s actually a very awake goat — the others in the herd watch what she does, because she is the most alert to danger of all of them. Shouldn’t Christians be a bit more like this? Photo credit by Steve Henderson Fine Art

Fear is one of Satan’s best weapons, because it’s relatively inexpensive.

For a minimal outlay, Satan — who generally works through the assorted people on this planet who love him, worship him, or have sold themselves to him for whatever it costs to buy them — wields control over good people who fear the things that might happen, or could happen, but don’t necessarily have to happen.

That’s the beauty of it: in a small town or big city, the sheriff’s deputies or city police can burst into one home at  3 a.m., with all the noise and violence of a military commando operation launched against “the enemy,” — and this will frighten 10, 20, 50 times as many families into saying nothing, because nobody wants this to happen to them. For some reason, even when it turns out to be “the wrong house,”  this doesn’t make things any better.

U.S.S.R. or U.S.S.A?

The two most frightening things about 3 a.m. raids are that 1) they happen at all and 2) ordinary people, living ordinary lives, even consider the possibility that they could happen to them. When I was a child, we acknowledged this the norm in communist Russia, where people were oppressed and persecuted by their own government, even the most benign of individuals considered to be a potential enemy of the state.

In an earlier article, Afraid to Post on Facebook, I mentioned the number of Christians, especially in the United States, who are afraid of . . . just that — posting on Facebook, because they’ve heard that they’ll be put on a list of potential troublemakers — enemies of the state — for no more than expressing dissatisfaction with or distrust of their leadership (which is supposed to be serving the people, incidentally. Do we believe that?)

The possibility of being put on a list is not an outlandish concept, and even the most conventional of Christians — the kind who say, “As long as you don’t do anything wrong or illegal, nothing will happen to you!” — still have this thing about publicly saying anything against “Them.” Why, if you are so convinced that only “bad” people are targeted, are you afraid?

Hometown Elections

In my little hometown, there’s an election going on for sheriff, and some people have expressed dissatisfaction with the incumbent because he has invested money in tasers, high tech weaponry, and military-style products that are designed to kill, maim, or subjugate. Others, like this person who wrote a letter to the editor, think differently:

Sophie and Rose original victorian house oil painting by Steve Henderson

Who is the enemy anyway? I suppose it depends upon who makes the decisions. Sophie and Rose, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.

“My child fought the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now proudly serves as a deputy under this sheriff. I am glad that he will have access to the same weapons to fight the enemy here.”

Let’s gloss over who the enemy was in the Middle East, and whether it — inadvertently — ever included civilian women and children. Who, specifically, is such an enemy in this dinky little town that the deputies and the sheriff need to fight it with such firepower?

“Al Quaeda!” another person wrote.

Seriously.

So on all sides, people are beset by fear — some so panicking about a “potential” assault on our shores (who is feeding this to them?) that they cry out, “Being safe is more important than being free!”

Bad Things Happening to Ordinary People

Others, awake and alert to mankind’s shortcomings, know that an increasing number of people with power are using it with little or no liability for any awkward results of their actions (like a baby being stillborn after a pregnant woman is tasered, say, or perhaps I should rephrase: expellation of fetal matter after a woman is subdued — do you see what happens after you start denying the humanity of any human, no matter how inconvenient or unwanted?)

Some of these people speak up, and some of them don’t, because, quite frankly, there is a reason to be afraid: pregnant women do get tasered, elderly people get knocked around, fathers of families have been wrestled to the ground and strangled, by powers set in place to “protect” us:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 10: 28. “Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

There Is a Risk

What this tells us is that speaking up does carry a risk, because — in all countries, at all times, in varying stages of severity — there are people who can kill the body, or drive a business to bankruptcy, or decimate a family by setting social service agents upon it and taking away the children, or destroying a good man or woman’s name with false information — and that this can be and is done to people who speak up.

That’s the risk, so don’t take it lightly. It’s normal to be afraid.

But do not run your life by fear:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31: 9)

There’s always a Them, and oppressed people throughout history have learned when they can speak up, and when it is best to be silent. Make those decisions in your life based upon wisdom, discernment, and fear in God, not fear of man.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I wonder two things: 1) where is the country that I grew up in? and 2) was it always an illusion?

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Afraid to Post on Facebook

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Body language says it all — Xena is poised to run, even though she’s just had a lovely breakfast and all we’re doing it taking her photo. Photo credit Steve Henderson Fine Art.

I have a cat named Xena the Warrior Princess, which is a diverting misnomer because she is one of the timidest animals alive.

Admittedly, as far as staying alive, running away from trouble is a successful stratagem for Xena, who spends her days concealed in the bushes, wide-eyed and paranoid. When she does venture out, she flat out runs, which invariably results in the dog hard on her heels. And then it’s back to the bushes.

As I say, it’s a successful stratagem for staying alive, but not necessarily for living.

Timid, Timorous, Afraid

So it is with many Christians, who are some of the most timorous humans I run into. Not all of them, mind you — there are many, many believers persecuted and punished for living their lives with honor, grace, and truth, and too many of them we know nothing about because they are in prison or in poverty. Some of the photos circulated of their last moments are too graphically violent to be “permitted” on social media sites, although one can’t help but wonder, if it’s too dreadful to see, what was it like to endure?

But in the United States, the country in which I was born and in which I live, while we are not yet at overtly complete totalitarian status, we’re definitely not free and swingin’ in the tropical isles, contentedly living our lives in liberty and without interference from the powers that be, which, theoretically, “serve” us.

Even the densest insensate realizes that “stuff is going on,” to the point that occasionally, on national and corporate news stations, a story shows up about a road block in which police randomly stop drivers to check for potential drinking (the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits illegal search and seizure, but many judges and justices routinely interpret things differently) or invasive and degrading TSA pat downs (a bit over “friendly skies” there).

See No Evil?

You can’t go through the day without seeing an injustice perpetrated by an official, corporate, military, or government agency — even if it’s nothing more than a speed trap — and yet, when it comes to letting others know about these things, Christians are the last to speak up. If it weren’t for a number of very brave, very loud, and disproportionately non-Christian voices, we wouldn’t know as much as we do. (This is a good time to mention the Rutherford Institute, which is Christian-based, and which does speak up and out. But it’s a minority.)

Beachside Diversions original oil painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson

As Christians, it is our privilege — and not necessarily an easy one — to protect the weak, defenseless, and needy. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and Framed Canvas Art.

“I don’t want to post anything on Facebook,” people whisper, “because they’re watching these things, you know, and identifying who could be potential troublemakers.”

1) Who’s they? Logic dictates that it isn’t the Russians, or the Islamic Extremists, or whatever other enemies we’re told to be afraid of. “They,” quite unfortunately, appears to be our own government, which, theoretically, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” So why are the people afraid?

2) Since when did expressing an opinion — any opinion — result in being put on a troublemaker (read: domestic terrorist) list? There is a First Amendment, as well, to our Constitution (freedom of speech, religion, and the right to peaceably assemble); unfortunately, it is also regularly, oddly interpreted by judges.

3) In any war, half the battle is won when you convince the other side that it has already lost.

The Little “gods” Wield Control

Psalm 82 is a short conversation from God, the one true judge, to the “gods,” the leaders and judges in the world of men:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Does this sound like what those in power are doing today? The Psalm continues:

“They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

Since the “gods” of this world are not doing the job to which they were appointed, maybe we, the ordinary people, and especially the Christians in America who are not yet bound and tied, can speak up for the weak and defenseless, and not be so afraid that “they” might notice us and put us on a list. Because when and if they do, won’t we want someone to know, and possibly speak up for us, even if it’s nothing more than a Facebook post?

By the way, the Psalm has an interesting penultimate line:

“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

“But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Evil doesn’t triumph. But it can gain a lot of power, when good people sit back, watch, and say nothing.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, we do live in a global environment, but it’s not for others’ financial gain. As Christians, we have brothers and sisters all over the world, many whom live in countries with far fewer freedoms than we still enjoy.

Before we lose all our freedoms, perhaps we can grab the remnant of what’s left and speak out openly, while we still have that opportunity.

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Do You Long for the Love Christianity Promises?

posted by Carolyn Henderson
Captain's House original oil painting by Steve Henderson

In our family home, we enjoy the status of being a son or daughter of the house. In our Father’s household, we can rest in our position, beloved children of a perfect Father. Captain’s House, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

This weekend I enjoyed the company of three out of four of my adult children.

It is impossible for me to describe to you how much I love these four progeny of mine — whenever I talk to them, play cribbage with them, eat with them, or just spend time with them — even mentally — I delight in them.

Eldest Supreme had just washed her hair and was walking around the kitchen like a sultana with a towel around her head, bantering with the Son and Heir about the bread he was making. Tired of Being Youngest bustled in, checking on her cheesecake and ensuring that no one surreptitiously broke off a piece. From the sofa I watched in absolute delight, just loving them from across the room.

I delight in my children.

God Delights in Us

So does God, but in our clumsy attempts to figure Him out and please Him in ways that we do not — or should not — demand of our own children, we forget this:

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

“Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.” (Psalm 149: 4)

Rather than rejoicing and singing for joy on our beds, however, we saints turn around and attack one another, condemning our brothers and sisters, and ourselves, because we don’t dress respectfully enough on Sunday (or Saturday) mornings (“If you truly loved the Lord, you would take time to dress right”), or because we swear or drink or smoke (“If you truly loved the Lord, you wouldn’t swear or drink or smoke”), or even because we worship on the “wrong” day (“If you truly loved the Lord, you would worship on the one and only true Sabbath.”)

There are so many, “If you truly loved the Lord,” scenarios that we could triple the size of the Old Testament listing them all out, and some of us do, keeping a running account of the many things we and our brethren do, or do not do, that displease the Lord.

Christmas Story original Santa painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson

For some reason, we have an easier time believing that Santa loves us, than that God does. Christmas Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

So focused are we on side issues that we forget — or never read — that He says this:

We Are Precious in His Sight

“You are precious and honored in my sight . . . I love you.” (Isaiah 43: 4)

This is a paraphrase of a promise made to the people of Israel, that God would ransom them, in the future, from Babylonian captivity, and the parsers among us disallow that this statement could have anything to do with us, but it does:

We are precious — valuable, treasured, cherished — in God’s sight. He loves us, and He takes great delight in His children.

Now my own kids — all four of them — are inveterate slobs, and if you want to lay this at my door for not training them right, feel free to do so (just in front of my face this time, please). While I don’t particularly like wet towels on the bathroom floor, dishes in the sink, and random papers in random places, I firmly ask each person to help out, and I place less credence on the appearance of my living room than I do on my relationship with my children. I have never yet — nor do I have any plans to do so in the future — disinherited and cast off my offspring because they are less than perfect housekeepers.

I love them too much for that.

We Walk around in Fear

And yet, we walk timorously around God, shrinking from His hand, convinced that He is ready to strike, and hurt, and slap, and punish us for every impure thought, every less than holy action, every motivation that we possess. And then we castigate ourselves because we do not love Him enough.

Always, always, we are fault, and while it is true that we are sinners, we are redeemed sinners, children in the house of a loving Father — a Father much wiser than we are because He doesn’t run His house by kicking the dog, and yelling at the kids.

“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” Jesus told a group of unbelieving Jews in the synagogue one day. “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8: 35-36)

The Son has set us free; He has invited us into the household with the Father, and we are precious, and dearly loved, sons and daughters of the King.

So why do we still act like slaves?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I feel as if I have just walked through the door, and into the household of God. I have belonged to Him for 31 years, but most of that time I’ve been out in the yard, shuffling around in shackles that I have willingly put on my own ankles and wrists.

I’ve finally walked through the door, and as I stand in the foyer, I call out,

“I’m a daughter of this household, but I’m really new to actually being in the house, and I don’t know what to do. But I’m ready, Father, for you to teach me.”

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Will We Ever Say Good-bye to the Legacy of the Vietnam War?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Most human beings seek peace, and the right to live an ordinary life doing honorably, ordinary things, like raising their families. Sailing on the Sound, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson.

Anniversaries are supposed to be celebratory things, generally of weddings, when a couple starts a whole new life together. How odd that we use the same word, “anniversary,” to acknowledge — surely not celebrate? — the unwanted introduction of the Vietnam War into all of our lives.

I was two years old when Lyndon B. Johnson sanctioned the forcible sending of young men into a conflict that, according to my U.S. History teacher years later, “was never intended to be won.” I was 13 when the debacle officially ended.

Only it didn’t end, because those soldiers who came back returned to a life that their mothers never envisioned when their sons were born. How many of us have seen men with alcohol, drug, and lifestyle problems and said,

“Oh, yeah. He was in the Vietnam War. He’s never been the same since”?

Essays of Innocence

My high school English teacher was an upright, uptight woman with an impossible hair-do only achieved by a wig, but when you knew her two weeks, you were no longer frightened by exterior show. One afternoon, she strayed from discussing Shakespeare to remembering 13 years of teaching during the Vietnam War:

“Graduation is supposed to be an exciting time of anticipation,” she told us, “and for you it is.

“Not so long ago, I taught in a classroom where students — and not just the girls — put their heads down on their desks and wept. The boys in the class — who should have been thinking about prom, or bragging about all the things you boys brag about — were quiet, worried, still. Too many of them had their draft numbers pulled up, and they knew that immediately after graduation, they were being shipped out.

“Most of them figured they had little chance to return, and they were quite unfortunately right.

“I remember the essays that these boys wrote, in this same class.”

The Lucky Ones

The “lucky” ones returned — one of them was my husband’s brother, who 30 years later developed multiple myeloma, an especially virulent cancer attributed to the Agent Orange poison that was blanketed over the jungles of Vietnam. His “luck” ran out this year, and the aftermaths of the Vietnam War continue for his widow, his children, his grandchildren, his mother, his in-laws, his siblings, his friends.

Summer Breeze original oil painting of a boy and a kite by Steve Henderson

No mother looks at her son and says, “Maybe he’ll go off — and be sacrificed to — war!” Summer Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“It’s different now,” we tell ourselves. “There is no draft.” But with mandatory registration for selective service still in force, and a series of wars — and rumors of wars — that have no real enemy and no intention of ever being won (how can you win against “terrorism”?), my English teacher’s scenario will be repeated anytime, in a future classroom. And with women now “cleared” to be fit for combat zones, the girls weeping at their desks won’t be crying for their boyfriends alone.

And already we say this:

“Oh, yeah. He was in the Kuwait/Iraqi/Afghanistan War. He’s never been the same since.”

War Is Life

“War has always been with us,” we sigh. And this is true, because war makes money, and people who crave money — and power — have always been with us as well. It is not the boys bragging about what boys brag about, and writing essays on Shakespeare’s sonnets, who start these things. But they are thrown into them.

When people question war, or the necessity of it, they are accused of being liberals who “don’t support our troops,” but as the sister-in-law who watched a good man — and his wife — fight, and fight, and fight a disease that their own government inflicted upon them in a war that was never intended to be won, I ask,

“Where are the generals, to hold the plastic pan, while this man throws up?”

War is not honorable, but we strive to make it so in order to justify the incredible loss of lives. And while in the past, during the Great War to End All Wars, say, (that was World War I, by the way), we established a definite bad guy, as years go by evidence mounts that certain people in financial and political positions played both sides for profit. And young men died.

Not the Original Intent

In the last days, when the Prince of Peace reigns, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.

“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

“Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2: 4)

Most people simply want to live their lives. It is telling that God’s vision for the future — when people will plow or prune — resembles our beginnings, in a garden, shows the intent our Creator had when He made the world.

But as long as manufacturing missiles produces greater profit than planting potatoes, we will never say good-bye to the legacy of the Vietnam War.

Happy Anniversary. Let the festivities begin.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, even when we are Christians, we cannot escape the pain of living in this world, and while it’s true that Jesus is love, and we rest fully in that love, this doesn’t mean that we don’t speak out against things that are wrong.

We are on the side of eternal and ultimate goodness, and we walk in, and with, the Light of the World. The interesting thing about light in a dark room, however, is that it shines into the dark corners, and exposes the cockroaches that are scuttling about there.

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